Someone tell me about Guinea Pigs - Mothering Forums

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Old 01-07-2009, 06:31 PM - Thread Starter
 
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We MIGHT have a chance to adopt a Guinea pig that dd's school can't keep (I need to inquire as to why).

Our 7 year old is very gentle, and the 4 year old has good impulse control, but can be, well, 4 at times. However, she has a guinea pig at her daycare (not the one up for adoption) that she does well with.

But I know nothing about guinea pigs as pets. Can someone tell me the good, the bad, the ugly?

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Old 01-08-2009, 12:43 AM
 
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We have them, and love our guys, but have found that we are not "guinea pig lovers." We won't be getting more.

They are really fun to watch "popcorn" and play around. They can be cuddly. They often are simply running away, pooing a lot.

Here is a broad generalization, but I find girls visiting LOVE them and cuddle them. My boys, and their friends, check them out and move on.
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Old 01-08-2009, 06:14 AM
 
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We have had a guinea pig for about 2 years now and we won't be getting another either. DS has lost interest so I get the lucky job of caring for him. Guinea pigs do poo alot!!!!!!!!! I clean the cage every three days, granted we don't have a large cage but average size I guess we got it from pet smart teal colored bottom removable top type, I like the open cage type versus aquarium type because it gives more air movement, but the cage gets really smelly. I go through alot of bedding because I can't stand dirty smelly cages, and just think if you had to live in a box. Guinea pigs eat alot, we go through alot of hay and fresh veggies, and pellets, and vitamin C drops for water too. Our pig lets you know when he wants fresh veggies he squeaks really loud, he can hear the refrigerator door open. But he is also really friendly, ours doesn't bite, can be cuddley, but can be quite shy if not handled often, he will squeak if he feels nervous, like when you have to clip his nails, but overall very friendly, the kids can brush them too! If you have room I would advise getting the big bag of bedding from a livestock feed store and a bail of timothy hay instead of buying the little bags from the pet store and paying alot more money. I hope this helps.
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Old 01-08-2009, 01:30 PM
 
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We used to care for the class pet guinea pig from the Montessori school my mom taught at, like over breaks and summer. I think they are excellent pets for kids, but don't keep them in their room - ours kept us awake squealing! (REEEEEEEEE! REEEEEEEEEE!) But she was more fun than gerbils or hamsters, which we also had at other times. We could take her out in the yard and play with her, or get her out on the floor. They aren't very fast, and seem to enjoy that kind of play.
The ugly - ours was a long haired pig, and sometimes needed toileting attention - ie, poo cleaned our of her fur. Ew.

Wondertime had a great article in favor of them.

HTH!

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Old 01-08-2009, 02:53 PM
 
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My daughter has a guinea pig (we have a guinea pig). He's wonderful.

Odor: we've had pet rats, mice and rabbits, and the guinea pig poo/urine smells better (still not pleasant when it's over due for a cleaning). At least that's my experience, and that might mean nothing to you if you've never had any of those animals for pets.

A tip: always hold them gently and hold them quietly while they are little and are getting used to you. We're The Loud Family and it took a little longer for our guy to not be fearful.

I agree, don't bother putting the cage in a child's bedroom. It's just easier to care for it, even if it's primarily one child's responsibility. Besides, the guinea pigs get socialized faster, and they're not so lonely.

Also, I strongly suggest you consider getting two. Guinea pigs are sociable critters that live in groups. While they do just fine on their own, as witnessed in pre-schools around the world, it really is fun to see them living together, and it simply makes them happy. We only have the one (Snickers), and I wish we'd gotten one more with him. My understanding is that it is difficult to impossible to introduce another male to an established male.

I recommend Oxbow brand food. The local mom-and-pop pet supply store carries it here, while we get the giant bale of bedding from Petco. We get this kind of hay, and it smells divine.

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Old 01-08-2009, 03:03 PM
 
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I won't ever get another one. I think they are a lot of work (cleaning the cage) versus the payback (interaction, etc) that you get.

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Old 01-08-2009, 03:04 PM
 
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I second the recommendation to get two. We have a pair of guinea-pig girls, and the whole family just loves them. They are much happier, less bored, and less fearful if they have at least one friend (OF THE SAME SEX) to live with.

The good:
  • They super-social and get very tame. Ours never bite and the littler one will actually come up and beg to be petted and scratched under the chin.
  • They're very entertaining -- they "talk" and hop and are active little characters.
  • Longer-lived than most pet rodents.
  • Not nocturnal, like a hamster.
  • the animals themselves are very clean and sweet-smelling. If you get short-haired piggies, the only grooming you need to do is occasional claw clipping (which they HATE).

The bad:
  • I don't think they're particularly stinky, but they do poop and pee a lot so you need to clean their homes frequently. And the bedding is expensive.
  • They need a lot of room -- pet shop cages are WAY too small.
  • They require a specialized diet, with lots of fresh vegetables and hay in addition to their pelleted food. We buy half-flakes of timothy from a feed store; it's much better and cheaper than buying it at a pet store.
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Old 01-08-2009, 03:06 PM
 
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We have a pair of brothers (raised together from birth) who rule our crisper drawer with an iron squeek.

We love them, DS(3) and DD(2) are gaga in love with them (several months later they have not lost any interest at all). They love feeding them fresh veggies, sharing apples with them, talking to them, etc. They squeek in greeting and excitement and they are generally so nice as pets. Marvel(2) will call them over and they will come, because they worship the bringer of carrots. The kids can't handle them unsupervised yet, but it is getting closer to that point.

Aja and I both grew up with guinea pigs, so we knew what we were getting in to. They are my favorite pet of any we have had so far. They are affectionate, funny, and really really cute, but also pretty low key if you need them to be (you can ignore them for 2 days or play with them every second and they are cool either way).

If you do get them, try to make sure they have an endless supply of timothy hay, which they LOVE (even more than veggies). Our cage is getting small for our little piggies (it is about the medium recommended size, big but not big enough. I have dreams of an open top cage(if the cage is big enough they can be litter-box trained), but our kids are a bit young.

For the record, aja and I believe that Disney has been on a 6 year cruisade to make guinea pigs very popular in a calculated advertising initiative for the upcomming G-Force movie... If you notice a BUNCH of popular kids shows have slyly placed pet guinea pigs nowadays.
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Old 01-08-2009, 03:20 PM
 
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Heh on the stealth guinea pigs!

Shaggy, we have a cube-and-coroplast cage, and my husband made it two-story, with a little ramp they can run up. They love it, and often hang out on the little "landing" of the ramp where they can chill and see what's going on in the rest of the room. They have a lot more room than a conventional cage without taking up toooo much more floorspace, plus the split-level design gives them some exercise and makes their environment a little more interesting.
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Old 01-08-2009, 03:21 PM
 
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We have a guinea pig which my oldest 2 have had since it was small (he's about 5 yrs) and which we got when they (the kids moved back in w/us from their dad's).He is very nice and my 7 yo loves him to death.But there isn't a lot of interest in him-its hard for them to "play" with him- he doesn't like to run free but is social.Yes he eats alot and is very vocal about needing food and water.

We clean his cage on a regular basis- once to twice weekly but still deal with flies (even in winter).Once forgetting to change its cage can bring them on so you have to be very diligent w/keeping it clean.I hate the flies.

So if you want a nice tame gentle small animal go for it but they do take a lot of time and energy just to keep up.Not an animal for young children to be responsilbile for-you have to be willing to take that on.
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Old 01-08-2009, 10:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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thanks - this gives me things to think about.

I wouldn't expect my 4 and 7 year old to be responsible for an animal -- that's one reason I asked. I wanted to know what I would be getting in for.

I'm thinking of holding off for now. Both kids have had guinea pigs in their classrooms and didn't interact much with them. I think they need a more interactive pet. Ds really wants a cat - which I'd love, but I don't think I can take the allergens. Sigh.

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Old 01-10-2009, 11:50 AM
 
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Guinea pigs can make wonderful pets! We have 3 of them.

Here are the best links on guinea pig care:

http://www.guinealynx.info

http://www.guineapigcages.com


Just something to note, if you are allergic to cats, guinea pigs (and rabbits) may not be not good pet choices for you. They have very similar dander, and the hay that is required for their diet can really set off some ppl's allergies.

I can totally understand the concern of having a pet that's interactive. This is why after our guinea pigs are gone, we probably won't be getting anymore caged animals. They are lovely, but it's difficult to make sure they are getting enough attention sometimes compared to a "free-roaming" pet who'll run up to you when they want some lovin'.

If you are looking for a more hands-on pet, maybe you could look into adopting a rex cat? They are supposed to be much easier on folks with allergies (though I'd recommend meeting some before deciding that as some ppl are even allergic to them).

The two you find the most are Devon Rexes (look like ET mixed with a curly-haired fennec fox) and Cornish Rexes (look more like a normal cat with curly hair). They are very friendly and almost dog-like in personality. A lot of folks get them at breeders (retired show cats aren't as expensive as kittens), but if you keep an eye open for a while sometimes you can find one up for adoption via Petfinder or Craigslist.

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Old 01-12-2009, 07:44 PM
 
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We LOVE our guinea pig. She is social and never bites. She loves to be held.

She is in my dd's room and she is definitely the morning alarm clock.

They do poop a lot though and while my dd does help with her care, I find it easier if I just clean the cage.

We feed her mostly scraps like the outer lettuce leaves or carrot peels, things that would end up in the compost anyway.

They are great pets but more work than smaller rodents. They do need exercise, grooming and social time.
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Old 02-05-2009, 02:25 PM
 
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We recently adopted one from Craigslist. I was warned that GP are very high-maintenance but I haven't found that to be true at all! Ours is a darling and very clean-smelling compared to our rats. She squeals, squeaks, and sniffs and it's just so sweet watching her, almost like a newborn baby!

The only cons I have found are that she eats A LOT of hay, which can get very expensive. I also am not good at reading her body language...never had a problem with any other pet, but I seriously can't tell when I'm holding her if she's happy or scared. Her eyes are always huge, so you can't tell that way, and her noises aren't very helpful either. Lol.

I love her though...she just sits in my lap and doesn't move for long lengths of time. I usually hold her and read a book and she just squeaks quietly and sniffs around, but doesn't run anywhere.

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Old 02-05-2009, 04:01 PM
 
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Raene, you can get huge amounts of timothy hay for cheap if there's a feed and tack store anywhere near you -- pet stores overcharge shamefully for hay, and it's not as fresh. We buy half-flakes for around $7, and they last for months and months.
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Old 02-05-2009, 04:17 PM
 
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Guinea pig lover here. I agree with the positives and negatives everyone has mentioned. Just wanted to add that if you are a gardener, you can use their old bedding and waste as fertilizer in your garden. It doesn't need to be composted first, and really works great!
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Old 02-05-2009, 04:23 PM
 
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I just discovered you can show guinea pigs in 4H around here, too It is a good way to get kids involved who don't have room for the more usual 4H animals.

We have a friend who's daughter shows and my friend just came over and did a sort of lesson for ds and I in guinea pig care It is helpful (but not necessary) to know someone who knows about guinea pigs.

I was a little resistant to getting a pig, but dh really wanted one for ds and when we found one in a shelter, he convinced me. Ds does all the feeding and watering (with reminders and very little supervison now) and dh does the cage cleaning, while ds "watches" the guinea pig. She still creeps me out a little (and I don't think she likes me much, lol), but I would totally recommend one for a child who wants his "own pet."
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Old 02-05-2009, 05:46 PM
 
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I've been keeping guine pigs off and on for over 20 years.

Guinea pigs are high maintenance if youkeep them alone. If you have at least two, there's not a whole lot you need to do.

We shred newspaper for bedding. DS loves to help shred. Twice a week, I dump the whole thing into our compost bin. When spring comes, I'll be feeding her grass clippings. We also feed her fruit and vegetable ends. She basically does our composting for us! As far as I am concerned, she's earning her own keep.

We don't feed ours pellets or hay because my son is allergic to those things. Some people think that is a big no no but since this guinea pig we have now needed a home, we're making it work. She does enjoy some grains like oatmeal. I think the grass will be really helpful when the snow is gone.

I think cleaning a guinea pig cage (if you have a compost bin or garden) is easier than picking up dog poo or clearing out a litter box. Guinea pigs that have room are active and affectionate. Guinea pigs that are kept in small cages an isolated in a bedroom are lazy, unresponsive, and more prone to illness. They are pack animals that need love from either a family or each other.

If you want a pet that is visually entertaining, get a hamster and start adding on lots of tunnels and wheels. They usually pee and poop in just one or two spots in the cage and are fun to watch. They can be cuddly but I don't think they are as friendly as guinea pigs. Again, get two.
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Old 02-05-2009, 05:48 PM
 
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I had one when I was 9, and loved her. Guinea pigs are a lot gentler than say, a hamster or gerbil (had both, bitten several times, they're very aggressive and can escape easily-not good pets for kids) She was pretty easy to take care of, but you do have to be gentle when picking them up so you don't squish them-you might not want to let your 4 year old pick her up.
I had a lot of fun setting up mazes and things for her to run around in, and on nice days, we'd take the wire top off her cage and put her outside in it and sit with her while she enjoyed the sun (just don't leave them out unattended or in the sun for too long!)

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Old 02-16-2009, 03:19 PM
 
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I'm considering getting a couple of guineas. We had ferrets for a long time and because of their tendency to get sick all the dang time, and also that they are stinky carnivores, I think we might enjoy guinea pigs a bit more. We really loved our ferrets but one can only handle so much poor health in a species - we spent a lot of time at the vet for every ferret illness known to man. They just aren't bred for health, the poor things. Anyway.... do guinea pigs have pretty strong immune systems? Are they know for getting cancer or not?

There's a guinea rescue just north of us that I want to check out. What's the very very best way to cage them? What is the most ideal cage set up? Also, can they be left to run around the living room for a while or will they hide in the couch springs like our ferrets used to? Should we get two girls or two boys? What's the average life span?

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Old 02-16-2009, 10:55 PM
 
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I can answer a few questions:

They live 5 to 7 years.

Whether they run around is a matter of personality. I have some that would seek out a corner and stay there. I've had others that would run laps around the dining room table, and another that would make a beeline for the fridge and squeek until I opened it and gave him something.

Store cages are usually not big enough, because in general guinea pigs do want to be active and explore and run around. Ours isn't that big, but we let the piggy out every day for some exercise.

if you are going to keep the cage somewhere like the living room and give the piggy lots of attention, one is fine. Otherwise, get two. They are pack animals. Two boys can live fine together if they've grown up around each other.

Any time you introduce two adult piggies to each other, you should do it slowly and expect there might be some fighting until they create a pecking order. Again, it does sometimes have to do with personality. I've had some who were angels that loved everyone and some that were bullies and had to live alone or start out with a baby rather than another adult.

Guinea pigs are generally resilient if you clean their cages often and feed them fresh food along with their pellets or hay.

Ours lives on shredded newspaper and we just dump it in the compost bin a few times a week.
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