Happy “Adopt a Rescued Guinea Pig” Month!
What? You didn’t know that you could rescue a guinea pig? Well, you’re not alone. Most people don’t think about visiting their local shelter when they decide to bring one of these furry critters home.
That’s why this special month was created by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). They hope it will encourage people to learn more about guinea pigs and consider adoption first before visiting a pet store.
On any given day, the animal shelter in my town has between two and ten healthy guinea pigs awaiting adoption for just $10-$25. But how do they end up in the shelter in the first place? Usually, it’s because people realize that their care and clean up is more intensive than first thought. Just because a pet is little, doesn’t mean it’s easier to care for.
But if you’re prepared for the responsibility, guinea pigs – or cavies, as they’re called in South America – can make great family pets. They can live up to ten years in captivity and are quiet, social, and affectionate creatures. Perhaps the most adorable guinea pig trait is their language of squeaks, squeals, gurgles, growls and murmurs.
Cavies only bite if they are very frightened by things such as mishandling or a threatening animal. Guinea pigs may look like toys, but they are delicate critters that need gentle handling. Children under six years of age are too young to handle Guinea pigs. Older kids should be supervised by an adult and taught how to pick up and hold them properly.
Guinea pigs don’t require constant attention and are relatively low-cost. But they do require daily upkeep and an owner committed to taking good care of them. If you’re thinking about adopting a “pig,” keep these things in mind:
Guinea pigs love to run and are capable of jumping 12 inches. Therefore, the minimum enclosure for a single pig is a two-foot cube, (two foot by two foot by two foot). More space should be provided for any additional Guinea pigs.
Wire bottomed cages may be used as long as something is placed on the floor to prevent their little feet from getting caught in the floor bottom. Glass aquarium enclosures should never be used due to inadequate ventilation. Keep housing away from direct sunlight, drafts and temperature extremes. Always line the cages with safe bedding such as sawdust or wood shavings.
Guinea pigs are great fans of hide and seek! So outfit their enclosures with cardboard or PVC tubes wide enough for them to fit through. You may also allow cavies playtime in a single room, once it has been pig-proofed for safety. Always supervise their playtime outside the cage.
Feed a quality, commercial pellet made especially for Guinea pigs. They require daily vitamin C, which rabbit pellets do not contain. You can also supplement their daily diet with small amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables. Be sure to clean up any leftover fresh food before it spoils. Water should be provided in an inverted bottle that attaches to their enclosure. Change water every day.
Grooming and general care
Just like all rodents, Guinea pigs’ teeth grow continuously. Provide pigs with a piece of wood to gnaw on. This will wear his teeth down. Use a pesticide free tree branch, or an unpainted wood not chemically treated.
Brush your Guinea pig regularly to keep coats smooth and remove loose hair. Longhaired Guinea pigs should be groomed daily to prevent tangles and matting.
Finally, find a knowledgeable veterinarian who treats Guinea pigs and ask about their special dietary needs, health concerns and how to keep them healthy and happy for years to come!
If a Guinea pig sounds like a great family addition, visit www.petfinder.com to search for available Guinea pigs at your local animal shelter.