10 Surprising Reasons Not To Get A Guinea Pig (You Need To Know)

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Guinea pigs are popular pets – sweet and cuddly. But it’s important that you understand what you’re committing to before you take the plunge and get one as a pet.

There’s several reasons why some people really shouldn’t get a guinea pig. Here’s ten reasons why you should think twice before bringing one home.

a picture of a guinea pig and a little girl where the guinea pig is questioning their relationship and wondering about the reasons why she should not have gotten him

Take a look at them and then think long and hard about whether you’re up to the task of taking care of one.

DISCLAIMER: I’m not trying to be the doomsday naysayer of guinea pig ownership. But, I’m sick of hearing stories about guinea pigs being abandoned or dumped back at the shelter where they originally got them because pet parents didn’t bother to read up on the level of commitment it takes to own one. I’m glad that at least you’re reading this article, so you’ll have a good understanding of what you’re getting into.

1. They Need A Lot Of Care

If you’re someone who’s thinking about getting a guinea pig, then you need to be prepared to spend a lot of time, attention and money on their care. Cavies are definitely one of the more “high-maintenance” pets.

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If you look below, you’ll see a list of some of the reasons why guinea pigs need so much care:

  • They should be let out of the cage daily. Floor time and play time are non-negotiables. So, it’s important that you have the time (because piggies can’t do floor time unsupervised) AND the space to make this happen.
  • You have to provide fresh fruit and vegetable scraps everyday. Plus, cavies need an unlimited amount of hay. In fact, you’ll send a fair amount of time topping off their hay and making sure that it’s fresh.
  • Their cages must be spot cleaned several times a day. Spot cleaning involves removing soiled and wet bedding, washing the water bottle and food bowl, and wiping down hard surfaces. This will be done many times a day.
  • The cage must also be deep cleaned weekly. Every bone in the cage will have to be scrubbed clean as will all of the wood pieces or cardboard tubes they climb on every week.
  • Health checks have to be done every week, too. If you want healthy cavies (and who doesn’t?), you need to do weekly health checks. That means you look in their mouths, turn them over to check for hair loss or skin irritation, and feel all of the areas that may be lumpy or bumpy.

Altogether, this takes up quite a bit of time per week. You’ll be spending several hundred hours taking care of your guinea pig each year.

An infographic that explains 10 reasons not to get a guinea pig

And since piggies live an average of 4 to 5 years (with a good possibility of living 9 or 10 years with good care), when you get your little friend, you’re making a promise to do all of these things or many years.

Lots of piggie parents do it.

But, is this something YOU’RE willing to do?

2. Temperature Change Sensitivity

Unfortunately, guinea pigs can’t take sudden temperature changes at all. In fact, they may die or get really sick if a temperature change of just a few degrees is too sudden.

The ideal temperature for guinea pigs is between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (18-24 Celsius).

Guinea pigs can tolerate cold better than heat, but if the temperature changes by more than a few degrees, they can easily get sick. For example, you need to watch out for:

  • Heatstroke. Guinea pigs can’t sweat, so if it’s too hot, they’re in trouble. Heatstroke can cause coma or even death if not treated immediately
  • Hypothermia. Very cold drafts and temperatures can lead to upper respiratory infections or even hypothermia. Hypothermia is when the body’s temperature drops to a dangerously low level. This, too, can cause coma or death if not treated immediately.
  • Heat sources near their enclosure. Make sure your little friends aren’t near a fireplace, a space heater, the TV console, the water heater, or any other heat source. This can be fatal.

All of this means that you have to be very, very careful about where you place their enclosure. Now, this might not be a big deal if you live along with a lot of space.

But if you share your house with others (like most people do) or have a small space to live (like an apartment), then it gets trickier to provide them with the right temperature.

3. They’re Pretty Wasteful

I’m not saying that they do it on purpose. But, guinea pigs have some “interesting” habits that ultimately translate into them wasting gobs and gobs of your money. For example, they waste:

  • Food. Guinea pigs are creatures of habit. They don’t take to new foods well and have the infamous reputation of being picky eaters. It’s very likely they’ll reject lots of vegetables that you offer them at first and will only eat them if they’re very hungry.
  • Hay. I use the term a little loosely in this case. Piggies love to burrow into, play and pee in, and munch on hay. But, the thing is that you can’t let your little friends eat soiled hay. So, you’re constantly replacing or topping off hay. That gets expensive after a while.
  • Bedding. There’s tons of stories floating around about piggies that playfully kick paper bedding (if you use it) out of their cage. Some piggies like to chew and gnaw on their fleece bedding, too. Well, no matter how you look at it, it’s a lot of bedding that gets wasted by the day.

4. Can Be Noisy

Okay, so guinea pigs don’t really “yell” or anything like that. But they do make noise. Sometimes A LOT of it, when they want to be fed, and when they’re playing.

These noises can get downright annoying, and they can also disturb others in your household.

But, night noises are the worst.

There’s nothing more frustrating than getting woken up in the middle of the night by your little piggies because they’re playing or wants to be fed or just wants some plain, ole attention from you (yes, they can be needy little buggers).

5. Can Be Smelly

Not everyone has the same tolerance for smell. Some people are okay with odors, some aren’t. Well, guinea pigs can be “smelly.”

It’s not their fault, really.

Unlike wild guinea pigs (that could roam and graze across miles of land), domesticated guinea pigs are often mostly contained in a 2 X 4 foot cage. That means that they’re often laying or trudging through their own waste.

The smell coming from waste soaking into their fur and nails can become pretty stinky, pretty quickly.

You can actually take some steps to keep your guinea pigs clean and smelling fresh with a good butt bath every now and then. Just soak their feet and bums in warm, soapy water, give your fur babies a good scrub, and they’ll be good as new.

But, their bedding must be kept fresh, dry and stink free, too (unless you want them to end up with health issues like bumblefoot or respiratory infections).

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Either way, keeping your cavies clean and cleaning their enclosures will suck up lots of your time.

And, if you’re not into that, then this may be part of the reasons why you shouldn’t get a guinea pig to begin with.

6. Are Prone To Health Problems

If you’re really, really lucky, you’ll end up with a guinea pig that doesn’t have any health issues. Because those problems can be very real and no fun.

Picking up a guinea pig from a “less than ideal” breeder or pet store means they could already have some kind of issue, whether it’s eye infection, ringworm, or respiratory issues or bumblefoot (which is an ulcer that forms on their feet due to being in a dirty, wet cage).

Even living with another guinea pig could mean that they have an illness or some parasite that they can pass on to your pets.

Some of the most common guinea pig illnesses include:

  • Ringworm: a fungus that can live on inanimate objects (like bedding and food dishes) and be transferred to your pets. It’s not deadly, but it can make them lethargic with patchy bald spots on their bodies. This is an easy one to prevent with proper hygiene, like washing your hands before picking up or touching your piggie friends.
  • Respiratory infections: these are very common in guinea pigs and can be fatal if left untreated. You’ll notice them sneezing, having runny noses, being lethargic, showing signs of pain (like not eating or lying down all the time), and even puffy eyes.
  • Other skin conditions: itchy skin can be a sign of skin mites, which are tiny parasites that like to live in your guinea pigs fur. Cavy moms can pass these on to their babies during pregnancy and it can lead to scabs and hair loss around the neck, shoulders and rump.

7. Need A lot Of Space

You wouldn’t think that such tiny, little creatures would need as much space as guinea pigs need. But, they do.

Guinea pigs need a lot of space to run around and play and exercise their legs and muscles. If you plan on getting them a big enough cage (at least 2 X 5 feet), then the bigger the better because your piggies will be happier and healthier if they can stretch out and play in it.

Take a look at the table below to get a basic idea of how large an enclosure your piggies need to have:

# of Guinea PigsSize Of Cage
1 piggie10.5 square feet 
2 piggies10.5 square feet 
3 piggies13 square feet
4 piggies16 square feet

Source

So, you’ll need to find a spot in your home for that enclosure (or enclosures depending on how many fur babies you get).

And don’t forget about Reason #2. Not only do you need to find a big enough space for their enclosure. The temperature can’t be too hot or too cold, so you’ll have to set up an area in your house that’s the right temperature.

But, we’re not done yet.

You’ll also need a spot to store all of your cavies’ supplies. That includes their extra bedding (if you’re using fleece), their food and water bowls, their food and hay (especially if you buy hay by the bale), as well as any other supplies that will help keep your piggies happy and healthy.

So, where are you gonna put it all?

Not sure?

Well, it’s something you’ll need to figure out BEFORE you get a guinea pig.

Plus, it can be a lot of work keeping everything organized and making sure your piggies don’t fight over who gets what spot to play in or eat at.

That’s why it’s best to go as big as possible with their enclosures so your fur babies can have enough space without feeling the need to compete over everything.

8. They Can Be Expensive

Yes, guinea pigs are absolutely adorable.

But, they can be a bit pricey to keep. Certain food and supplies can also be expensive.

Take bedding for example.

You can always go for fleece – if you have a way to wash it, that is. So, other than the up front cost of the fleece, you don’t have much else to worry about. However, there’s other types of bedding you can use which will cost more in the long run

For example, you might want to go for aspen shavings or Carefresh. Since guinea pigs need to have fresh, dry bedding at all times, you’re looking at replacing their bedding pretty regularly. That means you’ll be spending extra money on shavings or Carefresh.

It costs a lot for their cages and other supplies, too – like huts, chew toys, and water bottles (boy, those suckers just love to leak, don’t they?).

And if you plan on keeping more than one piggie, then you should definitely expect to spend a lot on these supplies.

Plus, there’s that added cost of vet visits, too.

Most vets will recommend an annual checkup or wellness exam to make sure your piggies are healthy and happy. (But, you should really be doing weekly health checks; see Reason #1)

Expect to pay around $25-$75 for this visit (or more), depending on where you live.

And if your little friend gets sick or injured, then you’ll probably end up paying even more than that.

So, unless you’re planning on getting your piggies taken care of by the local vet, you might want to make sure to get pet insurance.

It’s definitely worth it to pay a little extra for all of those wellness exams and other visits (like if your guinea pig gets sick).

9. Vulnerable To Other Pets

If you already have pets (like cats and dogs) that are considered predators of guinea pigs, then you’re going to have to be very, very careful.

But first, let’s talk about what can happen if they do get a hold of them…

Seriously. It’s really not pretty.

So, it’s up to you to make sure your piggies stay safe and away from any predators lurking around the house. And that can be nerve-wracking position to be in.

It’s also important to know that it seems that not all types of dogs and cats are a threat. Even though I personally wouldn’t risk it, there’s some piggie parents that do have their piggies mingle with their other pets.

For example, a well trained cat might be okay with your piggies. And same goes for an older dog who’s been around them before.

However, if you have a puppy or new adult dog in the house who hasn’t been around your guinea pigs before, then you might want to keep them separate (like probably forever).

Steps you should take:

1) Keep the piggies in their own space for now so they don’t have to interact with other pets under supervision (which is good practice anyway).

2) Let the piggies out to play in a room where your dog or cat can’t access.

3) Keep an eye on the piggies and your other pets as they all get used to each other’s scents.

4) If at any point, you think one of those furry creatures is going after the guinea pigs, then you should have an area where your piggies can go for safety – like a cage, playpen, or large box.

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10. Not A Good “Starter” Pet

I’m not sure where the myth that guinea pigs are great “starter” pets got started. But, it’s completely untrue.

Guinea pigs are too high-maintenance and require way too much care for the average child to handle.

(And by child I loosely mean kids 8 and under or even older preteens that might be a bit irresponsible or have a short attention span).

Their needs are just too much for most kids to handle, and their life expectancy is way longer than your average child’s attention span.

So, if you’re a parent getting a guinea pig for your child, then you need to keep a few things in mind:

  • The guinea pig is actually YOUR pet until your child is old enough to be fully responsible for it. How old? Who’s to say? But, you’ll definitely need to show your children how to handle the guinea pigs and how to care for them.
  • You should be getting it as a family pet that everyone can enjoy together (and not as a gift for your child).
  • You have to make sure your kids are cleaning their pet’s cage often enough, checking for symptoms of illness at least weekly, and giving them lots of attention throughout the day.
  • Be prepared to step in to look after the guinea pigs if you need to.

In addition, if your child isn’t old enough to understand why all of these necessities are so important, then this might not be a good pet for them.

Wrap Up

So, if you’re on the fence about getting a guinea pig, make sure you take all of these things into account.

They may be cute and cuddly, but they definitely come with their own set of responsibilities. If you can handle them, then go ahead and welcome one into your home.

But, if you think that they might be too much work for you or that you won’t have enough time to properly care for them, then it’s best to steer clear. It’s really not worth putting an innocent guinea pig through that.

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