Written by Mike Corcoran, DVM, DABVP (R/A), CertAq
March is Adopt a Guinea Pig Month. I happen to think that Guinea Pigs are some of the best mammals around and that they make really great pets, but I don’t expect you to take my word for it! So I have compiled a list of the top reasons to adopt a Guinea Pig.
Reason #1: The great sounds they make
Guinea pigs chirp, squeak, squeal, whistle, purr, and sometimes even growl. No matter what sound they are making, it’s usually the cutest sound in the room. You won’t even care about them reminding you it’s time for evening vegetables while you’re watching TV. You’ll just feed them and enjoy the sounds of “I’m hungry!” turn into the sounds of “This is great food!” then cuddle them after dinner to hear the purring that says “You are petting me correctly.”
I have often joked that evolution failed these cute animals to some degree, because even the sounds that tell you they hate what’s happening are so cute that it’s only really a deterrent once you speak their language.
Reason #2: They help you eat healthy vegetables (or at least look like you do)
In addition to constant access to hay and a daily helping of pellets, Guinea Pigs should have regular portions of leafy greens (Romaine, red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce), bell peppers, occasional treats offered in the form of kale or spinach and it’s even fun to feed the occasional berry (not too often because it’s very sugary). Having these around may even help you eat more vegetables and improve your own health. Even if it doesn’t, everyone in line with you at the store will be impressed at how healthy your food selection has become!
Reason #3: Cowlicks
Need I say more? Many Guinea Pigs come with cowlicks in their fur that give that “too cute to care” disheveled look.
Reason #4: The bald ones look like baby hippos
“Skinny Pigs” are hairless breeds. Look at them and tell me that they don’t look like very small hippos. Obviously they need to be kept warmer, but that just means more cuddle time.
Reason #5: Those floppy ears
Whether they have no fur, short fur, long fur, straight or curly fur, they all have cute floppy ears visible on their heads. I’m convinced that their ears are the source of the ‘pig’ part of their names, but that is up for debate. It seems that most don’t mind the ear rubs that we feel compelled to give them, but if they do mind, they’ll let you know with a loud whistle. The ears sometimes flop back and forth when they are chewing food or when they shake their heads.
Reason #6: They started as food animals (and still are in South America) but were so cute they became pets
In what is now Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador, the residents of the Andes domesticated Guinea Pigs around 4,000 years ago for food. They are still a food animal in some of those areas, and as sad as it is for us to hear, it’s a very environmentally friendly practice that does not destroy rainforest land for pasture. I have been to some of the farms and restaurants there and I have to say that the Guinea Pigs raised for food all had good space and seemed to be happy in their pens…no I didn’t eat any Cuy (Peruvian Guinea Pig dish). I’ve known too many of them personally to be able to eat them. However, looking at it with recognition of cultural bias, I will say that the animals are treated like our best free range animals here. Even at the restaurants, they have cages with multi-level access, ramps, hides, and toys. When compared to lobster tanks in restaurants in the U.S., I would say they are treated far more humanely.
Reason #7: You have vitamin needs in common!
Next time you want to impress your friends with trivia knowledge, ask them what dietary need that Guinea Pigs have in common with them. Most animals make their own Vitamin C and don’t need to have it supplemented in their diets. The exceptions: Guinea Pigs, their cousins the Capybaras, humans and our primate cousins, bats, and some fish. Bell Pepper is a great source of Vitamin C for Guinea Pigs (and for us). Don’t forget to also ask your friends if they know the disease that occurs with Vitamin C deficiency: Scurvy. Maybe pirates should not have called each other scurvy dogs, but scurvy monkeys, scurvy cavies, scurvy bats?
Reason #8: It’s really cute watching them run
When you’re done reading this blog, I highly recommend you watch these:
Save these links for any time you need a little happiness in your life. I find it’s impossible to frown when watching a line of Guinea Pigs running over obstacles. Corgi butts have nothing on Guinea Pig butts, sorry Corgi enthusiasts, but your dogs get second prize. Looking at their body shape, you would never expect them to move as well as they do!
Reason #9: They have a great personality
Guinea pigs do best when they are kept in pairs or groups (don’t forget about spay/neuter). It’s fun to watch their playful interaction, listen to their conversations and watch the feasting at vegetable time. Out of their cage, they also do well running and playing around on the floor, sitting on your lap while you watch TV, or coming outside in the right weather (and of course proper supervision in an area with safe plants and no pesticides). They do well with children and I have even met some great certified therapy Guinea Pigs.
Thinking of adopting a piggy?
If I have convinced you of the value of sharing your life with a Guinea Pig, and you have decided a Guinea Pig is the right pet for you and your family after some research, then I would recommend you look into the following rescues who have piggies available NOW!
- MSPCA at Nevins Farm in Methuen, MA
- Animal Rescue League of Boston in Boston, MA
- MSPCA Boston Adoption Center in Boston, MA
- Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire in Bedford, NH
- New Hampshire SCPA in Stratham, NH
When you bring home your new companion, we will be happy to do your first health check and make sure your new family members stay happy and healthy!