Today marks the first anniversary of me being a piggy mom, and I can’t believe how fast time flies! My piggies are now happy, healthy girls who enjoy human attention; what a sharp contrast to the nervous-looking pair of sows they were when I first saw them!
My experience in raising Freya and Ellie in the past year was great, though I can say it wasn’t easy. So what have I learned in my first year as a piggy parent? Here goes:
1. Guinea pigs are NOT low-maintenance pets
I knew this one even before I decided to adopt Freya and Ellie, but I am reminded of this every time someone sees the girls and decides that they want guinea pigs because “they’re cute” and “low-maintenance.” I tell them just how much effort I put into looking for the right materials for their cage (which are so hard to come by over here), how much the vet bills cost if ever they get very sick, how much they eat in a day, and how much attention they need. Many people think that they can get guinea pigs and just leave them in their cages, not paying any mind to them. What they do not know is that guinea pigs also require lots of attention, and the cost of caring for them can get high too, especially when they get sick. I spent over PHP3,000 on the girls’ first vet session alone, what with all the sicknesses and parasites they had with them when I adopted them. There are so many costs and so much time involved, I can never consider guinea pigs as a low-maintenance pet.
2. Before adopting, you should already know which vets treat guinea pigs
It is very difficult to find exotic vets in the Philippines, and I’m sure a lot of piggy parents agree. Almost all vet offices and clinics only accept dogs and cats, and that’s why a lot of people give up on finding treatment for their sick guinea pigs. Some people would never even consider vet treatment for their pets because they feel like “no one brings guinea pigs to the vet”. Well, there are exotic vets in the Philippines (and the ones I’ve encountered are all very good), but before bringing home your piggies, you should already know where these clinics are. It pays to know that you have a reliable vet to turn to when the need arises.
3. Guinea pigs need LOTS of space
When I first adopted Freya and Ellie, I placed them in a small pet shop cage and I figured that it would be enough for them. But as time passed, I realized that they could barely move in their cage, and there is no space to place even a small hidey house for them. But when I moved them to their C&C cage, that’s where they really showed their personality, and I noticed that they were happier and healthier, too. Happy wheeks and popcorns were more frequent, and don’t all pets deserve the same happiness? If some of you are still using a pet shop cage, try building your own C&C cage. You won’t regret it.
4. Can’t find guinea pig toys and accessories? You can make them yourself
I have this habit of looking at photos of other people’s guinea pig cages and taking note of what toys I want my piggies to have. Those cages have lots of hidey houses, tunnels, and even beds for the pigs! Again, it’s really hard to find those kinds of things in the Philippines so I learned to improvise by using common household materials, and my piggies love them just the same.
5. Guinea pigs won’t be lap pigs overnight
I admit, at first I was so disappointed with my guinea pigs because they just wouldn’t let me touch them and pet them. After all, that is part of the fun in raising pets, right? But then, I learned that it is in the guinea pigs’ nature to be nervous and scared of new people around them, so you just need to keep on trying and remember to not be abrupt about it. I started with simple feeding, and then slowly transitioned to petting them, then carrying them. It took me a long time before my girls trusted me completely, but it’s worth it.
6. Piggies fare well in areas where the whole family can see them
That’s right, they should be kept indoors. Not only will they be protected from our extreme weather (scorching hot sun in the morning and intense rains in the afternoon) and predatory animals, this will also ensure that the whole family (if you live with them) can see them and care for them. The family will also be familiar with the piggies’ personality, so they would know immediately when something is wrong with the pig. You see, guinea pigs hide their illnesses well, so constant attention is a must if you want to detect early signs of illness. Not only that, your guinea pigs will also become accustomed to people and their environment.
7. Some pigs will never like being carried
This might sound disappointing, but no matter how much they trust you, some pigs just aren’t meant to be lap pigs. My little Freya is not a lap pig, she would rather run around and munch on whatever she comes across. When I carry her, she whines until I put her down. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t love me or my family, it’s just her personality. She likes taking food from my hand, she likes to lick my hand and my face when I lay down beside her during floortime. Not being able to cuddle with your guinea pigs doesn’t mean you can’t bond with them. Only you can determine your piggies’ personality, and you will know how to bond with them as time passes.
I am still learning new things about my girls every day and I am doing everything to give them the best care, so here’s to another year filled with happy wheeks and lovely cuddles!