Looking to bring a pet into your home but don’t want the hassle of owning a dog? A guinea pig is a great place to start and the perfect alternative to a shaggy mutt. They’re sociable, fun and easy to look after. As long as you feed it properly, keep its habitat clean and make sure it gets plenty f exercise, you can expect a guinea pig to last four to five years or more.

1. Feeding is easy

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The good news is that guinea pigs have fairly simple tastes. A bunch of hay and some vegetables are enough to keep them happy. You can also get special pellets that are made for guinea pigs and which contain vitamin C and is important to their health.

2. They’re good for kids

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A guinea pig is a great first pet for kids who want an animal to look after. They are a lot more docile than other smaller animals such as rodents and don’t mind being handled. You’re also less likely to find them nipping at your child’s fingers.

3. They’re easy to look after

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The problem with getting a pet is that you need to find someone to look after it when you go on holiday. Compared to bigger animals, guinea pigs are perfect because they require only a small amount of care. That means your friends or family are going to be more willing to look after it.

4. They’re fun

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Some rodents like rats, gerbils and mice can not only be skittish, they tend not to be very interesting. Guinea pigs are smart little mammals and love to play. For children looking for a first pet, they’re a perfect choice because they’re so sociable and fun to watch.

Getting Your First Guinea Pig

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As with any animal, there are a few things that you need to be aware of before you buy a guinea pig.

Firstly, they’re highly sociable and live healthier lives when in pairs. In fact, in many countries, you can’t buy a guinea pig on its own, only as a pair. Of course, this means you have to be sure you get both of the same sex unless you want to start a guinea pig farm. If you have males, they will certainly need to be neutered so that they get on better.

Secondly, they can be quite noisy. Guinea pigs sleep only for short periods and can be shuffling around in the middle of the night so be careful where you set up their cage unless you want to be disturbed.

If you have other small pets, then keeping them apart is important. Rodents and smaller mammals can pass on all sorts of diseases if they are allowed to mix.

Finally, you don’t have to go the local pet shop to find a guinea pig. The RSPCA often has them – unfortunately, they’re one of the most discarded pets in the UK because they are often bought on a whim. It’s a good way to support the charity and to give an abandoned animal a safe home.