Do Guinea Pigs Make Good Pets? The Pros and Cons of Owning Cavies

by Lindsay Pereira
Do guinea pigs make good pets

In my opinion, guinea pigs don’t make good pets … they make great ones! But of course, having been an avid lover of cavies for many years, I’m certainly a little biased. Truthfully, I’ve long believed guineas are often misunderstood and widely underappreciated. When people don’t have much experience with cavies, they tend to picture them as being large, nocturnal hamsters. However, while cavies are indeed part of the rodent family, they’re definitely quite different than rats, hamsters, mice, degus, and gerbils. In fact, they’re very unique, with individual characteristics, behaviours, and personalities.

Naturally affectionate, sweet, and social creatures, it’s no surprise why once you’re a cavy parent, you’re always wanting more of them! Nonetheless, with what’s a long list of advantages to getting guinea pigs as pets, there’s also some disadvantages too, though more so for those who simply aren’t used to having pets altogether. If you’re considering adopting cavies, then take the time to read through the following pros and cons list, which should clarify what it’s like to have guinea pigs as pets.

Pros of owning guinea pigs

Pros and cons of having guinea pigs

Below is a list of several advantages of welcoming some furry cavies into your home.

Super sweet, totally adorable

At the pet store or adoption center, you’ve most likely noticed that guinea pigs are cute. But it’s only when you interact with them one-on-one that you can really appreciate just how much they are super sweet and totally adorable. Plus, if you’ve ever spoken to a cavy owner, then you’ve certainly heard all about their lovely demeaner and gentle nature.

Long lifespan for rodents

Cavies typically have a long life expectancy compared to other domestic rodents – approximately 6-8 years, though very often more.

As such, guinea pigs make great companions for those in search of a longer relationship. Certainly, it can be hard on children when pets pass away. But with a few furry friends who will be sticking around for quite a while, it’s nice to be able to connect with a creature who will be in your life for several years.

Keep in mind that these numbers are the typical average lifespan. My senior Abyssinian guinea pig, Muffy, has officially celebrated with 10 (veggie) candles on her birthday cake – and she’s still going strong!

Sturdy and healthy

Guinea pigs are not predisposed to any major health conditions or diseases. In fact, they have a strong immune system that keeps them healthy and safe. Rarely do they fall sick, which is another reason why you don’t have to worry too much about losing them at a young age.

Friendly and affectionate

Not only are cavies adorable, but they’re also very friendly and affectionate, especially with their pet parents. It’s very common for guinea pigs to greet their owner, coming to the edge of the habitat to call them over with excited wheeking. This is excellent proof of how cavies tend to build a relationship with their human families. These characteristics make them endearing, and quite often, the center of the household.

Gentle and quiet

Another advantageous trait is their gentle, quiet temperament. As you can imagine, it’s seen as a huge benefit for many families, especially those that have kids. Cavies certainly don’t wreak havoc, and normally fall into a quiet daily routine. Plus, since they don’t require regular outdoor time several times a day, they’re a lot easier to care for by working-class families.

No need for huge space

Since these creatures are quite small, they don’t need a huge amount of space. Of course, they do require a properly sized habitat and daily out-of-the-cage time. But, unlike larger pets such as cats and dogs, they can live a perfectly happy, healthy life in a smaller area. Plus, they’re very easy to transport and carry since they’re so little.

Low-cost vegetarian diet

As tiny vegetarians, their diet is not only simple to follow but it’s also very low-cost, making it  easy to feed them. As well, because of these nutritional habits, their waste is so much less stinky than that of a dog or cat. When you’re the one in charge of cleaning out their habitat, this is a huge advantage!

Adaptable and easy to manage

Cavies normally adapt to their surroundings relatively easily and quickly. The fact that they’re easy to manage when you’re caring for them is another reason why they’re such an ideal pet.

Constant calm mood

In most cases, larger domesticated family pets need constant attention, or their behavior can change. However, guinea pigs are very constant in their temperament and are normally in a calm mood. Of course, you’ll need to pay attention to them on a daily basis, but they won’t take it out on you if you don’t feed them what you’re eating!

Cons of owning guinea pigs

Cons of having guinea pigs

It’s equally important to talk about the negatives of owning a particular pet, because not everything is going to be a walk in the park! Plus, it’s simply the reality of being a guinea pig parent. This information is especially essential as this will help people who are inexperienced as pet owners to truly assess if they want cavies in their lives – which in the long run is crucial for a pet’s wellbeing and safety and prevent abandonment. So, let’s get on with the cons of adopting guinea pigs.

They’re small – but they still need some space!

Often, guinea pigs are seen as these little furry creatures that don’t require much space. While that’s true to some extent as we mentioned, they do definitely need the appropriate amount of room to stay healthy. Not all cages are created equal – so before you grab your old mouse house from the basement expecting it to suit your new cavy, do your research. In smaller households they’ll do just fine, but only if you give your guineas the right habitat. Lack of space can cause them to be aggressive and decrease their life expectancy.

Sensitive creatures

Although they’re not prone to medical conditions, you do still need to make sure they don’t get worms, mites, and other pests. As with any other pet, they need proper care – they’re alive, after all! If a situation occurs where they do require a trip to the vet, you need to be willing to bring them there. And of course, pay the cost.

Bound to their habitat

Unlike a dog you can just leash-up and take to the country house for the summer, guinea pigs are permanently bound to their habitats. If you need to go somewhere for an extended amount of time, then you’ll need to consider transporting their cage – and hay, and vegetables, and water, and litter, and everything else. Sure, they’re easy to carry around, but they’ll always need their safe, secure shelter, no matter where you go.

Stinky cage contents

The truth is, you can’t just use a plastic bag to pick up your pet’s poop and be done with the mess. A cavy’s environment needs very regular cleaning and changing. Even if you litter train your guineas, their cage can get super stinky from old food and knocked-over water when not cleaned out regularly. Plus, even potty-trained pets don’t make it to their toilet sometimes.

Naturally nervous and skittish

Along with their calm demeanor comes a naturally nervous, skittish personality. Some cavies are even quite shy and spend a lot of their time in hiding. This can definitely be a real issue if someone is expecting an outgoing pet.

Noisy wheeking and chutting

Throughout the day, depending on what’s going on, guinea pigs can make a lot of different noises. Between the wheeking and the chutting, those sounds can keep you up at night. While it’s not as loud as howling, some people can indeed find it very bothersome.

Panicked destruction 

When left alone for long periods of time, especially if they’re a solo pet without a fellow cavy companion, guineas can cause destruction to their cage – and themselves. This can involve chewing the cage materials, ripping apart toys, and digging up the bedding. In some cases where cavies are so lonely, they can turn this destruction on themselves, pulling out hair and biting their skin. Above all else, you need to make sure you’re willing to fully commit to caring for your pets. As well, if you only have one cavy, you should consider adopting another furry friend to relieve their stress of loneliness and depression. Guinea pigs are very social creatures so they should be kept in pairs or groups.

Cost of living and healthcare

Of course, compared to larger pets, the costs for food and healthcare are usually drastically lower. But it is, however, an important element to factor in. Costs are less, but they’re still there, and you’ll never quite know if unexpected vet bills will pop up in the future.

Lifespan inaccuracies

No one can ever guarantee your pet will live to a ripe old age. When your family is emotionally attached to your guinea pigs, it can be a huge hit when they die earlier than expected – especially on younger children.

Sharing your home with furry little companions

If you’ve decided that, after having read the cons of our list, you’re still interested in adopting some furry little companions, they can really bring some love into your life. Please, do remember that pets are for life, whether that means one year or twenty.

When we first adopted our guinea pigs, Muffy and Lilly, our family was home to two dogs and an innumerable number of fish. Although over the years we’ve sadly lost some companions, we’re true pet lovers and we’ll always have room for one more furry face.

Are you thinking about adopting cavies for the first time or a guineas-for-life pet parent? Let us know in the comments below!

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Stuart Norman September 6, 2020 - 8:00 am

They seem hungry all the time. Should you restrict their eating

Monika September 6, 2020 - 8:41 pm

They should have hay available at all times but when it comes to other food, you can follow the recommended daily amounts from this post

Davies Kabuswe August 24, 2021 - 12:38 am

Very knowledgeable document,I like animals and plants

Pam Garrison September 12, 2021 - 8:51 am

My daughter adopted three guinea pigs and they are wonderful young ladies.
How often should they go to the vet?

Monika September 12, 2021 - 11:15 am

Once a year for a regular checkup and as needed throughout the year as problems arise 🙂

Ravyn February 1, 2022 - 9:07 am

But what if I don’t have enough money for regular checkups? My dad says I don’t need to do checkups and that he doesn’t do it for our dog and she is perfectly fine…

Abbie May 7, 2022 - 7:37 pm

If you don’t have enough money to bring your animals to the vet, you shouldn’t get animals period (Guinea pigs won’t show that they need medical attention until it’s too late).

Ravyn July 26, 2022 - 4:40 am

Well to late, I have her and she is fine, I do have a problem with her biting me every once and a while, but not as bad as it was before…

Christine March 5, 2022 - 10:59 pm

I currently own a hamster that I adopted when his previous owner could no longer care for him. I’ve had him for a year & a half, and I’m completely attached. I can’t wait to get home from work to spend time with him each day. When I got him, I didn’t realize they had such a short lifespan. Now I don’t think I can live without a fury friend, but I want a pet with a longer lifespan. When the time comes that I’m ready for another pet, I want to be prepared so that I can fill the void quickly. I have been researching rabbits and chinchillas too, but I am leaning toward two guineas. Would you recommend males or females? Is there any differences in temperament and personality?

Monika March 8, 2022 - 5:37 am

Females can be a bit easier to bond with other cavies and less likely to fight as they are less territorial. Males are a bit larger than females on average and usually less shy. As for healthy issues, females tend to have more health concerns such as UTIs. At the end of the day, each pig has an individual personality and both genders make great pets 🙂


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