Our guinea pig story starts in the fall of 2015 when a literal packrat infiltrated our house. I saw it one night absconding across the kitchen floor with a cracker. I remained calm. Dog did not remain calm. Dog barked. And barked some more. When dog wasn’t barking he was sitting in the kitchen staring at the walls. Dog was obviously more affected by the presence of the rat than anyone else. Despite his concern, he was not effective in driving the pest away.
(Dog attempting to protect Dad from Chupacabra).
We knew we had to get the rat out of the house as soon as possible. Toward that goal, we went to the local Tractor Supply Company to get a live trap. They had a variety of kill traps for rats but only had mouse-sized live traps. My husband suggested we try one of the smaller live traps, as the kill traps just weren’t an option for us. However, being the only one to see this creature in the flesh, I could definitively say that it just wouldn’t fit inside. We had no choice but to order a large trap online and wait two days for its arrival. We put our food in bins, cleared out the bottom cupboards, and tried to keep Dog as calm as possible while we waited. During these two days, I dubbed this critter “Chupacabra,” due to his hulking size and the loud noises he would produce in our walls. Also because of the terror he elicited from Dog.
When we got the trap, we immediately baited it with some peanut butter and put it in the cupboard under the sink. No more than 10-minutes later, we heard the little trap door snap shut. We peered inside the cupboard and sure enough, we had captured the Chupacabra! We put together a little cardboard box with some crackers and pet bedding inside. Edgar and I put the Chupacabra inside the box and loaded him into the car. We transported him to a wooded area, hoping that his box and crackers would get him through the night until he could find proper rat shelter.
(El Chupacabra, wondering how he got himself into such a predicament).
On the way home from the great release, my husband mentioned that Chupacabra reminded him a little of a guinea pig. He remembered his Great Grandma Olive having guinea pigs when he was young but he never had any of his own. My husband had plenty of pets; dogs, rats, mice—but never guinea pigs. After mentioning it, we had a moment of “Wait a second, we’re adults! We can do what we want!” After a bit of research, we were in the pet store the next day. We walked out with all of the necessary care items along with the guinea pigs now known as Warren and Bartlet.
For the next year-and-a-half, we learned to care for, love and appreciate our new pets. We watched them turn their veggies into ample bums as they grew by leaps and bounds. We watched Warren slowly become Boss Pig and watched Bartlet become affectionate and snuggly as he grew used to us. Guinea pig life was good. Everybody was happy and healthy until this past summer when Bartlet was diagnosed with pneumonia.
(Bartlet and Warren on their first day at home).
We had just moved and feel like the new routine and living environment probably stressed Bartlet out a bit. Added to that was the fact that we weren’t as on top of his care as we should have been. We took too long to notice the signs of illness. When we finally did notice something was wrong, Bartlet wasn’t eating, was lethargic, and had labored breathing. In a panic, we took him to the vet right away.
Bartlet spent 4 nights and 5 days at the vet and then had to be kept separately from Warren for about a week while he finished his course of antibiotics. Warren was obviously lonely during this time. He wouldn’t come out of his hidey and he rarely made any noise. Bartlet’s condition was still very guarded and we worried what we would do with Warren if the worst happened to Bartlet. We knew that guinea pigs are very social animals and they absolutely need a buddy. Considering all this, it was an easy decision to expand our herd.
We looked online to try to adopt but, surprisingly, the closest pig up for adoption was several hours away. Not only were they far away, but they had very limited hours when they would allow us to visit to adopt, which made it impossible for us to get there. We waited and checked PetFinder.com daily but there just weren’t any guinea pigs coming up for adoption in our area. We mentioned to Edgar’s mom that we were looking to adopt another pig or two and, as luck would have it, she has a friend who is a member of a guinea pig club. Apparently, this friend shows her pigs and she had some that she was looking to adopt out to a good home. We jumped on the chance, and went to choose our pigs.
When we arrived, we intended to only get two pigs. However, there were three that were ready to be adopted and we just couldn’t decide which one to leave behind. We went back and forth and spent some time with all three pigs. They were all awesome. We knew that we had the space for up to five pigs, so we went ahead and brought home Chase, Taft and Oliver.
(Chase, Taft and Oliver prepping for the journey from their birthplace to their permanent home).
The introduction to Bartlet and Warren went exceedingly well. However, when we put them all in their new cage, we realized that the other guineas just would not leave Chase alone. They pursued him around the cage non-stop and wouldn’t stop sniffing his bum. We realized that the behavior was unusual and started to wonder if Chase wasn’t a he after all but was actually a she. After some creative googling and on closer inspection, we were confident that Chase was, indeed, a lady pig. We changed her name to Ginsburg and separated her from the boys.
We certainly didn’t want any baby pigs so we had no choice but to separate Ginsburg. The entire point of this exercise was to avoid a lonely pig. We considered our options. We could either take Ginsburg back to the breeder or keep her and get her spayed. I had already bonded with her pretty hard and really, really didn’t want to take her back. So, we called the vet and made an appointment to get her spayed.
When we arrived, the vet advised us that he normally doesn’t spay guinea pigs unless there is an underlying health reason. He explained that it’s extremely risky for guinea pigs to go under anesthesia and that it’s a complicated and very invasive procedure on pigs. We agreed that it sounded like a bad idea to go through with it. However, we were concerned that since she was housed with the boys for a while, she may already be pregnant. After a courtesy ultrasound, the vet assured us that we didn’t have to worry about any baby pigs showing up any time soon.
(How dare you mistake me for a stinky boar!)
My husband and I talked it over and after much planning and rearranging of furniture agreed to expand the cage and get a female buddy for Ginsburg. We went back to the person from who we adopted Ginsburg, Taft and Oliver and told her of our dilemma. After being highly embarrassed about mis-sexing one of her pigs, she offered us Sonia as a cagemate for Ginsburg. Now we have a huge C&C guinea pig mansion in our living room with 6 happy pigs popcorning around.
And that’s how we started with an unexpected packrat and ended up with 6 guinea pigs.