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A Different Kind of Shelter Pet

Pet adoption is not just about cats and dogs. Even guinea pigs need to find their “furever” homes.

Buford the guinea pig, surrounded by his favorite salad. Photo by Dawn Miklich.

Think dogs and cats are the only kinds of pets found in shelters? Think a little smaller…and just as lovable.

I’ve kept guinea pigs and even helped raise a litter of baby piggies. Dawn Miklich of Pet Product Review, and guardian of six unique and adorable guinea pigs, answers nine questions below about these great pets.

1)  Do guinea pigs make good pets?

Guinea pigs love attention and can make a wonderful addition to the family. They are great companions for children old enough to understand how to handle them gently.

2)  Who should get a guinea pig?

The right person for a guinea pig is anyone who is going to make sure they get plenty of attention, exercise and the right care.

3)  What are some considerations before getting a guinea pig?

Guinea pigs require quite a bit of room for their cage. A pair needs a minimum of 9 to 10 square feet. Most of the cages available in the stores are not big enough. You can look online for designs to make your own cage.

Guinea pigs should be kept indoors, not only for the weather/temperature conditions but also because they like to be where they can be part of the family.

4)  What do they eat?

Guinea pig pellets, hay and fresh vegetables.

5)  How long do they live?

About 4 to 8 years.

6)  Do they need to be kept in pairs?

While you can keep a single guinea pig, they really enjoy having a friend of their own around, so it’s best to keep them in same sex pairs.

7)  What sounds do guinea pigs make?

Wheeking (a loud, repetitive squeal–wheek wheek wheek!) is one of their most common sounds, and they do it when they are excited, like when it’s veggie eating time.

They purr when they are content and happy. It’s a nice sound to hear when you are petting them.

When they are upset about something they chatter their teeth.

8)  What are some of the different breeds of guinea pigs?

There are quite a few different breeds in the US. The most common are:

  • American (short-haired)
  • Abyssinian (medium length hair with rosettes)
  • Peruvian (long hair)

Some other less common breeds are:

  • Coronet (long hair with a rosette on its head)
  • Silkie (long hair without a rosette on its head)
  • Teddy (short hair with hair that stands up)
  • Texel (long curly hair)
  • Skinny pigs and Baldwins (hairless)

Dawn has two Abyssinians, one Texel, one American and two Skinny pigs

9)  Where can someone get a guinea pig?

Unfortunately, many adoptable guinea pigs are in need of new homes. There are guinea pig rescue groups throughout the US and many shelters also take in small pets. Check with your local shelter or visit Petfinder to find guinea pigs in your area.

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