Choosing Your Guinea Pigs…

Choose your guineas’ friends for their character and your clothes for their colour. Choosing clothes for their personality makes no sense and choosing guineas’ friends for their colour is unthinkable.
Guinea pigs are naturally sociable animals that live in groups in the wild. There are conflicting views on whether or not more than one boar lives in a group, common opinions are that:
  • Only one dominant male lives in each group and does not tolerate any other males in the group,(dominant or otherwise).
  • There is a dominant male who ‘leads’ the group and several other males that live on the ‘outside’ of the group.

The domestic guinea pig is, on the whole, able to adapt to living in a pair, trio or group situation providing it is appreciated that not all guinea pigs will live together and some are not in a ‘place’ where they are ready for bonding.However, given time guinea pigs should reach a state where they are able to be bonded with another guinea pig of their choosing.

The  Animal Welfare Act states as one of its recommendations, also known as the Five Freedoms:
‘any need it has to be housed with, or apart from, other animals’;
Guinea pigs are naturally sociable and should only be rehomed when they are ready to accept another guinea pig or have ‘found’ another guinea pig that they will live with.
Sourcing your pair or trio
  • Match the guinea pigs to suit you and your life style. Are you confident enough to handle  active youngsters, or would  more sedate adults be better? A well matched trio is better in the long term than a pair. Trios require a living space of five foot by two foot or one metre fifty centimetres by ninety centimetres or more. The advantage being that when one guinea pig dies a pair are left as opposed to a lone guinea pig if only a pair are kept. There is no immediate need to find a replacement friend. Ready bonded pairs or trios are easier on the guinea pigs and the Human, it is a new situation for everyone, make it as smooth as possible.

  • Boars or sows?
Both make equally good pets and sows can often have boarish ‘in your face qualities’, while some boars are not quite so ‘in your face’ and up front as the others. Choose a guinea for their individual qualities. Some boars will reach an age where they will fight, this can be as old as eighteen months, and it happens to siblings as well. Two matched older adult boars are less likely to ‘fall out’. Many pairs of boars live very happily together, once again it is about selecting the right characters.Some rescues castrate their pairs of boars so should this happen (or when one dies) they can be paired with sows.

  • Pet Shop:

Whilst pet shop conditions have and are improving greatly thought should be given to where the guinea pig came from originally. Are the conditions there favourable? Will you ever find out? The RSPCA recommend that animals are bought from places where there parents can be seen to be well kept and healthy (ie where they were born), or a reputable rescue.

  • Online Classified sites:

These are fast becoming the ‘new pet shop’, and have been responsible for guinea pigs being passed to different homes many times before arriving at a rescue where they are rehabilitated and treated for any existing conditions. One of the lesser recognised conditions is the behavioural one. Guinea pigs then become labeled (wrongly) and any ‘issues’ are not treated/dealt with. Often the guinea pigs are not coming from a reputable source  and it is not the best place that someone new to keeping guinea pigs can go.

  • Breeder:

There are many reputable breeders in the UK that will sometimes sell guinea pigs to pet homes (as opposed to  selling to The Cavy Fancy). Some will even ask that the fee/donation they ask for goes to a local rescue. Others will suggest going to a rescue first to find a rescue pair of guineas. Guinea pigs that are being bred simply to ‘sell on’ as pets are adding to the over population of guinea pigs in rescues. These people are not usually members of The Cavy Fancy and have in the past ended up being a problem that rescues have to deal with when all the homes have dried up and the local pet shop doesn’t want to buy any. Buying from this source is only encouraging its continuation, hard though it may be not to buy out of sympathy. Rescues may know of a local reputable breeder if they cannot help.

  • Rescue:

The Internet has given rise to more guinea pig rescues being started, but it has, of course, also been responsible for more people buying guinea pigs and perhaps realising that they have taken on too much. Most rescues will have a website or at least have a prescence on the Internet. Somewhere there will be a rescue guinea pig pair near you, it’s just a matter of finding them or maybe waiting for them. Whilst most rescues are full and desperate to find homes for their guests they are (or should be) keen that the homes they find are the right ones. A good rescue will not simply rehome existing guinea pigs to sub standard homes because there are more waiting to come in. Rehoming is about rehabilitation too. Most rescues now insist on homes that are Animal Welfare Act compliant, minimum. Check their website for details of adoption recommendations and procedures.

More on adopting from rescues here: Guinea Pig Welfare.
Before deciding to open a rescue read this article containing some of the things necessary before undertaking such a commitment: How do I start my own rescue?
Giving a guinea pig a permanent home is as important as rescuing, if not more.
The advice contained in this newsletter is not intended to replace good veterinary advice or treatment. You have a legal obligation to seek veterinary treatment if you suspect your guinea pig is ill.
copyright 2009 all rights reserved.

November 20, 2009   Posted in: Rescue