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 :

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