If I adopt a cavy from a shelter, aren't
I just taking on somebody else's problems?
The majority of pets in animal shelters
are a result of failure on their owner's part, not because they
are bad animals. Failure to research the care involved and characteristics
of an animal before getting it. Failure to consider whether the
animal will realistically fit into the family's lifestyle. Failure
to provide the proper housing, nutrition and care necessary to
keep the animal happy and healthy. Failure to commit long term
to the animal, not just for as long as it's new, fun and interesting.
Failure to recognize that a pet is not a toy. Failure to realize
that owning a pet involves inconvenience, messes, and expense.
Failure to act responsibly by NOT breeding an animal without
having good, safe permanent homes available for all of the babies
born. Etc. etc. etc.
When adopting dogs, cats and larger companion
animals from a shelter, problems may arise when the animal has
not been properly trained or socialized.
In most cases love, patience, common sense
and knowledgeable help and advice can make a world of difference. You
can help turn a lump of coal into a shining diamond.
Adopted cavies are less likely to have
serious behavioral problems. It's unusual to find a very aggressive,
biting cavy offered up for adoption. The really wild ones are
not generally available for adoption either. Some cavies may
be shy and timid, reluctant to be picked up and held, because
of past rough or improper handling. Lack of attention can also
make a cavy skittish and distrustful. With lots of TLC, secure
gentle handling, and time - these cavies will always improve.
They may never become the cavy version of a couch potato or mellow
out enough for young children, but they will improve as they
grow to trust you.
Whether adopting from a shelter or purchasing
from a pet store, it's important to take some time to get to
know the cavy a little bit. Ask if there is a quiet spot where
you can sit and hold the cavy for a while. This may give you
a better idea of it's personality. Is it relaxed and happy to
be held, scared stiff and rigid, or constantly struggling to
bolt out of your arms? Is it nippy? If the environment is noisy,
hectic and stressful keep in mind the poor dear may be reacting
defensively or fearfully.
When deciding to get a new pet, people
often think they need to start out with a youngster so it will
be tame and easy to handle. Don't overlook the many benefits
of adopting an older cavy. Many of the adult cavies were purchased
as babies to be pets for young children. They've already been
through the typical squirrelly nippy stage (similar to puppies
and kittens). Having been raised with children, they are accustomed
to being handled by children. Adult cavies are usually more mellow
and easy to handle than the rambunctious youngsters. Oldsters
are more likely to be couch potatoes and generally have better
bladder control - an important trait for a couch potato. With
an average life span of 5 - 7 years, even a middle-aged cavy
of 3 or 4 can offer many years of love and companionship.
Your chance of bringing home a sick or
bug infested cavy from a pet store is just as good, if not better,
than from a shelter. Many of the cavies left at shelters come
from homes that owned one or two cavies. These cavies are less
likely to harbor disease than animals sold to some pet stores
by wholesale supplier/breeders that own many cavies, sometimes
100, 200 or more! I've seen (and rescued) very unhealthy cavies
from local pet stores. You've heard of puppy mills? Sadly, there
are also cavy mills. When considering a cavy for adoption, examine
it carefully for any signs of sickness. Check the eyes and nose
for discharge. Does the stool in the cage look firm and well
formed, is there any loose stool or dried diarrhea on the cavy's
rear end? Listen closely to the chest for sounds of wheezing
or "clicking". Check through the coat for lice clusters
at the base of the hair (usually on the rump, back, and around
the eyes and base of the ears), watch for missing hair or bald
flaky patches on the body (baldness just behind the ears is normal).
Lice are fairly common and fairly easy to kill, so you needn't
automatically reject a cavy that has them. Does the cavy move
and walk freely? It should not have a "stuttered" or
hoppy gait. "Popcorning", a form of cavy playfulness
when pups hop straight up into the air, is normal (and delightful).
Take a look at the front teeth for signs of any obvious problem
such as broken, missing or crooked teeth.
Most shelters do have somebody with veterinary
training inspect their animals before putting them up for adoption.
I myself am very careful to adopt out only cavies that are perfectly
healthy - as far as I can possibly tell! It is a great idea to
have your own vet examine a newly adopted pet within the first
day or 2 in case there is something that needs attention or treatment.
Most shelters are concerned that you and your chosen pet are
indeed a good match. If it doesn't work out for some reason the
animal can usually be returned to the shelter. Each shelter has
their own return and refund policies though, so be clear on what
it is before you sign the adoption contract. Here at Jack Pine
we have a generous 60 day money back guarantee, and a life long
welcome back guarantee. We ALWAYS want our cavies back if there's
any reason an adoptee can't keep them.
Adopting a formerly unwanted, throw-away
pet and making it a cherished member of your family is a hugely
rewarding experience. These sweethearts are so appreciative of
good food, treats, fresh water, clean roomy cages - and your
love. When thinking about bringing a new pet into your home and
heart, please do consider adopting from a shelter. I have the
pleasure and good fortune to know a lot of wonderful people involved
in all types of animal rescue. Please contact me at
This article and the JPGPR.com
logo are © 1993-2003 Vicki Palmer Nielsen - Jack Pine Guinea
Pig Rescue. No copyright is asserted herein regarding the illustrations
accompanying the article; copyrights, if any, of the illustrations
are retained by the original holders. If you would like to reproduce
anything from the website, please first e-mail Vicki for permission at