Rescuing a Guinea Pig: Is Adoption Right for You?
Guinea pigs make for incredibly entertaining and enjoyable pets. They’re highly social, recognize (and “talk” to!) their humans, and are capable of learning tricks and basic commands. So why would anyone want to part with one?
Like any pet, guinea pigs are an addition to a family and require care and attention. Adding any pet to a family is a big commitment! Cavies (a shorthand name of the scientific name for guinea pigs) make excellent pets for children, as they are known for their gentle dispositions and adorable personalities. But unlike other small pets, guinea pigs have a long lifespan for rodents: up to 8 years! Compared to a shorter life span of 2-3 years for hamsters or gerbils, families often don’t realize just how long a guinea pig will be part of the family. Guinea pigs also require more space than pocket-pets, eat more, and prefer to be kept in pairs or small groups. And, if not provided with enough enrichment and opportunities to exercise, they become bored and will vocalize their displeasure! For these reasons, hundreds of guinea pigs are surrendered to shelters and rescue groups every year, hoping to find their forever homes.
Reasons to rescue
Adopting a guinea pig is one of the most noble and commendable ways to become a proud owner of a cavy (or two)! Shelters are not usually equipped with the necessities to keep a cavy comfortable, and are noisy/scary places for a small pet! In truth, you may actually be saving a guinea pig’s life when you adopt from a shelter or humane society.
As upsetting as that may be, many rescue groups band together to save animals of all kinds from shelters. You can help by adopting a guinea pig directly from the shelter, or from a rescue group! Your adoption/rehoming fee goes directly back into the organization’s funds for feeding, caring for, and rescuing future pets.
Are you on the fence about owning guinea pigs? You may be interested in fostering one or two! Fostering guinea pigs takes the pressure of being a permanent home off of you, while still providing a safe place for them while you find their perfect home. Check with local guinea pig rescue organizations to see if you can join their list of foster homes – many of them will help you financially care for the guinea pigs you foster, or offer supplies such as bedding and food. It’s also a great opportunity to see if owning a guinea pig is right for you!
Adopting vs. shopping
You’re probably familiar with the campaign of “adopt, don’t shop” that shelters and rescue groups use for finding homes for dogs in particular. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with “shopping” (purchasing from a breeder or store) to obtain a guinea pig, there are plenty of cavies in need of forever homes if you know where to look.
Humane societies, animal shelters (sometimes called “animal control facilities”), adoption centers, or adoption fairs are all registered with your city or state and can be found online. Be sure to ask them if they have any guinea pigs available – just because they aren’t listed online doesn’t mean they don’t come across them!
Rescue groups or individuals are also great resources when looking to adopt a guinea pig, and will usually offer continued education and assistance after you adopt through them. These groups or individuals can be found through an online search, Facebook groups, websites such as PetFinder, or through your local shelter or veterinarian.
It’s important to check the credibility of a rescue group or individual before adopting from them. You can ask a group for their non-profit status and verify that they are a registered 501c non-profit group with your state. To check the efforts of an individual, ask them for references and/or ask them which veterinarian they take their cavies to. When you call the veterinarian’s office, they should be more than happy to verify that the individual brings guinea pigs in for care.
A coat for every occasion
Choosing the right guinea pig breed isn’t entirely necessary, but it is fun! Guinea pigs all have unique personalities, but are universally known to be sweet, good-natured pets. Breeds have primarily been developed for different coat types – and there are many different varieties! Choosing the right breed for your family really comes down to how you want your guinea pig’s coat to look, and how much time you’d like to spend grooming and brushing them. Coats range from long to short and straight to curly – with some guinea pigs having no hair at all!
If there’s a particular breed with a coat that appeals most to you, you may want to go through a breeder or a rescue group that really knows their cavies! Still, in checking with shelters and rescues routinely, you may stumble upon your perfect piggy – or one that steals your heart regardless of their hair! Be sure to ask the shelter or rescue to put your name on a list if you are searching for a specific type of guinea pig.
The main attributes to consider when adopting a guinea pig are:
Is it a young or senior guinea pig? Are you adopting more than one? If so, be sure to get same-sex pairs to avoid accidental litters of guinea pig pups! And is the guinea pig you’re considering outgoing or shy?
Finding a guinea pig that fits into your lifestyle and meshes with your family is the most important part of choosing your cavy. Even if the guinea pig you see at the shelter or rescue isn’t the one for you, you can spread the word on social media to help it find its forever home!
Prepare for “popcorning”
If you aren’t familiar with guinea pigs, one of the most adorable things they do when they’re happy is something called “popcorning.” When a guinea pig is at their happiest, they will quite literally jump for joy – twisting and grunting to form the action known as a guinea pig “popcorn.”
So how do you get your piggy to popcorn? You help them live their best life through shelter, play, diet, and basic care!
By choosing a high-quality enclosure like the Eglu Go Guinea Pig Hutch from the beginning, you’ll avoid having to replace it down the road. We invented this hutch with the spirit of enabling guinea pigs to enjoy nature safely and securely.
That’s right – you can house your guinea pig outside, all year long! It’s a common misconception that guinea pigs have to be housed indoors, but they’re actually quite capable of adapting to life outside! The added benefits of having an Eglu Go Guinea Pig Hutch include: weather and predator protection, anti-gnawing and chewing design, and being super easy to clean!
Regardless of whether you keep your cavy indoors or outdoors, they’ll need engaging activities to exercise their minds and bodies. Since guinea pigs love to tunnel (but not dig their own!), a system of Zippi Guinea Pig Tunnels is an excellent way to curb boredom and move those little legs! Combine the tunnels with Zippi Guinea Pig Runs and Playpens for safe, enclosed playtime – inside or outside!
Setting up an enriching, safe place for your guinea pig will help them adjust easier and faster, which allows you to spend less time cleaning and more time playing and bonding with them!
Caring for your cavy
Once you have all of the proper equipment, guinea pigs are relatively easy to care for. Their diet should consist mainly of ruffage such as Timothy hay, fed in unlimited amounts. They should also be fed a hay-based pellet that is high in fiber to keep their little bellies in working order.
Like humans, guinea pigs cannot manufacture their own vitamin C, so make sure that their pelleted food has added vitamin C. If not, commercially purchased supplements can be fed or added to their water. You can also offer vegetables high in vitamin C such as bell peppers, tomatoes and asparagus. Fruits are a source of vitamin C as well, but should be fed sparingly as it’s very easy for a guinea pig to become overweight! Small amounts of oranges or kiwi may be given once or twice a week for a treat that packs a dose of vitamin C.
The Caddi Guinea Pig Treat Holder is a fun way to offer up your cavy’s favorite foods. Stuff it with hay, leafy greens, or other guinea pig-safe delicacies for hours of fun. When you’re as cute as a guinea pig, it’s okay to play with your food!
In addition to their diet, you should make sure your guinea pig always has access to fresh, clean water. Avoid any bowls low enough for them to step in, tip over, or kick bedding into. Run-mounted crocks or drinkers are good options for offering water to your cavy. You can also use an elevated cat bowl to offer water inside of your guinea pig’s hutch, as long as it’s high enough to keep them from taking a dip, and low enough for their mouths to reach!
Exercise is important for a guinea pig so that they maintain a healthy weight. Extra ounces on a guinea pig can lead to metabolic or digestive issues, and put unnecessary strain on their little legs which can cause joint pain. Zippi Guinea Pig Platforms are a great way to encourage your guinea pig to put in some extra steps! Try serving their food on the platform to encourage them to climb up and down the ramp. You can also build obstacle courses out of cardboard boxes to encourage physical activity – just be sure there’s a reward at the end!
Basic grooming and health checks will ensure your guinea pig is feeling its best. If you find anything amiss during a routine once-over, be sure to notify your veterinarian. For a list of these basic activities, visit: 5 Guinea Pig Care Tips.
Build a bond that lasts a lifetime
To ensure you and your newly-rescued guinea pig get off on the right foot, remember to:
- Choose a high-quality hutch designed for guinea pigs
- Offer stimulating and enriching enclosures and playtime
- Feed an appropriate diet
- Find a veterinarian that treats guinea pigs in case of illness or emergencies
When all of a guinea pig’s basic needs are met, you’ll find that they make wonderful companions! They have many adorable attributes such as popcorning, scampering, playing, and chattering (see: How to Understand the Language of Guinea Pigs).
By nature, guinea pigs will bond with another of their kind, which is why it’s best to keep them in pairs. Having a pal that speaks your language is great, but cavies also desire and build relationships with their human-caretakers! Talk to your guinea pig often, offer food by hand (careful not to accidentally put your finger in harm’s way), and visit with your guinea pig frequently. Above all, be patient. Bonding with any animal doesn’t happen overnight, but before long your guinea pig will accept you as their friend. Once a bond has been established, it is not easily broken, so take your time. Your piggy will be greeting you with a series of “wheeks”, “chuts”, and “coos” in no time – especially if there’s food involved!
Confidence and support
Adopting a guinea pig is a big decision, but with adequate resources and preparation, it can be one of the most rewarding decisions you’ll make as a pet owner!
We’ve created our products to help your guinea pig adjust to life in their forever home. Because our hutches are meant to be a “forever” solution – no rotting, breaking down, or showing the wear and tear of wooden hutches – you can have the confidence that your adopted cavy is living safely and happily ever after in their new home.
We hope that you take the leap and open your home and heart to a guinea pig in need of rescuing. If you have any questions about how to adopt a guinea pig, or basic guinea pig care, let us know!
This entry was posted in Guinea Pigs