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