Many families feel that they simply do not have the time, energy or money to commit to dog or cat ownership and yet it is well known that having a family pet teaches children important skills such as loving, caring, responsibility, cleanliness and routine.

Guinea pigs can be the answer for many families.

Guinea pigs are available from many reputable sources. When purchasing a Guinea Pig, they should be seen to be in a clean and hygienic environment. They should be bright and lively, have a nice glossy coat and be free from dandruff and bald patches. Be wary if any animals in the group look lethargic as your new pet could be incubating a problem.

Guinea pigs are sociable animals and usually enjoy company so getting 2 is often a good idea. Get the shop to check the sex of your new Guinea Pigs but beware – sexing young guinea pigs can be difficult so it might be best get the sex double checked when they are a little older.

Most pet shops will give advice on suitable housing for your new pets. A hutch is usually suitable if it is kept out of the cold wind in winter and direct sun in summer. The floor of the hutch should have a generous cover of clean, dry shavings and a warm bed of hay or shredded paper is required.

When you get your new Guinea pigs home they will need some time to settle into their new home. They may be scared of handling at first. There is no substitute for spending time socialising your young Guinea Pig. It will be a much easier to get them used to handling when they are young.

It is sensible to take your new Guinea Pig to your Vet for a health check to reassure yourself of his health status. It is useful for both you and the Guinea Pig to get used to visiting the surgery and it is all part of the experience of pet ownership for the children.

Feeding your Guinea Pigs on the correct food is very important. Like all rodents, their teeth continue to grow through out their life and they should wear down evenly. We see many Guinea Pigs where sharp spurs grow on their teeth which cut into their cheeks or tongue. Occasionally we see a Guinea Pig were their lower teeth get so long that they meet in the middle forming an arch over the tongue. Feeding a balanced diet with sufficient calcium prevents the jaw from distorting leading to dental problems. A pelleted food where each pellet is nutritionally balanced will ensure that your guinea pig can not pick out the bits which are tasty but low in calcium.