We often hear that a guinea pig can be a great “starter” animal for a child. But, is that really true? Are guinea pigs good pets for kids? Guinea pigs are definitely good pets for kids, and there are quite a few reasons why this is true. Mainly because these little fluffy pets are relatively easy to take care of. They are gentle and friendly and can live a long life if they are taken care of properly. However, you should bear in mind that the responsibility for the well-being of the animal has to always lie with the adult. Children can help take care of guinea pigs, but they have to be supervised by their parents at all times.
In the following sections, read everything about guinea pigs for kids, find out when to introduce guinea pigs as pets for kids and essential information that is important for you, your kid and the guinea pigs as well. Let’s begin!
What Is the Appropriate Child’s Age to Introduce Guinea Pig as a Pet?
Certainly, there is an appropriate age to introduce a guinea pig to the child. Even though it really does depend on the child and his character. It is usually recommended not to ask the child to care for the guinea pig until the age of seven.
Unfortunately, a lot of parents think of guinea pigs as a toy for their beloved kids. And though a guinea pig can become a source of entertainment, it is still a living creature that needs to be treated with care, and boundaries that need to be respected. Adults should also bear in mind that the child can lose interest in the guinea pig over the course of time. So, don’t adopt a guinea pig if you are not ready to take care of it all on your own.
A guinea pig should never become only a child’s responsibility, even if the kid is already in its teens. The child might simply lose interest at one point. An adult has to always be around with younger children whenever the kid wants to play with the guinea pig or look after it. Young children (around seven to nine years) can be asked to fill the bowl with food, for example, or do other minor tasks (under supervision). Teens may be given daily duties like feeding the cavy, changing its bedding, etc. However, as an adult, you have to make sure to check if the child is completing his tasks.
Another important thing you would have to do is teach your child how to handle the guinea pig properly. Moreover, you have to explain that the guinea pigs can certainly be handled from time to time, but they are not always in the mood for handling, and your child has to respect that and leave the guinea pig alone.
With that said, a guinea pig would surely make a wonderful pet not only for an adult but also for kids. Now, let’s talk about our six main reasons why guinea pigs are amazing pets for kids!
7 Reasons Why Guinea Pigs Are the Best Pets for Kids
1. Guinea Pigs Are Easy to Look After
The main reason why so many people assume that a guinea pig is an amazing pet for a child is that they are easy to look after. But that does not mean that you can just leave the little one in the cage and do nothing for days. You have to change the guinea pig’s water supply every day, feed it, change its bedding, clean the cage, etc. However, a guinea pig does not need as much commitment as a dog or a cat, for example. And the main advantage is that the guinea pig usually lives in one place, and you have to simply ensure that its home is clean, safe, and has all the necessary supplies.
Your child can certainly help you with changing the water, or he can give food and hay to the guinea pigs. The cage has to be cleaned once or twice a week and a teenager can totally manage to do that. When it comes to grooming, we would certainly recommend an adult to take care of the process. Fortunately, for parents, guinea pigs need to be bathed only a few times per year.
Moreover, you can take your guinea pig to a professional to get its nails trimmed. And in case your guinea pig does not have long hair, you wouldn’t need to brush it every day. However, your child can certainly help you with the grooming process. Remember to handle the guinea pig gently and to make sure that it feels safe.
2. Guinea Pigs Are Generally Healthy Animals and Have a Long Lifespan
If your guinea pig’s diet is healthy and you take proper care of it, it won’t develop some serious health problems. Guinea pigs are generally hardy animals, and a possibility of a sudden death is as low as it can be.
However, there are a few health issues in guinea pigs that you have to be aware of to ensure that they live a happy and long life. As the teeth of the guinea pig will grow throughout its whole life, it is important to provide enough hay and other things that the guinea pig can chew on, so that it can prevent dental problems.
Guinea pigs cannot produce vitamin C on their own (just like humans). So they need to get enough of this vitamin with their food in order to prevent a disease called scurvy. Bladder stones can become a problem in guinea pigs, but it’s something that you can easily avoid if you ensure that the guinea pig follows a low calcium diet.
Also, don’t forget about regular check-ups at the vet. And in case there is anything wrong with your beloved pet – simply take it to the doctor. It is incredibly important to explain all these things to your child so that it is familiar with these facts from day one. Unlike other rodents, guinea pigs can live a pretty long life of four to eight years. That means that the guinea pig will be a friend to your child throughout most of its school years.
3. Guinea Pigs Are Gentle and Entertaining Animals
Guinea pigs have strong and fun personalities. Some guinea pigs might be shy, while others are more outgoing and curious. You should ideally spend some time with a guinea pig before adopting it to figure out if you like the character or personality of the little pet. Taking into consideration the fact that your kid would want to play with the guinea pig as well, look for a gentle and friendly guinea pig.
Your child will have so much fun listening to the funny noises that the guinea pig makes. Guinea pigs may start greeting you with a squeal whenever it’s feeding time. Did you know that guinea pigs can purr as well? They can make a quiet vibration when they are petted and happy. Your child will love that. Moreover, when guinea pigs are extremely excited, they can popcorn (jumping in the air like popcorn). This is a unique behavior that only these animals show. It is so much fun to watch! Some guinea pigs jump up and down extremely fast, while others run around the cage.
4. Guinea Pigs Get Attached to People
A lot of people don’t want to get guinea pigs because they assume that these pets can’t get attached to their owners. That’s just a popular myth. Guinea pigs can form a strong bond with their new family. Moreover, they are very affectionate pets and can become familiar with human voices. So, if your child spends a few minutes per day chatting with them, the guinea pigs will remember their voice and get excited every time the kid greets them.
5. Guinea Pigs Will Teach Your Child to Be Responsible
A guinea pig is certainly not a “training toy”, but it can teach your child to respect boundaries, be responsible and gentle. These are extremely important traits that your child needs to have in his future life.
Your kids will learn to make decisions and they will understand what is forbidden and what is allowed. The child will understand when he can play with the pet and when the guinea pig has to be left alone. Moreover, gentle handling is also an important skill that your kid will develop. Guinea pigs are great first pet animals because they’re not as fragile as some other small pets.
6. Children Can Have Fun Creating Toys for Guinea Pigs and Decorating Their Cage
Another great part of becoming a guinea pig owner is the fact that you can totally get creative with a lot of different supplies. For example, guinea pigs love toys. But the little ones can get bored using the same entertainment, so you would have to change things up a little every few months or so. And that’s an amazing opportunity to come up with your own toy – and your child can help you with that (great bonding moment). You can create tunnels from card boxes, various hay toys, and many other things together with your kid, and then after, you can both enjoy the guinea pig’s reaction.
You can also have fun decorating the cage. Fortunately, you can find beautiful and safe dishes, treats, and beddings online and in pet shops nowadays. Your child can participate during the whole process and turn the pet’s cage into a real fortress, where the guinea pigs will surely live happily ever after.
7. Guinea Pigs Can Help Autistic Children
Some studies found that guinea pigs may help autistic children get more social and feel more comfortable. This is possible because guinea pigs and some other animals have calming effects on children. Studies have shown that children with autism have been more happy and talkative in the presence of guinea pigs. This is very important for autistic kids because any foreign and unfamiliar environment can be very stressful for them. So, guinea pigs can relax them in such situations, and they will have an easier time interacting with other people.
Best Guinea Pigs for Kids
In this section, we will see which types of guinea pigs are the best for kids. We recommend buying short-haired guinea pigs at first because they are easier to take care of. You can bathe them around three times a year, depends on how dirty they are. On the other side, long-haired guinea pigs require more maintenance. You need to bathe them and brush their hair more often. Also, if you or someone in the household are allergic to animal hair, there are hairless guinea pigs, which also are amazing pets.
What about gender, are male or female guinea pigs better for kids? Both female or male guinea pigs will make for a great pet. They have their own personality, but also both of them have some pros and cons. Female guinea pigs are usually smaller in size, more friendly and clean, and less aggressive and smelly. Male guinea pigs are bigger in size, they usually live longer, are more active, aggressive, and louder. Also, male guinea pigs have a strong personality and usually, they will fight with the cage mate more often than female guinea pigs.
Related: What Guinea Pig is Right for Me?
Guinea Pig Books for Kids
It is extremely important to explain to your child that guinea pigs will from now on become a part of your family. A pet is not something disposable that you can throw away if you stop liking it. Moreover, the chances are high that the guinea pig will spend its whole life with you.
It might be a great idea to read about guinea pigs with your child before actually adopting one. The kid has to have at least some information about the new pet. You would want to focus on explaining what you can’t do with the guinea pig, what food they can’t eat, etc. There are many books you can buy and teach your children everything about these pets. We also have our own essential and practical guinea pig care guide. In this book, you can find out everything you need to know about guinea pigs, their breeds, diet, care, health problems, and so much more. Our book contains pictures, so it would be interesting even for kids to read the book alone and learn more about their guinea pigs.
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Moolbrock, Clarissa (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 126 Pages - 11/23/2019 (Publication Date)
Now you know some of the main reasons why guinea pigs are one of the best pets for kids. Of course, an adult would have to hold a lot of responsibility for the little guinea pigs, but your kid can surely help you take care of them. This process will create a beautiful bond between guinea pigs, children, and parents.
Take great care of your pets, treat them with something delicious from time to time, and enjoy their reactions! Best of luck!
List of Sources
Norman, R., Wills, A. P., An Investigation into the Relationship between Owner Knowledge, Diet, and Dental Disease in Guinea Pigs (Cavia porcellus), Animals: an open access journal from MDPI, 2016.
Geller, K. S., The power of pets: How animals affect family relationships, Virginia Tech, 2002.
Woodward, L. E., Bauer, A. L., People and Their Pets: A Relational Perspective on Interpersonal Complementarity and Attachment in Companion Animal Owners, Society and Animals, 2007.
McNicholas, J., Gilbey, A., Rennie, A., Ahmedzai, S., Dono, J. A., Ormerod, E., Pet ownership and human health: a brief review of evidence and issues, BMJ, 2005.