Is My Thirteen Year Old Daughter Ready for a Guinea Pig?

Updated on July 03, 2014
B.D. asks from Mobile, AL
14 answers

My thirteen year old daughter Brittany has been asking for a guinea pig for at least 3 years but we have had large cats and a dog over that time. Now we have two cats but they NEVER come to the side of the house were we could keep it. We have the space and money for it but im not sure about my daughter. She loses interest quickly but always takes care of and plays with all of her past and present pets. Even though I can trust her to watch my 6 year old for a couple of hours by herself, I feel as if she isn't quite ready to take care of something so small and fragile. She wants it more than anything and I just need the opinion of other moms to make my final decision. Please Help!! Thank you, B. (the side of the house the cats don't go to is the side we spend most of our time with the kitchen, living area, and my daughters bedroom)

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So What Happened?

Thank you all for the answers!! Super helpful!!We fond one to foster from our new neighbor. It will be brought over tomorrow and will have it for two or three months. If she does good Ill consider getting her one for Christmas. And will have a door separating the house so we will keep the cats out. And my daughter is actually more active at the evening time then the day (surprisingly) so she will be able to play with it on its schedule. She is really excited now, and jumping around with excitement as we speak. But thank you all very much and I look forward to seeing my daughters results!!!

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answers from San Francisco on

Yes, she's capable, but I wouldn't advise getting a 13 year old girl a guinea pig. She is just entering the phase of life where guinea pigs are going to quickly become a bore and an inconvenience.

I'd recommend guinea pigs for an 8 year old, not a 13 year old. Say no, she'll get over it.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Washington DC on

You should review sites like for information on guinea pigs. You say "pig" but they are herd animals and usually do best in a pair. There are a LOT of rescues and some even adopt out pigs that have already been neutered or spayed to prevent overpopulation. If your DD is generically irresponsible, I would say no. If she really wants the guinea pigs, I would make her earn money for food (pellets, hay and veg) and build her own C&C cage. If she is unwilling to put in the upfront work, she will not want to clean cages at least once a week (or more), keep the water bottles clean, etc. Pigs will smell like warm hay when cared for properly. They will stink if not cared for. A big cage is a must. Do you think she will ignore a pet that is caged? They are very different than dogs or even cats who come to you for attention.

My DD is almost 6 and wants pigs, too, but they will be my pigs if we get more (we've had them off and on for years). I am also well aware of the costs, including exotic vet care. Look at the House Rabbit Society website for vet recommendations - often a rabbit vet will also be good with guinea pigs.

We also have cats and we use an enclosed cage. You can build your own cage with a roof and never ever ever leave the guinea pigs and cats alone outside the cage. Even though our cats are mostly scared of pigs, I would never ever trust them.

Please do NOT get an exercise ball! They are not built to bend that way and it can hurt them.They need floor time in an enclosed place (like your kitchen floor). Please research appropriate toys as many things sold "for guinea pigs" are really for more flexible critters like rats and are NOT appropriate.

ETA: I've had 6 males in the same cage and have successfully introduced adult, unrelated, intact boars. It depends on personalities. Yes, sometimes they don't get along, but that's sows as much as boars. That is also why I suggested a rescue b/c they usually have bonded pairs so you aren't trying to find a roommate. I do agree that shoving the pigs off in a corner (or in a kids' room) is unfair to the pigs and if that's the only option, she needs to wait.

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answers from Sacramento on

How about rather than actually adopting a pet, you and she find a local rescue and become Foster Parents. It's a way test her and see if she stays interested. If she does, you can arrange to adopt the GP you're fostering. If she loses interest, you only keep the GP until a permanent home is found.

Last year my daughter wanted a turtle. We arranged to babysit the science teacher's classroom turtles for the summer. It turned out to be an excellent lesson. By the end of summer, she was ready to return the turtles and hasn't mentioned them since.

My girlfriend fosters kittens through the local SPCA. The SPCA provides the kittens (either abandoned or with the mama cat) and all the supplies necessary (bottles, litter, kitten formula, etc.) and they bottle feed them and/ or socialize them until they are an adoptable age then they return them to the SPCA and pick up a new litter. The kids know they are helping the kittens become more adoptable and find a forever home. My friend has told her kids that as long as they return ALL the kittens, they can keep fostering.

Best of luck to you.

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answers from Washington DC on

Please listen to B. These don't sound like the right pets for your daughter. Why has she pushed for them? Does she have friends with them and thinks they're cute and fuzzy? We have good friends with two "pigs" and your daughter needs to know that: These animals are often more active in the evening (our friends say) so they may not be playful during the day when she wants to play. And they do indeed bite, especially if not socialized well, or even if socialized, they can bite if surprised etc. They seem like an "easy" pet but can be a lot of work, our friends have noted. They love their pigs but say they are really not for everyone.

Your child is used to cats and dogs, which live outside cages and can be more interactive in the daytime. I would not get her a pet in which she may lose interest quickly -- you would be the one stuck with caring for an animal that will live on for several years beyond the limit of her interest in it!

By the way, your cats may not come to the side of the house where you would keep the new pet -- but once the Guinea pig is there, the cats will smell it in the house and come investigate. They may not ever get at the pig but they will be aware of the intruder in their territory and you may have to spend time placating some angry cats....

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answers from Beaumont on

Is there a rescue organization in your area that might have a couple you could foster?? People get disenchanted all the time with pets and there (I'm sure) is a pair somewhere that might be a little older that would love another chance with a family. Mine lived 5 years and I really enjoyed them.

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answers from Denver on

Well my kids are well versed in animal care. My 12 year old takes about half the responsibility for the 65 birds (chickens, turkeys and ducks) we are raising as well as goats and pigs in the past. My 9 year old is nearly solely responsible for rabbits. I just double check on them but, only a couple of times have I had to remind her to get water or clean them. I think animal care is good for kids.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

I'm sort of cranky today...sorry if this comes across mean it's not meant that way at all.

At 13 she is old enough to babysit a living human being. She's old enough to babysit herself all day long while mom and dad are at work.

If she really wants a pet that is totally her own then by gosh she would have to be showing me she can take care of the animals already present in the home.

Our grand kids want a dog. The food, water, and litter box for their cat is in our master bathroom, why? you ask????

So I can see minute by minute during the day/week/month how they take care of it. If I see the cat going without food all day I know the kiddo in charge of food is not ready for more responsibility. If I see the litter box having any sort of solid material past the morning when it's the set time for it to be sifted I know that kiddo is not ready for more responsibility.

I have told my granddaughter that if she can't even take care of a living creature there is certainly no way she's responsible for a phone...that's a sure thing.

They get in trouble if the cat goes without for more than a little while, they don't go days without food....just to make sure that's understood. I give them a good chance to do their chore or fail, they I make them come in and manage their jobs.

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answers from Washington DC on

most 13 year olds are plenty ready to care for a pet. i'm not sure about yours either. she loses interest quickly, which isn't promising, but cares for and plays with the family pets, which actually indicates both interest and competence as far as i can see.
my kids had pet responsibilities at far younger ages and did reasonably well with them. still needed some supervision and reminders, but stepped up to the plate. if your teenager can babysit, i'm not sure why she couldn't care for a piggie.

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answers from Miami on

I don't think this is about her being 13. This is about being fair to the guinea pig.

They are very social animals. Putting it on the side of the house away from people is just going to make it so that your guinea pig is NOT used to being with people and it will be scared and skittish. They have to be held and handled and talked to and LOVED. Leaving it in a cage all the time is NO way to have a pet.

ETA - Veruca Salt is right about males being together. If you want two,, get girls...

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answers from Colorado Springs on

The novelty of a pet wears off, but the responsibility goes on - and, sometimes, it develops into a real love for the animal. At any rate, I appreciate that you are concerned for the animal's well-being.

Don't let your daughter have another pet until she has done some homework. Have her do research on guinea pigs - their nature, their needs, and their feeding - and write a good paper on it. Ask your vet's office if anyone can talk to her about what GPs are like (even if she says, "Oh, Mom,I already know about them!"). Discuss with her how much she'll contribute to GP's supplies, including a large exercise ball. See if she can GP-sit a friend's pet for a while. And be prepared to be the backup caregiver.

My older set of granddaughters have two GPs who belonged to a neighbor and needed a new home. It has been my DIL's responsibility to make sure the necessary jobs are done, because reminding is sometimes necessary and the GPs shouldn't suffer for it - but I've been pleased at how well the girls have cared for them (including preparing the vegetables they eat each day as well as the package food) and socialized them. The oldest granddaughter is 13.

By the way, your cats WILL be interested, no matter what they do now. GPs are not hamsters - they're big guys in the rodent world! - but you'll need to watch out for this one's safety.

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answers from New London on

My friend has g. pigs. They are very fragile and should not be put in those exercise balls or held by a child who could drop the pig.

They are social animals and need attention and the cage must be cleaned regularly.

My friends takes her g. pigs to the vet once a year for check-ups.

I would foster one for a few months.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Normally I'd say a 13 yr old could handle a few guinea pigs (you need more than one (same sex) they are social animals) but if she has a short attention span and will get bored with them - then I'd have to say no.
They need daily handling to keep them socialized with people and guinea pigs live for about 5 to 7 years.
It doesn't sound as if your daughters interest will last a year much less the whole life span of guinea pigs.
She just likes to want something until she gets it, then when her goal is met she loses interest.
Goals are all good and well but I don't like to see animals suffer from neglect - they aren't toys that can be left in a closet somewhere.
Get your daughter involved in some activity (taekwondo maybe) so she's busy.

Although babysitting shows a certain maturity/responsibility - but it doesn't compare with a long term responsibility.
Babysitting is over in a few hours.
A pet is day in / day out responsibility for 5 to 7 years.
She'll be too busy really soon with middle/high school activities.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

My daughter had one when she was around 7 or 8 and it was just fine. The biggest pain was making sure she "remembered" to clean the cage every week, but she wasn't rough with it or anything. I would hope a thirteen year old could understand how to gently hold a small animal.

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answers from Reading on

You could have ours. I hate it. And yes, they are social animals, but we had two brothers we raised from pups, and when they hit puberty, they started to fight. They bloodied each other several times. One bit the other in the balls. So yeah, they might be social, but we couldn't have them living together. So then, I was stuck with two pigs in two cages that I didn't want. One passed away suddenly (as did most of his litter mates), and we were left with just one. I'm sure he's lonely and doesn't get as much attention as he needs. But my daughter won't part with him. 13 should be more than capable, and if she isn't, then you really need to work with her on life skills.

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