This will be long, but I'm going to give some history to help you understand where my passion for guinea pigs evolved from - and it involves mistakes along the way. I had several guinea pigs as a child, but one in particular stands out: a little girl named Ginny, pronounced Guinea. (We won't talk about my lack of name creativity.) I got her when I was in middle school, about 12 years old. I still had her in my 20s, she moved with me when I got my own place, and she was there after I became a mother. Ginny died at about 11 years old from Leukemia. She was the sweetest little black and white Abyssinian, who was always watching what I did and wanting attention. I've missed her dearly. While I kept her on Aspen bedding, because I had heard other woodchips were not good for guinea pigs, I still made many other mistakes. She was a solo guinea pig, and her cage was smaller than it should have been. There were many things I could've done better that I didn't realize. My learning was slowly growing as I gained experience with guinea pigs, but I didn't have the internet at my fingertips then.
After Ginny passed, I had several adult guinea pigs and built them a huge C&C cage since learning guinea pigs should be in a bigger cage with companions. I kept them on recycled paper bedding. Their ages were unknown, but after about 6 years, they all had passed. I didn't interact with each one enough on an individual basis, which is very important for guinea pigs to become human social, especially since they were already fearful of people. I wondered why they didn't live as long as Ginny, and in hindsight maybe it was because I fed them generic guinea pig food sold by the pound and didn't give them enough veggies. I was disappointed that this guinea pig experience hadn't been as fond as what I remembered, and I decided I wouldn't have guinea pigs anymore.
Years passed and I still thought about guinea pigs, especially my memories of Ginny. I wanted my kids to have fun with guinea pigs like I did growing up. I wanted them to know what it's like to have a refrigerator alarm and a veggie scrap garbage disposal that you can pet. I also decided if I was going to venture back into the world of guinea pigs, I was going to find ones that needed homes the most and do all the research I could to give them the best home I can. I had picked up a lot of knowledge from my years of experience with guinea pigs, but I decided it was time to really educate myself through the online sources, books, and magazines. Then I was ready!
I decided to search for a guinea pig that urgently needed a new home. I didn't care about hair type, color, boy, or girl. I met a nice young lady with a new baby who needed to downsize on pets. She had a male guinea pig living with a rabbit. He was very sweet, he'd obviously been handled a lot. She guessed him to be around a year old, but she had gotten him from a little boy who had allergies. I suspected the guinea pig wasn't being fed the right diet. He was thin, had some sores I could feel under his fur, his feet were dirty, and nails overgrown. I loved him immediately. I found fleas on him on the way home. I bathed him as soon as we arrived home, put a drop of Ivermectin behind each ear, and gave him plenty of quality Oxbow pellets and hay. I also started giving him daily veggies. After a few weeks, he was like a new pig. Meet Chewy!
Since Chewy was feeling good, he was ready for a companion. This time it would be important to find another male, and I also wanted to find one that was in urgent need of a home. I found a posting of two male guinea pigs that needed homes ASAP. The guy wanted them out of his house immediately. From what little he said, they were left by a girlfriend, and he had no history on them or if they had names, he just wanted them gone. They actually looked quite well cared for, I'm guessing up until she left, because their nails were just a bit overgrown. They had a good sized C&C cage that someone cared enough to build for them. The two boys were in a box waiting at the door for me when I arrived. They had been fighting and were wet with urine. Little Chunky (as you know him now) had huge eyes and was so terrified. I found out on the way home that the other male was a bully. He continually chased and mounted Chunky all the way home and had a torn ear from an apparent fight. Both were very people friendly. After changing their environment, baths, enlarging the cage, rearranging, it was clear the other male could not get along with companions. Chunky hid as long as the other guinea pig was around. It took awhile, but I found the other boar a great piggy loving home where he's the only guinea pig. Chunky and Chewy are both very laid back boys that are very compatible.
Since I had this big expandeed pen I decided, just one more guinea pig. Then I came across a posting of "Dan" and I could tell he was such a sweetie. He was kept in pine bedding and his overgrown nails had dirtiness caked on them. The top layer of skin on his feet was peeling off in spots, possibly from ammonia burn from being in a wet soiled cage, but I cannot be sure. The person had recently gotten him from another person, who had him in a trio, but Dan was separated from the others. The people now have a puppy and not enough time for him. They handed over lots of veggies with him, and it was apparent they did care about him. Dan was instantly cuddly on the long ride home and continues to be such a sweetie. He fits in well with the other boys.
From what I could gather from the history of each boy, I am at least the third person they've been with. I can also tell by the sweet trusting personalities, each one of them was very loved at some point. I'm sure they made mistakes, like I did, because they didn't know any different. I regret all the alfalfa, carrots, and lettuce I gave my guinea pigs as a kid. I don't know that I ever gave them any of the right veggies or timothy hay back then - and I had no idea it was wrong! The cage wasn't big enough, the bedding wasn't always right. It's hard for me to admit I made all these mistakes.
I now have a "full house" and bringing in more guinea pigs isn't an option. I also can't change the past mistakes that I've made. I decided what I can do, is my very best to try to help people who have guinea pigs or are getting guinea pigs. I hope to intercept as many people as possible who just got a guinea pig or are looking for one. I also enjoy hearing from other people who have guinea pigs experience. I don't know everything, so I look forward to hearing new tricks to having more fun with guinea pigs or making care easier. I truly hope I can enrich your time with your guinea pig(s).