Thursday, June 2, 2011

5 Reasons to Get Your Pig a Friend

Imagine this. You live all alone an alien world, locked in your home most of the day. You have weird green men peeping through the windows and muttering gibberish at you, and occasionally picking you up out of your house and squeezing you for a while. Sometimes they even let you walk around outside, but they're always watching you and shooing you this way and that. But most of the time you're left in your house, completely alone. You busy your time by eating and napping, and occasionally exploring the further reaches of your house for anything that the aliens might have moved or changed last time they stretched their big, hairy arms in. Nobody speaks your language and the most you can tell the aliens is that you're hungry. The aliens think that muttering gibberish and squeezing you every day keeps you happy, but really you're very lonely. Sometimes you understand what they're trying to communicate and you enjoy their company, but most of the time you're just scared and alone.

If you only have one guinea pig, that is how it feels. Here are the top five reasons why your guinea pig needs a buddy.

5. Guinea pigs are not tame animals.
No matter how much you pet and love and domesticate your cavy, he/she is still a prey animal and still afraid of you. Cats and dogs are the only animals that are truly domesticated, and therefore the only ones that can be happy with just you for company.

4. In the wild, guinea pigs live in herds. They're social animals, just like humans are, and they need company to feel complete. Guinea pigs really are alone in your alien world, and by providing them with a buddy, you can help to stave off the boredom and bring some comfort and excitement into their lives.

3. Guinea pigs are healthier in multiples. They're more likely to eat foods they otherwise wouldn't, they get more exercise running around with each other, and they can actually help each other get well when they're sick. Without going into the icky details, when one of your pigs gets sick, if the other is still healthy the sick pig can regain the bacteria he/she needs to be health from, well, eating the other pig's poop. It's gross, and pigs should always be taken to the vet upon the first sign of any illness, but living in pairs (or more!) can help your pig stay healthy.

2. Believe it or not, they're cuter in pairs.
You didn't think they could get any cuter, but with another pig around, yours will exhibit more of its natural behaviors. If you've never seen a "piggy train" you're missing out. You can watch your pigs talk to each other, play with each other, explore with each other, and run laps with each other. Even watching their daily squabbles is exciting and adorable. For example, I know a friend whose pigs have a loft for their "kitchen" area, and when it's dinner time one of her pigs always blocks the ramp so only he can eat... until the other pig bites him in the butt. Mine move their hideys around to barricade the other in or out of certain parts of the cage, and will spin the pigloo entrance to face the wall when they don't want the other inside. All the cute little mannerisms you never knew your pig had will start to come out, and your pair will start to feel more like part of the family than ever.

1. It will keep your guinea pig happy!
All of the above reasons have more to do with making your life easier, but think about your guinea pig. A friend will stave off his/her boredom, give him/her someone to cuddle with on cold nights, and give him/her someone to spend the day with while you're at work or out of the house.

Aside from all that, two guinea pigs don't require much more space than one, and they aren't much harder to clean up after than one. I don't have to clean my cage any more frequently with two than I did with one. As long as the cage size is appropriate, two don't really make more of a mess than one. Also, your guinea pig won't start ignoring you just because he/she has a buddy. That's right, having a friend won't make your guinea pig less interested in you! When my first guinea pig, Fred, lived alone, he woke me up at 6 AM every day wheeking for food. Now that he has a friend, he never does this. I realize now that his behavior was because he was bored, not just enthusiastic about food (and every guinea pig is enthusiastic about food). But, just because he doesn't wake me up every day anymore, doesn't mean he ignores me when I come to the side of the cage or hold him in my lap. He's still just as interested in me as ever.

So what are you waiting for? Go get your pig a buddy. (But please! Do so responsibly. Support local shelters, not the pet stores! Adopt, don't buy.)