5 Reasons Why Guinea Pigs Make Great Pets
I have had a guinea pig (also known as a cavy) off and on for my entire life. I won my first guinea pig "Petey" from a name-drawing in my 1st-grade class, and he became my first pet ever. After owning 4–5 different guinea pigs, I would easily recommend a guinea pig as a pet to anyone considering adding a new member to the household.
I currently own two boars (male guinea pigs). Apollo and Wilson are brothers, as well as cage mates. My boyfriend and I adopted them from a guinea pig rescue in Meadville, PA. Their personalities are extremely different, so it is fun to see how they interact and play off of one another. Being the sweethearts that they are, guinea pigs make great starter pets for potential pet owners, which is why I have devoted this article to promoting these chubby balls of fur.
Reason 1: They Are Very Friendly
Along with guinea pigs, I have owned a lot of other small pets and know that all pets are capable of being friendly. I also know that there is always the possibility of a mean guinea pig, but this I have never seen.
Rabbits are often bought from a pet store (never do this!!) as bunnies, and then given away when they go through their "teens" because most owners don't know that as the bunny gets older and goes through puberty, it can become very mean and nasty. This time will pass and getting it spayed or neutered will definitely help (though it is costly), but a lot of owners give the bunny away before it is able to mellow out.
I have heard that rats are extremely smart and can make great pets, but rats can also be very territorial. A fun fact about rats: their bottom front teeth literally split apart into a v-shape to get a better grip on their prey, and they can bite through concrete, meaning they can easily bite someone to the bone. It is very important to tame a rat when it's still a baby and unable to hurt you as badly. I have a friend who bought a rat from a pet store (again a terrible idea!!). Sookie, named after a character from the popular television show "True Blood" (ironic, right?) was shy and gentle for her first day home. Once she became comfortable with her new cage, she began to change. After 3 days she started biting, and it got to the point where my friend had to start dropping food from above her cage into her bowl because if you ever put your hand into her cage, she attacks it, and draws blood.
I'm not saying this to offend any faithful rat owners, and I am aware that rats can be amazing pets, I'm just saying that it is important to the owner to tame them or things can turn ugly.
I have owned many hamsters and love them to death, but when it comes to biting, I will admit I have been bitten by a couple of hamsters. There are certain types of hamsters that are less likely to bite, (Russian dwarves, for example) but in referring to hamsters as a whole, I would say that they bite more than guinea pigs.
Ok, back to what I was originally talking about. I have never owned a guinea pig that bit. I have even taken my index finger and touched Wilson's bottom lip, and he has no interest in it whatsoever. I think that's just it; guinea pigs don't care. They are very timid creatures, so they are very unlikely to mistakingly bite your finger thinking it's food, because they are afraid to try any kind of new food that's actually put in front of their faces. They are extremely gentle little animals, and it's hard to fear them.
Reason 2: They Are Easy to Care for
Guinea pigs require very little maintenance. They need fresh water, timothy hay, dry pellets, and veggies. Their cage needs to be cleaned about once every 1–2 weeks and is very easy to clean. An even easier option would be to have a c&c cage (a cage made from grids and coroplast) with fleece as bedding. Using fleece as bedding is a very easy option that is meant for guinea pigs specifically (kind of like linoleum for rabbits).
Typically guinea pigs do not need to be spayed or neutered, unless you plan on having coed cage mates. This means that vet costs are at a minimum, unless your piggy becomes ill. They don't need to be bathed often at all, in fact they shouldn't be bathed more than once or twice a year. They do not need to be groomed unless they have long hair, but they will need their nails clipped about once every 3 weeks.
Reason 3: They Are Not Destructive
A very good thing about guinea pigs, they won't destroy your house! They are much less likely to chew furniture, and you never have to worry about them tearing up your carpet. It goes along with the reason why they don't bite. They just don't care, and are too curious and afraid to do anything to begin with. It would be hard to not catch a guinea pig before it is about to do something destructive or crazy, they don't think very quickly, and their actions are even slower than their words.
The worst they will do to your house is pee or poop on your floor. Some people claim that their guinea pigs are litter trained, but for the most part, it's a hit or miss with litter training. They either get it or they don't, and most don't. When giving them floor time, it is a good idea to put something down such as fleece or towels so to avoid any accidents.
Reason 4: They Are Inexpensive
Another great thing about guinea pigs is that they can be adopted for a very reasonable price. I adopted my two boars for $30.00 together. They can be bought from pet stores for many varying prices, but you will never spend big numbers on a guinea pig.
**It is a much better idea to choose to adopt a guinea pig rather than buying one at a pet store. There are many orphan piggies out there in shelters and rescues who have most likely been handled more and have definitely been more taken care of. If anyone knows how to take proper care of a guinea pig, it's a rescuer. They will be able to answer any question under the sun.
As I have mentioned before, there won't be too many vet visits with a guinea pig. I have only ever needed to take one pig to the vet. They don't require any shots and spaying/neutering is optional.
Cages can be inexpensive if you know what you're doing. A great cage option is to build a C&C yourself. A C&C cage is a cage built with a coroplast base and a grid boundary for fencing. I can guarantee that any cage in a pet store will be overpriced and too small for any adult guinea pig. For the price, you pay for a large cage in a store you can build a cage that is at least 4 times the size using cubes and coroplast.
Food prices vary depending on how much you care about the quality of your food. Oxbow Cavy Cuisine pellets are a very popular pellet type bought by many loyal guinea pig owners. I have been buying it for my boars, and they love it. This food is very high quality and doesn't contain any extra ingredients that aren't good for a pig. Regular pellet food can be found for a fraction of the cost, but I warn you it is not recommended for piggies diets. Timothy hay can be bought at a store or provided by a local farmer who ensures that it is not harmful in any way.
Bedding can be the most expensive part of owning a guinea pig, but there are ways around it. Using fleece for guinea pig bedding cuts down costs immensely. Rather than purchase bag after bag of wood shavings, save money by throwing a few towels and a yard of fleece in the wash instead.
Overall, once you have your piggy settled in their new home, the cost to keep them alive and well should be in the range of about 20 to 30 dollars every two months. This varies depending on how many pigs you have and how fast they eat! My pigs go through a bag of pellets, probably once every 2 months.
Reason 5: They Live a Good, Average Life
For such small animals, guinea pigs can live a considerably long life. Averaging 4–7 years, these piggies aren't as likely to be found shockingly deceased after less than a year. It is pretty safe to assume they will give you a friend for at least 3–4 years, considering you take good care of them. I owned a guinea pig who lived for about 6 and a half years, so he stayed with me all through the torturous years of middle school and almost all of high school.
Hamsters can live about 2–3 years, which is pretty good, but there isn't as much stability in living a good solid 3 years. I bought a hamster for my best friend last year, and 3 weeks later she died. It was interesting because the pet store only gave refunds after 2 days, so not only was it a huge disappointment but it was a waste of money altogether.
Though rats can grow rather large and appear to live long, they actually only live 2–3 years as well. This is because they are very prone to disease and illness.
I think that the life span of a guinea pig is pretty good. It isn't too small that you have just gotten to know them before they leave, but it isn't too long that you lose appreciation for them and start to take them for granted.
Wilson, Livin' the Life
In a nutshell, guinea pigs can be considered great pets for people of all ages. I wrote this article to share my thoughts on guinea pigs, and to hopefully share some knowledge to potential piggy parents. I feel that they are great family pets, and even better "first" pets. They don't bite, they're a cinch to take care of, they won't destroy your belongings, they're cheap, and they won't croak on you too soon. Most of all, they are great little animals. They are fun to interact with, and they are fun to watch as they interact with cage mates. They make cute noises and have a quirky behavior involving things such as "popcorning" and "rumble-strutting."
Bottom line, adopt a piggy!
© 2010 Jessie Miller