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Are Guinea Pigs Good Pets?

Amy Pollick
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Guinea pigs are small members of the rodent family native to South America, but they have been domesticated for several hundred years. They were popular lap pets in European courts, and their names have become synonymous with "test subject." Many people find them to be an excellent pet for a home or apartment.

A guinea pig is often thought of as a good pet for children, and this is true, but as with all pets, parents must make certain the child is old enough to be gentle with the animal and mature enough to care for it properly. They are sociable animals and need homes where they will receive attention and affection. Being left in a cage and ignored is a harsh life for the animal since they are affectionate and love to be held. Owners should be prepared for this.

A prospective owner should get a good book on guinea pig care and read it carefully. The animal's needs are not elaborate, but at the most basic, one needs a roomy cage, safe bedding, a ceramic food bowl, a water bottle with a sipper spout, pellets, and timothy hay.

Some people put a little plastic or wooden shelter inside the cage, but this is not recommended for the first week or so at home. The rodent may retreat inside the shelter and refuse to come out, except to eat. A shelter should only be added after the pet has become accustomed to its environment.

Guinea pigs are strict vegans: they do not eat any kind of meat product and do not need dairy products or sweets. A nugget of corn or wheat cereal once in a while may be a nice treat, but these should not be given regularly. Pellets formulated especially for these animals should compose the bulk of the diet, along with timothy hay.

Some cages have ricks where hay can be placed for eating at leisure, but most piggies do not nibble throughout the day &mdsah; they will eat an entire rick-full and "week" for more. Incidentally, the “wheek!” is a noise that the animal does not make in the wild. It is a call reserved for humans opening the refrigerator, and the animal knows exactly what is in there: treats.

Within their limits, these rodents are fairly bright. They know what the refrigerator is for, or at least that opening the door means a treat might be in their future. Pets seem to respond to their owners coming in from being absent, and they certainly relish being picked up and loved. They return affection with nuzzles, head butts and gurgles of contentment.

The guinea pig is a prey creature, and so will mask illness. An owner should look for any nasal discharge or diarrhea and notice if the animal is not drinking water. These are sure signs of illness, and time is always of the essence when treating this rodent. If possible, the animal should be taken to a veterinarian specializing in exotic pets for treatment.

The animal’s cage should be kept out of direct sunlight and drafts. The room temperature should be fairly consistent to help keep illness away. Loud noises should be kept to a minimum, when possible.

One great advantage of the guinea pig as a pet is that it is quiet. It will wheek and squeak and gurgle, but not loudly. They rattle their water bottles and bang items around in their cages, but do not create much commotion.

When their cages are kept clean, these pets also have very little odor. People are rarely allergic to them, which makes them good pets for those who love animals but can't have a cat or dog. Most are also generally fastidious little animals and keep themselves groomed, although gentle brushing with a soft-bristled brush is also appreciated.

Guinea pigs are often packed with personality and friendliness. They rarely bite and are sociable, likable little animals. As such, they can make excellent pets.

All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Amy Pollick
By Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at All Things Nature. With experience in various roles and numerous articles under her belt, she crafts compelling content that informs and engages readers across various platforms on topics of all levels of complexity.
Discussion Comments
By anon956134 — On Jun 11, 2014

Is a guinea pig a wonderful enough pet for an 11 year old girl? Are they really worth it? Do they smell bad? Does cleaning their cage suck? Are they fun? Are they like a dog, kind of? Can a piggy and a dog be good friends? Do they like water? Can they be potty trained? Please respond ASAP.

By anon949925 — On May 07, 2014

Most cages sold in pet stores are a glorified litter box. For those of you posting that your guinea pigs are walking around in poop or are lazy/fat, this is because you have your pig locked in a jail cell.

A guinea pig needs enough space to be able to run a complete lap unimpeded, so at a minimum, expect to provide a 5-foot-diameter kiddie pool for your guinea pig. It doesn't matter if you take your pig out a few times a day to run around; the remaining 98 percent of its life should not be spent in a litter box.

By anon356765 — On Nov 28, 2013

We recently got a guinea pig thinking it would be a great pet for our kids. What no one warned me about is that this thing poops continuously! Not only that, but it poops everywhere in its cage, then walks around in it. Then my kids want to hold and cuddle with it. I'm a little grossed out and wish that I had been warned.

By anon343163 — On Jul 27, 2013

It is so sad that people think that a guinea pig is just good for a child. Guinea pigs are great for adults too. And they are wonderful pets. They love to cuddle. As for male or female, well I would say a male. for a first time owner. They are more tame.

Females tend to be more hyper. I had a guinea pig and it was free. He just passed away. He was beautiful. But make sure you get a cage.

By anon310767 — On Dec 26, 2012

Yes they are! I am 11 and I just got one today and I feel so responsible and I already love it! Get one! And they are quite reasonably priced, also.

By anon275879 — On Jun 20, 2012

I really want a guinea pig but I need some good reasons on why to get one. Also, would it be OK to have a guinea pig with a dog, as long as they can't make contact? Is there any more important information that I need to know that could affect my decision?

By Guineapigs — On Dec 30, 2011

You should get english breeds and if you want, you can get both male and female.

By anon208727 — On Aug 24, 2011

Guinea pigs require significant amounts of care and are not suitable pets. These are food animals that live very brief lives and should not be sold as pets. We have kept several and they require significant care if you do it right.

By anon193318 — On Jul 04, 2011

Is it okay to have a guinea pig while having a dog?

By anon192291 — On Jun 30, 2011

I would not recommend getting a guinea pig if you already own a cat, especially if the cat is known to be aggressive. A guinea pig is a prey animal in nature, and cats are natural predators. The quick movements of a guinea pig might remind a cat of a large mouse, so he or she might pounce on the guinea pig if given the opportunity. If you plan on allowing the guinea pig to roam freely outside of its cage, then a cat shouldn't be allowed in the same living space.

Some cats, however, may be a lot more laid back about things, so it's possible that a cat might not feel the need to attack a guinea pig once it's used to having it around the house. Some predator and prey animals do get along surprisingly well, especially if they were purchased around the same time, but it's a risky move for owners. Personally, I wouldn't want to be responsible for a guinea pig stressing out over the presence of an aggressive cat, even if that cat doesn't appear to be overly interested in him or her.

By anon160979 — On Mar 17, 2011

is it OK to have a guinea pig if you have a cat?

By anon155295 — On Feb 23, 2011

Thank you for these answers but I have a few more questions. Can they get fleas, chicken pox, or any other sicknesses I should be aware of before I actually get one? Is it good if you have no other pets at your home currently? I have none. How long does it take guinea pigs to settle in? How big does the cage need to be? Which gender is good for first time owners? I need answers, please.

By anon153560 — On Feb 17, 2011

i just got a guinea pig two days ago. I haven't seen him drink much water. one of his legs and ear are red and I don't see much hair on his leg. He his eating fine and nothing else seems off. How do I know if he is sick?

By anon147756 — On Jan 30, 2011

I am a twelve year old girl, and my one year old female guinea pig, or cavy, as they are also called, is affectionate and loves people and even our dog and cat, who she tries to groom if they come up to her. I think, however, that she must get lonely while I am away at school. Would it be a good idea to get another female cavy? Please help me!

By anon143801 — On Jan 17, 2011

When I was really little my family got one guinea pig, Ricky, and from there we ended up buying another, then he and the other one, Mixi, had two babies.

Then my mother rescued one, and she had two more babies. At one point we had seven guinea pigs, and my basement was their whole playground-they loved it. My favorite memory is training my first guinea pig Ricky to follow me, then the rest of them would follow him one after another. Soon I literally had a Guinea Pig train following me- the cutest thing you could ever see!

I love these guys, amazing little companions that kept me smiling for my childhood. Anyone who gets one of these little guys, make sure you have plenty of time for them. Just because they're a caged animal they should be handled and played with so much. Again, amazing little animals and very smart!

By anon103960 — On Aug 14, 2010

I really want a guinea pig but my mom doesn't want one. what should I say to her to convince her?

By anon100406 — On Jul 29, 2010

My husband and I are newlyweds. We were looking for a "first pet" and seeing as our apartment wouldn't allow dogs, we got a guinea pig. neither of us have ever owned one before, but i must say, Gus is a hit.

we love him so much, he rarely smells bad, has only nibbled us when he thinks we are holding food (our fault not his) and is hilarious. he gets what i think are called "the popcorns" and starts jumping and squealing around his cage, sipping water, eating food and doing it all over again until he exhausts and curls up for a nap. he loves to be held and cuddled and he's the perfect companion for me when my husband is away at work. we love our pig!

By anon98661 — On Jul 23, 2010

Guinea pigs make awesome pets if you take the time and effort to look after them. Make sure you get a good roomy cage for them (or even better make one yourself)

Also get two and buy or make them lots of toys.

If you are lucky enough to get a smart guinea pig you can train it tricks if you start at an early age.

Guinea pigs look good if you have a herd of four or five. they look so cute. Make sure they get time out of their cage or even better you could free range them (this is the best way they can be litter trained.) Do your research, people!

By anon87344 — On May 29, 2010

I really want a guinea pig but for some reason I'm scared. How hard is it to take care of?

By anon81906 — On May 03, 2010

How much do guinea pigs have to use the bathroom?

By anon76064 — On Apr 08, 2010

We recently lost one of our guinea pigs and are thinking about getting another. Is it possible to introduce a new pig into the same cage as the older one? Would we be better off with a very young or an older one?

By anon72002 — On Mar 21, 2010

Can they get lice?

By anon70277 — On Mar 13, 2010

My guinea pig hasn't been drinking water for two days! what could be wrong with them?

By anon67924 — On Feb 27, 2010

How do i make my mom get me a guinea pig? She doesn't want one but it is my dream pet!

By anon63265 — On Jan 31, 2010

why doesn't this article say they are grazing animals? while they need to be kept warm for the winter, most likely inside, when the weather's good they need a run and to grass for grazing!

By anon62221 — On Jan 25, 2010

Guinea pigs are great pets for kids and adults. their urine doesn't particularly smell if you change their bedding regularly. Everyone's urine smells and no way is it as bad as a cat's! I can't really smell it and I have good sense of smell!

They are adorable and comical and actually love to be cuddled and petted. Mine have been here for a week and they already know my three heavy handed children and run to them to be cuddled. Anyone wondering if they should get one, do it! It's great for children to be responsible for a pet.

By anon60880 — On Jan 16, 2010

I want a guinea pig, but i do not know if they would make a good pet for an 11 year old girl. Do guinea pigs have a strong odor?

By anon50443 — On Oct 28, 2009

does guinea pigs' urine smell worse than cats' urine?

By anon50441 — On Oct 28, 2009

Do guinea pigs smell bad?

By anon38778 — On Jul 28, 2009

@anon38772: Your guinea pig may indeed nibble at your fingers, but this is different from a true aggressive bite. Just don't get your fingers too near the mouth. Give the piggy a treat such as a carrot morsel, parsley sprig or other small, bite-sized vegetable or fruit bite from your hands. Once the piggy learns that only good things come from your hands, he will come to you so you can stroke his head. Most piggies also love to be rubbed under their chins. Their jaws will go slack and they get a totally, hilariously goofy look. Place a towel on your chest and put the piggy on your chest and sit with him on the sofa for a few minutes a day. This will also help him learn to relax and enjoy being handled and petted.

Keep giving the piggy love, treats and affection and he will come around before you know it.

By anon38772 — On Jul 28, 2009

I bought a guinea pig for my daughter for her 5th birthday. I am the only person who handles him (the novelty wore off already for my kids). When we first got him he ran if I went to pet him. now he is smelling my fingers but I don't think it's in a good way. I think he's going to bite me and he has already. What should I do to get him to relax a little bit and be handled?

By anon38288 — On Jul 25, 2009

Is it OK to have a piggie if you have a dog?

By anon23787 — On Jan 02, 2009

i had a guinea pig and she was very nice she didn't enjoy being cuddled much but she did like being petted and held in a lap females are the best to start out with and guinea pigs aren't so great for young children for they are fragile.

By anon7575 — On Jan 29, 2008

female and get two at the same time. and pigs must have lots of fresh sources of vitamin c. they're like us and cannot make their own.

By anon6674 — On Jan 06, 2008

the best guinea pig for a first time owner is a short hair, long haired piggies need more care ...obviously needing careful brushing even trimming and are more likely to attract blow fly

By anon4843 — On Nov 03, 2007

What breed of guinea pig is a good for a first time owner and a male or a female?

Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at All Things...
Learn more
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