We all look back fondly on the family pets we had as kids. Whether it was a gerbil that lived in your bedroom or a pooch that you used to snuggle up with on the couch, it’s true that having a companion animal as a kid can be a magical and life-enhancing part of growing up.
“But what about guinea pigs?” you ask. Do they make good first pets, too?
Well, here at Kavee we may be the teensiest bit biased, but in our experience, we’ve found that smaller pets such as piggies can make ideal first animals for kids. If your kids have never had a pet before, bringing home a puppy that needs daily walks and lots of time and attention might be too overwhelming of a choice. It’s a big commitment!
Guinea pigs, instead, are relatively low maintenance, and on the whole sweet-natured and super cute. To understand more about the pros and cons of guinea pig ownership with kids, read on.
5 Reasons Why Guinea Pigs Are Good Pets for Kids
Pet ownership can be an enriching experience for children. Not only are animals fun to interact with, but they also give your kid the perfect opportunity to learn about boundaries, responsibilities, and how to look after something other than themselves. Moreover, they will be able to practice kindness and compassion. So plenty of benefits all around!
Caring for a guinea pig will teach your kid about responsibilities and boundaries
Taking care of an animal makes a child aware of their responsibilities. When there are daily tasks your kid must complete in order to keep their piggy happy and healthy - such as feeding, topping up their water, cleaning their cage, etc - it teaches them that looking after something is important.
It’s also emotionally healthy for children to learn boundaries, which is easily achieved by getting a guinea pig! Thanks to their sweet fluffballs, they’ll come to understand that they can’t just interact in any way they want to. They must learn to respect others’ space, time, and temperament.
As piggies are prey animals in the wild, they can be flighty and skittish, so it’s best to approach them with a calm and soothing behavior. Your child will grow to learn that to forge the best bond with their guinea pig, they’ll need to be gentle. As such, guinea pigs can actually help to calm down kids who are overly agitated or struggle to slow down.
By giving your child some regular tasks such as feeding, grooming and playing with their little rodent, it also helps to reinforce the importance of routine. In general, you should find that kids thrive on this and will enjoy taking on a care-providing role!
Guinea pigs are easy to care for
With the demands of work, school, homework, after-school clubs, and everything in between, you’re going to want to choose a pet that will easily fit into your kid’s daily schedule. Thankfully, guinea pigs fit the bill perfectly when it comes to low-maintenance pet ownership. Phew!
While it’s true that guinea pigs need daily care and attention, their everyday needs are really very simple. With a topped-up water bottle, fresh food, a spot clean and a few toys to keep them entertained, they’re pretty much set for the day.
It’s much easier for a child to take responsibility of a piggy compared to other animals. A dog, for instance, needs long daily walks and plenty of training, which may end up being mom's or dad's responsibility. A guinea pig, on the other hand, isn’t quite so time-consuming or needy. But of course, they still require regular care and attention to stay healthy & happy!
Guinea pigs are friendly and easy to tame
Unlike hamsters, who may give your finger a nibble if they’re feeling particularly antisocial, piggies are endlessly loving little floofs. They are expressive, fun, cuddly, and really get attached to their owners and fellow piggy companions over time. Once they build a bond of friendship with you, they will wheek with delight when you enter a room and generally show plenty of interest in interaction with their favorite hooman.
Piggies truly lap up any attention given to them and enjoy being pampered, so your child should spend time getting to know their new piggy pal and learning how to play with them appropriately.
Guinea pigs make great first pets because, once they learn to trust their hoomans, they are content with being handled and stroked, and will quickly become attached to their primary caregiver. The more time your child spends with their cute cavy, the more they'll begin to understand their unique personality and body language, as well as gaging exactly what they need through every little piggy noise they make.
Guinea pigs make great companions to your kids
As piggy parents, we all know that guinea pigs have their own unique personalities. Some are affectionate, some are shy, and some are cheeky - whatever their temperament, your kid will grow to love them for exactly who they are!
They will also enjoy learning about how guinea pigs behave. For example, guinea pigs are infamous chatterboxes and will wheek when they’re excited, purr when they’re feeling content, or even chirp mysteriously from time to time. They also like to zoomie and popcorn with joy (jumping into the air). When your child learns the ways in which piggies like to communicate their feelings, it will make them happy to know that they understand each other better than anyone else. Being able to read the signs of hunger or distress and being able to provide for a piggy’s needs will be a rewarding experience for your child.
In fact, children can become really good friends with their piggies and even lean on them for emotional support. This is because they become trusted confidents who’ll never judge or react negatively to a situation.
Your kid is going to love setting up a house for their guinea pig
Setting up a C&C cage for a guinea pig herd is a good activity for kids, and there are loads of ways to go about it considering how much space piggies need. In particular, this is a great way to encourage your child to get creative with cage decoration ideas, with the overall aim of creating a cozy and relaxing environment for their piggy to settle into.
There are literally infinite possibilities when it comes to building an enviable piggy palace. Should they be kept indoors or outdoors? What room should their cage be placed in? Would they like a loft and ramp? From hideys and fleece liners to wooden castle decorations, there’s a lot of fun to be had!
Guinea Pigs for Kids: Not Always a Good Idea
Despite the million and one reasons why guinea pigs make great pets for kids, it’s important to consider that introducing any animal to your home - big or small - is a long-term commitment that shouldn’t be undertaken lightly.
Although small and relatively easy to look after, a piggy may not be the best starter pet in all cases. The suitability will depend on various factors, including your child’s age, maturity, and how caring they are. If your piggy is not treated carefully and respectfully, the results could be devastating. And this is the last thing we’d want for any family.
As we discussed earlier, guinea pigs are prey animals at the bottom of the food chain. Therefore, they tend to be nervy, fearful little souls. They also have delicate bones and it doesn’t take much to accidentally injure them. As such, they always need gentle handling with lots of TLC in order to be happy and healthy. If your child is quite energetic and would struggle to learn all of this, then a guinea pig might not be the best pet for them.
Some piggy parenthood tasks are better carried out with the supervision of an adult. For example, cutting guinea pig’s nails is a precise art that can cause injury if not done correctly. This means that you can't expect your kid to take care of everything and that there will be times when you’ll need to be actively involved. If that doesn't sound ideal, then again, a guinea pig might not be right for your family.
It’s also worth pointing out that piggies are social creatures, so it’s always kindest to adopt a pair. Otherwise, they can get lonely and sad on their own. Of course, double the piggies means double the love, but it also means double the cost and daily tasks. So make sure that you can afford the space and the cost of adopting guinea pigs!
At the end of the day, all animals deserve a loving home that can give them everything they need, day in and day out. You have to be 100% sure that you can provide them with a happy and fulfilling life before promising you’ll get one for your child.
Guinea Pig as a Pet for Your Kid: Tips to Consider Before You Do It
There are many different things to properly consider before deciding to adopt a guinea pig into your family. If you’re thinking of getting a pet piggy for your child, then take the time to address the below points first to ensure you’re making the right call.
Tip #1: Think “age appropriate” before adding guinea pigs to the home
Depending on the age and maturity level of your child, they'll be able to take on different levels of responsibility. Generally speaking, a kid around the age of 10-12 years old should be able to do the majority of piggy care and daily tasks. However, you may still need to be on-hand to supervise, and will always need to be prepared to step in when it comes to other tasks, e.g. cutting a guinea pig’s nails or washing their fleece liners.
Before introducing a piggy to your household, it’s therefore really important to set realistic, age-appropriate expectations for your children. Only give your child jobs that are within the capabilities of their age range. For kids under 10, you should be prepared to roll your sleeves up and take on the majority of piggy care.
Please note that under 5s should never be left alone with small animals like guinea pigs. This is because they don’t have the emotional maturity to understand the full consequences of rough handling, and they may end up accidentally injuring their guinea pig (or even themselves) if left unsupervised. At a young age, it’s best for children to learn through observation - whether it's offering to feed some fresh veggies at meal times or gently stroking them while you hold the guinea pig.
Ultimately, you know your own child best. If unsure, start with small tasks and add more as time passes and they get more used to their new pet. Teach them how to carefully hold their guinea pig, but carefully supervise to avoid accidents until you’re absolutely sure that they can take a more active role in pet parenthood.
Tip #2: Sssh, quite please: teaching children how to respect guinea pigs
Before bringing a guinea pig home, it’s best to explain to your child how to behave around their new pet. Crucially, children need to understand that guinea pigs aren’t a toy or a plaything - they’re a living being who needs love, respect and attention at all times.
As a general rule of thumb, kids can be pretty boisterous, especially when they’re excited. But this can be terrifying for a nervous guinea pig trying to settle into their new home!
Always encourage and remind your child to be calm and considerate around their guinea pig or other small animals, rather than making loud noises or stomping around. It’s helpful to explain that piggies get easily frightened and will hide if they’re feeling scared, which is surely the last thing your child would want when trying to form a bond with their new pal!
Tip #3: No solo snacks: supervise children when feeding guinea pigs
It’s up to you to set the rules with your child as to exactly what their piggy’s dinnertime looks like and when it should be carried out each day. Also, make sure your child knows not to feed their guinea pig alone until they understand exactly what they can and can’t eat. If in doubt, they should always check with you first as to whether something is a suitable snack.
A perfectly innocent mistake can quickly turn into a terrifying life-or-death situation. For example, some dandelions picked from the garden are a lovely, Vitamin C-rich treat for a hungry piggy. However, if these were accidentally mistaken for daffodil petals, then this could easily poison your poor piggy. It’s therefore really important that kids understand the seriousness of feeding, as the consequences can be fatal.
Tip #4: Encourage children to be responsible about her guinea pig routine
Finally, before taking the piggy plunge, it’s worth talking to your child about the daily responsibilities they’ll have to undertake in order to look after their small pet. After all, a piggy isn’t just for Christmas!
It’s good for them to understand that it won’t all be fun and games like they’re probably imagining - there are also daily chores that they may not want to do sometimes but will still have to do.
For example, it’s important to keep their pet’s cage clean. If you choose to use fleece liners, you’ll need to do several spot cleans a day to remove any poop and soiled hay. You’ll also want to deep-clean their cage at least once a week. Whilst you may not want your child getting involved in some of these cleaning jobs, they can still assist with some of the less messy tasks, like refilling water bottles and food bowls, or putting out fresh pellets and replenishing hay.
Overall, we’re firm believers that guinea pigs can make wonderful first-time pets for caring and considerate children. Piggies are a good gateway to introducing children to pet ownership in a more manageable way in comparison, say, to a puppy. They are also especially sociable little animals who will quickly grow a bond with children that treat them gently and respectfully.
As with any big decision, you should take the time to discuss pet parenthood as a family, so that you can work out your different roles and responsibilities beforehand. This means that there’ll be no nasty surprises a few weeks down the line! It also means that you can make sure you’re equipped to give your small pet all the love and attention they need to live a happy, healthy and contented piggy life.