Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had a real increase in people asking me for advice about having a guinea pig as a pet, don’t ask me where it came from, I’m not sure beyond that people know we have a guinea pig and I’ve shown the kids cleaning out her pen as some *incredibly* loose version of homeschooling under the “animal care” bracket. (pipe down, it’s a thing).
Anyway, I thought it would be sensible to write about my thoughts on having a guinea pig as a first pet, that way I will have something that is hopefully useful from a first hand POV of a mum.
So are guinea pigs good first pets for children?
YES. It’s a resounding yes from me. I’m going to level with you – I did not like guinea pigs AT ALL before we had them, in fact, I resisted it for years and years, never had them as a child as my mum doesn’t like them at all, and I just didn’t think they were an animal I would entertain.
Enter stage left, Tobias Aluko, the animal whispering king. He has yet to meet an animal he doesn’t love – actually, I lie, spiders he hates but he also won’t let anyone kill them because they are “living beings”… he’s partial to a chicken nugget and sausage though so let’s not get too in awe of his amazing morals surrounding living beings.
Toby is just such a big softy with animals, he loves them all and when he discovered guinea pigs at age 3, it was game over. He became obsessed with the idea of getting a piggie. We said no. We said no and no and no, until eventually he wore us down at the tender age of 4 and a half.
So we went and bought him 2 guinea pigs, Apple and Pip. Guinea pigs need to be in pairs or groups, and yes, we do only have one now, but initially we had two until Apple met her untimely demise last summer. To give you an idea of how important it is that guinea pigs are in pairs or groups, it’s illegal in some countries to even own one on it’s lonesome. They get lonely, really lonely, and it’s why Apple now lives permenantly in the house and never outside in a hutch, only in her run on lovely sunny days. When Pip died she wasn’t very accepting of the stuffed toy we were advised to pop in bed to make her feel less alone and I don’t think she would have taken to a baby piggy very well at all. So Apple is just uno.
What I love about Guinea pigs as a first pet:
- They are cuddly. No really, they are. I didn’t think they would be but I will often get Apple out of her cage and snuggle her, she’s a lovely little thing.
- They are robust for little hands. I always thought that Hamsters were considered the same as guineas and a great first pet – turns out that isn’t true and they aren’t a good pet for little ones at all because of grabby hands. Guineas are much more robust and willing to be handled after a settling period.
- They are usually sweet natured. I have yet to be bitten by Apple (or Pip when she was with us) and from what I’ve been told, guineas tend not to be bitters unless they haven’t been well handled or they are threatened/hurt. Apple is the sweetest little thing and will happily let the kids play with her and cuddle her, without ever batting an eyelid.
What I don’t love about Guinea pigs as a first pet:
- They have no manners and will poo or pee on you. I have been told before that you can train guineas, like rabbits, to use a litter tray but I’ve never tried it, and we now put Apple on a blanket or old tea towel to have a cuddle because she just drops have little droppings wherever she fancies and social etiquette be damned.
- They have sharp little claws. A few times Edith has picked Apple up in a little dress and come away with lots of unintentional scratches as they have sharp little claws these guineas. Also, pigeon feet. Ew.
- They can be really smelly. Yeah, they can if you don’t clean them out enough, I don’t care what anyone says. We empty out Apple’s cage 1-2 times a week and she doesn’t smell hardly at all. If we leave it the full week, it smells by the time we get to the end of the week. I guess this would be less if you have a hutch outside though, but I still think for the animal’s hygiene, once a week is best.
So what do they cost?
Actually not that much. Set up can cost a lot or a little, depending on what you buy. We were lucky enough to be given a guinea pig run by my friend whose guineas had died, but that would normally set you back anywhere between £25-50, our hutch was around £100 and indoor cage around £35. We buy a bulk bag of sawdust from pets at home or amazon for £20 and that lasts us for a couple of months, and we buy hay and pellets for their food from Asda or Tesco to the tune of £10 per month. Add in a food bowl, water butt and a few toys and we’re probably looking at another £15-20. The piggies themselves were £20 each, but if you do go somewhere like Pets at Home, they have pets for adoption at the back of the store and you don’t have to pay anything (though a donation is recommended). Fact that makes me cringe, but hopefully sees pets with loving homes: when they can’t sell the babies they have in their “main cage” and it’s time for new babies to come in, they will move the older ones to the back of the store for adoption.