Monday, September 30, 2013

the 411 on the GPs

This past Christmas, Santa brought our children guinea pigs.


Apparently, it is too cold in the North Pole for guinea pigs to live there in December, so Santa actually brought the guinea pigs to our house approximately one week before Christmas, which he forced us to keep hidden in Charlie's office until Christmas Day. It was no easy task to keep guinea pigs hidden - considering they are squeaky little creatures and we have a dog who nearly blew the secret when he stood outside Charlie's office, whimpering and pawing at the floor every day for a week.

"Mom? What's wrong with Louie? Why's he barking like that? Is there a squirrel or something in Dad's office?" Me, "NO. Of course not! Oh my gosh, what was that? Did you just hear that sound? Could it be Rudolph / Frosty / Santa? Quick, let's go look and then let's leave the house and come back in three hours when it's your bedtime!!"


So these guinea pigs are actually Antillean long-haired guinea pigs. Which means that their hair will continue to grow and grow and grow.  We'd read about these guinea pigs and our children said they were the kind that they really, really wanted.


But as it turns out, Santa didn't know ANYTHING about guinea pigs, so when he went to the store to pick up the guinea pigs nearly a week before Christmas before all the guinea pigs were sold out, and the store had by some stroke of luck received a shipment of the rare Antillean guinea pigs, and they were normally $95/each, but were marked down to $35/each, Santa jumped at the incredible savings, without realizing that the adorable Antillean long-haired guinea pigs are approximately four times as much work as the regular short-haired variety and would one day, very soon, require us to give them monthly buzz cuts with clippers.


Granted, professional guinea pig people who raise these long-haired variety for show would probably never buzz cut their hair, but we're not professionals and since we can barely find the time to groom ourselves everyday, George and Barack don't stand a chance.


Nonetheless, these two long-haired guinea pig brothers have been so much fun and our whole family loves them. Their official names are George Washington and Barack Obama.  Although they also go by the names Oreo and Chocolate, Albert Einstein and James Brown, and Squeaky and Squeaker.



Not long ago, someone was asking whether or not they should get a guinea pig and there were an exorbitant number of people who said, "No! They are way too stinky!!" and I was offended, on behalf of the guinea pig population, because guinea pigs really aren't stinky provided you use the correct type of bedding and change it once a week.  For example, shaved pine bedding is the WRONG bedding.   It lacks any absorption potential and reeks within a day.

AGAIN .... THIS IS THE WRONG BEDDING. All of those statements about natural odor absorption and naturally fresh scent are HIGHLY misleading.


However, shredded paper bedding - albeit slightly more expensive - is highly absorbent, and virtually odorless.


Moreover, if you add a scoop of lavender bedding (with rose petals) guinea pigs are positively fragrant!


We keep all of their bedding, along with their food and supplies, organized in these containers which fit beneath their cage ...


And is easily hidden by a table cloth draped over the top.


Guinea pigs do not produce their own Vitamin C, so they need to eat foods that are rich in it. Our guineas eat their body weight in timothy grass every day ...


And they also eat all the bright colored kibble from their food supply which I equate to eating all of the "Charms" from a bowl of Lucky Charms. Their favorite food, though, are orange, yellow and red fresh bell peppers.  Whenever I make a "tsk tsk" sound and ask, "Whose hungry?!" the guineas will absolutely turn inside out.  They'll squeak and jump around their cage and it's a highlight of our day.

However, when we reach in to feed them or pet them, they'll usually run in the opposite direction, while still squeaking furiously.  And if I could translate that squeak, it would probably mean, "OH MY GOD HERE COMES THAT BIG HAND AGAIN QUICK HIDE I THINK IT IS TRYING TO KILL US." Our guinea pigs, will tolerate us, but have not yet warmed up to the point that they'll jump in to our arms and smother us with affection.


Fortunately, the kids aren't offended and help to clean out their cage every week...


And give them baths every couple of weeks.


Thank goodness the poop fest whenever they were removed from their cage ended.  This lasted, though, for the first couple months that we had them and it was so bad - the kids had to hold the guineas wrapped in a towel.


In addition to identifying that shredded paper bedding is the best; we've also determined that this type of water bottle is the best.  The other variety that came with the cage and had a ball bearing at the end, leaked water all over the cage and made the bedding (and our guinea pigs) soggy.


We also determined that it's important for the guineas to get out and have a change of scenery every so often. We had been putting them on this waterproof mat on the kitchen floor ...


But they'd poop all over it and it was so disgusting, I decided that if we were going to let them run around, we'd let them run around directly on the grass in the front yard.


Nowadays, we'll bring them outside whenever we're able to watch them, and will let them roam around the grass - nibbling as they go - and then pit them against each other in guinea pig races. Note, they have yet to actually race and will typically scamper in to our lap and fall asleep.


All this to say: YES. I'd definitely recommend a guinea pig for a family. Even if they aren't as lovable as a dog - they are adorable and squeaky and a very good addition for our brood.