Last week our family walked into a pet store, not because we have a pet, but because we thought it was possible to just “look and not buy.” Of course we are laughably mistaken, and within 10 minutes, our family of five was completely smitten with a sweet little guinea pig, no bigger than the palm of my hand, nestled comfortably on my chest.
It didn’t take much convincing – we were ready to welcome this little guinea pig into our home and family almost as soon as we saw her. We had debated for a few years what type of pet to get our kids, since they’ve only ever had a pet fish. We knew they were ready and would benefit from something small and cuddly – and soft, fluffy, cuddly guinea pigs fit the bill.
As I purchased cage, bedding, food, hay, toys, piling it high into my shopping cart, one of the attendants came over to me.
“Are you the one buying the guinea pig?” he asked.
“Yes.” I replied, warily. Oh no, I wondered what went wrong.
“The thing is…” he began slowly, but nothing good starts with those three words. “You really shouldn’t buy just one guinea pig. It’s not good for them, they’re very social. They’ll get depressed alone.”
Well, that’s the worst thing you could say to me, the person who knows all too well what it feels like to be depressed and alone.
I walked over to my husband and told him we were getting two guinea pigs, not one. I was not going to have a depressed animal in my home.
We walked out with our two sister guinea pigs, and very expensive equipment, and three very excited little girls.
“Now I have five daughters,” I joked.
But seriously. It feels a bit that way. We have had our guinea pigs for just over a week and we are completely enamoured with them. I didn’t realize how wonderful these cuddly pets are. They’re popular pets for children with special needs, as well as used in some places as comfort pets for the elderly. They sit happily in your lap, and don’t try to skitter away or hide. They wheek when you pet them, nuzzled up into the warmth of your lap or chest. They don’t nip or bite, and they rarely poop or pee while they’re out of their cage.
They’re friendly and social too, and I am so glad that I didn’t just get one guinea pig. These two sisters run, jump, and cuddle each other all day. They are together, happy to keep one another company, chatting in their own language throughout the day. They rarely sleep (something I didn’t know, they really only sleep about four hours each day). After I did more reading on guinea pigs, I realized that they really thrive in groups, and being alone is quite unusual and depressing for them. I’ve joined a Facebook group where people offer advice and support for guinea pigs, and I’ve learned so much.
My kids too have fallen for their new cuddly pets, who we have named Florabelle and Cinnamon. Over the Christmas holiday, they held Florabelle and Cinnamon, feeding them spinach, carrots, and zucchini, while gently petting them. We’ve learned about their own little personalities, too. Florabelle is quite a bit bigger, speedy and active in her cage, but sits completely still and barely moves in your lap. Cinnamon is tiny, and less active in the cage, but tends to move a bit more in your lap - a bit more nervous than her sister.
A few months ago we said goodbye to Olivia our pet fish, and the kids barely noticed. It was then that I realized I wanted my kids to find a pet they could bond with, love, and nurture as their own. We’ve found that in Cinnamon and Florabelle, the two happiest additions to our family that we could have asked for.