My journey with guinea pigs didn’t start with the one I adopted recently but actually started much earlier. After having a weekend with the class pet, which was a hamster, I wanted a small creature to love despite already having a lovely Australian Shepard. My parents looked into it and decided against it simply because hamsters had a tendency to bite. A local pet store worker informed them of a better alternative, which was a guinea pig. I remember coming home to my mom saying that she had a surprise and I discovered a small call that housed a white and ginger Abyssinian guinea pig. Because I had never seen or heard of a guinea pig, I immediately asked if it was a hamster. My mom calmly explained what it was and why it wasn’t a hamster. I was initially a little upset but ended up being best friends with the little piggy.
Her name was Fluffy, named after the 1963 Disney movie The Sword In The Stone where the talking owl named Archimedes says the phrase “pinfeathers and golly fluff.” She was a lovable little guinea pig but we realized with further research that she needed a pal. We then got an American Short Hair named Curly, which seemed a little ironic since they have coarse straight fur. Him and Fluffy got along rather well and we eventually built them a bigger cage using grid cube squares and thick plastic for the base. Somewhere in that time, we adopted a little black piggy named Harry (after Harry Potter) who ended up with a genetic illness where his teeth grew too fast for him to wear down naturally. My father would grind his teeth down but it was never enough. He passed quite quickly. We then wound up with another Abyssinian right after Hurricane Francis in South Florida passed who was named Princess and was unknowingly pregnant.
I don’t think we had ever planned to have this many guinea pigs but we loved every second of them. Our cage grew bigger and bigger to accommodate each pig and ended up having two levels connected by a homemade picket fence complete with a fake grass bottom. All of my friends referred to me as “the zoo kid” not just because I loved animals and carried animal related reading around with me often but because of the amount of pets my family had. Friends from school and my neighborhood friends would come over to watch TV and hold guinea pigs with me. I feel like they probably thought I was a little weird for not only being obsessed with guinea pigs but having so many of them but that obviously didn’t stop me from having a lot. We had a “junk room” that was essentially just a room for the guinea pigs to have their own quiet space to do what they wanted in their cage. The most we had at one time was 6 and I always made sure to give them equal attention except, admittedly, Curly. Curly had a tendency to bite me often and scared me to a point where I wouldn’t hang out with him much.
Princess had her babies on Thanksgiving morning in 2004. I remember my mother waking me up to three tiny babies in the palm of her hand and I was so excited. They were incredibly small and soft. They were a mix of Abyssinian and American Short Hair. Ruffles was mostly American Short Hair, Checkers was a perfect mix, and Lincoln was mostly Abyssinian. Princess did a great job caring for them and was very bonded to the two girls while Lincoln was placed with Curly in our split cage. One of the girls, Checkers, unfortunately developed a tumor pretty early on in her life that was inoperable and caused her to pass away. We had the other two babies up until the died of old age.
I was initially very scared of the idea of pregnancy in guinea pigs. Prior to the babies being born, Fluffy had given birth twice and all of her babies were stillborn. Fluffy passed shortly after the second liter and I had feared Princess would also not survive given the fact that she was much smaller than Fluffy. Luckily she did and even had a baby that had the same colors as Fluffy which helped me emotionally.
With all of these guinea pigs, I took in all of the information I could in a time where Google was not common practice yet. I learned through magazines what was safe and unsafe for them to eat as well as good care practices. Now that I’m adult, I realize there was a lot more I could have done for them but luckily I did enough for them to live long, healthy, happy lives. Of all of the guinea pigs, I think I miss Fluffy and Princess the most. Each of the guinea pigs had their own personalities but those two had my favorite personalities. Fluffy let me hold her in all kinds of crazy ways my child self didn’t realize weren’t comfortable for her. Princess enjoyed perching herself on my shoulder like a parrot while I ate my snacks after school and watched TV. The last guinea pig I had was Lincoln, who passed when I was about 14 years old and was about to move states. Since he died, I had wanted to get another but was too consumed with high school and marching band and college to dedicate the time to one.
This is where my story of my childhood guinea pigs ends and where my adulthood guinea pig journey begins. I regained most of my prior knowledge but ended up gaining a lot more knowledge to improve upon what I knew to better care for my current piggies. Please feel free to read more about my current guinea pigs on my next blog post, which is dedicated to them.