Guinea Pig Misconceptions and Common Mistakes

Other Animals


The guinea pig community

This is the final article in a 5-part series. (To begin at part 1, click here.)

From feed and diet to illness and squeaks, the Guinea Lynx community is impressive for the vast amount of areas they cover.

We asked them some important questions about guinea pigs, and they were happy to oblige with answers.

The following information was offered on the Guinea Lynx Forums.

What are common guinea pig misconceptions that need to be cleared up?
  • That they are easy starter pets for kids to learn responsibility.
  • The worst are that pigs don’t need vet care, pigs just eat pellets and seeds and treats, pigs can live with rabbits, pigs can live in a small cage, pigs can live outdoors and pigs can live in an aquarium.
  • That because they are short-lived (2-3 years) and cheap to purchase, it is acceptable to have them put down at the first sign of illness and easier to purchase a replacement rather than treat them appropriately.
  • The males will always fight, and that they need exercise balls/wheels.
  • They don’t need much room and are happy alone.
  • They’ll be okay if let loose in the neighborhood/woods when kids are over their interest in them.
  • Guinea pigs can live with a rabbit. They eat carrots and cabbage only. They don’t suffer in the cold. They can have salt licks, mineral licks and popcorn sticks that are sold in the pet stores. All vets are knowledgeable about guinea pigs.
  • They have little to no individual personality and are boring pets. That they eat their young and are very dumb or stupid.
When you come across an article about guinea pigs that has inaccurate information, do you take action by commenting, contacting the author or publisher? How important is it to you that these articles are accurate?
  • Immensely important. Inaccurate information is dangerous. I see a ton of misinformation out there. Generally I will try to clear up the misinformation in the comments section if there is one. If I can, I will also try to contact the author of the article.  If I see something wrong, I usually leave a comment to the site.
Why is this group such a close-knit community?
  • I think the core members here have stuck around for many years, going through plenty of life changes together and supporting each other through far more than just help with pet care. I know quite a few of the “oldies” here don’t even have guinea pigs anymore, but stick around for the friends.
  • Pigs bring us together, but life keeps us together. Online communities are profound.
  • Perhaps because there IS so much rubbish “out there” about pigs and this is a no nonsense community which provides immediate support and advice, often at life critical times.
  • When you have a common thread that ties everyone together, I think it draws people closer. They can relate to each other and their experiences.
Has being a member of a like-minded community helped you and your pets?
  • Absolutely!! People here know everything about all pets, and if they don’t know themselves, they point you in the right direction. Dogs, cats, tortoises, rats, fish, crawdads…you name it. Even the proper care of feeder crickets!
  • Yes! People generally don’t have the patience or interest in hearing about guinea pigs at length. Here you can geek-out about your pigs and not get the eye rolls that you would from people who don’t have guinea pigs.
Who could resist this face?
Have you adopted more pets since joining this community?
  • In the earlier days, yes. There were quite a few pigs that came home because of the “adoption fever” that being in a community such as this can inspire from time to time.
  • I adopt a pair of pigs at a time; the most I have at any given time is three pigs. I’ve adopted three pairs so far.
What is the strangest or funniest name someone has named their guinea pig?
  • I think the pig name that stands out for me from over the years is Bing. He was a guinea pig celebrity. Currently, I care for Stinker McStinkpants. He’d probably take the title of funniest name of the four I have now.
  • Sir Scrotumus and Evil Pig
  • The name Chocobutt comes to mind.
  • Flashbang Fatbottom or Baron Montezuma von Tuftybum.
What is the area of concern that really needs more attention? Breeding? Rescue efforts?
  • Making people aware that guinea pigs are available for adoption in rescues and shelters just like dogs and cats.
  • Stopping breeding and encouraging rescue and proper care.
  • In the UK – veterinary knowledge and experience with pigs.
  • Definitely the cruelty of breeding, the horrific conditions of breeding mills. I think ignorance of it or knowledge of it but consciously looking the other way is what keeps pet stores in business.
  • Publicizing pigs available from rescues/shelters. For many years of owning a guinea pig, I had never even *considered* that they could be found in shelters, just like cats and dogs. Babies, too! People who know about shelters may shy away from them, thinking that they’re all older guinea pigs, but a lot of people drop off pregnant pigs, so there’s always plenty of babies!
  • I think if rescue efforts are better known, the breeding will take care of itself. I think there will always be those that want to show pigs and will continue to breed or get from breeders. I can’t tell you, though, how many people have contacted my rescue, either surrendering or wanting to adopt, and say they never dreamed a guinea pig rescue existed.
  • We have a great problem with not having enough vets that are knowledgeable in guinea pig care. I challenge my vet and take along notes from my community almost every time I visit.
What is the most endearing quality of owning a guinea pig?
  • I like to watch them. Mine aren’t big fans of being held and cuddled, but they sure are entertaining to watch eat or sift through a pile of hay.
  • Their adorable little sounds!
  • I often say my pigs pay their rent in cute. Just looking at their faces makes me smile. My reason for getting them after a gap of 20 years was their docile nature and the noises.
  • Most endearing would be having one pancake out on you and plop their head down in total trust.
  •  If I had to nominate the most endearing thing about guinea pigs it would have to be how varied their personalities are.
  • Oh there are so many! Their different communication noises, their personalities and individual quirkiness. How they interact with each other. Watching them sleep, groom, etc. And the popcorning! That is something that always makes me smile.

If you could only give one piece of advice to a prospective owner, what would it be?
  • Make sure to check and double check that you have a veterinarian handy that is very knowledgeable about guinea pig care and treatment. A vet with casual knowledge generally won’t cut it and can sometimes be dangerous if they are unaware of certain “no-no’s” concerning guinea pigs.
  • Pigs are more work than you think. It is very rewarding, and pigs are charming pets, but they need a lot of care.
  • Don’t become an owner unless you are able to commit the resource (time, finance and emotional energy) that these little egg-shaped jewels demand and deserve.
  • Ask lots of questions before you adopt. The amount of care and the potential cost of vets isn’t for everyone.
  • Talking to a good guinea pig owner would be helpful
  • Check all of the local rescues instead of buying from a breeder.
  •  Research. Find good, reliable information and follow it.
guinea-pig-care-guide-community-rabbit
One of these is not a rabbit.
What is the most common or dangerous mistake people make with their pets?
  • Not providing veterinarian care when the pet is sick or waiting too long to see the vet.
  • Feeding them the wrong food and breeding them (and with dogs, not training them!)
  • Not to do research before acquiring them and thereby understand the level of commitment that they require.
  • Most common for guinea pigs is probably small cage and crappy diet.
  • The most common mistake is a living quarters that are toxic (too small and dangerous bedding). The most dangerous mistake is waiting too long to bring a sick pig to the vet. Too often they don’t realize a guinea pig is sick until it’s on death’s door, and waiting even a day is often too long.

There are many wonderful reasons to adopt a guinea pig as a pet, and by being prepared for the care involved you can be sure your new furry friend is around for years to come. We hope you have enjoyed this series and hope it helps explain the wonderful world of guinea pigs and all they have to offer.

Acknowledgments

A special thank you goes to Guinea Lynx and their members for taking part in this research and opening their community to supplement this care guide. Appreciation also goes to Erin Moore for her advice and expertise as a guinea pig owner for over a decade.

Additional Resources

Photos: picto:graphic (top), law_keven (middle), Chris P./Flickr

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