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Guinea pigs - should we or shouldn't we?

(28 Posts)
Hiddeninplainsight Sat 25-Feb-17 18:08:16

So, we are considering getting guinea pigs. I had rabbits as a child, who lived in the garden, and who basically pretty much had free run of the garden during the summer (less foxes in those days). I loved my rabbit, but she was very low maintenance. I had to clean her out, but my Dad actually fed her a lot of the time. Clearly there was no mess because she was in the garden, and she was on her own but LOVED our cats.

My children are a little younger than I was - 6 & 8, although the piggies would belong to my older child. Clearly, she has told us that she would be very responsible, would look after them etc. etc. I had imagined they would be outdoor piggies, and had found a chicken coop which would be perfect for a rabbit, and I thought, good for a guinea pig. But someone has advised me that it wouldn't be because the ground is too cold for them most of the year. I have also taken on board the things I have read about them being very social, and so it is much better to have them in the house, where they will get more interaction.

But, I have now also read a lot about how you need to change them A LOT (it was once a week with my rabbit), and how they wee and poo everywhere, and how they are messy. The rescue centre I have talked to said not to use sawdust (because of the mess), but I am now worrying a little that they will actually be quite high maintenance. They would also live in our open plan kitchen/dining room, and so I would hope that the mess would be reasonably contained...!

So, I'm looking for opinions from people. I like animals, my husband likes animals, and so I am imagining that we would enjoy them too, but we also both work full time, and so are busy in life. Any thoughts?

beela Sat 25-Feb-17 18:14:28

We had guineas when I was little. They lived in a hutch in a shed but the door was open all the time and they had a ramp so they could go in and out. They had free range of the garden and used to take themselves to bed etc. They were fine like this all year round. I guess being in the shed gave them that extra bit of insulation. Cleaned out once a week. But you definitely need at least 2 so they are company for each other.

Not sure I'd want a guinea pig hutch in my kitchen.... could get a bit pongy??

70isaLimitNotaTarget Sat 25-Feb-17 19:09:22

<<Prepares for essay>> wink

Okay-first , I love guinea-pigs. DD and I share ours, I kept piggies when I was 9yo through to early 20s.

So, I'm not going to tell you all the good things about guineas, I'm going to tell you the bad. Are you ready for this........... (Sounds like Watch With Mother, Are you sitting comfortably ?)

They are vunerable prey animals. They need to be protected against predators (cats,foxes,birds -magpies, hovering birds of prey, dogs,rats, badgers)

Cold, draughts, damp, heat

So outside they need secure, clean, dry,draught free housing.
Inside they need to be protected from any other pets, smaller children, noises,fumes,draughts,heat.

They are messy, dear Lord the hay. They need hay to survive , but my stair carpet has a hefty share of it. The hay smells worse than the pigs if they're clean.

They are respiratory vunerable to dust and fumes which is why sawdust and shavings aren't adviced.

My guineas have their hayboxes cleaned every day in Summer, every 2 days in winter if I layer the bedding (so clean paper,soft straw hay one night. Fresh paper and hay on top the night, then starts again) They pee so much they'd be swimming after two days.

Mine have a wooden playhouse to live in and rabbit runs+ outdoor house for summer when we're here to watch them.

I'm in the SE but I can't leave mine in the Pighouse all winter, its too cold and damp overnight.

They are noisy which is quite charming with their squeaking and they'll let you know if you're late with their breakfast. Like horses their digestive system relies on pretty constant throughput , hay, pellets, veg, grass.
Also like horses they cannot vomit so if anything goes in that shouldn't.....
And they eat their droppings but they're very distreet with it, they eat the first passing then they pooh the second time , guinea pooh is the most inoffensive animal pooh.

You need 2 or 2+ so you'd need to work out if you want 2 boars, 2 sows or 2+sows, or a neutered boar+sows.
There's no guarentee that they'll get on. Boars can squabble, sows can squabble.

They need more space than you'd imagine especially with boars. The Minimum of 4'x2' for 2 adults is really tight.

They are very lazy little animals , some will cope with ramps (like in those double storey hutches). Some don't.

You need to look into what they have to eat (hay, the pellets , they need Vit C which is in the food) and what they cannot eat.

You will need to check their weight,teeth,claws,skin,fur,ears,eyes.
Make yourself aware of the illnesses they can have.

Don't ever assume your DC will do the care (my DD is flipping excellant but I know sometimes she's busy or jiggered so I do the PigCare). we had 5 until recently, now 3. Two are hers, one is mine.

You will end up in a spiral of pigs when one dies and you have a singleton.

And - when they die , they break your heart. You'll feel guilty that you missed something (they hide illness) or you have to make the painful decision to PTS.
You'll need to find a Guinea-Pig Vet . You might never need one , but know where they are.

So that's the Bad&Ugly smile

The Good far outweighs.

70isaLimitNotaTarget Sat 25-Feb-17 20:06:55

Oh and never trust people who say they don't ever bite. They rarely bite.
For such vunerable ,shy animals who can't defend themselves, don't have the strong legs of a rabbit to kick, don't have sharp claws, can't jump out the way or climb like rats, can't turn their heads quickly ....you'd think 'bite' would be their Go To, but they rarely do.
My GP5 (all my piggies have been Rescues) was a shy and wriggly little creature when I got her and right to the end she'd employ her very sharp teeth but it was a gnaw to an adult. To a child they might see it as a bite.
My other piggies would rather bite food grin

EastMidsGPs Sat 25-Feb-17 20:36:45

Echo all 70 has said and to add, you have to spend lots of time with them and cuddling and handling them.

If you get babies they are skittish, wriggly and move like greased lightening .. so you need a daily routine (apart from all of 70s comments) where they are gently handled, talked to and cuddled.
As they are wriggly and scratchy to start with young children get fed up, piggies do not become very tame and children get bored and that's when piggies often get neglected or parents resent the time they have to give to them.
They are a commitment make no mistake, they need stimulation and play time.

I'd sugest you think really hard, they live longer than you'd expect (I have one who will be 6 thus year - we've been to the vets 5 times since Christmas with her various ailments of old age)

And think what will you do when you go on holiday? Will you have someone to look after them or will you board them out?

Finally, you'll need a song 😂 my DH sings to ours hmm

EastMidsGPs Sat 25-Feb-17 20:40:01

On the other hand .. they're lovely little creatures, who if you spend time with them, develop distinct personalities and lure you into slavery wink

And don't get us started on the foods they'll eat, reject, ignore or beg for more

pombal Sat 25-Feb-17 20:49:15

They can also get ringworm which your DC can catch.

TheHobbitMum Sat 25-Feb-17 21:09:37

We have guineas and I have absolutely fallen in love with them! They are supposed to be the kids but we all know they can't do half of what they need. We keep ours indoors (living room) and change them every other day, they have dust allergies (common with small rodents) so need paper or fleece bedding which adds up (we pay £25 a mth for 20kg of bedding). The fresh food adds up too as they need fresh veggies 2 x a day (or a larger amount once) and they need regular nail clipping so you'd need to factor in vet costs for that of you're not confident. That aside we adore them and they ate incredibly affectionate. But you need to put the time into them to get the cuddles back, our pigs join us on the sofa each night for a few hours and they cuddle into us and fall asleep on us. They have a couple of hours free range in the living room floor each day too. They do take up time but I honestly can say we get so such pleasure from Them that the mess they create doesn't bother me in the slightest smile They can get mites from hay (they need huge amounts of hay as it's 80% of their diet) but it's easy to treat if they ever do. Ours have never had ringworm or anything like that. They are fantastic little creatures and I can't recommend them enough! I love their wkeeking when it's breakfast & dinner time (infact they wheek at any wrapper crinkle or fridge opening lol)

TheHobbitMum Sat 25-Feb-17 21:10:52

I have been informed by the family I am more dedicated to the piggies than I am to kids now 😂 They are cuter after all 😂 The poster who said you become a slave is very true!

MrsMarigold Sat 25-Feb-17 21:20:47

I had them as a child, they were outside in the day but there were mongooses at night (it was abroad), so at night they slept in the kitchen in cardboard boxes, we lined their cardboard boxes with newspapers and grass cuttings changed weekly. We didn't use chemicals on the lawn so it was fine. They were very low maintenance, loved porridge in the morning and ate a few cubes and lots of left over veggies. Mine used to lie on a cushion and cuddle in my bed before I went to sleep. My favourite lived to be eight.

glenthebattleostrich Sat 25-Feb-17 21:24:09

My boys are little despots who rule the house from their cage in the living room.

They are demanding, stubborn and are not afraid to let you know when they are disappointed in you (mostly when I'm eating something and they are not or their hay is the wrong shade of green).

They are gorgeous, funny, opinionated little things. One likes to sit on my chest and chats through most TV programmes I want to watch, the other is happiest sitting on feet chewing socks!!

They are very hard work but so worth it.

Hiddeninplainsight Sat 25-Feb-17 21:24:11

So much helpful information! Thank you. We are planning to get rescue piggies and so I would assume that the person at the rescue centre would be able to tell us which personalities would be good for our family profile. We also have a very cuddly cat (with us).

For those of you who are passionate about your guinea pigs, do you have any other pets?

I am feeling torn at the moment. I loved my rabbits as a child, but we wouldn't be thinking about this if it wasn't for the children. I like the idea of outside rabbits/guinea pigs, for mess or lack there of, but I can also see that it is good for younger children to have them around in the house so that they get more attention and interaction. I am thinking it will make them more socialised and sociable.

We have loads of offers to look after them though, so I think we would be okay for holidays smile

dietcokeandwine Sat 25-Feb-17 21:26:18

Adding to the thread really to echo what the others have said but also to add:

They are gorgeous little pets, fabulous for small children IF you genuinely have the time to care for them properly and are prepared to take the responsibility for them.

They are harder work than people think they are.

Having them indoors is brilliant if you have the space, and they do become more confident and tame if they live in a family space where they can get used to the sights and sounds of family time.

They live an average of 6-ish years, some live to 8y +. I'm sure your 8yo is making all the right noises now about being responsible and looking after the pets she longs for. Statistically, she's going to lose interest within 8 weeks of their arrival. So that'll be the remaining 5y and 46 weeks of care down to you and DH then. With your full time jobs and your two DC and your hectic busy lives. Feeding twice a day, handling at least every couple of days, cleaning out at least one a week but realistically twice or more, making sure they get daily time in an indoor or outdoor run. Clipping nails and checking health and doing vet runs with any issues.

I'm not saying don't do it. But only do it if YOU want guinea pigs. If you feel less than enthusiastic about the realisties of their care now, you're going to be even less enthusiastic a bit further down the line.

Daisymay2 Sat 25-Feb-17 21:36:00

We love guinea's too, we had out first ones whe our boys were slightly older than your children.Our last pig, Danni Alexandra (the ginger rodent) was a rescue pig who lived with us until she died at 5. She ruled the house, demanded to go outside every day after my husband retired and knew how to make him move her run when she wanted a different patch of grass. even though she spent time outside every day , ( a trampoline keeps the area under the run dry in wet weather! ) she needed cleaning out at least twice per week. She lived in the conservatory- as did her predecessors.
I love guineas but they need care and even teenagers don't do all that is needed. They are quite noisy- our first guineas would squeek loudly if we had a lie in and did not provide the morning greens at the required time. Audible in the house!
If handled from a young age they are affectionate- even danni became very affectionate but she was about 2 when she came to live with us and it took her a while to become used to being handled.

70isaLimitNotaTarget Sat 25-Feb-17 21:36:31

Before you commit to piggies make sure your DC are not allergic to hay or fur.

We had a Smooth and an Abby - all ok
Then a Rex .....DD was allergic

Further down the line we got a Teddy after I checked with DD that she was ok with her friends guinea (Teddy)........she is very allergic to him.
He gives her a red rash where he touches, the other pigs no problem.

(Teddy and Rex are coarse coats , lovely big solid piggies )

TheHobbitMum Sat 25-Feb-17 21:41:11

I also recommend any new guinea owners research cages properly the typical ones sold in Pets at home etc are so, so small and unsuitable x

TheHobbitMum Sat 25-Feb-17 21:44:49

I have a cat & dog also. We are incredibly strict that the cat cannot get near the piggies, the cat will hunt them and stress out pigs! Although the cat once got to the side of the cage and got his nose bit by the youngest pig 😂 Cat stays away now by choice but I won't take chances. The dog is frightened of the pigs so stays away also (they are out together for floor time). They can be kept with other pets but you need to be careful with the cat smile

P. S they will soon have you a slave too 😂

DurhamDurham Sat 25-Feb-17 21:44:51

I'm ashamed to admit that several years ago we underestimated the amount of care and attention they would need, our girls didn't bond with them, they weren't interested in them at all once they realised how much effort was required. I took them back to the pet shop who agreed to take them back for a family who could meet their needs. I felt rubbish taking them back but I would have felt worse having them at home and only meeting their most basic needs.

Hiddeninplainsight Sat 25-Feb-17 21:45:03

More food for thought. I am wondering if we should visit the rescue centre first, and see if they will let my DD interact with them a little, and (ideally) help cleaning out the cage. I will see if we can do that (not sure they would want it though!).

geordiedench Sat 25-Feb-17 21:50:07

They are the cutest animals ever. So plump and snuggly and they chirrup and sing and are gentle to cuddle. They squeak with excitement to greet you in the morning, or whenever you peel vegetables. They whistle with happiness when you clean out their cage. They bounce up and down just because they can.

ContraryToPopularBelief Sat 25-Feb-17 21:50:14

I have 2 outdoor piggies who I adore! The live in a small hutch which has an upstairs bedroom which is chock full of hay, a small downstairs area where they have their food water, etc, CONSTANT access to a small run where I put veggies, and CONSTANT access to our garden.

The hutch is mega insulated and the garden is mega fox proofed.

My piggies live a lovely life. The wheek like mad at the sound of the house door and at my voice. I have been caught by the neighbour's on more than one occasion having full conversations with my guys.

Yes there is always a chance of a super wily fox, but for me the trade off against the lovely free-range life they lead.

N.B. It's worth noting that they didn't live out their first winter when they were babies and we always have a back up plan if the temperature really plummets.

glenthebattleostrich Sat 25-Feb-17 21:59:48

Oh the squee and popcorning when they get their favourite food makes all the work worth it.

TheHobbitMum Sat 25-Feb-17 22:01:36

Ohh popcorning piggies is the best!

EastMidsGPs Sun 26-Feb-17 07:54:25

Our piggies are our only pets.
We have a lurking cat next door we are always mindful of when the girls are playing outside. They have a large run when we are out but run free when we are in the garden.
This cat waits and waits, (our girls live in a large hutch in our summer house from spring to autumn) he has the patience of a saint and is waiting for '^the day I make a mistake^'

A friend's dog hasn't yet - in 5 years of regular visits - made the link between the interesting smell on us and the balls of fur he sees around. He isn't a terrier but I'd never let him alone with the gps.

Have though of something else you need to be aware of ... you'll have to keep away from Amazon forever, otherwise you'll be broke and the house will be full of things they have to have and which they totally ignore with the look hmmhmm

Pancakeflipper Sun 26-Feb-17 09:13:22

We have 2 rescue piggies. They live in our kitchen area in a cage and get to run about twice a day. In Summer they go out but one of refuses to go near grass.
They see people constantly and are now much tamer and really funny.
As others say they need care and attention. Mine seem to wee huge amounts and I change their bed area daily.

If you are family who eat lots of veg they are helpful to eat up stuff. I cannot cut up a carrot without an orchestra of guinea pig squeaks.

We have other pets (eldest would like us to adopt every animal).

I was worried about the cat but he's a big lazy old thing. He sits in the comfy chair near their cage and watches them. He's jealous of their constant buffet. But he's totally not threatening and they are very used to him now. He likes to lay down if they are out playing and they'll sniff him.

OH was totally against the piggies, refused to acknowledge them at first but now cuddles them and hand feeds them.

If your children love animals and willing to put in the time of ownership then they are a joy.

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