Where should I get a guinea pig?

Our guinea pig died a few weeks ago and after my 10-year-old daughter got over her grief (approximately 0.36 seconds) she asked if she could get a new pet. After we put our foot down that we were weren’t getting a ferret, we’re back to guinea pigs.

I see three options:

Pet store: I have always heard not to buy dogs from a pet store because they deal with “puppy mills.” Is that true of guinea pigs? Is it true of all stores? We popped into the closest pet store, which is a Petco. They have some guinea pigs, advertised as being from Peru. The employee we talked to was not very knowledgable. He thought they were 6-12 months old, and said they had veterinary care before arriving but wasn’t sure exactly what care that included. They were too busy for me to find a grown-up to talk to.

Animal shelter: County animal shelter and Humane Society are both within easy driving distance and both have guinea pigs. But these are generally give-up animals and I don’t know how risy it is to get one about which no history information at all is available, maybe not even age.

Breeder: Seems like a good idea but I don’t know how to find one or how to test their reputation.

For breeders look up the ARBA (American Rabbit Breeder’s Assoc.) they deal with cavy (formal term for guinea pig) breeders as well, and I’m sure link to a cavy breeder’s assoc. site. Registered breeders raise mostly for show, but few of the offspring are show quality, so there are generally lots of pet-quality animals to go around. Not only that, but serious breeders try to breed good lines with few inheritable diseases, etc.

What hawksgirl said–hobby breeders are, by and large, going to send you home with a piggie who’s well socialized and raised with good food and lots of love and care. You might get a good pig at a pet store, particularly one who buys from local hobby breeders, but I’d always prefer and advise going straight to the source :wink:

Give your new piggie a hug and a “wheekwheekwheek!” from me :slight_smile:

Since it’s just a pet, I’d go for the humane society. They’ve likely had a vet check their animals and given them the necessary innoculations. Why not rescue an animal, I’ll bet your daughter will be impressed by the idea too, for about .25 seconds. :wink:

Please adopt from an animal shelter, humane society, or rescue. The guinea pigs there could really use good homes, and they’ll often be put to death if they can’t find one. Also, it’s usually cheaper than adopting from a pet store or breeder. You mentioned that you thought it might be risky–what risks are you worried about? They have been given their shots and if necessary, spayed/neutered. IIRC, we adopted our pair of guinea pigs for about $15, including neuter, and were very happy with our decision.

This rescue site has guinea pigs for adoption in the Northern VA area:

More info about adopting from pet stores on

Also, guinea pigs are much happier if you have at least two of them (and it’s very rewarding to watch their interactions and “conversations” with each other). Taking care of two is not much more work or expense than taking care of just one. I don’t know if you were already planning on getting a pair, but if not, please do consider it. They are herd animals and in many cases will get lonely, scared and depressed if they have no other guinea pigs around.

Go to South Wales. A male pig got into the females’ pen, and had his way with all two dozen of them. Now they’re trying to find homes for the babies.

I second tiltypig, get two. Also, build a big-ass cage. I don’t know what size you have now but if you bought it, it’s probably not big enough.

Shelters will make sure their animals are healthy. Or, at least, they should. I wouldn’t get a pig from a breeder. Guinea pigs aren’t like dogs, they don’t really have any genetic diseases to watch out for. And breeding pigs isn’t like breeding dogs either, it’s pretty common for breeders to sell reject pigs to pet stores. This isn’t pro-rescue propaganda, I read it in a breeder magazine. Pretty much all they’re breeding for is conformation. I would just get pigs from a shelter.

My cousin inherited a cute little guinea pig from a neighbor and took it to her grade school class and they kept it in the classroom as a pet. The class voted and named him “Butch”.

Imagine their surprise when Butch suddenly gave birth to a litter of baby guinea pigs. I believe they changed its name to Betty and quite a few kids went home with baby guinea pigs (but only if they brought in notes of approval from the parents first).

obligatory guinea pig link:

guinea pig way

Second/third the suggestion to check with a rescue group.

We got our first pig from Petco (the Petsmart didn’t have any in stock) and they’re supposed to be relatively reputable - a lot of the smaller pet shops have a reputation for not taking good care of their piggies. Our pig was in a cage by herself and seemed healthy and well cared-for; this was nearly 3 years ago and she’s never been sick, so I guess so! You never know, though, whether they were separated by sex soon enough (they’re fertile pretty young) leading to the Butch/Betty scenario Dmark mentioned!

Rescue groups aren’t necessarily cheaper - IIRC, we paid 35 dollars for our pig from Petco and we paid at least that much per pig for our other 2 from a rescue group. HOWEVER, the benefit there was they’d been seen by a vet, and neutered/spayed, so we got pretty good bang for our buck.

I doubt the ones for sale in the pet store are 6-12 months old. They get large fairly fast, and I think the stores want to sell them faster than that! Also, I strongly doubt their piggies originated from Peru. I mean, the species certainly did, but I can’t imagine there being much of a demand for freshly-imported pigs when they’re so easily bread right here! Anyway, those statements send up some red flags that perhaps that shop doesn’t know much about guinea pigs and perhaps doesn’t know how to take care of them.

Thanks everyone for your input. I’ll continue to watch the thread for other comments. I would definitely consider two, although that would require a bigger cage than what we have. How big, by the way?

When we took Coco to the vet with her illness he also mentioned that her molars needed trimming, and would continue to need it periodically. It turns out that’s not uncommon in cavies. That’s the kind of thing that I don’t want to be surprised by in a purchase or an adoption.

The sign on the cage said “Source: Peru” and it may have meant the breed rather than these specific pigs. I did not discuss that point with the store employee.

http://www.cavycages.com has information about recommended cage sizes. When our other piggie was alive, we had the pair in a 2 grid x 4 grid C&C cage made from directions on this page. It fits perfectly onto one of those $20 folding card tables from OfficeMax. One of our guinea pigs passed away recently, so now our one remaining pig (the tilty one) has the whole giant space to herself.

The change in our pigs was amazing when we first built the big cage for them–they immediately seemed way happier, “popcorning” a lot, running around in circles, talking much more than usual.

I think there’s probably an equal risk of surprise medical problems in rescue pigs and store-bought/breeder-bought pigs. Many of the rescue/animal shelter pigs probably ultimately came from the same place anyway. Did Coco get unlimited hay? I’ve read that an unlimited supply of hay will generally allow the guinea pigs to keep their teeth ground down sufficiently without trimming, but I don’t know if there are certain genetic conditions that affect this problem.

These two pages have more info about tooth trimming:

My sister got her first two from a rescue where they were taken after they were found in a dumpster. The next three from the humane society. The HS ones were all vet checked and certified, the rescue ones weren’t IIRC, but the rescue people had seen enough pigs in their days to know they were healthy. The rescue ones were 25 each, HS ones were 10 each. HS usually have more minimal contracts where rescue pigs are more likely to come with a whole list of rules. For good pet karma, I’d go with the Humane Society or a Rescue, not a pet store.

You can name the two newest adoptees in my sister’s herd in this thread.

A 2x3 cage for one pig plus another two square feet for each subsequent pig is what I hear most often. So a good size for two pigs would be 2x4, three pigs would be 2x5 and so on. You can build a multi-level cage if you feel up to it but only floor space on the lowest level counts, because pigs need horizontal space more than they need vertical.

cavycages.com has very good instructions on building cages out of metal grids and corrugated plastic. They’re fairly easy to make and REALLY easy to clean, and also larger and cheaper than anything you can buy. My pigs have a 2x4 cage and I also noticed a big change after they moved in. They seem a lot happier and spend their days running laps and chasing each other around the cage. I’d definitely recommend making one.

Plus, larger cages allows more exercise which helps to prevent impaction in boars, which is a lovely condition where their anal muscles stop working and you have to dig their crap out of their anal sacks every day with your finger, or they die a slow lingering death. That’s enough motivation for anyone to build a bigger cage, no?

Watch out for the calico-colored one. It’ll eat your kidney.

Trade up–get a Chinchilla.

SEE? Look into his beady lil eyes! :smiley:

IMHO a pet store should not even be considered when buying a guinea pig, bird, reptile, dog, or cat. People who breed these animals will sell to pet stores as a last resort. Why sell a cockatiel to a pet store for $30 when you can get $90 easily from a private source? The exception is if the wholesale source is set up exclusively to sell to pet stores. We call places like that puppy mills, but the same is true for pocket pets, birds, and reptiles.

Buy supplies from a pet store. Maybe fish as well.

Are there no end of school give aways?

The Petco in Cleveland Park–in Northwest Washington D.C., right up Connecticut avenue–has a bunch of guinea pigs, and their employees seem generally intelligent to me. Since your tag says Northern Va., that might not be too much of a trek for you, if you decide to go the pet store route.

Thanks for the tip. I don’t know the store but it sounds like it’s near the zoo. I live in Tysons (lived in Adams Morgan when I first moved to the area). Not sure it’s worth it when we have one right here less than a mile from my house. Part of the problem may be that I caught them at a busy time.

I’m also looking at breeders but they’re not exactly on every street corner. One in Warrenton (closest I could find and not that close) is out of town the rest of the week.

I checked out some sites linked in various posts here. One was an absolute screed against buying from a pet store. Although I have heard this sentiment before, this particular site was so splenetic that it didn’t seem very credible.