should we keep guinea pigs?

(39 Posts)
looseleaf Mon 05-Nov-12 19:49:39

A lady locally had 2 guinea pigs (sisters ) and her children no longer interested. Dd (6) and I love animals and I've only had rabbits but suggested we'd be happy to give them a go for a week or two then see...
They are very lovely guinea pigs, very friendly and we've definitely taken to them but I need to decide whether we're a good enough home.

We have a garden
We have bought them a tunnel and ordered an xl fleece cosy as worried they'll get cold (owners kept them outside) but I don't think we can do more than this as our flat tiny
Dd gives them lots of time and is gentle and great with them
We say hello to them several times a day and take them out for exercise and cuddles once or twice
Different Veg twice a day

We have a 1 year old so any involvement I have with them is limited and exhausting as either uses up the little time I have (much needed for house-keeping, cooking etc as our children have allergies and it's hard to take shortcuts!) or I'm constantly trying to control DS's enthusiastic attempts to be with them . He's stroking them softly but over enthusiastic so I basically watch him constantly and can't do anything else
No grass in our garden

Do any of you have advice? We've only had them 3 days but I sort of need to work out my thoughts before dd gets even more attached (she knows they're temporary to see if we have time to really look after them)

Thanks for your thoughts!!

daisydee43 Mon 05-Nov-12 20:04:54

Personally I don't think guinea pigs are the best animal for small kids as they can be vicious and do get forgotten about in a hutch. An inside animal is prop better ie hamster

Mintyy Mon 05-Nov-12 20:09:55

I think you should keep them, they are soooooooooo lovely grin. If you don't have grass in your garden then you can give them plenty of hay, which is cheap as anything and should form 80% of their diet anyway. So long as you supervise over-enthusiastic stroking by the one year old then it should be fine. I love and adore my guinea pig but don't handle her everyday and I don't think that amounts to neglect.

Mintyy Mon 05-Nov-12 20:10:31

And disagree that they are viscious. Hamsters are a pita because they are nocturnal.

fridayfreedom Mon 05-Nov-12 20:14:13

guinea pigs are much better than hamsters for children as they are less likely to bite and will actually sit still!!
However animals shouldn't be bought just for children , there needs to be a serious amount of adult committment to looking after them as children quickly get bored and won't do the boring or yucky bits.
Our local rescue won't re-home GPs for children as most of the ones they have in come from homes where the children have got fed up with them.

Mintyy Mon 05-Nov-12 20:16:45

My children haven't lost interest in our guinea pig. They care for her every day and don't need reminding (much). But they are older (11 and 9) so perhaps younger dc do lose interest more quickly.

looseleaf Mon 05-Nov-12 20:24:42

I could be wrong but i don't think dd will lose interest easily as she is passionate about animals and constant in her interests generally. But it's more the effort from me which I agree needs to be there and it's just not relaxing or fun with DS in tow so I already get a feeling of guilt I could do more.
I am guinea-pig mad now though and do think if I could put more time in it would be a lot of fun.
Aargh I feel very undecided! But think on the whole we should approach this properly when children are bigger

I've had guineas from about 9-22 yo and now my DD has followed in my guinea-loving-shoes grin

The main queries I'd have is:
What about your DC allergies? Hay,grass, animal fur?
Are you going to be able to keep them happy outside? They aren't hardy like rabbits, they need more protection from damp,draughts and extremes of temperature.

Your DC may well get bored with the guineas and it will all fall to you.My DD and her boar are joined at the hip. My DS is a bit meh but his little hog is more mine so he gets cleaned, fed ,cuddled when his brother does so he doesn't miss out.

Hay is getting more expensive- I've seen the price of it rise from £3.39 to £3.89 in less than a year.My boys use at least a bag per week (4kg) in their bedding.

And they are the sweetest creatures ever to walk on the earth. I had one sow years back who wasn't cuddly, but would shadow us. One bit my mum (to draw blood) literally half an hour before the GP died (didn't have the strength to ungrip)
My boars are lovely characters but I've had them indoors for 2 nights (Fri/Sat) and they were evil little toads (in my DD room as it was cooler). They bickered amongst themselves. Our indoor cage is 4'x2' and last year we had to divide it to two 2'x2' cages and put them out during the day in their Pighouse.

Winter is the most difficult time for GPs. If you decide to keep them, you've got that to look forward to !

Learning70 Mon 05-Nov-12 22:36:02

Hi we have two guineas and I am amazed at how much work it is to look after them. Tbh I think I would have found it really stressful when my youngest was a baby but my kids are school age now so I have time and I also have lots of space which defo helps! They are quite expensive to keep too. I think they are lovely but harder work than a cat!

Grass isn't a problem. I know people who grow it in seed trays on their window shelves.

Like 70 I am more concerned about your DC allergies. Will they cope with these furries? Personally I would never got an animal with the idea that a child would be responsible for it. They would have to be the family pets and you must be prepared to do everything for them.

Guinea pigs do not do well in cold weather. My girls are literally freeranging the kitchen at the moment. No hutch, just their pet carrier with the door open the whole time. I've been surprisingly mess free. Has meant constantly remembering to close the door as OB (elderly boar) free ranges the lounge. Trying to decide whether I have got room the the girls huge hutch in the lounge or to brave the possilibilty of mice and clear out the garage hmm.

tabulahrasa Tue 06-Nov-12 01:17:44

I didn't find guinea pigs that much effort to look after at all, but I kept them inside...I always found holiday sitting rabbits much harder - because you were having to go outside to do everything.

Feeding, cleaning and playing with something that's in your living room takes nowhere near as much time as having to go out to do it.

guineapiglet Tue 06-Nov-12 10:18:24

Hi - will agree with what others have written, guineas are lovely, but they are extremely allergenic, and with the hay as well, they can make life miserable for children with allergies. Because of this, ours had to be out in a shed most of the time, and in in a room my son didnt go it because of the combination of hay and fur, - they are animals best suited to slightly older children - have never had a vicious one, but they do need careful handling and can get very stressed at the erraticness (!?) of small children, they definitely need adult input esp re cage cleaning etc.
Fortified would love to come to your house and see all these guineas in different rooms, it sounds like bliss to me!!!

looseleaf Tue 06-Nov-12 16:35:21

Thank you all kind people, I really appreciate and need your input as finding this such a hard one! I know it's now going to feel empty without them but keen to think this out!
Allergies so far have 'only' been to wheat, dairy, citrus and tomatoes so no hay fever/ cat hair type of environmental allergies but DD is off school with impetigo at the moment (I hope not guinea pig allergy!!) and been spending most of the day with them .
I do understand keeping indoors better and am so aware temperatures are dropping but this doesn't seen to be considered by the guinea pigs owners so they'd be outside with them when/ if we give them back...

I think they should probably find them another home than us on the whole but maybe we can offer to be their extended family when they need us if they stay local.

Guineapiglet An update on the Fortified Pigs. Thanks to Bonfire Night Shy Girl has discovered the gap behind the swing bin that leads behind the units, oven/hob etc. She has chewed throught the tumble dryer cable angry.

Shy Girl is being re-named Naughty Girl. Girlies are now locked in the pet carrier and giving me why(?) looks. Will now have to seriously find room for their hutch indoors hmm.

Oooh shock at the cable. Little swine.

Is the garage (with/without mice) looking like a viable venue for the girls?

Dealing with mice has to be a bit easier than trying to keep chewy rodents away from things.

Luckily, my boars (touch wood and hopes not to jinx) aren't really chewers. GP2 took a shine to some duck tape and he likes to re-do the door of a cardboard box into an arch (just how 1980s are you GP2?)

I've noticed the past couple of nights (with the oil-filled radiator) that the boys are a bit more animated. Instead if huddlling into their haybox, they were out and about in the Pighouse waiting for supper.
Last year GP2 got really stiff legs from just sitting in his haybox. Just for a day but I was worried about the little chap.
They seem more inclined to pootle around now .

guineapiglet Wed 07-Nov-12 09:36:30

Oh Fortified - the little devil, I can't believe she has done that - we never really had 'chewers', but it is amazing how they can squeeze into small orifices (!) and I guess the chewing was a result of her panic, aah, bless her. My sister's house rabbit chewed through the freezer cable once, and as I picked up the two ends, lying in a small pool of water, I got a massive electric shock <like an episode from Casualty, could see it coming and couldnt stop> - the rabbit just satand looked innocently at me, so you were lucky she didnt get a nasty shock as well!

Ours used to free range all the time, but in the end, things like sockets and cables were either taped up or hidden behind things they couldnt move. Maybe bringing the run in from outside/putting it in garage would mean they could roam within boundaries? < really must go on Dragon's Den with an idea for a guinea pig exerciser>
70 sounds like the boys like being where they are and it has got slightly warmer I guess. I often wonder whether they naturally hibernate in Peru, and therefore that they do have hibernating instincts...... sorry, Im tired, stayed up watching US elections - thank Goodness for sanity in the US today......

lljkk Wed 07-Nov-12 09:48:30

Hamsters are vicious, not Cavies.

Have you already had a trial 1-2 week go with them, OP?

I would have thought you sound ideal for them.

Those of you with free-range GPigs: don't they leave stinky wee in unhelpful (awkward to reach) places? Mine sure did. And poo is still poo.

guineapiglet Wed 07-Nov-12 10:35:03

They sure can get in awkward to reach places! They can be trained to use wee/poo boxes, but yes, they are messy when it comes to wee and poo, so best to have them free ranging on a surface which can be cleaned/washed or newspaper where possible.

Guineas can bite, especially if they are stressed, their teeth are their only weapon, and their eyesight is pretty ropey, so often they bit fingers expecting them to be carrots.....! - And when they fight with each other they can draw blood, so they are not always the innocents you think.

I guess some of us flagged up about pets and allergies, if a child is very allergic to dander/hay etc, inside pets present problems.

I wouldn't have thought GPs hibernate guineapiglet because they are such greedy little buggers who don't want to miss food their guts would go into stasis (is it seven hours without food will give them liver failure, I'm sure I read that.Not made up, honest grin

Maybe the original wild guineas just hide somewhere or die off? But 'wild' guineas would be much rangier and streamlined than the fancy little guineas we have as pets. Kind of like a wild rabbit v a domestic.

My DD was doing her project on the Amazon river so GP1 was 'helping' her (with him knowing everything about Peru).
Well, he was no flipping help, just chewed the zip of my dressing gown.

Next time, I'm buying a capybara- they look really smug wink

Ours can be a bit toothy but it's never more than a gnaw. I don't like GP1 at my neck if he's in a funny mood- he runs up with a glint in his eyes and I'm very aware of those rodenty teeth.
Though he never does anything worse than nibble DD on the nose. Which is quite sweet until you remember they eat their pooh envy vom

guineapiglet Wed 07-Nov-12 13:52:43

Hi - uum because I have been sitting waiting to collect my ill daughter from college I have been looking into 'wild guineas' and you are right*70*, they certainly do not hibernate, Wiki states that if the temp drops to much below zero, their bodies just pack up, and they die < I know how they feel, my body packs up too!> Mine were much more lethargic in the winter, much happier lazing, snuggling and putting on weight, despite being encouraged to 'go out and get some fresh air'..

I also looked at pictures of wild guineas and you are right 70, their south american cousins are much more like squirrels, minus the tails, more pointy than round and cuddly, obviously evolution in the domestic setting has made them more rounded looking.

<Also a horrible picture of a battered guinea, or rather guinea in batter served with potatoes. I really need to get a life...>

looseleaf Wed 07-Nov-12 14:10:57

Lljjk we're only on day 4 or so but they've added a new dimension to life at home. One is very shy/ not that keen on being picked up but the other delightfully up for anything DD or I want and they go exploring cheerfully round our sitting room making lovely noises and I like the pitter patter
Of feet on our wooden floor (even if i then go round mopping little cloudy puddles)
They also set a great example to DD who will hardly eat vegetables

lljkk Wed 07-Nov-12 14:44:13

Awwww, lovely. Remember they are fragile about being dropped, some tougher than others, but just don't drop.

looseleaf Wed 07-Nov-12 15:29:37

Ok thanks. That's useful especially as garden paved so we'll be extra careful! We bought a fleece blanket with a cosy corner to make holding easier too and I make DD sit down.
We need a guinea pig toilet as their outings leave lots of reminders of where they have been ! I think I read a paper bag with abut of towel in worth a try

guineapiglet Wed 07-Nov-12 16:05:35

Hi - do be careful putting them out in this weather - it is very cold and damp and they will get chilled if put on paving - we used to put our run over ours with newspaper and a kind of raised, sheltered area within the run, so they had somewhere to roost. You can make little 'toilets' for them by getting shoe boxes and stuffing them with hay and newspaper, sometimes they can be trained to use these as loos, or at least provide a 'llo stop' area for them - there is no guarantee this will work!!!! Igloos are also useful to stop drafts for them when they are outside. Have fun!

but just don't drop

or in the case of my GP1, leapt out of my arms onto the floor of the Pighouse.
He was shock but unhurt.
I aged 10 years.

Little blighters that they are (but we love them)

alemci Wed 07-Nov-12 17:17:16

I got our original GP's when my dd was 6 and she absolutely loved them even my little boy (about 2) was involved. We still have one now. They are not vicious IME and if you love them yourself it will be fine.

just make sure they are warm in the winter and bring them inside if you can.

I think my DH and me will always have them somehow. They seem to come and find us. Our current one is the 2nd one we have rehomed.

Mintyy Wed 07-Nov-12 19:21:39

Does anyone mind if I hijack slightly to ask if the piggy experts think I should get a new companion for my gorgeous girl Peggy? She lost her sister Cookie (rip sad sad sad) a week ago to an undiagnosed condition and is looking very lonely in her cage. She is only two and a half years old and I can't bear to think of her being alone if she lives a long and healthy life. We would love to offer a home to another guinea. We would try and find a rescue piggy of roughly the same age. What do people think? Any tips? We are heartbroken over loss of Cookie btw, I can still get tearful thinking about it.

guineapiglet Wed 07-Nov-12 19:37:40

Hi there - I know exactly how you feel, I STILL have to see a photo of my special guinea who died last year and it sets me off!! It is rotten for the one who is left, so you have to kind of make a decision, IS this going to be my last guinea, in which case you bring her in and make a big fuss of her for the rest of her life ( she may live to be 5 or more, or less,, it is hard to predict!), or do I get some more so that I am in a non stop circle of never having one on its own. I kept going with our 'circle' over 8 years! - My advice would be to try and get a younger pair of baby girl sisters who will be looking for a mum type figure, and try and integrate them over a few days/week, depending on how friendly and mum like your remaining guinea girl is. You could try guinea rescues to see if they have a youngish girl singleton, and try and integrate them both. ( But then you get back to the circle thing when one dies) - I have done both things several times, and a lot depends on the character of your lonely girl, you dont want her getting too stressed. IF she is pining I would go for the companionship option, am more than happy to help with ideas, as Im sure most on this thread will be. Do get a separate hutch ( Freecycle?) before you start tho' as they will have to be separate for a while.

Good luck!!!

Definately worth phoning round some rescues. There will be lots of single female GPs of all ages .

(When I got the boars they had lots of sows in rescue but my DD wanted boars).

They can help you match up and introduce your guinea-girl to some suitable cage-mates.

Good Luck wink

There's a really good site called Barmy4Boars and they have information on boar match-ups. They've got a sow-site but I haven't looked at that one (because I've got chappie-pigs) but worth a look.

recall Wed 07-Nov-12 19:53:03

I have just got a pair. I am keeping them in an outside run on the grass that I move every other day, and I have ordered a very small shelteroff a bloke on e bay who will make it to your specifications. It is the right size to fit a heat pad i the bottom, is raised off the ground and is weather proof. I plan to place this in the run. Because the shelter is small, they will keep each other warm. This is my plan. Less mucking out to do because it will go on the grass, and the little shelter will be easy to tip out into a bag, rather than having to clean a hutch out. When it gets freezing, I will bring them in at night.

guineapiglet Wed 07-Nov-12 20:17:51

Hi - hope your new pair are settling in OK. Not sure where you are, but do watch out for them being on grass at this time of year, it gets very damp and the guineas will not be able to cope well if on a damp surface - at this time of year they really need to be inside, warm and dry if possible. Your shelter should have lots of hay in it ( sorry, that kind of ruins your cleaning out plans!) -they are very prone to illness from damp and drafts, so need to be as insulated as possible - if they are young they will not have any resistance to cold nights, even if snuggled up together, they still need lots of bedding. Another thing to watch for is making the run as animal proof as possible, we had lots of problems with cats and foxes at night, even tho ours were in a locked shed, runs are just not lockable and the guineas will smell lovely to a predator.....!

recall make sure your pigs have enough room though.
My adult boars were in a side-by-side set up (I had to divide their cage into two 2'x2' spaces last year for night time)

I tried them in their cage (as a 4'x2' space) with 2 seperate boxes of hay and they were a pair of right little gits (this was 2 nights over Guy Fawkes)

I've banished them to their Pighouse with a radiator for night-time. DH has ordered a thermostatic adaptor so we can keep their cage at a constant even temperature.
They seem quite happy with the space+ warmth set up.

If they get in each others' faces (which they will do at some time grin ) they need a get out space.

looseleaf Tue 22-Jan-13 22:28:29

I just thought I'd say we still have the guinea pigs and your advice was lovely when I felt stuck! So glad we gave them a go, the shy one has slowly become much happier about bring handled and even she makes happy noises a lot now. They love racing round our sitting room and get very excited about the variety of veg we get in our wonderful Riverford boxes! Dd is SO diligent about giving them lots of attention, checking food etc even when she feels over stretched . (She's 6 on Thurs). . She got hysterical last night saying it was too much for her and she feels we should give thrm back but she loves them too much! So I had to console her and explain I can give them attention for her too smile
Anyway, having always thought rabbits were great and guinea pigs less appealing I'm won over and they are an important part of the family!

Winter is the worst time really -and trying to give them enough variety of veg too.

They are lovely aren't they?
DD and I were cuddling the boys tonight (They were indoors today because I had to leave home ridiculously early to get to work in the snow).

GP2 (my DS pig who's mine really ) was soooo relaxed he rooled over on his side grin. Then he fell asleep and did this weird hog-snoring noise. Then woke up all blush "Not me . I don't snore"

I have never known a vicious guinea!

My daughters (4yr old/16 month old) love ours. grin

One of my old sows (the original pair when I was 9yo, 2 sows but were boar/sow) was a right madam.
She hated a bath and bore a grudge, even waiting an hour to bite us. (We learned to wrap her up and keep her off skin, but she was devious)

She attacked her mate and he concussed himself running away (hit a wall) sad

Plays jumper tug of war, but if it didn't go her way...

But I would never in a million years have called her vicious. You just had to respect her grin

guineapiglet Thu 24-Jan-13 09:53:59

smile 70 - you had to respect her lol!

If you think about a little guinea the ONLY reasonably scary thing about it is its set of gnashers - and possibly over sharp and long nails - so if they are unhappy/grumpy/wanting to show displeasure/cross etc the only thing they can really do is bit/nip/gnaw etc. Our 'mutant' girl - the one with four toes on her bag legs would turn round and nip once she had had enough of being held - but was as gentle as anything with her fellow cage mates. We had a couple of rescues who were used to being 'picked up' by young children, and clearly, backs to the wall, used their teeth as a way of saying 'dont pick us up like that' - this scared the children, who were, in my opinion way too young - and were unsupervised so goodness knows what else these guineas were subject to.
After a few months of gentle handling - letting them come to us, they became settled at being picked up. These things take time, especially when you have to undo months of ill treatmentsad

Curlybrunette Sun 27-Jan-13 22:05:26

Looseleaf I'm really glad you've posted an update. We got our 1st piggies around the same time as you did, on the 14th November for ds's birthday they are so mine really and I cannot believe how attached we are to them.

Bertha is more shy but once she's being held is fine, and Betty is such a character. And never stops eating!

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