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Things You Should Know About Keeping Guinea Pigs as Pets

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Guinea pigs can be lovely pets, but there are a few things you should know before getting a pet guinea pig. From expected life span to the social nature of guinea pigs, here are some things to consider before choosing a guinea pig as a pet.

1. Guinea Pigs Are a Long Term Commitment

Photo of guinea pig by Lianne McLeod
Photo © Lianne McLeod
Guinea pigs live on average around 5-7 years, sometimes longer, so be prepared to provide care over the long term.

2. Guinea Pigs are Social - Plan on Keeping More than One

Guinea Pigs Nose to Nose, Photo by Michael Blann / Getty Images
Photo © Michael Blann / Getty Images
Guinea pigs are very social animals, and will be happiest living with other guinea pigs (and don't worry, they will still bond with their owners, too). Keep a same sex pair; females can be kept together as can males, though sometimes individual differences will mean certain guinea pigs won't get along. Introducing them as babies is the best way to get a pair to bond, though even adults can usually be introduced with care.

3. Guinea Pigs Need a Large Cage

Photo of guinea pig by Lianne McLeod
Photo © Lianne McLeod
Guinea pigs need a lot of floor space, and most cages marketed as guinea pig cages are much too small, especially for a pair. Making a homemade cage is very easy, though, and since guinea pigs are a good size and not escape artists, making homemade cages is a great option.

4. Guinea Pigs are Generally Quiet, But Can Wheek Loudly

Shirley and Zippy - Guinea Pigs, Photo by Elizabeth
Photo © Elizabeth
Guinea pigs make a distinctive wheeking or whistling type sound, often in anticipation of getting a favorite treat or when in need of some attention. Though generally not loud enough to annoy the neighbors, a wheeking guinea pig can be surprisingly loud.

5. Guinea Pigs are Generally Easy to Tame

Guinea pig with kids, Photo copyright Tim Hall / Getty Images
Photo © Tim Hall / Getty Images
While guinea pigs may be nervous or skittish at first, with consistent gentle handling, they usually become tame very easily. Careful handling is a must, and children should be supervised with them, but they are unlikely to bite even when stressed.

6. Guinea Pig Require Vitamin C

Paco - Guinea Pig, Photo by Maggie
Photo © Maggie
Guinea pigs are one of the few animals (humans are another) that cannot manufacture their own vitamin C so need to get adequate vitamin C from the diet. Choosing a good quality diet and providing a variety of fresh foods is important, but most owners choose to also give a vitamin C supplement -- and tablets are generally a better way to supplement than adding vitamin C to the water. Feeding Guinea Pigs has more information on supplements.

7. Guinea Pigs are Often Available at Shelters

Guinea pigs, photo by Lianne McLeod
Photo © Lianne McLeod
Before heading out to buy a guinea pig, please check with your local shelter or rescues for guinea pigs in need of a new home (or check on Petfinder.com). Many guinea pigs end up at shelters, and are in need of a second chance at a forever home -- and guinea pigs are generally so social and easy going, it should still be easy to bond with even an older piggie!
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Guinea Pigs as Pets
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