When it comes to family pets that are easy to maintain and is compact in size, guinea pigs are pretty hard to beat. These gorgeous little creatures are easy to fall in love with, and their cute, cuddly looks win them admirers wherever they go.
But, looks aside, guinea pigs also make great family pets from a practical point of view. They require very little in terms of regular care, they aren’t going to destroy your backyard or take up a huge amount of space, and they’re relatively inexpensive.
So if you’re looking for a great “starter” pet to help your kids learn about the responsibility of looking after an animal, the guinea pig is perfect. But before you start shopping for a cute cavy to add to your family, check out our top tips for choosing the right guinea pig below.
Top 5 Tips for choosing a guinea pig
- Consider adopting. When you get a new pet, the excitement and temptation to buy a new pet from a pet store or a breeder can be too much to resist. But before you hand over any money to buy a guinea pig, take some time to consider whether adopting might be a better option. There are thousands of cavies at shelters and animal rescue organisations all over Australia in need of a loving home. Sure, you may miss out on the baby years that are a drawcard for many owners, but owning an older guinea pig means you get to enjoy the companionship of a calm, settled pet with so much love to give. Contact the RSPCA or other shelter organisations in your area to find out if there are any guinea pigs available for adoption.
- Male or female. It doesn’t matter – both male and female guinea pigs make great family pets. It’s recommended that you give your cavy a friend to play with, as guinea pigs are social animals and don’t like being left alone. Giving your pet a cage mate is a great way to look after their emotional and mental wellbeing, but just make sure that the two guinea pigs you choose are of the same sex. Two males or two females will make perfect hutch companions.
- Which breed is best? There’s a huge array of guinea pig breeds available, with cavies in all shapes, sizes and colours. The right breed for you really comes down to personal preference – which breed looks cutest to you, how much time and effort you’re willing to put into looking after your pet etc. Just remember that longer-haired breeds such as the Peruvian guinea pig will need plenty of hard work to maintain that gorgeous long coat. If you’re not willing to groom your pet regularly, a short-haired cavy breed could be a better fit.
- Research, research, research. Once you’ve found a few guinea pig breeds that match your needs, it’s time to start researching the ins and outs of owning each type of cavy. From grooming and exercise needs to the right diet and housing, it’s important that you know exactly what you need to do to give your pet a happy and healthy life. Some breeds require much more maintenance than others, which is fine if you don’t mind a little bit of extra work, but which can come as an unwelcome surprise to some first-time owners. Reading profiles and guides to the different guinea pig breeds will help you decide on the right pet for you.
- Choose a healthy guinea pig. Regardless of whether you choose to adopt or buy a cavy, it’s essential to make sure that you choose a healthy guinea pig. A healthy and happy guinea pig will be alert, active and have a shiny coat. Bright, attentive eyes and a dry nose are also telltale signs of a healthy cavy, while bald patches, lethargy and any crustiness around the eyes and nose are signs of a guinea pig that’s not at his best. Once you find a healthy cavy in great condition, it’s time to bring your new pet home and welcome him into your family.