Guinea pigs, sometimes known as Cavy for one, Cavies for two or more or even just pig or pigs are wonderful little mammals. They belong to the rodent family Caviidae but unlike true rodents they are slower (don’t let this fool you they can actually move very fast when the need arises!) and they are very vocal. They communicate with a series of whistling, purring, chattering, chirping or shrieking noises.
*Our little pig coming coming out of his new ‘pigloo’ hope I didn’t embarrass you piggy by snapping your picture? The pigloo is a large round plastic plate filled daily with clean shavings, he only finds it in his heart to pee in there, he drops his poop everywhere and anywhere!*
Pigs, yes I do call ours a pig, not as an insult but rather in a more loving way as I am actually quite fond of him and I can’t remember what the children called him but I do know I was pained to see him looking so down in the mouth when his buddy died last week.
*pig playing with a found strawberry*
He was living outside in a hutch and run in the garden when his friend died. I knew the right thing to do was to bring him back indoors but thinking a change of place and the noise of the house may be enough to perk him up was a disappointment, he was still sad. Guinea pigs are herd animals and very sociable and I thought long and hard about getting another to be his friend, which definitely in some cases is the way to go but you also have to consider that they may hate each other and fight so bad, even to the death. It could all end in tears and you could end up with two unhappy pigs on your hands or in a year down the line one of the new pair would die and you would be back to square one.
After some mind and soul searching and coming to the decision that I would not try to humanize him but would instead try to find a solution to the situation we had found ourselves in. Firstly I read up on the history of the guinea pigs and a couple of words stuck in my mind.
The words were ‘Grazing animals’ and ‘herd animals.’ We can all from memory name some of the many grazing, herd animals. Horses, cows, etc, they roam large areas of grassland picking out all the different plants and grasses that they need to survive.
* sometimes the world is a scary place *
I can’t let this pig roam free for his own safety but what would a herd or grazing animal be doing with its day?
Well it wouldn’t be stuck in a small cage with a pile of rich food in the corner that’s for sure. No, like naturally kept horses (who wouldn’t choose be stuck in a stable for 14 hours a day either) I decided I had to find a way to make the pig use his mind to live again because there was only us humans and the dogs around now and we probably were a poor consolation for the friend he had lost.
* A little “hello how are you?” kiss on the nose from Alfie dog *
Firstly the old dog crate was dragged out, it is strong and safe and has a good amount of room both in width and height but just running around floor space wouldn’t be that stimulating would it? And pigs don’t climb, well not like other rodents anyway, they can get up onto platforms or run up ramps but they won’t be doing the monkey bars at the jungle gym. So I had to think of a way to make a mini adventure park for the pig, somewhere he could have a hidey hole, a pigloo, some kind of receptacle he had to get his own hay out of, some way to get up a ramp to hidden food that he would have to find and graze, a large drain pipe tunnel and a large branch to climb on or over and nibble.
* Discovering the ramp that leads to yummy food and a bark branch *
Guinea pigs have been known to learn and follow complex paths to find their food and they can jump small obstacles so there is lots of scope to keep your pig entertained if you cannot re-home him with a suitable friend. They are also supposed to be exceedingly good swimmers but I have yet to observe this statement.
* Hay left in a tub with holes cut in various places. It took him no time at all to work it all out *
Did it work?
Well I think so, the pig is now vocal again and the sounds are happy whistles of excitement and pure, purring, bubbling sounds of happiness, especially when he smells a hidden carrot or strawberry. He is quite happy to rub noses with one of the dogs and is happy when we go in to see him.
Obviously you are the judge of your own pig plight and you would need to assess your own piggy needs but there are other ways if it is not possible to replace your pig’s special friend, just make sure you take every step you can to make sure your pig lives a calm and happy life to the best of your ability
All photographs are authors own ©
6/7/11 written by lillyrose ©