Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Guinea Pigs and Other Small Critters

By Joanne Colangelo
Joanne Colangelo volunteers for a number of animal rescue organizations. She shares her experiences and stories of guinea pig interaction.

Though guinea pigs can get along with many other species, they should only be housed with other guinea pigs Photo Courtesy Joanne Colangelo
5 piggies snuggle together, no ferrets allowed.

When my daughter was in high school, she took a zoology class. Her teacher took in more than 100 animals, from rodents to reptiles. Little by little, he needed to downscale his collection, and I think my daughter would have taken every one of them home if she could have! Instead, she chose a pet she has always wanted: a ferret. Of course, she told me that it was temporary, so I said that would be fine until we found Kiwi a permanent home. (She named him, which should have been a clue that she planned to keep him).

Kiwi was adorable, as all ferrets are, however, my guinea pigs knew he was in the house and became very quiet. There was little movement and no vocals at all! Ferrets are clever and fun, but not to be mixed with small animals such as guinea pigs. They are predators and hard-wired to hunt rodents. Although Kiwi was on the downstairs level of the house and my guinea pigs were on the main level, my pigs remained very nervous. Stress is a serious health issue for a guinea pig, so unfortunately we had to re-home Kiwi. It was a relief to me, too, once I realized just how dangerous it would have been if Kiwi weaseled (pun intended) himself out of his cage and found his way to my guinea pigs.

Guinea pigs are sweet little beings that may get along just fine with other small animals, but they should only be housed with other guinea pigs. I have a friend who keeps guinea pigs and rabbits together and though they are buddies and it’s cute to watch them cuddle together, there are drawbacks. For one thing, their pellet food differs so one animal is not getting the proper nutrition. Also, guinea pigs can get hurt by the powerful hind kick of a rabbit. I have suggested that the little friends share space only during lap time to avoid injury.

What about rats, mice, gerbils or hamsters? I don’t know anyone personally who houses them together, but I do have a friend whose piggies spend time with their hamster and rat friends. Chester, the rat, lived next door to PolyPig and Sweetie in Minnesota and the three of them sometimes had playtime together. I’m not so sure you’d actually call it playtime, because they pretty much ignored one another. However, when Chester  attempted to climb on the guinea pigs, they exhibited little reaction except to sniff him.

Now that my daughter knows that she cannot have a ferret or a snake (which was the second choice on her list), guess what she’s been asking to adopt? If you said a rat, you’re correct! Because rats should not live alone, that means adopting at least two of them. My guinea pigs can’t get me out of this request, and something tells me I just might be saying “yes” after all.

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Reader Comments
Hey Joanne!
Great article, as Always. I don't know why, but ferrets kind of freak me out a little bit. I know, it's weird, cuz I Love the Exotics, but I don't know about those lanky ferrets. I'm sure if I got to play with one, it would be a different story. But, since they're Hunters, I won't be entertaining any ferrets anytime soon. Princess Snowflake & Bertie Pig say, "THANKS, Mama...Wheeee Appreciate That!!" hee hee :-)
Leah, PS, & BP, Charlotte, NC
Posted: 11/21/2008 12:20:13 PM
Fascinating! Love the article!
Lisa, Patterson, NY
Posted: 10/21/2008 10:08:06 AM
Great story!
Marion, Minneapolis, MN
Posted: 10/16/2008 10:47:46 AM
Another lovely example of your writing, and piggylove.
--Mary Fran
with Gingerpuff and Miss Muffet
Mary Fran, San Rafael, CA
Posted: 10/16/2008 10:41:40 AM
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