Unfortunately, guinea pigs aren’t exactly the best pets for kids, despite their docile and gentle nature. In fact, guinea pigs as pets for kids is less about the guinea pig’s personality and behaviors, and more about the kind of time, care, and commitment that they require.
Unless someone is an experienced guinea pig parent, then they wouldn’t know that guinea pigs require a lot of attention and responsibility that many children aren’t quite ready for. Of course, your family can still have guinea pigs, but it might be more prudent if the adults in the family are responsible for the actual care of the piggies and if they supervise the kids whenever they’re playing with the guinea pigs.
Why guinea pigs aren’t a good pet for children
Is your family ready for the responsibility of owning guinea pigs?
When you and your family are deciding whether or not you’d like to adopt guinea pigs, yes, ‘pigs’ as in multiple, there are many things to consider beforehand. Guinea pigs are herd animals, meaning they live and thrive most successfully when they live in pairs, or ideally, in groups.
This keeps them from getting lonely and depressed, and it keeps their minds stimulated and encourages them to be active. This means if you want your guinea pig to be happy and thriving, you’ll need to commit to adopting and caring for at least two guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs require extensive attention and care that your family might not be ready to take on. We know, your kids might have promised that they’ll be the ones to take care of the guinea pig, they might have said they’ll take care of the feedings, cage cleanings, and whatever else the piggies make require.
This sounds a lot simpler than it actually is! Guinea pigs cages need to be spot cleaned often, usually daily or multiple times daily, and then cleaned even more thoroughly after that. Their bedding also needs to be changed if they’re soiling it quickly, especially if paper shreds or wood shavings are being used.
If fleece liners are being used, then they need to be laundered and switched out at least weekly. Guinea pigs also have specific dietary requirements that go beyond just pellets and water. They have to have constant supplies of hay and water, and they need prepared fresh fruits and vegetables to get the vitamins and nutrients they need, especially when it comes to vitamin C for scurvy prevention.
If you’d like to learn more information about guinea pigs and their dietary needs, check out our Vegetable Master List and our Fruits Master List for charts on serving size and frequency. You can also take a look at our blog post on what kinds of vitamins your guinea pigs need. By reading these posts, you can learn about the delicate balance of nutrients that the piggies require and how to accommodate them.
Guinea pigs also need their nails trimmed at least once monthly, depending on your individual guinea pigs’ growth rate. There are many factors that go into how fast their nails grow, so the pedicures might even have to occur more often than that. Guinea pig nail trimming is a part of their grooming routine that even experienced guinea pig owners sometimes struggle with, so it’s important that you and your family make sure to do your research on the best ways to go about it.
If you want more information on how to cut your guinea pig’s nails, you can check out this blog post, which also includes video tutorials that will be helpful! We also have a blog post on a basic grooming routine for guinea pigs that you can follow to keep your piggy clean and healthy.
It’s important that when the kids have promised to take on all of this that they stay committed and go through with it! Otherwise, the adults and parents will have to shoulder the responsibility if they happen to slack on it. This is something you will have to be willing to do if the guinea pig care isn’t being taken seriously by your kids.
We understand—kids have their homework, their other chores, they want to hang out with their friends, whatever the case may be! So it’s important that everyone is aware of the time commitment that it’s going to take from pretty much the whole family!
Sometimes young kids can endanger guinea pigs
Generally, many young children don’t have a good handle on their self-restraint just yet, and oftentimes lack the ability to gauge how much or how little force to apply when performing different tasks and actions.
We mention this specifically because guinea pigs require patience and a very gentle touch. Many children, without realizing it, can accidentally drop a guinea pig, squeeze them, or scare the guinea pigs in some way that forces the guinea pig to react in a defensive manner, such as biting.
If you and your family are ready for the responsibility of owning a guinea pig, don’t let anyone stop you!
Of course, every situation is going to be different! If you feel that your family is one that is going to shoulder the responsibility together and give your guinea pigs all the care, attention, and overall commitment that they deserve, then by all means, head to your local shelter to adopt if you can.
Make learning about the proper guinea pig care and doing your research a family bonding experience—you can ensure that all members of the family are aware of the reality of owning and caring for guinea pigs, and discuss scenarios in which one family member might need to cover a certain responsibility if someone has work, or if someone has to stay behind after school, etc. It’s important to be prepared!
Once you and your family have done your research and made your decision, you guys will be ready to build your piggy family and incorporate them into your daily lives, caring for them with as much love and devotion as you do with one another.