Guinea pigs are one of best first pets for families that have young children. However as many homes and leases prevent pet ownership, often a child’s first exposure to the responsibilities of a pet come from in the classroom. Guinea pigs make excellent classroom pets.
Why Guinea Pigs Are Great Classrooms Pets
Guinea pigs normally interact very well with children. Guinea pigs are not as delicate as rabbits and are typically far less skittish than the smaller pocket pets that fit well in the classroom setting, like hamsters or gerbils. Their relative durability and social personalities make them excellent pets for both younger elementary-school-age kids and older students alike. They like being around people, guinea pigs recognize and respond to their caretakers, and greet people. They are interactive and social like cats and dogs. Guinea pigs also tend to be longer lived compared to other rodents. Guinea pigs live five to seven years whereas smaller rodents live only one to three years. Their “longevity” makes them better for small children who can get deeply attached to even classroom pets and would be absolutely despondent at the sudden death of a beloved pet.
Are Guinea Pigs Introverts or Extroverts?
Guinea pigs often have a personality three times larger than their bodies. Some pigs are shy and gentle, while another could be very outgoing and entertaining. No guinea pig is like another like even if the same breed. Just like cats, guinea pigs purr. They make a soft vibratory sound when they’re happy and like cats often purr when gently petted. They also make several other interesting sounds, including “wheeking” (the official name for guinea pigs squealing), they also “rumble” (the noise is made by males when courting) and their teeth chatter when they are angry. The range of sounds a guinea pig makes them a fun pet.
Did You Know Guinea Pigs also “popcorn”?
Guinea pigs also “popcorn,” which is when they jump vertically into the air when they get excited. This behavior is commonly displayed in the younger guinea pigs. Some popcorning guinea pigs will also run and alternately kick out their front and back legs and squeal at the same time. This particular behavior is quite endearing and funny.
Shorthaired, longhaired and even hairless, guinea pigs come in several different breeds with a variety of fur lengths, colors, and patterns. They may be the same species, but all look different. Guinea pigs can serve as a great lesson to demonstrate to children that we can all look different and yet still be the same species. Guinea pigs can teach that we are unique and beautiful.
The Basic Necessities for Guinea Pigs as Class Pets
Guinea pig care is pretty easy, even though they require daily care and attention. Every day, a guinea pig will need Timothy hay, fresh cool water in a sipper bottle, some chopped vegetables (such as leafy greens, like green- and red-leaf lettuce, Romaine lettuce, parsley, cilantro, or bell peppers), and a small amount of pelleted guinea pig food. They need daily vitamin C supplements in tablet or liquid form, given directly in their mouths rather than in their water. Guinea pigs do not make their own Vitamin C. Fresh Timothy hay-based pellets should be purchased every 30 days, as vitamin C content in pellets degrades quickly. The supplements must be stored in a cool, dark and dry place when not being given to the pig.
Alfalfa hay is not the best choice for a mature guinea pig. Alfalfa is too high in calcium and calories, but it can be fed freely to young, growing or pregnant guinea pigs that require additional nutrition. Guinea pigs can be offered small amounts of fruit from the following list only as a rare treat- apples, peaches, plums, pears, and berries. Never give a guinea pig a sugary fruit; they cannot have grapes or bananas.
No Grains Please
Guinea pigs should not be fed grains. Cereals, bread, oats, corn, seeds, and nuts can make a guinea pig ill with gastrointestinal upset. Pellet mixtures that contain seeds and cereals should not be offered, as guinea pigs will pick out these foods and eat themselves sick, completely ignoring the pellets that will give them proper nutrition. They are incredibly cute and educational, they are not the smartest animals, but most animals are prone to eating things that will or can make them sick.
Their Habitat Diamentions
Guinea pigs should be kept in a habitat that is spacious (a minimum of 1x2x1 foot per pig) that has a solid bottom-lined with paper-based guinea pig bedding (such as shredded paper towels or commercially available recycled paper products sold especially as guinea pig bedding). Wire-bottom cages are dangerous because they can lead to foot ulcers and the entrapment of toes between wires. These injuries require veterinary treatment and can be gruesome or traumatizing for younger children. A Guinea pig cage needs to be spot cleaned every day and completely cleaned weekly.
Cooler Climate, no Hot Humid Environment
Guinea pigs live in cool climates in nature and do poorly in hot, humid environments. Guinea pigs must be kept indoors in a controlled climate ideally with air conditioning or with a fan during hotter weather so that they don’t overheat. Guinea pigs are social animals and live with other guinea pigs in same-sex pairs or trios. Unless one is neutered or you are prepared to nearly always be dealing with constant baby pigs and some lesson plans that may make parents of younger elementary school-aged children find awkward, uncomfortable, or inappropriate, so you should never house opposite guinea pigs together. Guinea pigs are always willing to let nature take its course, and for a classroom, it’s better to have them be the same sex if sharing a habitat.
Guinea pigs do not need any vaccinations but need a yearly vet visit to make sure they are healthy, well-fed pigs and their nails trimmed every few months.
Guinea Pig Facts That Teachers Need to Educate Students About
While guinea pigs are relatively easy to care for, there are a few things teachers need to let their student’s know about these animals if they’re going to keep them in the classroom:
Guinea pigs constantly eat, so they produce frequent fecal pellets. Children holding guinea pigs should hold the pig with a towel on their laps or on a table so that their clothes don’t get soil on it. Guinea pigs also will make and then eat softer stools, called cecotropes, throughout the day. These special stools provide them with important proteins and vitamins. Kids need to be informed about this natural, normal guinea pig behavior so that they are not disgusted or surprised to see a guinea pig eating its stool.
Fast Moving Creatures
Children in the classroom should also know that pigs move very fast. Children have to supervised at all times if they are handling the guinea pig so that the pig doesn’t leap off the child and fall or somehow get injured. Children need to learn to move slowly and calmly when holding guinea pigs, as sudden movement can scare a pig and a scared pig can struggle to escape or can possibly even nip a child. If a guinea pig gets upset and scared, the pig needs to be put in their cage and left alone to calm down. While most children are not allergic to guinea pig hair, there may be a rare few who are. People can be allergic to guinea pig fur and those with a guinea pig allergy might get an itchy red rash after handling the pig. Any child demonstrating these signs should be seen by a physician immediately. Guinea pigs generally do not carry illnesses that are commonly transmittable to people; however, proper animal husbandry and hygiene are required with a pet and teaching children to always wash their hands immediately after returning these animals to their cage is another wonderful lesson a guinea pig in the classroom can teach. Guinea pigs teach children to be responsible and respectful pet owners. When teachers learn about these animals and prepare their students properly, both the pets and the kids excel in the classroom.