Of the many considerations that go into choosing the right pet for a family, life span is certainly right near the top of the list. And, while guinea pigs have many wonderful qualities that make them a great choice for a family pet, their average 5-7 year life span gives some people reason to pause. Many people (and probably everyone reading this article) consider their pets to be a member of the family. Our love for our guinea pigs, while possibly different than our love for a human member of our family, is no less strong, and our attachment no less important. So adopting an animal who will be considered a “senior” after just a few short years has its definite drawbacks in the sense that we know going in that we will be having to say goodbye way too soon.
I adopted my first guinea pig, Ethan, when he was almost four years old, and his cagemate, Hobbes, was just over a year old. My adoption counselor at Orange County Cavy Haven made sure that I understood his age and that I really meant to adopt that particular pig. I responded to this email immediately and in no uncertain terms – I wanted Ethan, yes, that pig. The thing is, as I looked through the adoptable pigs on the website, his face just jumped out at me. I fell in love with his picture, and then proceeded to fall in love with the real thing as soon as I held him. Unfortunately, Ethan was only with me for a year and a half (although his “brother,” Hobbes, is still as feisty as ever at five and a half years old now). Of course, I would have loved to have him longer – he was the perfect first guinea pig with a huge personality and he hooked me for life – but I take so much comfort in the life I was able to give Ethan for the time he was with me. He was able to free roam, which he loved. I showered him with treats, toys, and affection. What more could any piggy want?
Then there was Alfredo. Alfredo had been a “sanctuary” pig with the rescue and had many different foster moms along the way. He came to me at nine years old. I was actually just supposed to baby-sit him for a week, but I fell so in love with him and was able to convince his foster mom that he should stay with me because I lived only a block away from the cavy vet and, with his age, that was a major consideration. Alfredo lived with me for only a year, but he was able to free roam and he just loved having so much freedom and a younger boar friend whom he could “show the ropes” to. Because of his advanced age, I had to give him meds for arthritis and for his heart every day, and I had to do boar cleanings on him more often to avoid impaction, but this only made me bond with him more.
There is something so wonderful about taking in an older guinea pig and making those last years of his life special, giving him a place to call home. At Cavy Haven, it is very rare that someone wants to adopt a pig older than one and a half or two years old. This means that many of our pigs live out their lives as fosters. And, although our fosters take very good care of their foster pigs, it often makes me sad to see older pigs – who have so much love and joy to bring to a family – get passed over time and time again.
I hope that anyone considering adopting their next family member, will take a closer look at the older pigs. After all, there is no guarantee with any pig that we get to love them for anything more than just today. And I think you will find that giving an older pig a forever home and a family brings with it so much joy that you won’t regret your decision.