The Holidays are here! Gifts are, as always, prominent in the minds of those who give presents to their family and friends for the holidays. It has become very popular to give animals, especially guinea pigs, to young children as gifts for holidays. Why is this such a big deal? Read on.
It has been a well-known claim that guinea pigs make good “starter pets,” when in fact the care of guinea pigs requires a bit of work. You can’t just leave them in their cage all day or ignore them when you’re tired or sick. They need care and love just like a dog or cat—all the time. Because of their dubbed title as “starter pets,” guinea pigs have been popular gifts for young children. This a terrible idea. Many children become bored with the guinea pig after a few weeks and soon the parents are burdened with the care. All too quickly, the guinea pig is dropped off at a shelter or rescue, in turn encumbering already-full shelters. Guinea Lynx’s “12 Pleas of a Guinea Pig” discusses this issue:
“Please do not leave my care to a child. I cannot be taken care of by a child. I am not a play thing. I am not a toy you take home on a child’s whim. I am not a gift or a reward. It is your responsibility to take care of me, to feed me, to clean my cage. Let your child hold me on his or her lap and pet me under supervision only. I have fragile bones and teeth that easily break. Though I am small, I need strong hands to hold me.”
Please keep in mind the pleas of a guinea pig this holiday season. Don’t give the guinea pig as a gift to a child. Instead, put a “Coupon for Adoption” in a stocking or under the tree. Once the holiday hubbub has died down, go with your child as a family and pick out a new friend (or a pair, which is better) together at a local rescue or shelter. Make the animal a family pet, and share in the care with your child assisting you as the primary caretaker. Observe all interactions between child and guinea pig, as it is all too common for guinea pigs to be squished, squeezed, and smashed by young children.
Please: this is my plea. As shelters fill up this holiday season from animals purchased on a whim from pet stores and as gifts, some animals will have to be euthanized when there is no room. Adopt and save a life—the animal you adopted, and the one the rescue now has room for.