Sunday, June 12, 2016
Why you Should NOT give a Guinea Pig as a Gift.
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Please note, I have had over eleven guinea pigs. I love guinea pigs, but they aren't the right pet for everyone. Here are some things to consider.
Guinea pigs are often seen as "Starter Pets" but I have actually recommended people get a dog instead of a guinea pig.
Some of the things to take into consideration: They are fragile animals and can be dropped by small hands quite easily. They are heavier at their head, and I've heard of more than one guinea pig falling to its death because it landed head first.
Vet bills can be quite expensive because they are considered an exotic animal, and therefore the cost of their treatment is also quite exotic. It is also hard to find vets knowledgeable about guinea pigs, and on more than one occasion I've had to make a 2 1/2 hour (each way) trip to get my guinea pig to the vet.
They need to be cleaned often. They have a tendency to smell badly after a couple days, and especially male guinea pigs smell bad as they age.
What you *think* you know about guinea pigs is probably wrong. You cannot use cedar shavings -- that can cause respiratory problems that can kill them. I recommend Carefresh bedding. They also require pellets (and not the pretty kind, the plain boring ones!), and timothy hay. Don't forget the fresh veggies they need!
They require a lot of time, attention, and space. Before giving a pet as a gift you should always be aware if the person WANTS a pet and is both equipped (financially, physically, and with the needed space and time) to care for the animal. I would say proper care of my guinea pigs have averaged about $700 a year. That includes everything from food, bedding, an occasional item such as a Pigloo, nail clippers, vet bills and any special feed the vet may recommend. Because guinea pigs are social animals, they should usually be paired together -- but make sure no babies come along -- same gender pairing or fixed. So, the approximate cost I give here could easily be doubled making it costing $1400 a year for their care. There was one time a guinea pig of mine had to be hand fed for three months -- every four hours. No one was able to do it but me, and I felt like a walking zombie by the time he could eat on his own again.
They need a large cage. I know you see the starter kits at the store for guinea pigs, but they really need a larger home. It is recommended 3.5 square feet per pig, and most guinea pig lovers construct their own cagee. (Which is actually cheaper than a store bought cage.)
If you are gifting an animal to a child, be prepared to care for it when/if the child tires of it. If you are not willing to do that, then maybe you should just get the child a toy. And please, I beg you, that if you don't follow my advice and avoid giving a guinea pig as a pet this holiday season, please find it a good home if you no longer wish to care for it.