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Not just a furry face - Guinea Pigs make great pets.
Member Name: PuzzleQueen
Advantages: Small, easy to keep, sociable
Disadvantages: no good if you don't want commitment
Guinea Pigs are traditionally a children's pet, but I know of large numbers of adults who keep them as pets. I'm 28 and I have 3! They make fantastic pets for anyone - they're sociable, easy to feed and look after and full of character. My 3 all have very different personalities. Bridie is just like a grumpy old human, Coco looks like she's on another planet most of the time and Honey looks like she wants to take over the world - if only she had opposable thumbs! They also make lots of different noises and will almost seem to talk to you. You'll quickly come to know what most of their sounds mean - particularly the loud 'wheek! wheek!' at dinnertime!
Pigs need to live in groups of 2 or more. You can keep single sex groups of sows (females) or boars (males), but boars should be neutered or they'll usually fight, especially if they can smell sows. You can also keep a sow and a boar together, but they will breed unless they're neutered.
Most people keep pigs in a wooden hutch outside, but mine are indoor pigs and live in large cages all year. Guinea pigs can live outside during Spring and Summer, but should be brought indoors or into a heated shed or outbuilding during late Autumn and Winter. They originate from South America and just don't cope with the cold.
A hutch or cage should be lined with newspaper and a thick layer of proper pet bed wood-shavings. Don't use sawdust as it's really bad for their lungs and don't just get stuff from a sawmill as it can contain harmful wood preservatives and chemicals. Some people suggest using vet-bed or hemp horse bedding as those are virtually dust-free.
The easiest thing to feed your pigs is a ready-made guinea pig pellet or mix - I prefer to use a pelleted feed which stops them picking out their favourite bits and leaving what they don't want. They also need plenty of good quality hay and fresh water, either from a drinking bottle or bowl. Any bowls you use should be nice and sturdy as they tend to balance on them to eat or drink - they only have short little legs! They also enjoy vegetables such as carrots and broccoli, fruits such as bananas, grapes and apples and green leaves like lettuce. Be warned - only feed them small amounts of these as too much green stuff will affect their digestion and could make them poorly. Also, some pigs are allergic to apples, so go sparingly.
Taming your guinea pig is reasonably easy - spend lots of time talking to, stroking them and hand-feeding before you attempt to pick them up for the first time. When you do handle a pig, make sure to have firm (but not crushing) hold as they will wriggle as first. Always make sure you support them with one hand under their rump and the other around their chest. Try to sit down when you handle them - they don't like heights and will be quite nervous at first. Always supervise a child when they handle a guinea pig. Again, lots of stroking, calm talking and treats will soothe them.
There a quite a few toys you can buy for your piggies, but I find the things they like best are things to chew such as wood blocks - again, they must be made specifically for pets as some woods are poisonous. They need to keep their teeth at a suitable length as they are constantly growing. You can also give them cardboard tubes (perhaps stuffed with hay) and paper bags to play with, but only do this occasionally as they may eat them. Also, remember to cut down one side of any tubes as they can get stuck in them.
A world on health - pigs are generally pretty healthy pets, but when they get ill, they do so quickly and may die without swift veterinary attention. If your pig looks at all ill, you must ring a knowledgeable vet for advice and treatment, if needed. It's best to register with a suitable vet before the need for treatment arises. Not all vets are knowledgeable about guinea pigs (which are classed as exotic pets), so do your research before you join a practice.
There are lots of very good guide books on the market, but I would recommend any by Peter Gurney, who was considered an expert on guinea pigs and their care.
Most of all, they are friendly, cuddly and lively little animals that can't fail to win your heart. As soon as you bring pigs into your home, you'll be hooked!
Summary: Guinea pigs make wonderful pets for anyone, not just children!