Why You Should Consider Adopting a Guinea Pig

guineapiWhen some people hear about guinea pigs, they think about classroom pets or laboratory animals. But actually, pet guinea pigs can bond as closely to their owners as cats and dogs. March is Adopt a Rescued Guinea Pig Month – so if you’re thinking of a new pet, why not consider rescuing a rodent in need?

Guinea pigs – often called cavies - are one of the exotic animals I recommend most, especially for families getting their first pet. Why are these South American rodents so great? Here are 10 reasons guinea pigs are terrific pets:

  1. Guinea pigs are generally hardy: When properly cared for, guinea pigs are generally very healthy animals. Many of the diseases that guinea pigs develop, such as dental problems and bladder stones, may be prevented to some extent with proper nutrition and preventative annual medical check-ups. Since guinea pigs originally came the cool South American Andean mountains, even simple steps, such as ensuring your pet guinea pig is kept out of excessively hot and humid temperatures, can help keep him or her from becoming overheated and dehydrated;
  1. Guinea pigs are fairly easy to care for: Every day, they need hay, fresh water, some fresh vegetables, a small amount of pelleted food specifically made for guinea pigs plus a vitamin C supplement. They require moderate-sized cage with paper-based bedding on the floor that should be spot-cleaned daily and completely emptied weekly. They also need daily out-of-cage time to run around, plus weekly brushing if they are long-haired. Males and females should be housed separately after a month of age, or you may end up with more guinea pigs than you bargained for.
  1. Guinea pigs are great pets for school-age children: Guinea pigs are generally not as delicate as rabbits and usually less jumpy than small rodents such as hamsters and gerbils. Consequently, they make terrific pets for elementary school age kids and older. However, all children should be supervised when handling, interacting with, and caring for guinea pigs.
  1. Guinea pigs live many years: In general, guinea pigs live, on average, five to seven years. Some have been reported to live into their teens. While most hamsters, gerbils and rats live only two to three years, on average. Guinea pigs’ longevity is in contrast to the two- to three-year lifespan of most gerbils, hamsters and rats and is critical for families to remember if they are considering adopting a guinea pig, as they’ll need to think about who will care for the pig after the kids have grown up and moved out.
  1. Guinea pigs behave differently: Most people don’t know that guinea pigs have different personalities. Some are assertive while others are shy. Just because two guinea pigs look similar doesn’t mean they’ll act similarly. Before choosing a pet guinea pig, spend some time with him or her to ensure his or her personality meets your needs. If you want a cuddly pet, look for an outgoing, easy to handle pig. Shyer guinea pigs will require a great deal of social interaction to enjoy being held.
  1. Guinea pigs make various sounds: Like cats, when they are happy, guinea pigs make a quiet vibrating sound. They purr most often when people they are comfortable with are petting them. Unbeknownst to most people who don’t own these adorable pets, guinea pigs also make other sounds: “wheeking” (squealing), “rumbling” (made by a male courting a female), and teeth chattering (an angry or aggressive sound).
  1. Guinea pigs jump up or “pop”: Guinea pigs’ jumping behavior, or “popcorning,” is an activity unique to guinea pigs that is more commonly seen in young pigs when they are happy or excited. They jump up straight into the air repeatedly and often squeal. Some guinea pigs also run forward and backward quickly, while others kick their front and back legs.
  1. Guinea pigs come in all different colors: Different breeds of guinea pigs have hair of different lengths, colors, and patterns. Guinea pigs may be short-haired, long-haired, or even hairless. According to the American Cavy Breeders Association, there are thirteen breeds and ten general colors of guinea pigs.
  1. Guinea pigs generally like people: These sociable little animals actually recognize and respond to their owners. When they see their owners, many squeal with joy or try to climb up the sides of their cages to reach them. Most people don’t realize it, but when socialized properly, guinea pigs can be as interactive and outgoing as dogs and cats.
  1. Guinea pigs are super first pets: Given their fairly simple level of care, overall hardy demeanor, tendency to bond closely with their owners and generally long lifespans, guinea pigs make terrific first pets for families who want a loving and rewarding pet but who can’t provide the level of care required by a cat or dog. If you’re now convinced that a guinea pig is the right pet for you, visit

Click here to see how you can adopt a rescued pig into your loving home.


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Positively Expert: Laurie Hess

Dr. Hess is board-certified by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in avian (bird) medicine and served as the President of the Association of Avian Veterinarians from 2009-2010. She is also an active member of the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians and the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians.


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