With Christmas right around the corner, the “p-word” is on most children’s lips. Are guinea pigs good pets for children? Sure they are cute, cuddly and fluffy but is their temperate the right fit for children? In this article, we explain if guinea pigs make good pets for children.
In this article:
- There is no such thing as a starter pet
- Good Points of Owning Guinea Pigs:
- Guinea Pigs are Loving, Kind and Gentle
- Children can get involved
- Guinea pigs live long lives
- All guinea pigs are unique like kids!
- Things to remember before purchasing guinea pigs
- Pick the Right Guinea Pig for Your Family
- Know the Breed
- They need a lot of stuff in the beginning
- Do Guinea Pigs Make Good Pets?
There is no Such Thing as a Starter Pet
We’ve often heard of guinea pigs being called good “starter pets”. Before we dive into the care needs of a guinea pig is important to note that there is no such thing as a “starter pet”. The term implies purchasing a pet for a child to use as practice for getting a “real” pet.
Obviously, no animal (big or small) should be purchased for practice. All pets require a great deal of care and attention. By all means, pets are wonderful for introducing children to the wonderful world of animal companionship along with teaching them about loss. They are not however disposable and require a responsible adult to take charge of pets, even if they are purchased for a child.
Deciding if guinea pigs make good pets for children is not about treating animals as practice pets.
Here are the best bits about owning guinea pigs!
Guinea Pigs are Loving, Kind and Gentle
Let’s face it, guinea pigs are amazing! Each one has its own unique personality! Even two piggies that look identical can act completely differently from each other!
Some are shy, quiet and completely independent. Others are confident, wild and cuddly! Our guinea pigs are complete opposites. Chocolate is so relaxed and peaceful. She needs lots of cuddles daily and loves to be hand-fed in her cage. Orange needs peace and quiet. She dislikes being held and just about tolerates a groom if she has a special treat.
Simply watching guinea pigs is often plenty of entertainment for children! They adore seeing their popcorns, and racing around the cage, jumping leaping and generally having fun!
Most guinea pigs also love being held and stroked. As long as the guinea pigs have been handled from a young age, you and your child will receive plenty of kisses (in the form of hand licking) and snuggles.
A point to remember is that not all guinea pigs like to be held. Forcing a grumpy guinea pig into being held often results in teeth chatting (will basically means what you think it does – go away) and some hand and arm nipping. Whilst guinea pig bites rarely hurt, however, they can shock young children who may then drop the guinea pig. Young children should always sit down when handling guinea pigs and handle them over their lap.
Always ensure children never squeeze guinea pigs as this can result in serious injury and even death.
Check out our full guide on handling guinea pigs here
There are lots of things your children can do to help
One of the main reasons for getting children pets is to give them a sense of responsibility and ownership. Many larger animals require a lot of adult supervision. With dogs for example – young children are unable to walk the dog on their own or even hold the lead if it is a particularly forceful dog. When a child has to perform every task for their pet with a grown-up present it begins to defeat the point in “owning” a pet.
Obviously, young children can’t cut up vegetables but they can add a handful of dry pellets to a bowl and add some hay to a hay rack. Children love to act grown up and there is plenty for them to help with.
Our children always start with the “task” of brushing the guinea pigs. We choose a really soft brush and advise staying away from the pets face. It gives our children a real sense of caring for their own pet whilst also being a great way for them to bond.
Our Guinea Pig Care Journals are also excellent for detailing the tasks children can do plus they can record it in a fun way!
Guinea Pigs Live Long Lives
Most small mammals unfortunately have short lifespans. Hamsters for example live for up to three years. Whilst learning to cope with the loss of a pet is a big part of owning them, it can be very distressing for younger children. Many guinea pigs live between 4 and 8 years. This means your child can grow with the guinea pigs and become more involved as they get older.
Obviously, as a parent it is something to consider as owning a guinea pig is a much longer commitment than it is owning a small mammal.
All guinea pigs are unique like kids!
Guinea pigs teach your child that it ok to be unique. No two guinea pigs are the same! Each one has its own personality and traits. Some are shy but territorial, some are shy and quiet, some are shy but affectionate once they get to know you.
We use this uniqueness to teach our children that it is good to be different. We often ask them which guinea pig they identify most with and listen as they each debate their characteristics (and the guinea pigs!)
A point of caution, ensure you are able to interact with the guinea pigs before you buy them. If your child wants a cuddly, affectionate guinea pig then they will be very upset if they get an independent, loner guinea pig that hates being handled!
Things to remember before purchasing guinea pigs for children
Pick the Right Guinea Pig for Your Family
As previously mentioned, before buying you should have a clear idea of the type of personality your guinea pigs should have. It’s important to know what to look for, know the gender you prefer, know the coat style and be able to check if it is healthy.
Know the Breed
Knowing the breed of your guinea pigs may seem like a trivial matter. However, it is actually very important as it will dictate how you care for their coats, along with their dominant personality type.
Guinea pigs like to poop
Oh yes! The most overlooked aspect of caring for guinea pigs! Due to their constantly growing teeth, guinea pigs spend a huge amount of time chewing! Cardboard tunnels, food pellets, hay, wooden chews, and of course their vegetables. All this eating has to lead to a large amount of waste!
There are guinea pigs that can be litter trained but it takes work. We break it down for you in our guide.
They need a lot of stuff in the beginning.
If you’ve never owned guinea pigs before it can seem like they need a huge amount of items in the beginning. Whilst it is a lot for such a small animal, after the first purchase, little needs replacing and will last your guinea pig their entire life.
Guinea Pigs Make Great Pets
As you can tell, guinea pigs make great pets for children, teens, adults and even the more mature amongst us. Whilst owning any pet takes work and dedication, guinea pigs are happy with the companion of their cage mates whilst you are at work, school or out and about.
Remember it can be hard to keep your child engaged once the initial “I have a pet” has worn off. With that in mind, we have created these exclusive The Happy Guinea Pig Care Journals for Children. It is the perfect way to keep your children involved in the care of their new pets plus is great to gift along with their new pet.
Ensure you read our guide to bringing your guinea pig home for the first time if you’ve decided to treat your child to these adorable creatures.