Getting Back Into Guinea Pigs
I recently started thinking about getting back into guinea pigs, and that idea quickly turned into reality when I picked up Charlotte. A few days later, I found a friend for her, Penelope! Charlotte is super excited to have a friend and immediately started making happy little noises when they met. Penelope is a lot more shy than Charlotte, but I can hear them playing together when I’m out of the room.
Adding Charlotte and Penelope into our home has sparked a lot of reading and re-learning things I haven’t thought about in a long time. As a kid, I kept dozens of guinea pigs over the years. Some of the things I learned back then still apply, or will at least work out ok, but a lot has changed since I was a kid.
What has changed:
Size guidelines for cages
When I was a kid, cages were much smaller. Of course, you can still buy small cages, but the ‘experts’ understanding of how much space a guinea pig needs has greatly expanded. As a kid, most of my pigs lived in small cages but spent a lot of time out of them, grazing in the yard, or running around on the floor while I played. These days, large cages are recommended, and many people will vehemently discourage the small cages that used to be standard.
Woodchips were the norm for bedding when I was a kid. We knew that cedar was bad for them, but hardwood bedding is perfectly safe. It is pretty messy, however. I was constantly sweeping and vacuuming up woodchips around the cages. These days, fleece blankets laid out flat over potty pads or other waterproof layers are far more popular. After having the girls kept that way for a few days, I already love this update. MUCH more tidy and easier to clean. The poops are more visible, but also easier to just pick up the fleece and shake the poops into the trash.
The Variety of Breeds
A lot of new breeds have been developed since I was a kid. Texels were brand new just as I was getting out of 4H and ultimately out of guinea pigs. We also didn’t have Rexes, or satins of either breed. I’m not even sure what all there is now! I primarily focused on Peruvians and Peruvian Satins in 4H, so it was fun to see a curly hair variety coming out. I am happy to see that the old breeds are still going strong. Charlotte is a very nice example of an Abyssinian, although she does have one split rosette. Penelope is a “pet quality” American breed. She’s beautiful, but has a longer nose than “show quality” Americans should have.
No one ever talked about piggy toys when I had them previously. If the subject did come up, everything was off limits because they might chew on it. This paranoia seems to have lightened up quite a bit. Now people are providing all sorts of toys for their piggies. I’ve seen tunnels, straw huts, balls, and all sorts of other piggy-proof toys.
Not everything is different, though. I’m pleased that my memory of guinea pig food is still valid, although there appear to be a few more options now. I hadn’t seen pellets specifically for baby guinea pigs before, but these are available now. All the same popular fruits and veggies are still popular today as well. There’s more of an emphasis on timothy hay than I remember in the past, but that may have had to do with members of my family having extreme hay fever.
A lot of my old knowledge of health requirements is still valid, such as making sure they have things to chew to keep the teeth worn down, and not letting them get too cold. I have more dogs and cats than I did as a kid, so I’m taking extra measures to keep my guinea pig out of their reach and safe.
Charlotte hasn’t made much noise yet, but she does make that funny purring cooing noise when I pet her. Peno has remained virtually silent, even with petting. I’m looking forward to them associating the sound of the fridge with treats and wheeking loudly. That was always a favorite of mine. Charlotte’s started making little squeaky noises, but she is still settling in. I’m sure she’ll become a lot more vocal soon.
It will be a few months before she can make use of it, but I’m going to start on an outside pen soon. During the summer, I spend a lot of time in the yard and garden. Quincy, Bentley, and Eden join me out there for some fresh air and exercise. I’ve been planning on building an outdoor run for Reilly since he’s an escape artist. I’m adding a pen for Charlotte and Penelope as well. By then, she may even have a couple friends to share it with.
I’m loving my return to guinea pigs. I’ll definitely share more pictures and stories about her soon, as well as articles about guinea pig care and products.
Do you have a guinea pig or other small animal? Tell me about them in the comments!