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Thinking of getting a pet but don’t want the responsibility of a cat or a dog? How about a guinea pig? March is Adopt a Rescued Guinea Pig month, so what better time to get a new pet and also help save a life?
Guinea pigs, or “cavies,” are short-tailed, rough-haired South American rodents (family Caviidae). Guinea pigs have always been one of the exotic pets I recommend most, especially for families considering a pet for the first time. Why are guinea pigs one of my favorites? Here are 10 reasons guinea pigs make great pets:
1. Guinea pigs are hardy. When cared for and fed properly, guinea pigs are generally very healthy animals. Like other pets, they can be prone to particular diseases — for example, dental disease and bladder stones in their case — but these conditions may be prevented to some degree with proper nutrition and regular medical checkups. Also, since guinea pigs are from cool climates, they don’t do well in hot, humid conditions. Keeping them inside lessens the likelihood that they’ll overheat and/or dehydrate.
2. Guinea pigs are easy to care for. They require hay, fresh water, fresh vegetables and a small amount of pelleted food formulated for guinea pigs, plus a vitamin C supplement each day. They also need a fairly large cage lined with paper-based bedding. The cage needs to be spot-cleaned daily and completely cleaned weekly. Add some daily attention and they are good to go. Just remember, unless you want to end up with several little additional guinea pigs, you’ll need to separate males from females even before they are a month old!
3. Guinea pigs are great pets for children. Not as fragile as rabbits and generally less skittish than smaller rodents like hamsters and gerbils, guinea pigs are wonderful pets for elementary-school-age kids and older. But remember, younger children should always be supervised around guinea pigs, just as with any other pet.
4. Guinea pigs live long lives. While most hamsters, gerbils and rats live only two to three years, on average, most guinea pigs live five to seven years and some have even lived into their teens. This longer lifespan is important for families to consider if they are thinking of adopting a guinea pig, as you need to be prepared to care for your pig even after the kids have grown up and moved out.
5. Guinea pigs are unique. Many people don’t realize this, but guinea pigs have a lot of personality. Some guinea pigs are shy; others are bold and dominant. Just because two guinea pigs look the same doesn’t mean they’ll act the same. Before selecting a guinea pig, be sure to interact with her to ensure that her personality meets your expectations. For example, if you’re looking for a cuddly pet, you’ll want an outgoing, friendly little pig.
6. Guinea pigs purr! Just like cats, guinea pigs make a quiet yet audible vibrating sound when they are happy, often when they are petted gently. Most people who don’t own guinea pigs aren’t aware of this adorable sound. In addition to purring, guinea pigs make a number of other sounds including “wheeking” (squealing), “rumbling” (a sound made by a male courting a female), and teeth chattering (when they are angry or aggressive).
7. Guinea pigs like to pop. “Popcorning” is a unique behavior more commonly seen in young guinea pigs when they are happy or excited: They jump up straight into the air over and over. Some guinea pigs run forward and backward quickly, while others alternately kick out their front and back legs. Many pigs also squeal simultaneously. Popcorning is unique to guinea pigs and is a fun behavior to watch.
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