If you love them, get them neutered!

Posted 21st January 2023

The current cost of living crisis is resulting in people giving up their pets. In turn, rescue centres are struggling to cope – and yet some of the heartache could be avoided. Animals in Need’s Nicole Webb told Pulse’s Sammy Jones about the ‘problem’ with guinea pigs…
The biggest frustration when writing about Animals in Need, the Northamptonshire-set rescue centre, is that so many of the problems faced by the dedicated staff and volunteers there could be avoided if people would only take responsibility.

There is a reason why you are asked to neuter your pets; it prevents rising populations in unwanted animals and can protect against some serious health complications.
But still, so many people choose not to do so, and that simply compounds the issue.

If you’ve not got your animal neutered? Then frankly, you are part of the problem.
“One of the main problems with guinea pigs ending up in rescues is that people are not neutering their animals,” agrees Nicole,

“It is so important because it stops unwanted litters. If people would play their part, it would massively reduce the number of animals ending up in centres like ours.”

Twenty-two year old Nicole has worked at the centre for around a year now, and during that time the Little Irchester hub has re-homed more than 170 of the creatures.

Sadly, AIN deals with a never ending cycle of unwanted furries who look sweet, but who are then given up when the kids decide that actually, feeding Bluebell or Ginger after school isn’t nearly as much fun as sitting on their phones talking to their pals. It’s heartbreaking for the animals who often live out their lives with little stimulation, largely forgotten about at the bottom of the garden. They rely on us, and we need to do our best by them.

“We currently have 19 guinea pigs under our care and another four in foster homes,” Nicole said.

Those seeking forever homes at the charity include a trio of handsome young boys called Gary, Robbie and Mark, and a duo who go by the names of Ronnie and Reggie.

“Some people assume they are easy pets for children but that is not always the case – they are a big commitment and can live for up to six or seven years – they require lots of care and time.

“Just because they are small animals, it doesn’t mean they require less attention.”
If you believe that a guinea pig is the right addition to your family, you need to be sure that you can cater for their needs – before you open your home to one.

And space is a very real part of that consideration: “They require lots of that as they are very active little animals and like to move around like the rest of us. They need fresh food, water and vegetables daily. A main part of their diet is hay which helps with their digestive system and wears their teeth down as they constantly grow,” Nicole said.

All guinea pigs also need access to a nice grassed area where they can enjoy the warmer days – so none of that horrid plastic stuff, please!

“Toys and chews are very important for them as they will also help with wearing their teeth down and can also act as a boredom breaker, but don’t give them plastic toys which can be swallowed and cause problems. It is very important to give your guinea pig some hideouts to give them a place to sleep and to escape to for some peace and quiet.”

Because just like us, sometimes they just want to be left alone!
House maintenance is another ‘must do’.
“They need to be spot cleaned daily and fully cleaned at least once a week, or as frequently as required,” and ‘can’t be bothered’ is no excuse for failing any animal.
At a time when our purse strings are being squeezed harder than ever, you need to factor in the guinea pig’s needs and whether you will be comfortable enough to meet them.
“Think about possible vet bills should they become unwell, as well as the general upkeep, which includes the things I made mention of – bedding, hay, food and vegetables,” Nicole advised, “They must also have the correct size accommodation as they require lots of space to roam around and stretch their legs.

“You also need to make sure you take the time to interact with them daily which helps to create a bond.”

We keep talking about guinea pigs in the singular form, but actually these sociable little beings relish company and should always be kept in pairs, or groups.
“They can be kept in same sex pairs such as two males or two females, a male and a female together or if you have a group of three or more, you should go for one male with other females.

“But again they must be neutered to prevent unwanted litters.”

Nicole is clearly a fan of the the furry piggies, or cavies as they are sometimes known, and she struggles to find any downside to owning the rodents as pets – so long as you heed that important advice she has shared: “One of the best things about guinea pigs are their different characters and I love the squeaky sound they make especially when they are excited!

“I find it really difficult to find a bad thing to say about them as they make lovely pets but their homes can get a little bit messy – but that daily spot clean sorts that out for them.”
Despite being relatively new to the charity, Nicole is now heavily invested in the care of AIN’s rescued cats, rabbits, rodents and the guinea pigs.

She is making a big difference to those animals who wind up in her care, as AIN’s manager Annie said: “She is such a kind, hardworking and totally dedicated young lady. She is the perfect addition to our wonderful team.”

And we’re sure that Gary, Robbie and Mark would squeak their agreement!

Did you know?
Five piggy facts…
1 Guinea pigs like to party hard!
They can be active for up to 20 hours a day!
2 Good hay is vital for their diet, as are leafy greens – broccoli and kale aren’t just good for us, they are great for your pets too. Carrots are perfect treats, but don’t feed them too many – the high sugar content won’t do them any good.
3 These little animals are highly sociable, and they like to chatter too! They make several sounds and will even coo to comfort one another.
4 Babies are called pups and they are fully mature in three months – but they will keeping growing until they reach a year old.
5 Contrary to what their name indicates, they don’t come from Guinea and they aren’t related to pigs!

Want to adopt?
If you would like to adopt a guinea pig, or any animal from the charity, your first port of call is to check the website: animals-in-need.org
If you find an animal you would like to meet, drop an email to admin@animals-in-need.org to arrange an appointment.
If all goes well, you can then reserve the animal, followed by a home check.
Adopting a guinea pig costs £20 for a female and £40 for a male.
The extra cost for a Mr.Pig takes into account neutering which all male pigs undergo before re-homing.