Guinea pigs make wonderful pets for people of all ages, so they usually wind up being a child’s first pet. But there are many things a parent needs to keep in mind before purchasing a guinea pig for a child. If these things are ignored, the guinea pig will suffer cruelly and die. Making a pet suffer and die are not the best lessons you want to teach a child. Only consider getting a guinea pig if the child has shown responsibility and if you can help out when your child forgets about the pet.
The Child’s Age
No child under eight years old will be able to fully take care of any type of pet, including a guinea pig. Unless the child is exceptionally responsible, he or she will ignore the guinea pig for long periods of time. Children do not realize the commitment and time it takes to take care of an animal. They think they can “take the day off” if it’s a holiday or if they are sick. Even on those days, someone has to take care of the guinea pig.
Since a guinea pig does not complain about being mistreated, most children will not realize that they are actually mistreating it by not cleaning the cage, refilling a water bottle or feeding them. They also have to check the guinea pig daily for signs of injury or illness. The guinea pig also needs supervised floor time where it can run around and get needed exercise. Just keeping a guinea pig always in a cage turns the guinea pig into a tub of lard and it will die soon from complications of obesity.
Parents – you will be the one taking care of the guinea pig. Even if your child seems exceptionally responsible, it is up to you to check out the guinea pig, its living quarters and its equipment every day. The adult is legally responsible for any animal that comes into your house.
This means that if your child’s friend’s parents come over and notice how badly the guinea pig is doing, they have every legal right to report you to the police. The child will not be given a fine and a ticket – you will. It’s your house; you are ultimately the one held responsible for any pet in your home, even if the animal is “the kid’s.” If you cannot handle that, then please do not bring any animal into the home.
Consider A Male Guinea Pig
Many parents prefer to get female guinea pigs for their children because females do not grow the large testicles that males do. Several fine guinea pig books recommend getting two females as first time pets because the pair will keep each other company. This often leaves male guinea pigs overlooked.
Male guinea pigs are actually less prone to bite than females because males don’t come into season every two or three weeks. Male guinea pigs can also easily survive a neutering operation, so they can be kept as a friend to a female guinea pig without the risk of unwanted babies. Male guinea pigs also grow a little larger than females, which makes them easier for little arms to hold.
Adopt, Don’t Buy
If you want to teach your child a big lesson about respect for others, then do not buy the guinea pig. This not only perpetuates pet overpopulation, but teaches the child that all living things have price tags on them. Either adopt the guinea pig from an animal shelter or from a friend or co-worker who may need to give up their guinea pig due to the economy, to moving or other sudden life changes.