Small Mammals: Guinea Pigs
Why They’re Easy…
If your child wants a pet that he can cuddle, a guinea pig is a pleasing handful and plenty entertaining. He will squeal with delight at the sound of your refrigerator opening (thus the “pig” in guinea pig), and when he’s happy, he’ll jump for joy, kicking his heels up in the air. (This is called “popcorning.”) Many other pet rodents are nocturnal, which means that they sleep during prime human playtime. Guinea pigs, however, are nappers, so they’re usually up for a visit (and a tasty snack) when your kids are. And unlike their hamster brethren, guinea pigs don’t tend to bite or require an exercise wheel that will squeak through the night.
…OK, Not That Easy
You’ll need at least four square feet of cage per animal—a good chunk of real estate to maintain. Quality out-of-cage time with your child is key, too. “If you don’t handle your pig regularly, he’ll probably be scared and try to leap away from you,” says Valarie Tynes, a veterinarian at Premier Veterinary Behavior Consulting, in Sweetwater, Texas.
Life span: 4 to 6 years.
Start-up costs: Guinea pigs begin at about $30. A suitable cage and gear can run $50 and up.