What is small, cute, and furry all over? It’s a guinea pig! Also called a cavy, these adorable and affectionate creatures are typically not thought of as pets living in animal shelters. Like cats and dogs, there are also shelter guinea pigs hoping to find themselves loving forever homes with caring families.

If you are ready to be a companion animal guardian to a small pet, consider contacting a local shelter or a nearby cavy rescue group to see if there are any guinea pigs available for adoption. Many pet stores and large pet store chains focus on customers buying pets on the spur of the moment and do not give you the time to meet-and-greet to make sure that the companionship is a good fit. Unfortunately, rushed pet purchases can lead to innocent guinea pigs being surrendered to shelters.

Small pet companions like guinea pigs absolutely should not be thought of as practice pets, especially for children. From food, exercise, grooming, general care, and lifespan, all animal species are different and have their individual personal needs. Check out five important things you need to know before adopting a rescued guinea pig below.

1. Consider your time and a guinea pig’s lifespan

Be honest with yourself. If you will not have the time to hang out with your piggy, do not adopt only to send him back to the shelter. Guinea pigs enjoy hanging out with their human friends, even if it’s just watching television, and do need time outside of their guinea living quarters daily to exercise (if they don’t live in a playroom). By providing proper care and lots of love, guinea pigs live an average of five to seven years, even longer.

2. Test for allergies first 

Ever thought about being allergic to a guinea pig? Well, turns out, it really is a possibility. Although piggy hair or dander can transmit allergens, most allergic reactions are to proteins in the saliva and urine. You may also react to the type of bedding materials like hay or wood shavings. Figure out if you or other family members are allergic before committing to adopt.

3. Teach your children about guinea pigs

Guinea pigs are naturally fragile and timid. Instead of giving a guinea as a gift to your child (not a good idea to gift any animal), adopt him or her together as a family and teach your child the responsibility that comes with caring for a small pet. Since small children may see a guinea pig as a toy (dangerous!), make sure you or another adult is always present to supervise play and care time.

4. Keep guinea pig living quarters clean

To avoid possible health problems, keep clean living quarters, food dishes, and water bottles. Guinea pigs produce a lot of droppings and they urinate often. Therefore, piggy living areas must be spot cleaned every day or so, completely cleaned a couple of times weekly, or more often if you have a particularly stinky guinea pig. This means replacing bedding and liners and cleaning food and water bottles thoroughly with gentle soap and warm water.

5. Be aware of guinea pig health issues

Keeping living quarters clean can help ward off many health problems or concerns. Guinea pigs can suffer from obesity if daily exercise time is not allowed, heatstroke, respiratory problems, and dental problems, as well as mites and lice without proper grooming like brushing. Make sure to check your guinea pig’s teeth and toenails periodically because these are constantly growing. Give them safe hardwood to chew on; hard fruits and veggies like raw carrots, celery, and apples; and trim nails as a part of grooming. Guinea pigs have a vitamin C deficiency, so give a daily vitamin C supplement, fortified food pellets, and vitamin C packed fresh orange slices as treats.

Get informed and do your homework before adopting a guinea pig. If you can care for one of these sweet little pets, you will be rewarded with cuddles, love, and affection.

What other ways can you celebrate Adopt-A-Guinea Pig month? In honor of these vegetarian cuties, try a few new vegetarian or vegan dishes and encourage others to do the same!

For more Animal, Earth, Life, Vegan Food, Health, and Recipe content published daily, subscribe to the One Green Planet Newsletter! Lastly, being publicly-funded gives us a greater chance to continue providing you with high-quality content. Please consider supporting us by donating!