Choosing A Guinea Pig

So after reading my page Before Adopting a Guinea Pig and your quite sure after a lot of thought that you would like to commit yourself to a guinea pig for the whole of the piggies life?, then this page is for you. Again, I've included both questions and answers which I hope you will find helpful.

What are the first things I should do?

Where can I get my guinea pig from?

Should I bring home males or females?

Which breed of guinea pig?

How can I tell if my guinea pig is healthy?

What are the first things I should do?
Before you go out and bring home a guinea pig or two, you need to have their home ready and waiting for their arrival. Here are my pages on housing, food, water and toys/home comforts.

Pellet Food
Fruit and Veg
Toys/Home Comforts

You will also need to find a knowledgeable vet who has had a lot of experience with guinea pigs. Please remember you are looking for a veterinary that works with exotic pets, guinea pigs, parrots and other small animals. Contact a few vets in your area to find out if they have had a lot of guinea pigs coming into their surgery. You can also get in contact with local rescues and ask them if they could recommend a vet in the area. Once you have chosen a vet, keep the telephone number where you can find it easily, incase of an emergency.

Where can I get my guinea pig from?
Rescues and Shelters: I would recommend that you find local rescues or shelters in your area. There are so many guinea pigs out there in dire need of a loving home. Even if there aren't any piggies in your area, its worth travelling a few extra miles. Ring up organisations like the RSPCA who will be happy to help you. You could also ask your vet if they know of any guinea pigs needing homes. People that are new to guinea pigs tend to want a baby piggy rather than an older piggy, but giving a loving home to an older piggy is so rewarding. Sometimes the older guinea pigs have been neglected, but with a loving owner, they will soon come to trust you and give you endless joy. You can find more information on my Guinea Pig Rescue pages.

Pet Stores: I'm going to step onto my... carrot box regarding buying a guinea pig from a pet shop. Many of the pet shops I have come across, don't look after their animals properly, although there are a few exceptions, they are in the minority. I hardly ever see guinea pigs with hay in their accommodation. Often there are mixed sexes, so you could possibly bring home a pregnant female. I've seen guinea pigs housed with rabbits, dirty cages and no sign of vegetables. I don't often see a pet shop provide a cardboard box/igloo so at least the guinea pigs have somewhere to hide and feel a bit more secure. I've also seen artificial plants in the cage *just so it looks nice*! I've even seen guinea pigs with no water bottle, yes, there was a bowl but it was empty!

If you see a pet store that isn't looking after their animals properly or any animal that is suffering, please contact your local authority and report them. Before contacting them, write down the name of the pet store, the address and details about the condition of the animals and their accommodation, that way you'll have a detailed description in front of you, about what you want to say. I know you may think about rescuing an animal that is kept in bad conditions, so they no longer have to suffer, its a very kind hearted thing to do. However, please remember that every animal they do sell will be quickly replaced, the cycle of suffering needs to be broken. Its not for me to tell you what to do, but whatever you decide, these awful pet stores should be reported. Below is just one example of a bad pet shop that I discovered.

Tales of a bad pet shop One afternoon, while out shopping with my oldest daughter, we entered a pet shop to have a look at some goldfish. The fish were kept in satisfactory conditions, but when I noticed a cage in a corner with guinea pigs in it, it was a different story. I noticed the guinea pigs didn't have any water in their bowl or have access to a water bottle. I also noticed they were kept in mixed sex's and artificial plants were in the cage. The plants weren't kept out of the way and could have easily been eaten by the guinea pigs. I then decided to have a polite word with the owner of the pet shop. I only had chance to mention about the lack of water when I was greeted with a very menacing stare, only to be told in a sarcastic tone *right*. He then continued to serve a customer. I could see he didn't care and looked at me with such malice. Although I rarely judge a book by its cover, I didn't want a confrontation with a 6 foot plus man, countless tattoo's with a menacing look about him, the latter being part of the reason for avoiding a confrontation. More importantly, my young daughter was also with me, so I thought of her saftey first. So, I decided to leave it to the professionals and decided to report him when I arrived home.

At first I got in touch with the RSPCA. They told me that pet shops are licensed by the local authority and was advised to get in contact with them, as they have more powers to take the licence away. So I contacted them. I then telephoned later to find out what had happened, but sadly nothing came of it. When they inspected the shop, everything was *in their eyes* in order. However, they did tell me that they'd had a few complaints about this particular pet shop and it was probably just a matter of time before they are caught out. Pet Shop Update The pet shop is no longer running, although I don't know the reasons, hopefully it was shut down by the local authority.

I no longer buy my supplies from bad pet stores. Please remember that even if you decide not to buy a guinea pig from a bad pet shop after reading this section, buying anything from a bad pet shop is actually supporting these uncaring pet shops. Remember they are just there for profit, they don't care if the animals are happy or well cared for.

If you'd like to read more information about animals in pet shops, please visit Cavy Spirits-Pet Store page

Family and Friends: Maybe a family member or a friend has baby guinea pigs that need a home or like me, you might know someone that can't care for their guinea pigs anymore. That is how 4 of my guinea pigs came to live with me, Jasmine and Sweetpea, Jake and Squeekie.

Should I bring home males or females?
Both males and females make equally wonderful pets. If your new to guinea pigs, I really would reccomend you bring home two of the same sex. Guinea pigs thrive living with their own kind and they really do need a cage mate. You can't be with them 24 hours a day and bringing home two will mean they will never be lonely and have a playmate. Ideally two females or two males. If you can remember that some males are very territorial, ( even a few females ) so you may need to buy a larger cage so they have space to call their own. Much depends on the guinea pigs personalities wether they will get along or not. Many rescues can help you find a pair of guinea pigs as they get to know their personalities very well. You may be lucky to find an established pair in a rescue or a female and a neutered boar. Please read my Companionship page for more information about guinea pig compatibility.

Although a good rescue should know the gender of every guinea pig in their care, it will be handy to know yourself. Here is a very helpful guide, Cavy Spirits-Sexing Guide

Jasmine, Jake ( neutered) and Sweetpea

4) Which breed of guinea pig?
Any breed of guinea pig is lovely and many piggies are cross-breeds. If your new to guinea pigs, please remember that a long-haired breed like a Peruivian or a Sheltie's coat needs a lot more care and attention everyday. If their long/thick coat is neglected, they will develop matts and if left, can be painful for the guinea pig. My passed guinea pig Molly was a Sheltie. When Molly was a baby, I didn't know her breed was a Sheltie until her hair started growing. My own way of looking after Molly's hair was to give her regular haircuts, that way she kept nice and cool for the warmer months, plus she wasn't tripping up on her own hair. We affectionatly called her Molly Mop :) So being a piggy hairdresser is an option.

Here is a photo of Molly when she was ready for a trim.


To learn about guinea pig breeds, visit Wheekie's excellent page Guinea Pig Breeds and Coat Types You can see my Peachy representing the tortoiseshell and white Abyssinian breed.

How can I tell if my guinea pig is healthy?
Its wise to choose a healthy looking guinea pig. If you see a poorly looking guinea pig, you may want to try and help the guinea pig, however, if you can remember that you could possibly face a lot of worry and heartache. As mentioned earlier, if you see an animal that is kept in bad conditions or an animal that looks poorly, please inform your local authority. Some places even rely on the kind hearted public to buy a poorly pet, only to replace it very quickly, so another animal is having to live in the same bad conditions and may possibly become poorly too. Wether you decide to take on a poorly piggy or decide not to, please report the pet shop.

Some conditions like mites aren't always detectable straight away, but they are very treatable and naturally you can't always tell if something is wrong straight away. Here is a list of things that indicate that your chosen guinea pig is healthy.

1) Is the guinea pig active, running about on all fours?

2) Are the guinea pigs eyes open, bright and clear of discharge?

3) Is the guinea pigs nose clear, showing no sign of discaharge?

4) Listen to the guinea pigs breathing, it should be quiet not laboured.

5) Check the guinea pigs skin, it shouldn't be flaky or showing any bald patches ( apart from the skin behind the ears )

6) Cheak the guinea pigs bottom area. A messy bottom could indicate the piggy has diarrhoea. Also look at the poops in the cage, are they jelly bean shaped?

7) Check the guinea pigs insisor teeth, the two top teeth should neatly overlap the two lower teeth. If the piggies teeth are misaligned, the insisor or molar teeth will wear down unevenly, causing eating and teeth problems in the future. This is medically known as Malocclusion

8) Is the guinea pigs body nice and plump, also gently feel for lumps/swellings.

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