The Pros & Cons of Guinea Pigs as Pets

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Guinea pigs have gained a reputation for being a “starter pet”, with many people believing that the animals can be self-sustaining with just a little food thrown in the cage every day. 

Some are treated as little more than oversized rats with more personality and less temper. This sad reality has come about mostly as a result of ignorance perpetuated by the internet, unscrupulous breeders, and greedy pet store chains.

In order to help you make the best choice, we will provide you with a list of the pros and cons of owning a guinea pig.

pet food box

Identifying Your Needs

If you’re thinking about getting a pet for yourself or a child, there are a few questions to ask yourself first: “What am I looking for in a pet?” “What’s my purpose for getting a pet?” “Am I prepared to take care of it?” “Can I handle all the responsibilities involved?” “Am I getting a pet simply to act as a decoration in the house?”

Identifying what you need is the first step to finding a pet that fits your need; the right pet for you.

People love having dogs and cats because they are great companions with diverse personalities and can become your friends that you can talk to. Others prefer to keep fish and turtles as pets in tanks and ponds. They are a silent type of “passive” pet that people perhaps enjoy owning in order to give themselves a sense of purpose as well as provide a nice spark of life in an otherwise drab urban environment.

Another common function of pets is to act as tools for teaching children how to be responsible. They are taught to take care of an animal’s needs in order to prevent it from dying.

While this is a great life lesson to learn, there are other ways to learn responsibility without endangering the life of an animal. For in any avenue of learning, one is bound to make mistakes and it would be cruel to sacrifice an animal simply for the sake of learning.

For this reason, guinea pigs are not recommended for children under ten years old. Exceptions can be made if there is a high level of supervision.

better choice of first pet for small children to learn responsibilities are birds and fish. Be a responsible owner and parent by ensuring that your kids get the right type of pet for them – something that they can realistically handle.

cute black guinea pig

The Pros of Guinea Pigs as Pets

Being the owner of a pet means more than just taking care of an animal. It means more than simply providing food and shelter. It means more than just ensuring that the necessities of life are met. Making the decision to become a pet owner means dedication, responsibility, and the kind of love that a parent gives their child.

It’s no different when it comes to owning guinea pigs and here’s why you should choose them:

1. They’re easier to take care of than other pets such as dogs and cats

A dog needs a lot of attention and time and must be taken on daily walks. They also need more space which is especially true for large breeds. Cats have a similar disposition. Both animals have aggressive breeds and are picky eaters.

2. They don’t take up much space

Guinea pigs are quite small and their cage can fit comfortably into the corner of a room in the house. Cleaning up after them is also a breeze as their droppings are small and can be easily removed. Due to their small size, transporting them to a new location is hassle-free. They keep themselves clean too with daily grooming.

3. They’re more of a “passive pet” rather than a “constantly-by-your-side” pet

If that’s the kind of pet you want, they’re perfect for the role. Guinea pigs fulfill a companion role that’s sort of a mixture of a cat’s laid-back, affectionate nature and the decorative capabilities of fish. They aren’t handled for more than a few hours a day and can’t really be “played-with” like other companion pets.

4. They’re relatively quiet compared to other pets

While a dog owner’s neighbor might be kept up by nighttime barking, the guinea pig owner has no such issues. Guinea pigs can sometimes be noisy but the volume of their wheeks and squeals isn’t that high.

5. They cost less and are cheaper to maintain than other pets

Think of the large price tags that come with purebred dogs, cats, and even some fish. Guinea pigs are very affordable, their food doesn’t cost much, and accessories such as toys and trinkets are widely available. In fact, they also eat fruits and veggies so you’ll definitely be sharing for human food with them from to time.

6. They show some degree of affection and are naturally social

Guinea pigs live in herds and are grazing animals. They aren’t completely emotionless like turtles are, but at the same time, they aren’t as wildly passionate as dogs. They are sweet and interactive to a certain extent.

6. They’re good pets of choice for older children

Young children do not have the fine muscle strength to firmly hold a guinea pig and they can get seriously injured if they drop from an unsecured location.

7. They live longer than other rodents

While hamsters and gerbils only live for about 2 – 4 years on the average, guinea pigs enjoy a nice 4 to 5-year average lifespan; with some living up to 8 years. That’s pretty long for a small pet.

8. They’re gentle and aren’t dangerous

It is very rare for a guinea pig to bite, unlike hamsters, gerbils, and most especially rats – all of whom have been known to bite their owners for various reasons. The only times when a guinea pig will bite is almost always by accident.

9. They don’t destroy things

While other pets have destructive tendencies, making it a hassle for you to clean up their living area and purchase new toys, guinea pigs exhibit no such behaviors. They are kind, sweet, and mostly have a calm and collected demeanor.

Male guinea pigs can sometimes get a bit rowdy, but there are measures to take that can prevent these instances.

The Cons of Guinea Pigs as Pets

On the other hand, here are some factors other pet owners see as disadvantages of owning Guinea pigs:

  • They don’t live as long as other pets.

There’s almost no comparison when putting dog, cat, and guinea pig lifespans side-by-side. Dogs can grow alongside a human and one of the greatest joys is when a puppy can accompany a baby through the milestones of his/her years all the way to adulthood.

Guinea pigs, unfortunately, will not be able to accomplish such a feat, but at least they do live longer than other rodents.

  • They’re easily injured.

Guinea pigs aren’t the hardiest or strongest pet available on the market. Their bones are fragile and not very flexible and they can get hurt easily. This is the reason why it’s not recommended to allow small children to play with them.

  • It can take a long time to train them.

Guinea pigs can be trained to follow commands and even to recognize your voice but the time it takes can range from a few weeks to a few months. In fact, you’ll never know how long it will take an individual guinea pig to complete training. They each have their own unique personality, so let’s just say it’s for you to find out.

  • There’s a higher price for veterinary checkups, diagnoses, and medicines.

Guinea pigs are classified as “exotic” pets; which means that vets charge a higher fee for standard services. Even the simple task of finding a vet who’s trained to handle exotic animals is difficult in itself.

Local vets may not be qualified to handle guinea pigs and you might have to travel far to locate one. Many vets who are not trained to handle exotic animals are not familiar with all possible health issues and sometimes, it takes multiple diagnoses to finally find the cure.

  • Guinea pigs can’t create their own Vitamin C.

This isn’t a problem for most other pets but for guinea pigs, it means that you’ll have to specifically buy Vitamin C supplements or feed vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables every day. They primarily only eat hay and drink water, so special concessions must be made in regards to their diet.

Carlye Yancey
Carlye Yancey

Between internships, volunteering, and paid jobs over the last 4 years, I have pretty much-gained experience with domesticated animals. Currently being in school for my veterinary technology degree, I spend my leisure time with 3 critters that I own.

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