Most people are familiar that animal shelters take in cats and dogs, but many may not realize that they also take in other surrendered animals, including gerbils, mice, rats, and guinea pigs. March is Adopt a Guinea Pig, so if you’ve considered adopting a guinea pig, before visiting a pet store, contact your local shelter and see if there are any guinea pigs in need of a furever home!
Before you make that commitment, be sure you understand the health and husbandry requirements of guinea pigs and be sure that you have the time to commit to provide the care they need. Check to see if you have a guinea-pig savvy veterinarian in your community and ask them any final questions you may have about guinea pig health.
Will a guinea pig be the right fit for you and your family? Keep these pointers in mind while you make your decision:
- Guinea pigs are social animals and are happiest if kept in pairs or small groups (preferably of the same sex). Solitary guinea pigs often become unhappy and stressed which impacts their overall health.
- If you adopt a male and female, spay and neuter them to avoid unwanted babies. Check with your veterinarian to learn about the spay and neuter procedures and be sure to incorporate the associated costs into your budget.
- Guinea pigs, unlike many other pocket pets, can live to be 8 years old, with an average lifespan of about 4 to 6 years. Be prepared to care for your guinea pig for 8 years.
- Just like any other pet, guinea pigs need regular veterinary care. Be sure to budget for regular wellness checks and unexpected emergency medicals costs.
- Not all veterinarians treat guinea pigs. If your veterinarian does not treat them, ask for a recommendation for a guinea pig-savvy veterinarian in your community.
- Guinea pigs need a large cage with areas to rest, hide, and play. If you’re housing a pair or small group, be sure the cage is large enough and your home can accommodate a large cage.
- As social animals, guinea pigs like to be around their “people family,” so be sure to place the cage in an area where your family spends the most time, but since they’re squeaky, bedrooms might not be the best spot!
- Guinea pigs, just like cats and dogs require a lot of care. This includes daily exercise, daily or weekly grooming depending on the length of their coat, daily feeding and watering, and regular cage cleanings (daily spot cleaning and a thorough weekly cleaning).
- Guinea pigs make great family pets; however, they can be injured easily and have sensitive hearing, so be sure your children are old enough to carefully handle such a delicate pet.
- They have special dietary requirements, including vitamin C supplementation and a high-fiber diet. They require hay in their diets, not only to help wear down their teeth, but also to maintain a healthy digestive tract. If there are people with severe allergies to hay in your home, a guinea pig may not be a well-suited pet.
- Consider who will care for your guinea pig while you are on vacation. Just like dogs and cats, guinea pigs need daily care.
Once you’ve decided that adopting a guinea pig is right for you and your family, contact your local shelter to give a “piggie” a chance to live a happy and full life!