Most of the time, when we’re talking about thoroughly domesticated animals and pets, we tend to rank them according to their responsiveness to humans. That is, when we’re not outright ranking them according to cuteness. However, that doesn’t always leave room for exceptionally accessible pets like guinea pigs, which have remained extremely popular around the world. Why are they so popular? How much does a guinea pig cost? What’s required to take care of one? Is a guinea pig the right kind of pet for you? These may seem like simple questions, but as with any other type of pet, learning how to best care for a guinea pig can result in a happier relationship between owners and their furry friends. Read on, for more details!
I can’t count the number of times that friends have asked me whether I’m a dog or a cat person (the answer is, unironically, both), but I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked if I’m a guinea pig person, either. That’s because the answer is zilch. Nada. Zip. In spite of these furry little fellows being one of the most popular pets in the world, I’ve never been asked after my affinity for them, and that just seems a little odd, don’t you think?
There are some pretty well-founded reasons that guinea pigs are popular, as well as some obvious reasons that people tend to overlook them in the wide world of “pets.” They’re not as excitable as dogs or cats, and they aren’t exactly exploding with visible personality traits. That’s simply not the type of animal that a guinea pig is, and therefore, people who want more attached and openly loving animals don’t pay them much mind.
However, because they don’t receive as much popular attention, there’s a lot that isn’t known about guinea pigs. Apart from being comparatively low-maintenance, they’re surprisingly responsive to human handling, which gives them a reputation as being a particularly friendly variety of rodent.
You know. On top of the fact that they’re friggin’ adorable.
In this brief guide, we’re going to attempt to shed a little light on what attracts people to the idea of guinea pigs as pets. More than that, we’ll show you some of the necessities for caring for one (or more than one) and also quote some approximate prices should you like to bring a guinea pig into your home. Throughout the article, we’ll include links for further reading and expertise, so that you can learn even more about guinea pigs.
Let’s Talk Guinea Pigs…
First, let’s get some of the details out of the way. Guinea pigs are a type of rodent. However, in spite of their name, they aren’t even remotely related to “pigs,” and they’re not from Guinea, either. The species actually originated from South American, in the Andes. Prior to their discovery (and after), the guinea pig has been a staple resource for indigenous peoples all throughout South America. They play a part in many historic myths and bits of folklore and are even an important part of many diets. Cute or not, they’re still viewed as a source of food in many cultures.
However, we’re here to talk about domesticated guinea pigs, through the intention that they’re going to be kept as pets. Regardless of where the species originated, it’s undergone genetic diversification through breeding, and they’re no popular all over the world. You’ve no doubt heard the expression “guinea pig” in relation to anything that’s potentially a test subject. However, actual guinea pigs are rarely used in such circumstances any longer.
Why Are They Popular?
Guinea pigs’ popularity can largely be attributed to how easy it is to keep and care for them. We’ll talk more about their needs shortly, but as long as you can maintain a temperate indoor climate, a guinea pig will more than likely be able to thrive just fine.
More than that, they can develop an unusually pleased response to human handling, to the point that they seem more affectionate towards their owners and handlers than many other types of rodents. That goes hand-in-hand with the fact that they’re small, soft, fluffy, and relatively harmless.
Are They Easy to Care For?
A big part of guinea pigs’ popularity has to do with their accessibility, and much of that has to do with their very simple needs. Their enclosures are inexpensive as is their food. They can also be relatively hardy, and as long as they’re kept within a regularly cleaned living space, they aren’t prone to a great many illnesses.
We’ll get to the actual cost of buying a guinea pig below, but it suffices to say that they are on the low end of the spectrum when it comes to pet expenses. Their primary diet is grass and other inexpensive vegetation, and cleaning up a guinea pig enclosure on a regular basis is a fairly easy task.
Would I Enjoy a Guinea Pig?
When most people are looking for a pet, they want an animal that will reciprocate their love and emotions in visible, obvious ways. You’re not ever going to have that with a rodent, even if guinea pigs are certainly more responsive than other species. Therefore, whether a guinea pig is the right type of pet for you or not is going to depend solely on your own expectations.
For most guinea pig owners, their animals’ happiness is reward enough for the energy that they invest into them. A content guinea pig is one that feels safe and is well fed. Keeping their pets’ enclosure clean and well-supplied should bring joy to the pet owner’s heart, and in the case of guinea pigs, one can’t expect to receive much in the way of usual appreciation. If your guinea pig is content, healthy, and happy, that should be enough.
Does that sound like you? If you want a more excitable, responsive pet, then something akin to a cat or dog might be more ideal. However, if it makes you happy to see your animal happy, then a guinea pig might make for a great pet!
Is My Home Safe for a Guinea Pig?
Ensuring that your home is safe for a guinea pig isn’t a difficult task. There are just a few things that you’ll have to keep in mind at all times, and so long as you do, there’s potential for one of these furry friends to happily thrive in your accommodations.
The first and perhaps most important thing to remember is that guinea pigs are prey animals, in their natural environments. While they’re just as self-sufficient as any wild animal, they have many natural predators. This means that dogs and cats are typically very hard to cohabitate with a guinea pig. However, it can still be done as long as you’re careful about how you house and keep them. Mostly, they should be kept apart.
Guinea pigs can be very happy in a small enclosure, as long as it’s kept clean. The straw and wood chips that coat the floor of a guinea pig cage should be regularly replaced, and droppings should be removed (they can be quite messy!) Because guinea pigs are small, it should go without saying that access to unassuming places that you’d be unable to reach should be blocked off. Should yet pet ever escape and need a reason to hide, you don’t want the guinea pig to get anywhere that you won’t be able to retrieve it.
How Much Does a Guinea Pig Cost?
Finally, we can talk costs. Like the rest of our brief discussion about guinea pigs, their relative accessibility as pets extends to their cost, as well. Though you’ll certainly have to factor in the various costs for your pet’s upkeep–food, treats, an enclosure, diet additives, and more–the actual cost of a guinea pig is meager, indeed.
On average, you should expect to spend between $25 and $50 on a guinea pig, depending on where you choose to buy one. If you opt for a pet store, you’ll be paying a little bit less than you might with a guinea pig breeder. We can quote the average cost of a male guinea pig at Petsmart for reference. As you can see, the expected cost for a guinea pig is about $29.99.
Once you have all of the necessary equipment, food, and supplies for a guinea pig, your total cost will probably be somewhere between $100 and $150. Of course, this includes the projected cost of an enclosure and all of the accessories that you might want to fill it with, including food and water dishes, and any toys. If you already have these items, you can obviously knock that cost down a little bit.
Knowing these things, you should have a much better idea of whether or not a guinea pig is the right pet for you. Now that you have some idea of how much a guinea pig costs, as well as their very simple needs, we hope that you’ll be a little closer to your answer! If you have any remaining questions about guinea pigs or their upkeep, let us know in the comments below!