Movie producers are ecstatic that Disney’s new movie G-Force is making a killing at the box office. On the other hand, animal rescue groups are worried that after seeing the movie parents will rush out to buy Guinea pigs for their kids without thinking it through carefully.
The copycat pet phenomenon occurred when 101 Dalmatians hit the big screen. Moviegoers saw the cute animals on screen and wanted the real thing for themselves. In the case of Dalmations, the breed was purchased impulsively by many who weren’t aware of the high energy dog’s needs. This resulted in animal shelters and rescue organizations being inundated with Dalmatians once the dogs became too hard for the owners to handle. My hope is that parents will do their research this time and understand that adopting a pet is for life, not just until the novelty wears off.
For those who have thought it through and are considering adopting a Guinea pig, here’s some useful information:
Guinea pigs are popular because they are very social and docile by nature. They rarely bite if they are handled properly. Guinea pigs do stress easily, so they should be picked up slowly and gently and held close to your chest where they feel secure. Guinea pigs are not suitable for toddlers as they often squeeze the Guinea pigs too tight, or poke and jab them. Older children, however, make excellent Guinea pig owners. Guinea pigs tend to get lonely, so if you have the room, adopt two. Two females make the best match.
You can train your Guinea pig like Pavlov’s dog. Shake their bag of food every time you go to feed your Guinea pig. Soon you’re piggy will squeak when they hear the bag rattling knowing that you’re going to feed them. I once worked with Guinea pigs that actually knew what I looked and smelled like. Every day at the Santa Barbara Humane Society, I’d come in to feed the Guinea pigs timothy hay and carrots and they would start squeaking as soon as they saw me, even if I didn’t have a bag of treats!
• Guinea pig pellets (these aren’t the same as rabbit pellets)
• Leafy vegetables such as kale, cabbage and romaine lettuce; carrots, celery, and broccoli
• A gnawing log is essential as Guinea pigs’ teeth grow continuously throughout their lives.
• “All they can eat” timothy hay
• Fresh fruit, such as apples and strawberries. Be sure to remove all seeds from the fruit. Be sure to include these extra fruits and veggies as Guinea pigs are unable to produce their own vitamin C and can potentially get scurvy.
• Change water daily. Guinea pigs tend to backwash when they drink. If you are using a water bottle, the bottle they drink from will get quite murky.
• The best cages to use are those that have plastic bottoms. The wire-bottom cages can cause sore hocks and foot problems in Guinea pigs, so stay away from those.
• Their living quarters should be at least 18 inches wide, 14 inches high, and 25 inches deep. Check out this Web site for more information: guineapigcages.com
• Guinea pigs should always have a place to hide-plastic igloos are the best option, but an old shoe box works great, too.
• Newspaper and timothy hay are the best options for lining the cage. Never use cedar shavings or sawdust. They can be very harmful to Guinea pigs. The pigs will use the hay as food, bedding, and as their bathroom. Be aware that Guinea pigs are messy! They typically scatter their bedding and food.
• Guinea pigs are curious and playful, so provide plenty of entertainment such as toys and tunnels.
• When picking up Guinea pigs, be sure to support both their front and rear ends as their spines are fragile.
• Guinea pigs’ necks aren’t very flexible and so they always like to be held horizontally, not vertically. They should be held on your lap and not across your chest or your shoulder like a cat.
• Time out of the cage is very beneficial. Guinea pigs like to play on the floor, sit in your lap, or just run around.
• You can have your Guinea pig spayed or neutered, which curbs aggression in males and reduces the risk of reproductive cancers in females. And sterilized Guinea pigs tend to keep their cages cleaner.
• As mentioned above, your Guinea pig’s teeth will never stop growing. They need to chew on tough hay stalks or wood blocks to wear down their teeth. Their nails don’t stop growing either. They will need trimming every once in awhile.
• Wax behind the ears is totally normal. Try to clean them occasionally, but they will most likely never be squeaky clean.
• The long-haired breeds of Guinea pigs require frequent brushing and combing to stay clean and tangle-free.
Funny Facts about Guinea Pigs
• Guinea pigs all have a little bald spot behind each ear.
• They have four toes in the front and three in the back.
• They will sometimes sleep with their eyes open.
• Guinea pigs are famous for “pop corning”-little vertical hops of one to two inches they make when they’re excited or happy.
For those who haven’t seen G-Force, the film’s stars use plastic hamster balls to get around; Guinea pig groups are worried that inexperienced owners will try this at home. Hamster balls are not designed for Guinea pigs since the pigs’ backs aren’t flexible, so please don’t imitate the stars in the movie!
I would like to give kudos to Disney. The official G-Force Web site has this disclaimer: “Owning a pet is a major responsibility. Any type of pet requires daily care and constant attention. Before bringing a pet into your family, research the type of pet to make sure it is suitable for your particular situation. Learn about and be willing to undertake the serious responsibilities of pet care. Always consider adoption from a reputable shelter or rescue program.”
I wish all studios would use a similar disclaimer for movies that feature pets and other animals.
Guinea Pigs Available for Adoption
The Santa Barbara Humane Society currently has five Guinea pigs available for adoption.
For more information, visit the Santa Barbara Humane Society, 5399 Overpass Rd., or call (805) 964-4777. Shelter hours are Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m..
BUNS (Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter) currently has two Guinea pigs available for adoption. For more information, call Animal Control Services at 681-5285 or BUNS at 683-0521
Guinea pigs tend to hide out in their igloos in shelters, so you will need some assistance in choosing one. If you sit on the floor with your legs straight out with another person doing the same (their feet touching yours) you have created a little play area for the Guinea pig so you can get to know them before you adopt!