Ten Years of Reading Guinea Pig Rescue.

“Rescue” is a word I dislike, along with “Expert” and “Founder”, but until there is another word for rehabiliting and rehoming to Animal Welfare Act compliant homes I suppose that’s what I am; but I am no “expert” and certainly won’t be labelled a “founder” of anything, pretentious “moi”?!

As of last month RGPR has been operating for ten years, I thought it would be nice to share with everyone some of the many questions I have been asked over the years and, of course, the answers they received.

  • Why did you start rescuing guinea pigs?

There was an advert in the local newspaper for “fosterers needed” by the local RSPCA Branch. I contacted them and told them I would be happy to foster and rehome guinea pigs. I was told that not many guinea pigs were handed in to rescue in this area but would I like to do rabbits? I replied that I only knew about guinea pigs and only had the time and resources to look after guinea pigs. I couldn’t take in a lot anyway as I have 3 children, a full time job and husband to look after. When I started my maximum number of rescues was 4 (I was advised by the RSPCA to set a maximum), today I can take in around 15 at a time but 10 is a better number.

  • What qualifications did you need to have to start rescuing?

No qualifications are needed. At the time I started I was halfway through the Rodentology course but decided the money would be much better spent on the rescue guinea pigs. The one to one dental tuition was the only thing that I have ever used, it’s off to the vet for everything else.

  • Who funds your rescue?

Initially I fund everything except vet bills which are paid for by the local RSPCA Branch. I fundraise by holding Piggy PMs (which also raise lots of awareness of the correct basic care of guinea pigs), these have contributed towards the cost of blocks of cages, runs, and more recently a new shed; any shortfall is made up out of my own pocket. Donations from rehoming guinea pigs also go towards their upkeep.

  • What changes have you seen over the years?

Bedding is one of the most frequent changes. I try to make a point oftrying out new beddings as they arrive on the market or when I hear about them. When I began rescuing I was using Medibed with hay under the houses and for foraging in, then I changed to Aubiose which was more absorbent and rots quicker so is easier to dispose of, these days I am using using Hippofan Flax still with the hay under houses and for foraging.

Shampoo and skincare is another change. I have always bathed guineas 4-6 weekly but when I started rescue I used Vet Sect Shampoo and some very harsh shampoos for fungal problems. Thankfully we now have Gorgeous Guineas’ Skincare and there is no need to use harsh shampoos, I use Gorgeous Guineas products on all the skin problems I see, and if there hasn’t been a product for the job Gorgeous Guineas create one!

The Animal Welfare Act came into being in 2007 and although we were already rehoming to those standards and above I changed my required cage size from a minimum of four foot long by one and a half foot wide to a minimum of four foot long by two foot long for 2 guinea pigs. I have never rehomed guinea pigs to live with a rabbit and never rehomed a guinea pig to live on its own, if a guinea pig can’t be sociable with other guinea pigs it either hasn’t met the friend or has issues that need resolving.

The internet has been a big help to me when rescuing, that and email. When i started I didn’t have a website but Chrissie of Gorgeous Guineas  made me one and gave me the confidence to maintain it and eventually make one (or two) of my own.

The way I “advertise” my guinea pigs needing homes has changed, at first I used the local paper a lot and put pigtures in there and an article. These days all my information is on my website and no pigtures. I want to rehome to people that have fallen in love with the idea of keeping guinea pigs, not necessarily a certain guinea pig.

  • Where do your rescues come from?

All the rescues have been brought to me by private individuals or from RSPCA  Inspectors. I have never purchased a pet shop guinea pig and rehomed it/them as a rescue pig, I see that as supporting the current situation with pet shops and breeding, which I certainly don’t! By buying one pet shop pig you are freeing up room for another one to come into the shop and for more to be bred. There are plenty of guinea pigs needing help without taking in pet shop guinea pigs direct from the shop. The internet classified adverts are somewhere else that I have never contacted and rescued/rehomed from, though I have had a few brought here  that have been through the “Free Ad system” here. Acquired by unsuspecting Humans who have found the guinea pigs come with problems/illnesses etc.

  • Do you breed as well?

No, I used to breed and show guinea pigs when I was younger- this was pre internet and a good way to meet people that had the same interest as you. I soon gave up breeding though when one of my sows needed a C Section and died leaving two pups. The pupsd made it and stayed with me for the rest of their lives but after that I never bred again. I continued to show my guinea pigs mostly in the pet classes. I don’t have time to run a rescue and breed, even if I wanted to!

  • Do you board guinea pigs?

I don’t have the time to devote to boarding and rescue at the same time, for me it has to be one or the other. Cages taken up by boarders could be used for rescue guinea pigs and the time I should be spending with boarders will be taken up with rescues. As a general rule I don’t do boarding though recently I had an older sow here who had never littered and at age 3 was pregnant with her first litter, her Human needed to go away for a fortnight on business but didn’t want to leave her with her normal pet sitter, the boarding establishment I normally recommend were full so I looked after her. Her human had heard about the difficult birth we’d had here a year ago and was impressed with our vet, I am only a short journey away from the vets so it made sense. Luckily everything went well 🙂

  • What veterinary changes have you seen in the ten years of rescue? Have you always had access to a good vet?

There have been many changes to veterinary procedures in Reading and I think all for the better. The first change was brought about when I saw a locum vet with Emily who was prescribed 0.1ml of Baytril x1 daily. On his return James (“head vet”) was met with the offer of having a lecture from Gina who had studied with the Cambridge Cavy Trust and believed in educating vets as much as possible. James agreed to this and was taught about conscious dentals and x-rays as well as procedures in surgery such as the importance of giving pain relief (Rimadyl) prior to an operation so that the guinea pig is not in pain and wants to eat.

Over the years vets have come and gone, some have had an interest in guinea pigs and others haven’t, especially. All have been offered the opportunity of learning to do conscious dentals and the practise trains all the vets in conscious x-rays. Currently Jenny Towers is Clinical Manager at Tilehurst and is a big supporter of the Piggy PMs and in 2010 allowed Guinea Pig Welfare to have a Welfare Week, similar to Rabbit Welfare Week, and offered free health checks to local guinea pigs. A grand total of 19 guinea pigs attended that week- more than twice as many rabbits in the 2010 Rabbit Welfare Week- thanks to everyone for making this worthwhile and convincing Jenny that holding another one in 2011 is a good idea!

The Satin Study benefited from Active Vetcare being able to offer conscious x-rays- my outstanding memory of this is the adaptation that James and Jenny made to the “towel wrapping” in order to keep the Caprice, now a star on Planet Guinea, still. For more on mine and Chrissie, of Gorgeous Guineas, work with our vets over the year see: Working with your vet.

  • And my favourite compliment? Has to be one I had recently: ” You don’t need to justify yourself Karen, Guinea Pig Welfare and everything on it speaks volumes about you and the experiences you have obviously had.” So the “About me” page probably won’t see the light of day!

Here’s to the next ten years in the guinea pig community and whatever that will bring/whatever will evolve. Thanks to everyone for their support, I’m not doing this to make Human friends it has evolved from my enthusiasm for guinea pigs and I have no problem in saying that I stand for good quality guinea pig care and am pro guinea pig.

March 20, 2011   Posted in: The Pig Issue