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Piggies make fantastic pets but do need some work
Member Name: GizmoPig
Advantages: loving animal that will become part of the family
Disadvantages: need more looking after than a lot of people think
Originally when my husband and I wanted pets we looked at Chinchilla's, but after seeing one bouncing off of walls on Youtube and considering our small flat, we decided against that one!
Two of our friends had guinea pigs, and my husband suggested we have a look. I initially though pigs would be boring and not do much - I was SO wrong!! Over Christmas 2006 we were visiting my parents and decided to look in the local pet shop that we had grown up using. There was a cute pair of black and white and tan baby piggies for sale (see my avatar). We decided to take them home and named the black one Gizmo and the white and tan one Biscuit.
We had them both until April of this year. Biscuit stopped eating so we took him to the vets who diagnoised that his back teeth had overgrown and were trapping his tongue (a common problem in pigs called maluclussion) He needed an op to trim them back and release his tongue. We were warned he may not survive the anesthetic but without the op he wouldn't have lasted Biscuit made it through and we embarked on a two month round of twice daily hand feeding with a syringe and liquid recovery food. We were back up the vets almost every week for progress checks and he earned the nickname of the 'guilded piggy' due to the vets bills! Sadly we had to have him put to sleep on the 22nd April this year as he developed a bacterial infection in his gut. It was incredibly sudden - he went from eating ok (we were combining handfeeding and some solids at the time) to the infection taking hold in the space of about 4 hours. Piggies have a very delicate digestive tract and if it is upset they can go downhill fast. The vet said that there was nothing more that we could have done for him and if anyone had got him back to full health we would have done (which was a lovely thing to say) but he was just very unlucky to develop the bacteria inbalance that led to the infection.
We were left with Gizmo who was very unhappy and clingy to us for a couple of days. Worried about him, I phoned a local guinea pig rescue who told me that it is not uncommon for piggies to die of a broken heart after losing their cage mate as they develop very strong bonds. I took Gizmo down to the rescue the next day for a match up and he was paired with Piglet who is our new pig. They seem to be bonding and sorting out their territories well now. Gizmo is 2.5yrs and Piglet is 1yr. Piggies normally live to 5-7 years on average so I really hope these two keep going!
Golden Rules of keeping piggies:
NEVER EVER house pigs with rabbits. They have different food requirements including most importantly, pigs must have vitamin c supplemented pellets especially for them and must not have iceburg lettuce which a lot of people feed their rabbits.
Cage must be washed and cleaned minimum of once a week and minimum size is at least 8ft sq for two pigs. Every day you need to spot clean and remove damp patches and poop. Ours are on Megazorb bedding with timothy hay. I don't believe that piggies should be kept outside. They are from Peru and are not designed to deal with the UK weather. Ours go out in their run in the nice weather but spend all winter inside and are inside every night.
Fresh water minimum of once daily, and the water bottle needs washing then as well.
Food - guinea pig pellets and a variety of veggies. Carrots, spinach, cabbage and cucumber are popular with ours. Limit the veggies though as too many can cause the runs and this is often fatal in piggies. Their main diet should be timothy hay and pellets. See www.guinealynx.com for everything you need to know about food, medical treatment, daily care etc, etc
Weigh weekly. This allows you to pick up any worrying weight loss which could indicate illness or maluclusion (see above - you don't want to go there!!)
Daily run - piggies need some space and time out of the cage. Have a safe room that they can run in for about an hour a day. Make sure they are supervised and seal off any cables or hidey holes. They will get into and chew anything they can!
Piggies in general are loving animals and can be trained! Some pigs are toilet trained and ours know the words 'piggy run around' which means they are going to be let out in the room, 'piggy treat' which means veggies are forthcoming, and if we cup our hands and arms together and say 'clever pig' while they are on the floor, they will climb on to be lifted back into the cage.
They love to sit on my lap and be stroked and occasionally I get piggy kisses where they nibble my skin softly. They make different noises to indicate different things and are actually pretty intelligent. They also know their humans. When Piglet first came to us Gizmo got very clingy and protective of me in general. He wanted to have me to himself and didn't want to share with a strange pig. I would say that the animal they are most like is a cat if you take the time to get to know them.
In summey (whoops - have written an essay!) you need to spare at least 90 minutes a day for cleaning, cuddles and supervising their floor time and more than this if you can. They are not a pet that children can be left with as a total responsibility - it's not fair on the pig. Buy them as a family pet by all means and get the kids to do certain tasks but the adults in the family need to oversee this and make sure it is done by them if not the kids, or the pig will suffer. Never leave a small child unsupervised with a pig, They can bite if provoked and have very sharp teeth. Also never allow a child to pick a pig up unsupervised. If dropped or they wriggle out of your hands, the fall can easily kill them or break their back.
If well treated and loved, a guinea pig will be a real member of the family and I'll guarantee you'll end up with a succession of them as we appear to be doing! A final point - please make sure you look at a rescue rather than a pet shop. There are thousands of abandoned piggies waiting for a second chance!
Summary: I'd recommend anyone to get a piggie!