If you’re thinking about getting guinea pigs, you may be wondering, “What is the worst part of owning guinea pigs?” Are guinea pigs the right pet for my family? Guinea pigs can make excellent pets, but like any animal, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
Keep in mind that there are a lot of great reasons to get guinea pigs. I’ll have a link to that article at the bottom of this page. However, in this article, I’ll be sharing all the reasons not to get guinea pigs, so you can judge both sides and decide if guinea pigs are the pet for you.
So, let’s dive in!
1. They Can Be Messy
Most people underestimate how much guinea pigs poop. They poop a lot. In addition, they often poop and pee where they sleep. This means their cage will usually require a bit of daily spot cleaning to keep their sleeping areas dry, in addition to a full clean weekly. If you use disposable bedding rather than fleece, you’ll probably find bedding kicked out of the cage.
Like all animals, guinea pigs have fur, and that fur will end up on your clothes. Hay is the biggest instigator of all; somehow, it ends up on the floor as much as it does in the guinea pig cage. If you have carpet, hay will stick to it. Most vacuums cannot pick up long strands of hay, meaning it has to be picked up by hand. Hay also tends to get stuck to socks easily and carried to other rooms of the house.
You can cut down on some mess by strategically planning out your cage and litter training your guinea pig. Using a large litter pan or hay box can also help keep the hay contained. However, some guinea pigs will still be messier than others.
2. They Can Be Expensive
Guinea pigs require pellets, hay, vegetables, and bedding on an ongoing basis. Although there are ways to reduce these costs, they can still add up. Fresh vegetables are not always cheap, especially in winter. The upfront cost of a guinea pig can be pretty high as well. Guinea pigs need a large cage, playpen for floor time, toys, chew items, hidey houses, beds, water bottles, and bowls, in addition to food and bedding.
In addition, vet visits can be costly. Guinea pigs are generally healthy when well cared for, but emergencies can arise at any time. Guinea pigs can go downhill quickly when they get sick. This usually means they require an emergency vet appointment when they do get sick.
After-hours and rush appointments cost more. Guinea pigs are also considered exotics, meaning that they are generally more expensive to take to the vet than a dog or cat.
Additionally, guinea pigs need a vet that is knowledgeable about small animals, which can be hard to find in some areas. It’s a good idea to find a vet near you that deals with guinea pigs before you have an emergency on your hands. It’s also best to put money aside in case of an emergency when you have guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs generally cost less than bigger animals like dogs, but the costs can be high when things go wrong. Personally, I haven’t had health issues with my guinea pigs before the age of 6. The chances increase as guinea pigs age. However, something could always come up unexpectedly at any age. It’s important to be prepared if it does happen.
Ongoing costs vary depending on different factors, but they typically fall in the range of $40 to $100 a month. I spend close to $100 a month for my pigs, but I have six guinea pigs! If you only have two, you can probably expect to spend much less than this.
3. They Require Responsibility and Commitment
Guinea pigs live an average of 4-8 years! This is much longer than most small pets like hamsters, gerbils, and rats. This means that guinea pigs are a pretty long-term commitment.
What is your life going to be like in five years? Maybe even ten years? How do your guinea pigs fit into that? If you’re getting guinea pigs for your kids, what will their life look like in that many years? Will they stay interested in the guinea pig for that long?
Guinea pigs require a daily time commitment for their entire lives. They need to be cleaned, fed, and have time out of their cage for attention or floor time daily. Guinea pigs are not suitable for teaching kids responsibility. They can be a lot of work and need someone already responsible to look after them consistently.
4. Guinea Pigs Need a Large Cage
Guinea pigs need a larger cage than any other small animal. Pet store cages are too small for guinea pigs and don’t give them adequate space to move around and exercise. This can quickly lead to extreme obesity and health problems.
In addition, the cage should be placed away from drafts and ideally in a part of the home where they’ll get a lot of attention. Living rooms are great if you have no other pets that will harass them. Bedrooms are also acceptable, as long as the cage is kept clean and someone is spending a reasonable amount of time around them.
5. Pet Sitters for Vacation
Going on vacation requires extra planning when you have guinea pigs. Guinea pigs cannot be left alone for very long. They need fresh veggies daily and can also require immediate care if they get sick. Even if you load them up with pellets and hay the day you leave, they will stamp down the hay and stuff themselves with all the pellets on the first day.
Because of these things, you’ll have to hire a pet sitter knowledgeable about small animals before you go away. If you go on vacation a lot or go away frequently for work, this cost can add up. You can sometimes find friends or family that are willing to check in on your pigs, but make sure they know how to properly look after the piggies before leaving them in their care.
6. Guinea Pigs Are Social Animals
Guinea pigs really should have a same-sex companion, no matter how much time you plan to spend with them. There is honestly no replacement for another guinea pig. This means you’re not committing to just one pet, but two.
While two guinea pigs aren’t quite double the work as one, they do eat twice as much and require slightly more cleaning. In addition, you have twice the chance of vet bills.
7. Washing Guinea Pig Bedding in Your Washer
Most people use washable, reusable bedding in their guinea pig’s cage. This can include fleece liners, towels, or chenille bath mats. Since guinea pigs require large enclosures and frequent cleaning, disposable bedding gets costly if you use it for the entire cage. Fleece bedding costs more upfront, but it’s much less in the long run.
However, this does mean you have to wash guinea pig bedding in your home washing machine. You can take stuff to the laundromat, but this is an added cost and takes more time. As long as you shake out your guinea pig’s bedding thoroughly first, it doesn’t cause much of a mess in the washer. However, you can also use animal bedding wash bags to protect your washer further.
8. Guinea Pigs Can Be Delicate
Guinea pigs do not have flexible spines like rats, mice, and hamsters. Guinea pigs should never be laid on their back or put in exercise balls. They can easily injure their backs.
In addition, guinea pigs can be seriously harmed if they are picked up incorrectly or squeezed too hard. Young kids should never be allowed to pick up guinea pigs by themselves, and they should be sitting quietly every time they hold or interact with a guinea pig.
Guinea pigs can be injured very easily when dropped, even from a very low height. They can be jumpy and skittish as well, which can make them potentially even jump or wiggle out of your arms while you carry them. It’s essential to be very careful and hold your guinea pigs very securely every time you move them.
9. Guinea Pigs Can Squeal Loudly
I find guinea pigs generally pretty quiet, and I even had them in my bedroom for quite a while. However, when they think you have food, they can be anything but quiet! Their noises are adorable, don’t get me wrong. But some guinea pigs can rival a fire truck siren when food is involved!
Most guinea pigs will start squealing at the top of their lungs whenever they hear crinkling bags or a fridge opening. I find that my guinea pigs also start squealing off and on for about an hour before their feeding times. Guinea pigs have an excellent internal clock, and they will remember when feeding time occurs!
To limit excessive squealing, make sure you feed them at set times. Avoid going in and feeding them as soon as they squeal. This will teach them that squealing makes people bring food! They will train you very quickly if you let them.
I’m always careful not to go in and feed my guinea pigs any earlier than 8 pm (that’s their dinner time.) If they start squealing at 7:30 and I go in and feed them, they will get even earlier the next night. And earlier, and earlier. Then they’ll probably also squeal at 8 pm because they don’t seem to think that the earlier feeding replaces their regular dinner time.
If you’re not careful, you can quickly end up with guinea pigs that squeal all day long.
10. Exercise is Challenging
Guinea pigs don’t have flexible spines like many other rodents. For this reason, they cannot get exercise by running on wheels. In addition, guinea pigs are very prone to obesity, so exercise is essential to prevent health problems.
You can encourage your guinea pigs to exercise by providing a large cage and regular floor time outside their enclosure in a guinea pig-proofed room. It’s also vital to limit fruits and vegetables that are high in sugar. Pellets should also be fed in small amounts, typically about 1/8 cup per guinea pig per day.
11. Many Guinea Pigs Are Not Cuddly By Nature
Most guinea pigs do not particularly enjoy being picked up and cuddled. Some will tolerate it better than others. Long-haired guinea pigs are usually more laid back and accepting of this, whereas funky-haired Abyssinians are typically more adventurous and hate sitting still!
Some guinea pigs even hate being touched or petted altogether. A couple of my guinea pigs like to be pet on the head, one on the back, and my other two would rather I didn’t pet them at all.
You can teach your guinea pig to tolerate petting by stroking them gently while feeding some of their favorite veggies. One of my guinea pigs learned that he liked petting by using this method consistently for a few months. He would sit still and close his eyes for head rubs, even without any food in the picture.
You may end up with a cuddly guinea pig, but it’s not the norm. All guinea pigs have different personalities, and it can be hard to tell what they’re like until you have them home and start getting to know them.
Some guinea pigs can even bite, although it’s not common. Guinea pigs also poop and pee frequently, so you will need an old towel or blanket under your guinea pig when you hold them.
12. Guinea Pigs Can Smell
Guinea pigs aren’t too smelly if their cage is set up efficiently and cleaned regularly. However, some guinea pigs are messier than others, which can cause the enclosure to smell faster than it should. Additionally, it can take some time to find a perfect setup that works well for you and doesn’t smell.
Most people use fleece liners for their guinea pig cage and use something more absorbent, like chenille bath mats, under their guinea pigs’ favorite pee spots. This makes it easy to swap out the messiest part of the cage frequently and subsequently cuts down the smell.
13. Guinea Pigs Need Extra Vitamin C
Guinea pigs (just like humans) cannot produce their own Vitamin C. Lack of Vitamin C can cause scurvy. This condition can cause guinea pigs to become weak, lethargic, unable to move, and experience a lot of pain in their joints.
To avoid this, guinea pigs need to consume Vitamin C in their daily diet. This means they need high-quality guinea pig pellet food with added Vitamin C, along with plenty of veggies that are high in Vitamin C.
Some people supplement with additional Vitamin C to ensure that their guinea pigs are never short on this essential nutrient. Oxbow’s Vitamin C tablets are a good choice for this. They are made specifically for guinea pigs and other small animals, and most piggies think they are a treat!
It’s best to avoid any Vitamin C supplements that are added to drinking water. The Vitamin C content in these water-based drops disintegrates quickly once they’re added to your guinea pig’s water. In addition, they change the flavor of the water, which can turn many guinea pigs off drinking.
14. Guinea Pig Teeth Are Constantly Growing
Guinea pigs, like all rodents, have teeth that continue to grow throughout their lives. This means they need to constantly chew on abrasive things to keep their teeth from becoming overgrown.
The best way to keep your guinea pig’s teeth properly filed down is to provide them with unlimited amounts of grass hay, such as timothy hay or orchard grass hay. Long strands of hay do a great job of keeping teeth in check. You can also provide apple tree sticks, willow twig balls, or other safe edible chew toys.
Despite this, some guinea pigs are prone to tooth problems. It also becomes more likely as your guinea pig ages. Some guinea pigs are genetically predisposed to teeth problems and require regular dental filing by a vet.
Allergies are one of the most common reasons people give up their guinea pigs. If you or anyone in your family has sensitivities to fur, dust, or dander, make sure you spend some time with guinea pigs before adopting a couple of your own.
In addition, hay is a common allergy trigger. Unfortunately, guinea pigs need large amounts of hay in their diet, so there’s no getting around feeding hay to your piggies. However, sometimes certain hays like orchard grass hay or bluegrass hay can be easier on allergies. These are all critical things to consider before jumping into guinea pig ownership.
16. Conflicting Pets
If you also own cats, dogs, or ferrets, this is another consideration you need to think about before adding guinea pigs to the home. If you have a laid-back dog or cat, you may be able to get away with having your guinea pigs in a common area of your home (make sure your cage has a secure top just in case.)
However, even in this case, you need to assess your guinea pig’s reaction. If they are stressed just by smelling the presence of the other animals, they should be moved to a separate room.
If your dog or cat has any degree of prey drive, you need to keep the guinea pigs in a separate room that your other pets can’t access. Don’t think that your dog will adapt. There have been so many tragic cases of guinea pigs killed brutally by other family pets. Please don’t risk it.
If your dog has a considerable prey drive, you should have a double gate system with two barriers to the guinea pigs. Keep the guinea pigs in a closed room, with an additional baby gate or something that blocks access to that hallway or stairs.
It is so easy to leave a door open just a smidge, especially if multiple people go in and out. It only takes a matter of seconds, one time, for something terrible to happen.
17. Guinea Pigs Will Eat/Chew Everything
Guinea pigs are like toddlers; everything goes in their mouths. Guinea pigs will try to eat anything they can fit in their mouths, some of which will be pretty hazardous. Any space they have access to must be thoroughly guinea pig proofed.
Guinea pigs especially like to chew plastic and wooden things. I don’t find that my guinea pigs bother with baseboards, but they will often try to chew wooden furniture. They will also squeeze underneath beds and furniture to poop and pee.
The best way to avoid this is to purchase some foldable exercise pens and use them to block off furniture while the guinea pigs are running around. You can also get waterproof splat mats to protect carpet or hardwood floors while your guinea pigs are out. Additionally, make sure any wires are up out of your guinea pig’s reach. If the cables can’t be moved, you can use a pet cord protector to make the cords chew proof.
18. Guinea Pigs Can Be Easily Stressed
Guinea pigs are prey animals and, as such, can be easily startled or stressed. Loud or strange noises can scare them quite a bit, and even sudden movements or strange people can make them run for cover. Although some of this is unavoidable, it’s still a good idea to minimize stressful situations wherever possible.
If you have kids, make sure they are quiet and calm when interacting with the guinea pigs. If your house is excessively loud, it may be a good idea to keep the guinea pigs in a lower-traffic area. Spend time bonding with your guinea pig, feeding them treats, and showing them that they don’t need to be so scared of the world.
19. Guinea Pigs Can Be Skittish
Guinea pigs are naturally pretty skittish animals, especially when they are young. This varies a lot from one guinea pig to another. Some guinea pigs are much more nervous, while others are more curious and adventurous.
Regardless, all guinea pigs thrive with a calm, patient person. It can take some time for guinea pigs to trust you completely and form a bond with you. If you’re impatient and want an energetic companion that will bond with you quickly, guinea pigs may not be the best match.
Guinea pigs also tend to do best with a routine, so they will feel more comfortable if you’re able to get them out and give them attention around the same time every day.
20. Loss or Illness Can Be Mentally Taxing
I recently lost one of my piggies after a couple of weeks of intensive care and hand feeding. In my opinion, it is the worst and most challenging part of owning guinea pigs (or any animals, for that matter.) When guinea pigs get old or sick, they sometimes require extra care and frequent syringe feeding.
It is incredibly stressful and emotionally taxing when your guinea pigs become ill. It’s so easy to get very attached to your piggies, which makes it very upsetting when they pass away. Seeing them struggle with arthritis and watching their body fall apart as they age is also very difficult. No matter how many guinea pigs you have, this is something that never gets easier.
Whew! That was quite a list! If you made it this far and still want guinea pigs, congratulations! You’ll make a pretty fantastic guinea pig owner. Like all pets, guinea pigs require a great deal of responsibility, time, and money. I put together this list so potential owners could have a comprehensive, detailed list of what to expect when having guinea pigs as pets.
However, it’s not all bad, of course! Guinea pigs are amazing animals, and the day-to-day life with a guinea pig is a lot of fun. Plus, there are way more reasons to love guinea pigs. Check out this article on all the reasons you SHOULD get guinea pigs. I promise, the pros far outweigh the cons!