Yeah sure, we all can indisputably agree that guinea pigs are cute. They are cuddly, they are awesome, they are social, and they are very friendly with us, but what’s on the downside to consider? There are a lot of questions that you need to ask yourself before getting a guinea pig. Just like any other pet animal, guinea pigs also deserve excellent care. That is why you have to make an honest review of your readiness before you proceed.
It’s also a good idea for you to read our Guinea Pig Complete Care Guide for Beginners that covers everything from basic guinea pig facts to chosing the right cage and grooming tips.
13 Things You Must Know Before Getting a Guinea Pig
- It will be a continued investment
- Having other pets that could harm guinea pigs at home is a bad idea
- You should not have only one guinea pig
- Size does matter. Well, in terms of cage size!
- You need to regularly clean their bedding
- You must be able to supervise them when they are taken outdoors
- You must dedicate enough time for them to keep them happy
- You must groom them quite regularly.
- Even though they are great pets for kids, you should not leave them without supervision for their own safety
- You must get supplements in the form of pellets or drops.
- Make sure you are not allergic
- You need to take your guinea pigs to a veterinarian once in a while. So you must have a veterinarian who treats guinea pigs near your home.
- The location of your guinea pig’s cage is very important
I know it is insensitive of me to leave you just with these subheadings. That is why I will elaborate on each of the above entries in the upcoming sections. Covering answers to why you should consider it, who is eligible, and who isn’t, I present to you this post.
1. It is a Continued Investment
It is not a one time buy like a toy. Adoption and rescue are indeed cheap enough. Anybody can feel good about such a way of giving an animal a loving home. But if you cannot give them the care they deserve in the future, you are committing a grave sin. You will need to provide grass hay, supplements, fruits, vegetables, enough fresh water, and proper and frequent medical care from a veterinarian. If you think that they will live self-sustained without you providing all the above-mentioned resources, then drop the idea of getting a pet.
All that is of course cheap enough. But it is a consistent, small, yet frequent investment because of the perishable nature of grass hay, vegetables, and fruits. On that note, we also can remember that those are easily available in all markets anyway. It is easy, but it takes will and passion if you need to cherish the moments with your guinea pigs!
2. Having Other Pets at Home Isn’t a Good Idea
Guinea pigs are natural preys to several animals. Although most cats do not tend to attack guinea pigs, dogs aren’t as friendly. If you have any other pet animals, getting guinea pigs ain’t going to be easy on you. Guinea pigs have in the past proven to express emotions. They may even get possessive of you when you are to distribute your love and attention to several pets.
3. You Should Not Have One Single Guinea Pig
No matter what question you ask about getting guinea pigs as pets, every post answering it will somehow mention “Guinea pigs are social animals”. That is true, they really are social. They live happy only if they are in a group of 2-10. Having one single guinea pig can even lead to the death of it merely out of loneliness.
Since you are reading this post on things you must know BEFORE getting a guinea pig, I am assuming you haven’t gotten one yet. That is a good thing actually. Because if you had gotten one guinea pig already, then getting the second one is a complex process. Making them get along with each other is really difficult in the beginning. So whether you get your guinea pigs from a rescue shelter, or from a breeder, you can get two (or more, get more! Trust me, it’s worth it!) guinea pigs which already get along well with one another.
While getting a pair of guinea pigs of the same sex, males may get territorial. While getting a male and a female together, make sure to get the male neutered by a surgeon unless you want a whole extra litter of guinea pigs in hand. They’ll be ultra-cute too, try at your own risk!
Interesting fact: It is illegal to own only one guinea pig in Switzerland. This law is laid in recognition of the absolute need for guinea pigs to socialize.
4. Does Size Matter? Yes, it Does!
Guinea pigs vary in their size based on age and breed. The playpen, hutch, and run that you gift your guinea pig must be big enough to accommodate your furry pals. There have been several recommendations about appropriate cage sizes put in from different organizations. One that is widely accepted remains to be that of BlueCross. It suggests that for a cage built for two guinea pigs, the dimensions should be a minimum of 120cm of length, 80cm breadth, and 80cm in height. Although, I recommend giving the maximum size possible for your pets.
I don’t know when the “Does size really matter” debate will come to an end in case of humans. But there is no dispute in agreeing that size matters when it comes to guinea pigs!
If you want to learn more about which guinea pig cage to get and where to place it read this post next.
5. Their Bedding Needs Regular Cleaning
Yeah, guinea pigs have simple needs. But they have regular needs. Guinea pigs are prone to infestation. So checking on their bedding is quite essential. A spot-cleaning for namesake is to be done every single day. And a thorough cleaning altogether is to be done at least once in a week.
Grass hay is recommended to be the bedding material- because they are soft on the feet, and still yum-yummy for them to nom-nom on it all day! Most guinea pigs don’t leave any grass hay remaining. But when they do, the grass dries up and acts as the perfect breeding place for infecting ticks and flees. An infestation could lead to anemia, loss of appetite, bacterial and fungal infections, and even death in severe cases.
So, you should never take any chances when it comes to cleaning their bedding. If you can’t have someone available to clean the bedding every day, you should definitely reconsider getting a guinea pig as your pet.
6. Supervisor Wanted
Guinea pigs, just like any other pet animal, need some time outdoors. In our efforts to imitate their natural habitat to make them feel like home, we are obliged to take them outdoors as much as possible. But if we are not careful while taking them out, there are dogs, cats, hawks, and many other predators waiting! So you always must take them out only at times when you can supervise them. Keeping the caged all the time you are out of town doesn’t help either. It is bad for their mental and emotional well-being.
So if you are going to be gone for over 24 hours, have someone to monitor your pets during their outdoor times. If that is not feasible for you, if you cannot spend enough time for your pets, well, then don’t get one.
7. Do You Have the Time?
Well, what is the most important question to ask yourself before planning on getting a baby with your spouse? It is whether or not you will be able to make time for taking care of the baby.
I always ask everyone to treat their pets no different than how they will treat their babies. So, ask yourself the same question here. Because even babies may understand if daddy or mommy has to work longer one night, as long as there is another one to take care of them.
But guinea pigs? They recognize you. They identify you as their pals. They connect emotionally with you. If you do not make time for them, they don’t care whether or not you leave a babysitter with them. Even one day away from you that they spend in loneliness, could cause adverse effects on their emotional health.
So unless you are sure that you can make at least a little time for them every day, put off your thoughts of getting any pet. After all, the greatest gift you can give to any soul is your time!
8. Different Breeds Need Different Grooming
We all know that owners spoil dogs, cats, even pet snakes! There are markets worth billions dedicated to the pet products for all these animals. Now the market has started to expand for guinea pig essentials too. Well, of course, why wouldn’t it expand? Look at the incredibly cute little piggies, so many people are going crazy for them.
So one of the most important things when it comes to taking care of a pet, is the grooming. The breeds of guinea pigs are versatile, and there are so many varieties to choose from. Most breeds are cute little fuzzy balls! So you would be a terrible parent if you do not groom the hair well frequently.
Long-haired breeds need grooming almost every day. When the hair is long, if it gets messy, your guinea pigs get more vulnerable to infestation. And as I said already, an infestation could lead to several complications including anemia, loss of appetite, weight loss, and even death in severe cases. Do those sound like great things to gift for your guinea pigs? I think not.
Do you know what is a great gift for your piggies? A comb! Show a pic of your furry pal to the pet shopkeeper. They will suggest you the right kind of comb depending on the hair-length which usually depends on the breed and the age.
There are also hairless breeds of guinea pigs that you can get. Obviously, they do not need any grooming. The short-haired breeds do not need as frequent grooming as long-haired ones.
But while we are on the subject, I believe it is also my responsibility to give an important disclaimer. If you groom your guinea pigs too frequent, as in more than needed, then it may lead to complications too. These could include hair loss, skin rashes and more. Too much of anything is good for nothing!
If you want to find out more about the different guinea pig breeds, read our complete list here.
9. Are Guinea Pigs R-Rated?
There is this notion among prospective owners that guinea pigs are great pets for kids. Let me tell you something. Guinea pigs may be used for scientific experiments in some countries. But you cannot experiment if your kids are good enough to deal with lives, by using guinea pigs. They are very sensitive animals, not just with emotions, but also with their physiology. Their bones could easily be broken by a simple act of a kid. Our kids may not know it when they harm the guinea pigs. But they could. So don’t take risks when there are actual lives involved.
It is true that guinea pigs connect well with kids. Kids enjoy the company of these furry playmates too. But do not let them get along without adult supervision.
I am not sure about film certifications. But I would definitely not give a G or a PG certificate for guinea pigs. PG-13 and R are probably the certificates that I’ll choose if I were the chairman of the board!
10. Readiness to Supplement
Guinea pigs need Vitamin C. Let me be straight about it. There is nothing to go around in this fact. They cannot produce the essential vitamin C in their body. So you need to provide it through their diet.
Banana is a great treat for guinea pigs which is rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants. But do note that I mentioned banana as a “treat”, not as a food. This choice of word is because banana consumption has to remain within limits for guinea pigs.
Pellets and supplement drops that can be integrated with everyday diet are available, such as this great product available on Amazon. Many good choices are available online as well as in pet product stores. But I do suggest that you consult with your veterinarian before you buy the supplements. Different breeds, different ages, different body weights require different supplements.
If you want to read more about feeding your guinea pig, the best vitamin C supplement and a lot more – read this post.
11. Make Sure You are Not Allergic
Just like allergies to other pet animals, some people could be allergic to guinea pigs too. Their hair and dander are the reasons for the allergy. Although their saliva and urine could also be allergens. Some people are allergic to the materials that surround the guinea pig. For example, the hay or wood shavings which you use for bedding their hutch could also cause allergic reactions in some people.
So make sure none of your family members are allergic to any of those before you get a guinea pig.
12. Compulsory Veterinarian Availability
Again, take the perspective of a new parent. Would you prefer to have your newborn baby in a locality that has no medical facilities in the vicinity, or maybe a building a few yards away from a hospital? Before getting a guinea pig, enquire if the local veterinarian handles them. Guinea pigs are indeed prone to a lot of diseases and infestation just like any other pet. Even with the best possible care, you still need to take your pet to the vet at frequent intervals.
The physiological mechanisms of guinea pigs aren’t as complicated as that of other pets. So they cannot fight pathogens harder, they can’t resist extreme weather with any internal mechanisms, so any fluctuation in environmental conditions would surely result in some disease. So keeping them protected is very essential. Especially when we take them away from their natural habitat to domesticize them. We are bringing them to a world of pollution, complications, and contamination- in short, into a toxic world. So keeping them safe is our responsibility as well.
And guinea pigs are not as conventional pets like dogs or cats are. Even in such well-known and conventional pets, medicating them or deciding on health-related issues without professional advice, is ill- advised. So when you are dealing with animals like guinea pigs, since we have not enough knowledge of their mechanisms, we should not take any risks. Professional medical advice is always to be valued in such a situation!
13. Location: Very Important!
You cannot just throw your guinea pig’s cage anywhere you want. Remember the following points while choosing the location.
- You cannot leave them under a metal sheet as it would be too hot under a metal sheet.
- Car garages and any room where a motor vehicle is parked, is off limits. The fumes that come from the vehicle could kill your piggy.
- While keeping the cage outdoor, the location should be such that it is not exposed to extreme weather conditions. Neither too hot, nor too cold, nor too wet! No direct sunlight!
To sum up this point, better have them indoors!