Guinea pigs are wonderful pets with great dispositions. They require little maintenance and make terrific pets for older children. But guinea pigs are not for everyone. Here are just a few factors to think about before running down to your favorite animal shelter or pet store to pick one up.

Guinea pigs do not do particularly well living alone. They are social creatures who crave the company of others. Consider the lifestyles and personalities of you and your family. Will your new addition be truly integrated into your family and get lots of attention—not just in the beginning when you first bring it home—but for its entire life? Or will it be largely ignored and become “just an obligation” once the initial novelty has worn off? Or, if you cannot give it enough attention, are you willing to house two or more pigs together so that they can keep each other company?

With the joys of pet ownership also comes responsibility. Are you willing to commit to long-term care and feeding for your new pet for its entire life? Guinea pigs on average, live five to six years – and some can live as long as eight years. So remember, when you bring home a guinea pig, you are bringing home another living being. And ultimately, you will be the one responsible for its health and safety for the remainder of its life.

Are you emotionally strong enough to suffer the loss of your pet in the future? As I said earlier, guinea pigs typically live about five to six years. While this may be a long time in terms of making a commitment to your animal; it is a relatively short time in relation to the life span of you or your children. In other words, as indelicate as it sounds, it is likely that you will someday have to watch your pet die.

This is neither bad nor good – it’s just life. However, it can be a good learning experience for your family in terms of learning how to handle death and loss in a healthy way. But it can also be a very unpleasant and difficult time.

Our family has owned many pets from guinea pigs to rabbits to dogs. We’ve had fish, snails, mice and even frogs. And, inevitably, we have sadly lost many pets. Over the years, the woods in our backyard have become a small pet graveyard. But on the whole, those pets have all contributed so much more to our family during their lifetimes than they ever took away with their deaths. For us, the positives far outweighed the ultimate negative of pet ownership.

On the other hand, my sister-in-law was devastated by the death of her ferret. So much so that she vowed never to own another pet again. For her, the negative overwhelmed the positives. Which type of person (or family) are you? You should know before you bring home a guinea pig.

Bringing home a new pet is exciting – but it also implies a serious commitment. Are you willing to spend time with your pet and give it the attention that it needs? Are you willing to commit to this stewardship for the entire life span of your new animal? And are you emotionally prepared to handle the inevitable bad times that come with the good experiences that your guinea pig will provide? If you can say yes to all of these questions, then you are a good candidate for a guinea pig owner. Enjoy.

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Categories: Guinea Pig Care and Feeding

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