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Archive for the ‘guinea pigs’ tag

July 11th, 2012 at 9:35 am

Best First Pets for Kids/Small Animal Category

Probably the most frequently asked question my husband gets in his pet store is “What’s a good first pet for our family.” The answer is … it depends. Different families are drawn to different animals. I have one friend who loves anything with fur, but freaks out over feathers and fins. Obviously, suggesting a beta fish to her would be a bad plan.

For mammal lovers like my friend, a guinea pig makes a great first pet. Cavia porcellus, or cavies, are not related to pigs at all. They are actually rodents. The three most common breeds are the smooth-coated, with short, glossy fur; the Abyssinian, whose hair grows in fluffy tufts all over the body, and the Peruvian, with long, silky hair that flows to the ground.

A bit larger, slower, and calmer than many other small pets, guinea pigs are good choices for all but the youngest children. They are not as wriggly as smaller animals, such as gerbils, and will sit for hours in your lap. A favorite classroom pet, these docile animals enjoy being combed and groomed, too. They are very social and tend to do best in same-sex pairs.

All pets are a commitment, but owning a guinea pig doesn’t take a lot of special knowledge. A tank with a tight fitting mesh top or a smooth-bottomed cage makes a good habitat. Mesh or wire bottom cages can catch a guinea pig’s feet and cause sores. One interesting fact about guinea pigs is that their teeth never stop growing, so you will want to provide some hay and wood toys to chew on and keep their teeth from overgrowing.

Food requirements include alfalfa-based pellets and a daily vitamin C treat, available as tablets, which are much easier to manage than drops. You should also provide up to two cups a day of salad (romaine lettuce only), carrots, oranges, strawberries, grapes, and other fruits and veggies. Clean the water bottle daily and provide fresh water. Once a week, dump the old bedding, wash and dry the cage bottom, and put in a new layer of dust-free bedding.

Add a little love and cuddling, and your cavy will bring some animal fun to your family for three to seven years.

Related Picture Books

Oh, Theodore! by Susan Katz
Sammy the Classroom Guinea Pig by Alix Berenzy

Susan Bearman also writes at Two Kinds of PeopleMike&Ollie: 24-weekers Who Beat the Odds and The Animal Store Blogas well as being a regular contributor to The Chicago Moms and Technorati.

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