We have two female guinea pigs. Ziggy Stardust (or far more often, Ziggy Piggy) and Cuddles. We are their second home; they had been returned to the pet store at one year of age.
Ziggy Piggy in a pile of hay
The employees could only guess as to the real reason the girls were brought back, the two are sweeties, but the cage they had come in was filthy (so much so, it wasn't even going with them) and it was clear the girls hadn't been handled in a long time. But, the employees I asked said the small animals often come back because people get bored with them, usually kids. And guinea pigs are not big hamsters. They require a fair amount more work and attention.
Cuddles enjoying some cilantro during lap time
Yesterday I counted 18 guinea pigs available via Petfinder in the nearby 50 miles. 12 of those are available in Reading, VT - less than 25 miles from White River Junction. Three more listed in Middlebury, VT and three in Concord, NH.
Then I counted the Craigslist piggies. These are the ones that make me the saddest. Some of these pigs make it to homes, some of them end up as food for another animal, and some have been so abused or neglected that the veterinary costs become overwhelming. In Vermont, only two guinea pigs were listed, with two also in Plattsburgh, NY, and two in Glens Falls, NY - these last two were the only pigs offered with a correct size cage.
In New Hampshire, however, there were 40 guinea pigs listed on Craigslist in the last month. Two (possibly three) posts breeders had written looking to get rid of anywhere between three and eight pigs. In one post, the person listed themselves as a "rescue" with many guinea pigs as well as bearded dragons. The worst post of all, for me anyway, is the one that listed a breeding pair of baby guinea pigs.
Do I wish now that we had adopted from a rescue? Possibly ethically. But who knows where our two girls would have landed, and I am grateful we have guaranteed them a loving home for life.
We ended with guinea pigs the way many parents do - our daughter wanted them and finally wore us down. I had one piggy growing up, another pet store return who lived for about a year and a half and I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about guinea pigs, especially after doing some refresher research. It's pretty hard to resist the cuteness of a baby guinea pig, especially for a kid who wants "their" first pet.
Adorable baby guinea pig - no wonder kiddos want them!
Although we got the guinea pigs because my daughter wanted them, my wife and I both acknowledged and agreed that overseeing the piggy care would very much be our responsibility.
Here's the biggest deal as a parent whenever your child gets a pet - as the adult(s), it's our responsibility to research that animal, know what we are getting in to, and be ready to take on the care of that pet as well. Adding any pet to the family is a commitment for the life of that animal, and guinea pigs themselves can live for 5-8 years. You might have the most responsible kid in the in the world, but even they are still going to require both help and reminders.
When I was gearing up for getting the pigs, I learned that they required a much larger cage than was recommended in stores and that they really need another piggy for companionship. Also, there were things I remembered like that guinea pigs require a constant supply of fresh Timothy hay and pellets and a salad every day.
Mmm, fresh salad, newly clean cage, loads of hay for eating, playing and sleeping in... and a look that says, "Mom, stop bothering us while we eat our salad or we will plot our revenge!"
But I didn't research enough and that's when this job got a lot harder.