Guinea pigs are sweet, snuffly little animals which are absolutely impossible not to love. I would challenge anyone to hear those adorable little chattering noises they make and not want to scoop them up and cuddle them for hours.
However, these precious little creatures aren’t just there to fulfil all your snuggling needs. Behind those adorable whiskers, they have inner, complex lives of their very own. And they get lonely just like anyone else.
Guinea pigs value companionship, and like to share their hutch and carrot stash with a buddy. Which is why Switzerland take their welfare very seriously.
In Switzerland, it is illegal to own just one guinea pig, because the poor, sweet babies are vulnerable to getting lonely.
In 2008, the Swiss government passed an animal rights law which made it illegal for a pet owner to own just one guinea pig, no matter how much they might dote on their fluffy friend.
As reported by Mental Floss, this legislation was part of a push to grant ‘social rights’ to pets prone to loneliness.
As it’s likely one guinea pig will outlive the other, rent-a-guinea-pig services have become a popular way to keep remaining piggies happy, while stopping the owner from becoming locked in a never-ending cycle of guinea pig purchasing.
Guinea pigs are known to be social creatures who move together in herds when in the wild. (Honestly, how I long to be trampled by a herd of wild guinea pigs with their itty-bitty feet).
However, all too often the needs of guinea pigs are misunderstood by their owners, who wrongly regard them to be ‘easy’ first pets for their kids.
In 2018, the RSPCA’s 24-hour cruelty line received 1,337 calls from people expressing concern for the welfare of guinea pigs, who are at risk of being neglected or cared for incorrectly.
In Switzerland it’s illegal to own just one guinea pig. They’re social animals and it’s deemed cruel to deprive them the company of other guinea pigs. Swiss law also protects parrots, goldfish and cats from loneliness. Why? That’s just how the Swiss roll pic.twitter.com/pMFZBMOK42
— Adam Sharp (@AdamCSharp) August 1, 2019
To mark this year’s Guinea Pig Appreciation Day (Tuesday July 16), the RSPCA’s rabbit and rodent expert, Dr Jane Tyson made the following statement in a press release:
They are one of the UK’s most misunderstood pets and this is largely because they are seen as an ‘easy, first pet’ for children.
Guinea pigs can make fantastic pets but like all animals they have very complex needs and should never be the sole responsibility of a child.
Sadly, one of the issues we see is that some guinea pigs are still kept in small cages with little chance for exercise or human contact, and possibly more importantly no contact with other guinea pigs.
Dr Tyson continued:
Guinea pigs are sociable, active animals. They need to live with at least one other friendly guinea pig and benefit from enrichment so it’s important to give them a large space where they can play and explore together.
It can also be very fun to come up with unique ways to help your guinea pigs stay entertained and expend some energy. As well as being great for their wellbeing, playing with your pet piggy can also strengthen the bond between you and your pets.
The RSPCA have advised guinea pig owners to keep their pets stimulated and entertained by providing them with tunnels and scattering their food about for them to hunt for.
They’ve also advised owners to allow plenty of space for their guinea pigs to ‘popcorn’. This is when they leap from the ground and turn in mid-air when they get excited.
— 𝐃’𝐀𝐫𝐢𝐚 (@DMuze_) August 2, 2019
Be right back, just going out to adopt all the guinea pigs…
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.