"Guinea pigs are the perfect pet for kids..."
This is commonly heard in the world of pets. It's also a common misconception! They are not the perfect pet for a child.
Cuddles (left) was an elderly sow who started the rescue. Her eyes bulged out of their sockets, she huffed and puffed because her lungs were restricted with scar tissue and she had a broken toe and fractured ribs. Our vet, on examination of her, came to the conclusion that she had been squeezed by an over-enthusiastic child...
Guinea pigs are wonderful, loving and funny little pets once they have learnt to trust you and have become comfortable in their surroundings. Why does Merrypigs not adopt out guineas as 'childrens' pets'?
No animal should be adopted out as a 'child's pet'. The law states that animals cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 18, and there's a reason for that! Children under that age are not legally responsible for an animal even if it is brought for them. Any pet purchased is under the care of a responsible adult over 18 years old - and that person is fully responsible for them.
Merrypigs is more than happy to adopt out our guineas to a family home. This means that the whole family is interested in and willing to care for the piggies. Mum and dad buying a pig because little Charlie has pestered for one, and then resorting to just cleaning and feeding when he loses interest is not good enough!
Pros of piggies and kids
More placid than hamsters
They are awake during the day - like most kids!
Fairly long lived (6-8 years)
Can become very tame once settled
Live indoors as part of the family
Encourages kids to eat veg!!
Are chatty and sociable
When considered as a family pet, guinea pigs are wonderful. They need time to get used to people, and so patient adults are well placed to gain their trust, and get them used to being in a family. Children need to know that they can't cuddle the pigs straight away, and instead kids can use this time to learn about the feeding, cleaning etc routine. They can sit with the pigs and talk to them, offer them snacks from their hands and generally bond with them and start to gain their trust!
Remember though, they can only HELP. Full responsibility for them lies with you, the responsible adult.
Once the piggies are happy to be handled, then the kids can cuddle with them! Make sure to supervise ALL contact your child has with a guinea pig. YOU should catch and pick up the pig, and pass it to your child to avoid unnecessary stress and squeezing. Make sure that piggy is held over a table, lap or the floor so that he won't fall far if the child drops him.
What about other pets?
Would you buy a horse or puppy for your child and expect them to care for it themselves?
I should hope not! A guinea pig is no different. Guinea pigs take as much caring for, if not more than, a dog or cat. They need to be handled, loved, given at least 2 hours exercise time out of the hutch/cage, regular cleaning out... are you prepared to do this if your child loses interest? Simply chucking food in a cleaning out once a week is, again, not enough!
Cons of pigs and kids
Very fragile bodies
Don't like being caught/picked up
Must live in pairs
Need A LOT of space - 120cmx60cm minimum
Will bite if frightened
Make a lot of poop!
Are not very hardy
Very specific dietary requirements
Keeping your pig indoors means that you will get to know them much better. Interacting with pigs is an important aspect of their well-being - having them somewhere nearby means you will bond with them better, and your children are more likely to see them as a family member. Keeping kids involved keeps them interested!