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Tell me all the drawbacks to keeping guinea pigs

(50 Posts)
Skiffle Thu 18-Apr-13 15:26:21

I'm very tempted to launch into guinea pig ownership. I would love to have some animals and guineas seem to fit the bill. Have looked a lot at websites and at threads on here and it all seems lovely. I'd want to keep them inside (apart from letting them out in good weather). We'd want to wait a good six months-a year until youngest DD is nearer 3 and less likely to crush it or throw things into the cage, so we're not rushing!

So please, hit me with the negatives. What is the worst or most annoying thing about guinea pigs? The websites all say they don't smell as long as you clean out the cage frequently, is that true? Are the droppings easy to pick up like rabbit poo? I imagine holiday care is fairly easy as they are quite transportable (to friends for babysitting, I'm not planning to take them on a plane).

ideally I'd like a horse but guineas won't bankrupt us

70isaLimitNotaTarget Thu 18-Apr-13 18:24:20

Do you really really really want the bad bits .OK grin

OK- you can buy two baby pigs and think you are getting two girls. But actually end up with a boy/girl and have an unexpected litter (happened to me when I was 9)
Or get a sow already pg (happened to me)

You can get round this by getting an established adult pair from rescue though .

They need hay. It's bulky to store. It's the hay that smells and it gets everywhere. You'll be forever hoovering. GP droppings don't smell, and they're small, dry quickly and you can sweep them up.
Pee smells a bit rodenty.

You will never get to eat a bag of crisps or open the fridge without your indoor guineas announcing "We've got mouths too y'know"

They have quite specific needs regarding diet. Some things they can't have. They can't vomit so if they ingest anything harmful it's dangerous.
They need guinea pellets (enriched in Vit C)

They need to be kept out of draughts. Out of damp environment. Not in extremes of heat or cold.

They are quite fragile IRL even though they are chunky little bodies.
They don't like to be a lone pig- so it's a worry if you have a pair and one dies.

They do need alot of space - more than you'd think. Alot of the commercial cages are too small.
Holidays - you can get small animal boarding -it might be easier than transporting them.
You have to search out a guinea-pig savvy vet. Hopefully you won't ever need one. They don't need neutering (unless you want boar/sow)and injections (rabbits do)


On the plus side- they are lovely, chatty, snuggly ,cuddly little creatures.
And your supermarket trolley will look fabulously healthy.
"Yes the cucumber ,carrots,melon,parsley and spring greens are for my sons" I tell the cashier smugly (My fur baby sons) blush

guineapiglet Thu 18-Apr-13 19:23:17

Hi there, would second everything 70 has written, they are wonderful pets and such happy souls if kept in groups of 2 or more, they really arent designed to be solitary. They are very interactive and will enjoy being kept indoors and part of your family. We had 8 over a period of 7 years, and I still miss them terribly.

It is a good idea to have a look through some of the threads, there are some wonderful people with lots of experience and great stories. My only worry would be that your children may be a bit young, guineas need adult input as they get very scared if they are mishandled, dropped, poked about etc by young kids. In addition, they are VERY allergenic, and if you or your kids get hayfever or are allergic to animal fur etc, you may want to think about keeping them indoors, I ended up having to keep mine in the shed as my son was very intolerant of them, they still snuck in in the winter when we kept them in a heated basement, and he was kept away from them. 70 is right - hay gets everywhere, so keeping them somewhere where you can clean up easily is a big help!

Skiffle Thu 18-Apr-13 19:31:02

Thank you for your long reply, now I have a lot more questions! I like the smell of hay I can pretend it's for a horse and we could keep it in garage although would have to be careful it didn't end up as a home for mice/rats. Downstairs is mainly laminate so sweeping up hay wouldn't be a problem.

The diet thing I'm guessing is pretty easy once I've looked up what they should be eating, and just make sure DC don't sneak them any extras.

Keeping them out of draughts and damp - I assume they can live in a normal centrally heated house? It does get cold at night time/early morning, as houses do. They would be in the living room so it would be at person temperature (i.e. not a rarely used study etc). They're not like tortoises and need a special heat lamp and daily prayer to keep the temperature right?

Hmm I guess the lone pig situation is going to happen to almost everyone at some point, unless you have a perpetual stream of multiple guineas, and you either try to introduce a new one, or do your best to keep the lonely one happy by dressing up in a guinea pig costume and honking until it too dies. This does remind of the other downside, as with all pets, they will eventually die sad and then I will be in bits.

I looked at the links you posted on another guinea thread about cage sizes and have measured, it does seem quite large but if we were really definite we could probably move some furniture around a bit to find a nice space for them. On the rodenty pee smell, is it strong? We would need to keep them in our living/kitchen diner, so obviously we'll be eating and cooking in that room (although with layout I could use a barrier to keep them out of the actual kitchen section when they were roaming free), is the smell enough that it would be unpleasant or does it only smell when you're actually emptying the cage? Actually now I think about it, the guineas might not like strong cooking smells either and particularly if it gets a bit smoky so we might have to put them in a different room come dinner time. And if you let them out to have free range of the room, do they wee and poo all over the place or do they tend to go back to the 'toilet corner' in their cage?

lottieandmia Thu 18-Apr-13 19:35:00

We love our two - we've had them about 2 months. They require a lot of cleaning out but it is quick and easy to do as I keep a layer of newspaper at the bottom and just gather everything up in that.

They are low maintenance pets as far as I'm concerned but you do need to be careful what snacks you feed them. One wrong thing (like potato for example) and it's game over sad so make sure you have a book that lists poisonous food.

70isaLimitNotaTarget Thu 18-Apr-13 20:09:42

Normal house temp is fine (but don't put them next to a radiator) When mine were in at night for winter they were in the little bedoom with a duvet over the top of the cage to keep them insulated and quiet (they got the idea that night time =quiet time) apart from GP2 chewing cardboard.

Some guineas will use a designated area to toilet but they aren't tidy like rats or housebunnies - more a walk'n'drop kind of thing grin

The pee doesn'y smell that bad TBH -if they pee clothes then you need to wash them.On soft furnishing , just Febreze. But even though I've got 2 adult boars they don't smell anything like mice .
It's easier to use newspaper and hay for bedding to roll up and dump or compost.

I'm sitting with my little black Abbysinian boar on my shoulder, grumbling in my ear because that Paul O'Grady animal honours is on and he wants to watch Eastenders.

superfluouscurves Thu 18-Apr-13 20:36:24

They don't smell if they are cleaned out regularly (and others may have differing opinions about this) but I think boars tend to smell a bit more pungent than sows. Also boars have the disadvantage that they can suffer from impacted faeces when they get older which involves rather unpleasant 'massaging' input from you! (Not deliberately trying to be negative -just telling you the worst case scenario so you are forewarned!)

Boars can be more cheeky/assertive and therefore very nice to have as pets though.

Definitely buy more than one gp (herd animals). They are lovely animals for dc (if you can restrain yourselves from bothering them when they first arrive which can be very hard for young children). The first few weeks with you are vital - they need to be left alone, in a very quiet area with only gentle contact at feeding times (coaxed out with food) etc, progressing to very gentle and calm stroking. If you can give them a good start, they will be happy to interact thereafter.

All gps have very different and distinct personalities though (some more outgoing than others) and as others have said, they are quite vocal which is fun.

In terms of hygiene, I actually find rabbits easier to clean out because they poo in just one area (a large cat litter tray here) whereas gps poo all over the place. For example, I can clean out the rabbit's litter tray daily or every two days and then give their living area (half a room) a good clean out and mop once a week. With guinea pigs, their entire cage needed to be emptied and cleaned every three or four days.

However, gps are much more friendly and interactive pets for dc and can be much more easily picked up and stroked (whereas most rabbits detest being picked up). Rabbits also tend to chew everything in site which can be expensive!

As for pooing and peeing whilst walking around outside their cages etc, they do tend to do this when they are very young but get better (although not perfect) as they mature. We have wooden floors so it wasn't a disaster when it happened - I imagine carpets would be more difficult to maintain. Our gps used to kind of nod their heads up and down when we had them on our laps - and that was the sign that they needed to go back to their cage for a 'bathroom break'!

It would be great if your gps could have access to lawn during summer days - they love grazing fresh grass - but be careful to enclose them carefully as they are skilled escape artists.

Other than that you need to clip their nails regularly. Buy the famous gp care book by the eccentric Peter Gurney.

This site has some fun "tubing"/cage solutions although it can all get a bit £££££££

Oh yes, one last thing - if you are buying two - try and find a pair that already seem comfortable together in the cage.

Arf at 70isalimit and her shopping trolley - I find myself buying more salading for my rabbits than I do for myself!!

Enjoy your pigs - you will fall in love with them.

[Rabbits are lovely too for older dc and if not kept in a hutch!]

lovelilies Thu 18-Apr-13 20:46:19

House pigs are great, Alice and Lola have been with us for a year and a half now, (!) in the kitchen next to the dining table.
need to sweep up hay/sawdust all the time, and if not cleaned out at least every 4-5 days, the wee smells of ammonia.
But they are fab pets. We let them wonder around the house regularly, just Hoover up the poos whenever... and the tiny little wees go unnoticed wink
They don't tend to chew wires either which is good grin

intheshed Thu 18-Apr-13 20:54:41

We have had ours for about 2 months now. Can't think of a better pet for small children really (my DC are 5 and 3). They are cute, furry, will happily sit on a knee to be stroked and are very placid, they don't tend to bite or scratch. They are also very endearing to watch, with their little habits smile.

Downsides- the pooooo! Jeez they poo a lot!! I tend to clean out the cage fully every 2-3 days, it still grosses me out a bit when the wee has soaked right through and the paper is all soggy. Also, we put them out in the garden in their run every day, and change the position of the run each time, which now means the garden is full of guinea pig poo too... nice!

We deliberately got an adult pair from a rescue centre, the lady there was lovely and helped us choose a pair that were already used to children and used to being handled.

fortifiedwithtea Thu 18-Apr-13 21:04:28

My sows chew any cable they can get their teeth into --remembers Naughty Girl with the tumble dryer.

Claws need to be clipped regularly.

You will cry buckets when they die sad,

phdlife Thu 18-Apr-13 21:15:19

Our two, which we got as babies, have never been friendly. They've always been scared shitless of young, noisy dc's, not wanted to sit on laps, show no sign of enjoying being petted and get away as soon as they can, no matter how much gentle stroking, hand-feeding, being near them we tried, adults included. They snatch treats and run away with them. Or just run away. The only way they interact positively is if they are outdoors, sometimes if I go outside they squeal for food. Max once a day, not every day. Hardly "chatty".

Initially the dc's and I would close off one large room in the (open-plan) house and let gp's roam free during the day. Until we closed that off too they went under the furniture and peed there, and we still had to hoover up 100s of poos. It's easy, yes, and not particularly smelly (except the pee, which dries white and crusty on a hardwood floor and has to be scrubbed off), just more work for little reward.

A year on, one of them sometimes won't run when we pick him up (ours go outside in the day, inside at night) but the other always does, even though we handle him minimum twice a day, stroke him, feed him, etc. We've given up trying to make pets of them, for the moment. Might try again if I ever get some mojo back as they (and dc's) do seem slightly calmer now. We're also trying to reintroduce them to each other but tbh finding time to sit and watch them eat, poo, walk in circles and sniff each other's bums is hardly entertaining stuff.

In the 12 months we've had them, we've incurred extra expenses for: two rounds of mite infestation that became infected due to their scratching, including one period where I was at the vet weekly for progress checks; one of them developing weird growth in his eyes; having to buy a separate hutch (with additional cleaning to be done!) after they began fighting (we think due to illness); having to have them fixed (boars) in hope of reducing fighting; diarrhoea.

When gp's were 9m old we got a cat as well and she has been 1000x more of a pet. And she doesn't poo on the floor.

fortifiedwithtea Thu 18-Apr-13 21:31:53

Oh dear sad phdlife you have not had a good experience of guinea pigs. Where did you get them being nosey, breeder or pet shop?

Neutering boars does not alter their personalities. It does not calm them down. You were poorly advised if you were told that.

Skiffle Thu 18-Apr-13 21:32:54

Hmm, impacted faeces, I am leaning towards getting females. I don't think I'll mind the cleaning out, I had hamsters a long time ago and wasn't bothered by that although I know the cage will be bigger. Will definitely wait till DD2 is 1. able to be more gentle and 2. has stopped eating anything she finds on the floor, otherwise she'll be raised entirely on a diet of guinea pig poo. I hadn't thought about possible allergies either, DD2 hasn't really been around animals much so that's something we'd need to try a bit first I suppose.

I'm feeling very enthusiastic about this, it would be so lovely to have some adorable guinea pigs, and I can see that with having them indoors they would be more like members of the family really.

Oh, another question - how much 'holiday care' do they need? As in, if we go away for a weekend, would it be enough to get a neighbour to pop in once a day to feed and water? Would they suffer from loneliness/not being allowed out of their cage, for a couple of days? If it was a week away I imagine we'd need to organise something a bit more interactive for them, as well as cage cleaning etc.

70isaLimitNotaTarget Thu 18-Apr-13 21:58:29

Our boars can't cope with laminate flooring (poor things). DD can put her boar on the floor, go off to the loo (with me watching the guinea) come back and he's still sitting exactly where she left him grin

I would have probably got females TBH but my DD wanted her guinea to be a boar. We didn't choose the boys, they were in Rescue and DD decided they were 'ours' - they chose us. (And they are luffly)

And yes, I reckon the Abby will have impaction when he's an old duffer hmm

WRT holidays- if you go for a weekend and one of your neighbours pops in, the pigs will be fine if you clean the cage the day you leave. Your neighbour gives fresh pellets and water every day and veg (I do night & breakfast unless they've had grass).
They can say hello. Make sure they move to the food (they might want to cuddle them grin ) but even if they don't, just give them a look over and a chat. And check the cage door is secure, especially if they are outside-they are vunerable to foxes and cats.
I leave a radio on for mine if there's fireworks- you could do that?

they'd be fine with each other for company for a couple of days.
For the longer holidays- if your neighbour can clean and cuddle them, then great (you might have to give them a demo) ,Otherwise a boarding place gives you peace of mind.

And if your neighbour looks after them- wine and chocolates is well within a Guinea-Pigs pocket money budget wink

intheshed Thu 18-Apr-13 22:26:11

For holidays it's useful to find a likeminded piggy owner to swap with grin. We looked after DD's friend's guinea pigs for a week, it wasn't much harder having 4 than having 2, and the kids loved it. And they are having ours when we go away in May.

guineapiglet Fri 19-Apr-13 13:29:17

Hi again all. IF you decide to keep the guineas indoors, they CAN be trained to use toilets, but my goodness it is pretty labour intensive and you need to have one of your 'herd' as, ahem, one of the 'more intelligent' guineas....... one of my girls was clearly a sergeant major in a previous life, she was a rescue, and was absolutely clean and tidy, would only poo in one place, and when she finally got integrated with the others, got very stroppy with them if they pooed in the 'wrong' place! When mine were freeranging we got lots of shoe boxes, stuffed them with hay and newspaper and tipped them on their sides, the guinea girls quickly got the idea and after a few weeks and lots of accidents, thankfully on a tiled floor did start using them as poo stops......

I really dont think they smell horrible at all, but will need cleaning out after a few days, bed changes etc and fresh hay etc which your neighbours could do if bribed - if you are near me ( hants) I would willingly help out, as others have said, it works if you can find a like minded person to share with re holidays etc. At one point in my shed, I had a double layer hutch with 7 guineas in, and one in an indoor cage, looked like a boarding house. It is as easy to look after that many as one or two, especially if they can get outside in runs etc.

I personally would never have a cat with guineas, most of you know I am rather anti cat anyway, but there is no doubt they get spooked by having a potential prey animal around..... it is up to the individual of course!

PS guinea poos make wonderful manure - you will end up with a very green lawn eventually it is not toxic so not harmful to touch.

FernieB Fri 19-Apr-13 14:52:39

guineapiglet - how do you toilet train pigs if neither of them is intelligent? grin

Skiffle - my boys were originally in our dining kitchen and they were fine - not too smelly and they loved being in full view of the fridge. They do need a lot of cleaning out and are quite noisy, but it's all part of their charm.

70isaLimitNotaTarget Sat 20-Apr-13 21:11:30

Winter 2011 our boys were overnight in the dining room but we kept tripping over their cage (couldn't move them anywhere else as they'd have been next to a radiator).
But they woke up really early and started yelling for breakfast and overturning their plates hmm
This winter, we put them in the little bedroom (away from the radiator) and a duvet over them. They were fine, quiet and cosy.
I was a bit woriied in case they felt 'ignored' but they went to bed when we did and out to their Pighouse before we all left for work/school.
They really needed the space of the Pighouse, they went a bit stircrazy if they had to stay in their nightcage all day (only happened twice)

derektheladyhamster Sat 20-Apr-13 21:16:21

watch out if you get them from a rescue place (and please try to get them from a rescue centre) that they aren't both pregnant! although the babies are so cute

70isaLimitNotaTarget Sun 21-Apr-13 00:40:02

derek get round that with boars grin

My boys could get into the Guiness Book of Records if they had piglets and I'd be rich

And yes, babies are cute ....

noyouhavehadawee Sun 30-Jun-13 09:21:13

all the positives outweigh the negatives though ours are generally free range outside pigs , the biggest negative is when you lose one sad this was us yesterday and it is really upsetting and to see your dc so upset but even that's a positive learning experience about death.

chillynose Sun 30-Jun-13 13:15:15

I cant think of any negatives
Have had 2 guineas for 8 wks they r fab have great personalitys we keep ra outside they hv a big hutch and run

quirrelquarrel Mon 01-Jul-13 14:00:47

Currently MNing with my inquisitive little grey boar (5 in November!) by my side, feeding him green oats from the garden dipped in mint tea. Such a change from the scared little pig he was for the first year or so we had him! Bit of an old gentleman for a pig now and he's still all soft, springy and squashy, very curious, big appetite. Loves being brushed- gets very jealous when I stroke his friend instead!

No negatives that I can think of, except that, as someone said, they are very allergenic. I wouldn't exactly call them low maintenance- they do need attention and time to run around- IMHO outdoors in a large grassy run is always best, but am aware that lots of piggy owners on this board keep indoor guins so probably don't think the same....

quirrelquarrel Mon 01-Jul-13 14:05:17

Currently he's fascinated with my mug of tea and is licking the sides :-p pausing only to try and sniff my fingers when they go near him as I type!

We've had more than 10 guins over the years and we've needed the vet about twice (first guin had cancer). They're quite hardy but susceptible to sunstroke I think. They also seem to know to avoid certain plants- we can place their run over ragwort etc (poisonous for them- obviously we try not too) and they won't touch it.

Weegiemum Mon 01-Jul-13 14:06:47

I've kept GPs for half my life and can't think of anything bad. We currently have 4 girls and they are amazing pets!

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