Our four year old daughter has desperately tried to make friends with our grumpy 14 year old blue heeler as long as she has been alive. “Mommy, when Indie dies can we get a nice dog?“ This question from my four year old daughter, ultimately led to one of the biggest life changes we’ve made since my twelve month old son was born – guinea pigs.
I got our first guinea pig a few days before Thanksgiving. After doing a little reading, I decided we needed another one. “One can be for Henry,” I told my husband. He agreed that our baby boy would definitely benefit from having a guinea pig, so I bought the second one during a Black Friday sale.
I hid the pair in my home office until Christmas day. It was a fun secret and I really enjoyed having the guinea pigs all to myself for a little while. During my almost two months as a proud guinea pig owner, I have learned quite a bit.
1. The cages are very large.
When my husband and I decided we were going to get a guinea pig, I posted a request for a cage and supplies on my local Buy Nothing group. A woman responded to my request, telling me that I could have her cage, supplies, AND guinea pig. I happily went over to her house, planning on putting everything in the trunk of my hatchback.
However, when I saw the cage, I quickly realized that my plan was flawed. I had to remove my car seats and collapse my back seat to get the cage in. Even then, there was not much extra room. Guinea pigs need a lot of room. The recommended amount of space for one guinea pig is about eight square feet, but….
2. They are social animals and it is recommended that you get at least two guinea pigs.
That’s right! Guinea pigs need almost constant companionship, and they actually get quite lonely if they do not have a piggy friend. They are awake around 20 hours a day, sleeping in short spurts, so there is no way they can get the companionship they need from human cuddles. The good news is that eight square feet is enough room for two guinea pigs, so you don’t have to buy a bigger cage for your pair. There are many rehoming groups on Facebook, so consider rescuing one or both of your pigs to lower your costs and give an unwanted piggy a good home.
Tip: Make sure you get two boars (male piggies) or two sows (female piggies), or you will end up with way more than two guinea pigs.
3. Guinea pigs eat a surprising amount of hay.
A few weeks into my piggy journey, I needed to go buy more hay. I bought a five pound bag from a local pet store, thinking it would last forever. It only lasted about a month. Guinea pigs graze all day long, and that helps prevent their teeth from getting too long. You will also need to give them a small amount of pellets and about half a cup of leafy greens per piggy per day. Other fruits and vegetables can be incorporated as a small treat.
4. There are many options for guinea pig bedding.
Do your research when choosing bedding for your guinea pig. We started out with paper bedding. Paper bedding is great at keeping the odor down and it’s safe and comfortable for the piggies, but it can create a bit of a mess and I found it hard to spot clean. Wood shavings are also a popular choice and are supposed to be good for odor, but stay away from cedar. Aspen and kiln-dried pine are safe choices.
We now use a washable puppy pad with a cheap fleece blanket on top. This option is easy to clean and affordable, but you must make sure your fleece blanket wicks liquid before you put it in the cage so your piggies’ feet stay dry.
5. Four years old is probably too young for a guinea pig.
This is probably the most important point you will read in this whole article. My daughter is the sweetest, most gentle child I have ever come across. We had a small snake for a while and she would sweetly let it wrap itself around her finger. I’ve taken her to petting zoos and she is very, very careful with the bunnies and other animals.
Somehow, none of this applies to her new guinea pigs. She tries to cram lettuce down their throats and almost forces them into their tunnels. As a result, she is not allowed to play with them unsupervised and we are coaching her to be more careful, but it is a process. I am not sure what the right age is, but make sure your child can distinguish between guinea pigs and toys before you get any.
We love Santa Claus Elsa and Santa Claus Anna and are glad they are part of our family. We look forward to spending the next several years with them and to finding new fun ways incorporate them into our family.