Guinea pigs are cute and cuddly, furry and fun, but their owners will be the first to admit that caring for them isn't as easy as it might seem. Like any living creature, guinea pigs require attention and certain supplies to keep them healthy and content. While average guinea pig life span is between 5 and 8 years, a well-cared-for guinea pig can live as long as 12 years.
Fun and Lovable
Guinea pigs are endearing pets who rarely bite and who like to be held. Their curiosity and energy make them entertaining to watch. Give them a layer of bedding on the bottom of their cage and they'll turn it into tunnels and nests, hiding and popping up to the amusement of everyone. Let them loose in a room and they'll explore every inch, making adorable photo moments as they run circles around the corners, peek out behind cushions and cuddle with their humans on the couch.
Attention and Exercise
Guinea pigs need exercise daily -- whether running around the room or in a safe pen outdoors -- and they must be closely supervised the entire time. Their curiosity and natural instincts extend to chewing anything they can, including the living room couch and power cords. Though they can amuse themselves in their cages if given enough toys, they also require daily interaction with their human pets, which can be time-consuming. Their small size means little children playing too roughly can injure them; they're better pets for older kids.
Guinea pigs have relatively inexpensive up-front costs: about $30 or so, and perhaps less from a reputable rescue organization. At that price, it's reasonable to buy two, which is a good idea. These social creatures need company. Two can play and keep each other company, an advantage if their humans are away a good portion of the day or don't have much time to interact with them. Setup is relatively easy, too -- put 3 inches of bedding on the bottom of their new cage, add a food dish, a water bottle and some toys. They're ready to go.
Costs Add Up
Don't even consider saving money by making an old aquarium their home. Guinea pigs need a cage for adequate ventilation, with about 3 inches enclosed on the lower sides to keep the bedding inside. That cage should be at least 18 inches wide, 18 inches deep and 3 feet long for exercise -- 6 feet long for two pigs. Bedding should be changed daily for a fresh-smelling, sanitary home. Their love of chewing means they'll go through toys rapidly. Food costs add up, too -- they need a specially formulated pellet mix, added fruits and vegetables, grass hay and a vitamin C supplement daily in their water.
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Barbara Bean-Mellinger is an award-winning writer in the Washington, DC area. She writes nationally for newspapers, magazines and websites on topics including careers, education, women, marketing, advertising and more. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Pittsburgh.