14 Misconceptions about guinea pigs

Butterscotch looking on
Photo by Eden Kaye

You may or may not have heard of guinea pig appreciation day, which falls on the 16th July every year. The RSPCA take in a lot of abandoned and unwanted guinea pigs, here in the UK. They wanted to make people aware there is more to their care than one might think, to stop more piggies coming into their centres. I go through the 14 misconceptions about guinea pigs in this article.

1. They can live in a tiny cage

Guinea pigs need room to run in and go about their daily rituals. It is recommended a minimum space of four by two feet. Some pets shop cages are way too small, so avoid them.

2. They only need to eat nuggets

Yes they need a small amount of nuggets per day but some vegetables and good amounts of hay to eat as well.

3. I can get a wheel for them to run in

Please don’t get a wheel, they are not hamsters. Their spines are delicate and are simply not the right shape to run in a wheel. They will prefer to run about in a good sized space.

4. What about feeding them human snacks

No, no and no, they must only eat veggies that are suitable, hay and nuggets. Crisps and chocolates are not on the menu.

5. My cat, dog and rabbit will love playing and being around them

rabbit and guinea pig on grass
               Photo by scym on Pixabay

Some people have reported that their guinea pigs play and live with their other pets, but they may be trained or they have been lucky. Yes I think to some extent that if you gave it time and effort, that it could work. But it is risky and cats or dogs for example do have an inbuilt mechanism to think small animals like guinea pigs are prey. Also, there is a risk of diseases being passed to each other, so keep guinea pigs with their own company, not even with syrian hamsters, who sleep at different times and are territorial. Guinea pigs could be injured from bigger animals.

6. Low maintenance

Unfortunately guinea pigs are not the low maintenance pet that you think of. A lot of care goes into looking after them. This can be time consuming. Cleaning, feeding, spending time with them and sorting out bedding are all things to consider, before you get guinea pigs in your life. Don’t forget when you go on holiday, someone needs to be around to look after them.

7. Such a great first pet for children

Children can scare and stress them out by maybe being to vigorous or excitable. Along with a lot of maintenance involved, its not easy for a child to cater for all their needs on their own, it requires an adult to do the majority of the work. But children will learn the importance of being responsible and caring for a living creature.

8. I can get a single guinea pig

Its vital that any guinea pig is not on their own, this causes stress and terrible loneliness. You are not going to be enough company for them, no matter how much time you might spend with them.

9. Boy do they smell

If you clean out their homes enough, they really are not smelly creatures. Guinea pigs actually clean themselves all the time, so I don’t think they would be too happy being labeled smelly. When you put fresh hay down into their home, it all smells lovely.

10. They are not very smart

Well they can associate many sounds like the fridge door opening at a certain time, means to them that food is on its way. They communicate how they feel with other guinea pigs and human owners by using different sounds. So you will be surprised, as they are more clever than you think. For example one of my guinea pigs Charlotte, jumped over Sophie in the hutch, whilst she was having a drink, jumping straight through the doorway. This is even with poor eyesight and guinea pigs can pick up doing tricks quite well. They are very inquisitive creatures.

11. Don’t live for long

One of the small animals that do live the longest from 4 to 8 years. If looked after properly, they will hopefully not die young. Its something you need to think about, as they will need to be consistently looked after, day after day for many years.

12. They love exercise balls like hamsters do

Actually both guinea pigs and hamsters should not be put into the plastic exercise balls. It disorientates, wears them out too quickly and it will get a bit warm in them. It will injure guinea pigs spine and make them feel trapped and scared.

13. They bite!

Yes but only very rarely, this can be if they think your fingers are food because you have been handling something before being with them. They should not be known for biting because its just not in their nature. Don’t make them feel really threatened or annoyed, but even then its just a slight warning, it won’t mark the skin.

14. They can handle colder temperatures because of their thick coat

No they are not like sheep and will feel the cold like us. They need to be inside or their home properly insulated if they have to be kept outside. The coat is not like an eskimos, of course skinny and hairless will obviously feel the cold even more.


Guinea pigs sure are cute creatures but they can’t just be a quick purchase and then left. Some care can be easy to do, but other care takes more time. Cost cannot be forgotten, as it does add up. So make a considered decision whether guinea pigs are definitely the pet for you.

 

Thank you for reading and please leave a comment below. I will reply back as soon as possible and remember a guinea pig is not just for Christmas.

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39 comments found

  1. I want a gunea pig but I have cats and dogs. I won’t get one because of the point you made about prey and our home is small so now’s not the right time for me. But I was wondering, do guinea pigs get parasites like fleas or ticks?

    1. Yes its a bit risky for guinea pigs to be around cats and dogs. Guinea pigs can get fleas and ticks. Obviously by them having a home that isn’t cleaned out properly, increases the risks of getting them.

  2. Wow. There is so much I don’t know about these adorable little creatures! Thank you for spelling them out so nicely. We used to have hamsters and they were a bit much for the kids to handle. We once had a cat named Mickey and he decided that our hamster Bob looked really tasty. Mickey knocked the cage over, Bob came rolling out and soon enough the kids were outside screaming that Mickey had Bob in his mouth! We ran back into the house. After this, we decided if we were going to have a cat, we couldn’t have hamsters!
    I think when my granddaughter is a bit older and more responsible, we may get her a guinea pig. I think she will love it!

    1. Yes hamsters are a bit risky to have with cats and hamsters don’t really like being handled too much. Some might like handling more than others. I currently have a syrian hamster. Your granddaughter will hopefully love having a guinea pig when she is older.

  3. I love your site, Really good information about Guinea pigs. I didn’t know they could get fleas and ticks. Are there any remedies to help guinea pigs if they do get fleas?

    1. Thank you Jonathan. Yes to get rid of flees and ticks on guinea pigs, you first of all give them a little bath and use small pet shampoo. You use a small bowl or the bathroom sink with about 3 to 4 inches of warm water. It is stressful for them, but hold onto them firmly and cup the water slightly over them, which drowns the fleas. Then give the guinea pig a good dry and put some flea treatment that is specifically for guinea pigs on. Also their home will need cleaning out.

      Website source: guinea pig flea treatments

  4. Well I never intended to get guinea pigs, but I figured it would be good to learn about them and I will say this article gave me knowledge about them. Maybe I will get them and give him/her to a friend as a present and show them this article so they’ll know how to properly take care of them.

  5. This was so informative! I always wanted a guinea pig when I was a kid but my mom said they were too smelly. I wish I had known about this post then! Although, I was probably too young to care for them in the way that they really need.

    I’m glad this post exists to help people make a decision about whether a guinea pig is a good pet for them.

    1. They are very clean animals. Its just keeping the habitat clean and also when you place hay in, it smells lovely. Its one of those common misconceptions that people think they smell, I have had a couple of neighbours ask me about that. Thank you Taylor 🙂

  6. I actually love animals in general specifically dogs or other house pets. With that being said, most common house pets have their fair share of responsibility and misconceptions as opposed to general knowledge sometimes. Some of these misconceptions about guinea pigs were known to me but some of course really were the last thought on my mind. I could see how guinea pigs may not be the best fit for a first or general house pet at all vs other ones.

    1. Guinea pigs are not going to be for everyone, but they can be a good first pet in the right circumstances and have advantages to other pets. But its only going to suit anybody who has the time, which sometimes can take longer than other pets and also have the finances. If children want a pet and they ask their parents, if time and finances are an issue, then that is where a syrian hamster is more suited. Like you said most pets have their fair share of responsibilities and misconceptions. Thank you so much for your comment and stopping by 🙂

  7. I’ve never really been around guinea pigs but when I visited my aunt recently I got to see them up close and personal. She has a huge cage for them, yes two, like you suggested, so they won’t be lonely. The each have a little hut to sleep in and fresh hay. She gives them guinea feed as well as fresh veggies too.
    It is amazing how long these little creatures can live. People always think the same for rabbits too (that they don’t live long), but my brother had a pet rabbit for 8 years! Thanks for this informative post!

  8. I’ve never really been around guinea pigs but when I visited my aunt recently I got to see them up close and personal. She has a huge cage for them, yes two, like you suggested, so they won’t be lonely. The each have a little hut to sleep in and fresh hay. She gives them guinea feed as well as fresh veggies too. It is amazing how long these little creatures can live. People always think the same for rabbits too (that they don’t live long), but my brother had a pet rabbit for 8 years! Thanks for this informative post!

    1. Its good to know that your aunt has a big cage for them, I bet they love darting around that. Yes guinea pigs if looked after properly and depending on genetics, can live for a good number of years. I think they start getting middle aged around 4 years old, but as they say, age is just a number 🙂

  9. I used to have guinea pigs for a few years when my son was young. They certainly are funny, cute and quite the entertainers. They are nocturnal for much of their lives so they really come alive after dark. As rodents they have company with other guinea pigs but you’re in for a lesson if you mix males with any females, because they will never stop breeding. And yes they live to run around! 

    1. Guinea Pigs are actually not considered diurnal or nocturnal, their sleep is scattered throughout the day, but yes they may be a little bit more active after dark. It’s not a good idea to mix males that have not been neutered with females, just got to make sure the male is neutered, otherwise yes a lot of breeding will be going on 🙂 They can run around quite fast and are very funny and like to entertain. 

  10. Hellooo, your post is great. Guinea Pigs are good pets even if there are some misconceptions about them. I know many people say that they bring bad smells at home, but it depends on the owner. If they clean their place, no bad smell at home.

    Thank you for the post.

    1. Guinea Pigs are clean animals but you do need to clean out their home properly, just like any other small animal. Then there will be no strong odours, instead smelling of fresh hay and a clean home. Also a pleasant and hygienic environment for the Guinea Pigs. Thank you Julienne

  11. wow thank you so much for these tips about guinea pigs. Me and my wife actually bought one a couple years ago because we thought they’d be easy to take care of, but we realized it was a mistake and took it back a couple days later.

    I really had no idea that you should buy two of them and that they are actually a lot of work to care for.

    Therefore I think we will still hold on buying one, but if we do in the future decide to get one I’ll look at this post again.

    By the way how many guinea pigs do you have, and are they your favorite pet?

  12. Eden,

    I am so glad when I visit your website I know I left a comment on the Vitamin C but these little guys are just so cute 🙂  My grandson is 9 going on 10 but this is not his first pet well actually he has two and he takes very good care of them.  He keeps them in his bedroom and cleans their cage every single day after school making sure they have fresh bedding. 

    You are so right in they do need daily care just like every other pet and people need to realize this.

    Thank you,

    Susan

    1. It sounds like your grandson takes really good care of his pets, which is great to hear. Yes people always need to research on the care of any pet they are keen to get, to see if it’s really for them. 

  13. I used to have a Guinea Pig and I agree with a lot of the points you’ve made here! It’s really important to do your own research when buying a Guinea Pig rather than simply relying on everything you hear from the pet shop. For example, like you mention, Guinea Pigs are a lot smarter than you might first believe. My own Guinea Pig was a great pet and he was also really smart! Which of these misconceptions do you think is the most important to be corrected? Thanks for sharing!

    1. Sometimes pet shops as you say can give the wrong information about looking after certain pets like guinea pigs. You do need to go to a reputable pet shop, one where you can see that the guinea pigs are healthy looking. 

      The most important misconception I would say is they are a low maintenance pet. Although I would encourage anybody who really wants to get guinea pigs after doing research, to really think again whether time is an issue, as guinea pigs can live many years and its important to be able to spend that time looking after them consistently. Some people may after a year think this is just a bit too much work on top of all the other things that they do everyday. I do not want to put people off from getting them, because there are pros and cons with any pets. 

      Thank you Danny 

      Eden

  14. Am glad for this article, we had an argument the other day with my friend in regards to getting a wheel for my guinea pig, I was not of the idea but my friend was recommending it to keep him busy when am not spending time with him. Am glad I didn’t get the wheel. You mentioned on diseases, fact that I have a cat in the house and I always vaccinate the cat, does guinea pigs also require vaccines like dogs and cats.

    1. I am very pleased you didn’t get the wheel, sometimes people get guinea pigs confused with hamsters and even call them hamsters. My syrian hamster loves running all night long in its wheel, but a guinea pig would obviously hate it. No guinea pigs don’t require any vaccines.

  15. Hello there. I really loved your informative post. I had a guinea pig when I was younger, but after reading your article, I just realised how little I knew about them.

    I think the biggest misconception is that other pets will love being around them. My friend had a cat and she was unbearable. She could not tolerate anyone, especially a new household member in the form of a guinea pig. 

    I always knew I should not feed them with human snacks – I had a good vet that mentioned to us from the start. I think many parents buy their children guinea pigs as an ideal child pet. As you mentioned this is not always true.

    Thank you for your post.

    Regards,

    Strahinja

    1. This is a big misconception that people think other pets like a cat will be just fine with guinea pigs. Ok if you spend a long time training them up, but it is still risky. 

      Thank you Strahinja 

      Eden

  16. Great, you listed so many misconceptions about guinea pigs. I didn’t know all of them and will share this post with my family.

    We have one guinea pig on it’s own, the seller told us this was not a problem if we play with it every day. I understand that it is not enough. We are humans and can only do so much with the little creatures. 

    Who likes to eat alone every day for example. I’ll correct that very soon and get a little friend for her.

    1. Hello Stefan,

      It is annoying that the seller is saying that to you, but its great that you are going to be getting another guinea pig. 

      Best Wishes

      Eden

  17. Hi Eden, pretty interesting article. I definitely learned a couple of new things about guinea pigs. Glad you are spreading the word and sad to hear that so many piggies end up at the RSPCA. I know my sister loves them she has two and cats and oh they have a small zoo at home. I will pass this info on. Cheers

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