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Are Guinea Pigs Good as Pets for Kids?

Guinea pigs, also known as cavies, are simply one of the best pets you can get for your child. These affectionate rodents have been bred in captivity for thousands of years, and are ideally suited for the needs of children. With proper care, they live for around 5-7 years.

Safety (5/5)

Guinea pigs are exceptionally docile and loving. While cavies do love to nibble on many things, fingers usually aren’t one of them. As with any animal, though, individual pets may have varying temperaments, and a few guinea pigs may be prone to biting, especially if frightened or handled roughly.

Guinea pigs tend to be very clean animals, and they are herbivores. This means they have a very low risk of harboring dangerous bacteria that could make children ill.

Ease of Care(4/5)

The needs of guinea pigs can easily be handled by even young children, though parents must ensure that routine care is being carried out.

Sociability (5/5)

Guinea pigs are a thoroughly domesticated animal, and love being handled. Regular handling of guinea pigs is essential, as they are very affectionate and social. They will squeak and grunt to indicate happiness when handled affectionately, in much the same way that cats purr or dogs wag their tails.

Care

Housing

Guinea pigs will get into trouble quickly if allowed to roam freely, so they should be kept in a pen or cage. As with any pet, you should make sure that your guinea pig is not kept in too small of an enclosure. At a minimum, the enclosure should have about 4 square feet of floor space. Of course, more space is better for the guinea pig’s happiness if you can afford a larger enclosure. Enclosures with a raised grid for a floor are bad for the guinea pig’s feet, so avoid them in favor of flat floors. Glass enclosures such as aquariums are not ideal either, as they retain too much moisture and create a damp environment for the animal.

Make sure to give the guinea pig some sort of container in which to play and hide. Like other rodents, guinea pigs instinctively hide from potential predators, so having cover in the enclosure is important for their psychological well-being. Also, give them a safe item to nibble on, such as a stick or stiff cardboard tube. Keeping their long front teeth worn down by regularly chewing on things is important to guinea pigs’ health.

Guinea pigs are social creatures, so getting a second one to keep the first company is a good idea. Make sure that they are of the same sex, though, or that the male has been neutered in a mixed pair. Like most rodents, guinea pigs will breed very quickly if you aren’t careful.

Bedding

Pine and cedar bedding should be avoided for your guinea pig’s health. Good, safe bedding materials include aspen shavings, corncob bedding, and bedding products made from shredded paper or reclaimed wood pulp. Regardless of which option you choose, avoid any bedding that smells musty or moldy. Make sure that you pig’s bedding is changed at least once or twice a week, and never allow it to get too damp.

Food

Guinea pigs have simple dietary needs. The easiest and safest way to make sure that your pet is getting a proper diet is to use a commercially available guinea pig food, which is sold by most pet stores and comes in pellet form. Pellets should make up about 1/2 to 2/3 of your guinea pig’s diet, with the balance consisting of hay (timothy hay is better for your pet than alfalfa hay), leafy greens like kale, lettuce (romaine is good, but iceberg should never be fed to guinea pigs–it has no nutritional value), and dandelion greens, and an occasional baby carrot. Don’t be tempted to give your guinea pig sweet or starchy fruits and vegetables, as their digestive system does not handle them well.

Water can be given to guinea pigs in a bowl, but the water will quickly get dirty from their bedding. A much better option is to hang a specially designed water bottle for the guinea pigs to drink from. These bottles are easy to fill, don’t wet the animal’s bedding as quickly, and keep the water clean.