By Kathryn Wilcox
The short answer is yes, they are great pets, but guinea pigs but are not pigs! Guinea pigs are actually rodents who came from South America. Europeans were the first to domesticate these small animals using them as lap pets in European Courts.
Guinea pigs are small, 1 to 2 pounds and about 12 inches long when fully grown. They can live from 4 to 8 years and are quite healthy. They are relatively easy to take care of, just needing a roomy cage, ceramic food bowl, safe bedding and a water bottle with a sippy spout.
Guinea pigs are vegans; they do not eat any meat, dairy products or sweets. So do not feed your pet people food! Special food pellets are sold in pet stores which are made especially for these animals and should be the only food they are given except for a small amount of timothy hay.
Keep your guinea pig’s cage away from direct sunlight and drafts and in a room with a consistent temperature. Also keep your little one away from the noisy areas of your home! Clean the cage at least once a week, and if you keep the cage clean, these pets have very little odor. Most people are not allergic to them, so they are popular with those who cannot have a cat or a dog. These tiny creatures are quite good at grooming themselves, but can be brushed occasionally with a soft bristle brush. Be sure to monitor your guinea pig for health issues by watching for diarrhea, or any nasal discharge. It is also a sign of illness if your animal stops drinking. Make sure to locate a veterinarian who specializes in exotic pets when your guinea pig needs medical attention.
The guinea pig’s social nature makes them a wonderful family pet as they love being held and stroked. They are quiet, only occasionally making squeaking sounds, aand require very little care. They rarely bite and are likable little animals. It is also important to understand that if you choose one of these small mammals as a pet, they should not be left in a cage and ignored because they are naturally affectionate and love to be held. While very small children many not understand that guinea pigs need careful handling, even 5 and 6 year old children can be taught how to handle these gentle animals.
Many families find that these quiet little animals are a great first pet and provide children with a positive pet experience!