Leonard is a former teacher and principal who has also been a writer for the past two decades. Writing and animals are his true loves.
Do Guinea Pigs Make Good Pets?
I have heard this question countless times in discussions with fellow pet lovers and in a variety of animal forums. The answer that I always give is that guinea pigs don’t make good pets . . . they make great ones!
In truth, the guinea pig tends to be a bit under-appreciated and misunderstood, as people frequently confuse them with hamsters. They are actually quite different animals with unique behaviors and characteristics. While hamsters can be more solitary and even a bit “snippy,” guinea pigs are sweet, social, and affectionate. Read on to discover the many reasons why guinea pigs make good pets. Each is discussed in detail in the sections below.
6 Pros of Guinea Pigs as Pets
- They are social and affectionate.
- They are great with children.
- They are relatively easy to care for.
- They are inexpensive to care for.
- They are colorful and entertaining.
- They have a relatively long lifespan.
1. They Are Social and Affectionate
Guinea pigs are very social in nature. They also do much better in pairs or groups, as they are in fact a herd animal (1). Considering this point, it is always best to have a few instead of just one. That way, their social needs will be met, and you will have a much happier pet.
The guinea pig is also quite sweet and affectionate with their owner. They can tend to be very interactive and will let off little squeals of delight when they see their human owner. As evidence of such a loving nature, consider this quotation by Nikki Vettel which appears in the article, "Pet Passions: How I fell in love with a Guinea Pig."
"Calling Ralphie affectionate is a ridiculous understatement. He loves to sit, half napping on my shoulder, his back legs stretched out to their full four inches and his furry whiskered face nuzzled against my neck" (2).
Without a doubt, guinea pigs' social and affectionate nature is one of the top reasons people love keeping them as pets.
2. They Are Great With Children
There are many significant advantages that come with getting a pet for a child. It teaches children responsibility, empathy and how to care for the needs of another living thing. These are all very important life lessons. However, it should always be remembered that children are indeed children, and as such, the ultimate responsibility for the pet should be with the adult. Be that as it may, owning a pet is usually a great experience for child and pet alike. A warm and loving bond will typically form between the two. When considering this, the guinea pig is an excellent choice for a child’s pet.
Guinea pigs have a friendly and somewhat docile nature. They are not likely to hide from the child or take a nip at them when being handled. Also, they are less fragile than many other animals such as hamsters, gerbils or rabbits. As such, there is a little more room for human error when handling. That being said, it is always recommended that children be supervised during handling, as the last thing that anyone wants is to injure the pet. Overall, however, their friendly disposition and hardy physical characteristics make them great for children and very good family pets.
3. They Are Relatively Easy to Care For
The basic fact of the matter is that there are really no pets which are easy to care for. In truth, they all require a lot of time, love and caring. However, there are some animals which are certainly easier to take care of than others. Guinea pigs certainly fit into that category. For busy individuals who have unpredictable schedules, they are an ideal pet.
Unlike dogs, they do not need to be walked outside multiple times a day and can be kept safely in their cage. Essentially, they require a decent-sized cage with proper bedding. For food, they need pellets, hay, and fresh vegetables with water. Also, unlike other rodents, they require Vitamin C supplements each day (3). Provided with this daily attention and a partner to keep them company, they will be quite content in this environment. This will, in turn, provide a busy owner who craves company but has an unpredictable schedule the flexibility which is so important to experience pet ownership in a responsible fashion.
4. They Are Inexpensive to Care For
Not only are guinea pigs easy to care for, but they are also quite inexpensive to own. As is often the case with any animal, the best way to obtain a guinea pig is by going to an animal shelter. They usually have a fair number up for adoption. Original adoption fees may range between $30 and $50 but could be lower or higher in your area. Compared to animals such as dogs or cats, that is very inexpensive.
According to the pet-care website, Costhelper, the price of food for the little pet averages around $5 to $10 a month. There are even startup deals at many stores which include a cage, food, bedding, and other useful items for a low cost (4).
Personally, the cost for my own guinea pigs is slightly higher than these estimates. I have chosen to purchase a very large cage and feed top-quality food with proper supplements. Also, we visit the veterinarian for routine checkups. Nevertheless, when I compare these costs to what I spend on my dog, there is really no comparison. They are much less expensive to own and care for, and this is another reason that they make such good pets.
5. They Are Colorful and Entertaining
The vast majority of human owners enjoy having a pet with a personality that they can play with. This is a significant consideration for many people when they are getting a pet for companionship. This is also great for the animal, as play provides enriching life experiences, exercise, and important socialization.
Fortunately, the guinea pig is a pet full of personality and quirks. They love to play and enjoy things such as little balls, pet tunnels and anything to chew on. They also love to come out of their cage so that they can roam the area. It should be remembered, however, that they are indeed prey animals and have a natural instinct to run and hide. For this reason, it is best to keep them indoors so that they can get familiar and comfortable with the environment.
Guinea pigs are very playful and friendly and typically love the mental stimulation provided by play opportunities. They may squeak, squeal, and even “popcorn” for you! This is a behavior where they will jump up and down straight into the air in continuous repetition just like a kernel turning into a piece of popcorn! The entertaining antics of guinea pigs make them highly loveable pets.
6. They Have a Relatively Long Lifespan
Make no mistake about it . . . we love and care for our pets like any other member of the family. That is why when we lose them, it can be an absolutely devastating experience. People frequently require long periods of therapy to overcome such a loss. That is why it is so important to individuals that they choose a pet which has a decent lifespan. The guinea pig fits into this category.
There is a common misconception that they do not live very long. In truth, the average lifespan of a well-cared-for guinea pig is between 6 and 8 years. This is much longer than hamsters, gerbils, or rats, which usually only last for a few years.
So, What Are You Waiting For?
At the outset of this article, I presented the question, "Do guinea pigs make good pets?" In response, there were a number of positive reasons given which certainly made the case that they are indeed great pets. In particular, they are fantastic for people who want animal companions but have unpredictable schedules. Essentially, for those who are in a good position to provide a home to a guinea pig, ownership will quickly become a very rewarding life experience.
- "Your Guinea Pig's Social Life." Catch the Cavy Spirit. 2016
- "How I Fell In Love With a Guinea Pig." Nikki Vettel. Pet Passions
- "10 Reasons That Guinea Pigs Make Great Pets." Dr. Laurie Hess. 2014
- "How Much Does a Guinea Pig Cost?" Cost Helper pets and pet care.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
annonomus on April 09, 2020:
Guinea pigs are indeed great pets, although i would not suggest to get one at this time because of the pandemic that is currently going on. If you already have one I would be careful around them Guinea pigs can get deceases easily...
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cloie on January 17, 2020:
i think that guinae pigs are cute
Suzette Guadarrama on April 14, 2019:
Molly, I have made a c&c cafe with a loft and kitchen area. People offer don't know that they need so much room and put them into those pet store cages which breaks my heart. I always say to guinea pig owners, would you like to love in a studio room for the rest of your life? Other than that they are funny and playful and also very cute. They bring much joy to our household.
Lisa Marie Gabriel from United Kingdom on December 29, 2018:
I love guinea pigs, sadly I am highly allergic to them but I had a couple as pets before I realised. Poor mum ended up cleaning them out because of the allergy and put her foot down after that. No more guinea pigs for me. I love their little squeaks, they squee like kittens and they're much more cuddly I think than hamsters or gerbils.
Sue on October 08, 2018:
This article about the care and cost of owning a Guinea Pig is False.
Andrew Wilkes from Sheffield on April 17, 2018:
Guinea pigs are good little pets, they can be very comical! I guess a downside would be noise, they squeal and make some crazy chirps, odd little things really. I have to mention though that in south America they are a part of the food chain, people put them on kebab sticks and cook em. So they do have multiple uses, the latter being the unpopular use depending on where in the you originate, different cultures and all that. Anyway good post, I enjoyed reading it.
kaidy on February 21, 2018:
guinea pigs make great pets. you hav to find the right one. like i used to have one not to long ago that was like my best friend he would listen to me and sometimes squeak back, he would snuggle with me, sleep in my bed and my mom would come in my room and see us in bed both of us asleep i got him for my 12th b day i named him Taco . ive also had one that bit me on the ear and would always scatch me i got him after Taco died and i named him Professer Party Nuggets.
Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on February 12, 2018:
My brother had a hamster when i was growing up several over thge years) and they always seemed to get loose and lost. They were also quite "snippy" as you point out and between them and tbe ones at school, I was bitten several times- not fun ad when they bite they mean business! After reading this o can definitely say I wish he had a guinea pigs instead!
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on January 16, 2018:
Interesting to know how good guinea pigs are as pets. They are cute.
Molly O'Hara from Vermont on January 15, 2018:
Leonard, I entirely agree! Our girls are in 10 sq. ft with a loft, and out as much as we can get them.
Linda - how exciting! Check out http://www.guinealynx.info/ for further in-depth information on health care, feeding, etc.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 14, 2018:
I would love to have a pair of guinea pigs as pets. This is a great introduction to the animals. Thanks for sharing the information about them.
Leonard Tillerman (author) from Toronto, Canada on January 14, 2018:
Thank you for the comment. I absolutely agree with you on both points. I really think they need a lot of room to roam. I actually try to keep mine in their cages as little as possible. Thank you for the helpful points.
Molly O'Hara from Vermont on January 14, 2018:
Great article on the basics of guinea pigs as pets.
Only two things I would mention - while they are hardy, they need to be held by their back and front end and not their middle which is a little more difficult, but this is to prevent injury. And some are jumpers - again can cause various injuries.
The other thing is the cage - I think it's imperative to say that either a singleton or a pair of guinea pigs must be in a cage that is a minimum of 7.5 sq ft - i.e., larger than any cage sold in pet stores.
Thank you for the great article!