Guinea pigs are a popular choice for a household pet, especially among families with children. However, many pet owners are unaware of what’s required to care for these small animals, and they end up giving their pet away or abandoning it. If you’re considering adopting a guinea pig, also known as cavies, do your research first. In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about guinea pig adoption, as well as basic care requirements.
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Guinea Pig Rescue and Adoption
How do you go about adopting a guinea pig? Where can you typically find this animal, and what you should look for in a guinea pig before adopting? Before you ask yourself these questions, you should determine if a guinea pig is a good pet for you.
Is a Guinea Pig the Right Pet for You?
Although guinea pigs are small, they come with many responsibilities. First and foremost, make sure you like guinea pigs before adopting one. Try to spend time with guinea pigs, either at a local shelter or with a friend who has one, to see if you enjoy being around guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs also come with financial burdens, including a cage, hay, food, treats, and veterinary care. Don’t adopt a guinea pig if you can’t afford one. These animals could be a 5-8 year commitment, so ensure you and your family members are prepared to invest that kind of time into caring for a guinea pig. Guinea pigs are also happier when they have a friend around, so you should consider adopting more than one. if you want to pair up two guinea pigs, always ask the advice of the shelter you’re adopting from first.
Finally, check for local vets in your area that treat exotic pets, not just cats and dogs. You shouldn’t leave guinea pigs alone for too long either, so if you travel often you’ll have to find a family member or friend to care for your cavy while you’re away.
Where to Find a Guinea Pig
You can find guinea pigs at pet stores or at an animal welfare nonprofit organization. Search online for local guinea pig shelters or use Petfinder to locate rescues. Before you go to a pet store to buy a guinea pig, consider adopting one from a local shelter instead. These guinea pigs were either abandoned or surrendered by their former owners and are badly in need of a home. If you go to a guinea pig rescue center, expect to visit more than once before finalizing the adoption.
Guinea Pig Shelter: Questions to Ask
Not every animal shelter is the same, so you’ll want to ask about a few things before choosing a guinea pig:
- Potential health issues or special needs; how the animal lived before coming to the shelter
- Personality, likes, dislikes
- The vet the animal already sees
- Recommendations for food, cage, and other products
When searching for your new pet, beware of breeders who seem dishonest. Some breeders are actually “flippers” – individuals who steal or find animals and then quickly sell them to make a profit. These people aren’t concerned for the animal’s wellbeing and it’ll show if you ask them questions about caring for a guinea pig. Flippers might also pressure you into taking the animal home without the time to think about the decision. Reputable breeders and animal welfare advocates will be able to answer your questions and won’t be willing to give the animal away so quickly.
How Much Does a Guinea Pig Cost?
The cost of a single guinea pig is between $10 – $40. The average adoption fee for a single guinea pig is $25, which animal shelters use to cover their operating costs. Also, keep in mind that donations to animal welfare organizations are often tax deductible. Pet stores and breeders sell guinea pigs for between $10 – $40. If you’re purchasing a cavy, make sure the pet is from a legitimate breeder and not someone who runs a guinea pig farm, forcing sows (female guinea pigs) to carry litters almost without ceasing.
The cost of the guinea pig is only a portion of your expenses. Remember that guinea pigs are social creatures and prefer to have at least one roommate with them. So you may want to adopt two instead of one. For two guinea pigs, you’ll need equipment like a hutch, food and food bowls, hay and clean bedding, and a water bottle – all of which adds up to about $100. After purchasing all these products, you’ll spend between $3 – $6 on food each week.
What to Look for in a Guinea Pig
When you adopt a guinea pig, you want to make sure the animal is healthy. Check for any swelling or bumps, and that the coat is well-groomed with no bald or red patches. Sores and dry spots could be signs of infection. Other indications of an infection could be discharge from the nose or white streaks around the ears.
The guinea pig should also be active and alert, without labored breathing. When shelter volunteers handle the guinea pig, watch the animal’s response. You should also wait to adopt a guinea pig until it’s at least six weeks old.
Setting Up for Your New Guinea Pig
Once you bring your new friend home, you have to make sure she has everything she needs. Start with the basics; you can acquire more stuff (like fun toys!) over the long-term.
What Do Guinea Pigs Require?
At the very least, guinea pigs require a cage, bedding, hay, food, food bowl, water bottle, treats, and toys.
- Clean cage and bedding – Guinea pigs are small, but they need large cages with enough room to move around. For a single cavy, you need a cage of 7.5 square feet minimum. For two, you need 10.5 square feet. Put down a tray if the cage has a wire bottom, and bedding. Bedding can be hay, paper, aspen, or fleece.
- Roommates – Guinea pigs do better in pairs, but always put two boars (males) or two sows (females) together. Otherwise, you’ll end up with guinea piglets. Also, guinea pigs don’t do well with other animals in their cage, like rabbits.
- Timothy hay – Your new pet needs hay to chew on to keep her front teeth from getting too long. You’ll have to remove soiled hay and put in fresh hay each day.
- Food, water, treats – In addition to hay, guinea pigs need commercial guinea pig food, vegetables, and treats. The best veggies are dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and dark green lettuce. Your guinea pig cage should include a food bowl and a water bottle as well. Keep some treats on hand to supplement your pet’s diet.
- Toys – Cavies love to play! When they’re not in their cage, they’ll want to run around the room and explore. They also love toys like balls, chews, and tunnels.
Adopt Your New Guinea Pig
Guinea pigs make great pets. While they’re relatively easy to care for, they still have needs you must respect if you want to keep them happy and healthy. Consider adopting a guinea pig carefully before doing so. If you’re willing to take responsibility for your new pet, then you’ll have a new best friend!