Although many pet lovers know they can adopt dogs and cats, not as many know that they can also adopt guinea pigs.
On Saturday, the Franklin Boulevard Pet Valu, in Cambridge, and the Guinea Pig Sanctuary hosted an event for small animals and guinea pig adoption. They were offering nail trims on small animals for just five dollars, adoptable guinea pigs, raffles and giveaways.
As a store that does not support breeders, Pet Valu seemed to be the perfect place to host an event like this one.
“We are very proud to be able to support our local charities that helps with all animals, including small animals. We are very happy to support them,” said Raven Cape, who works at Pet Valu. “All of our pets usually come from the Cambridge Humane Society, if they’re here in the store. Or we hold events like this.”
According to Catherine Warren, who runs the Guinea Pig Sanctuary (GPS) in Kitchener, the organization prefers not to support commercial breeding.
“Our policy is that we don’t work with stores that sell live animals,” Warren said. “I’m kinda not anti-breeder because there are some really good breeders out there but one of the problems I have with the breeding industry right now is that there are no regulations. If you can put a boy and a girl together and create babies, you’re a breeder. The only regulation I’m aware of to become a registered breeder is to fill the form and pay the fee. . . We are trying to promote adoption over purchase.”
Unfortunately, the most common case is when an owner surrenders their guinea pigs and asks GPS for help re-homing the pets.
It all began in her family, two years ago.
“We started when my son wanted a pet and a friend of mine was re-homing her guinea pig and we kind of fell in love from there,” said Warren. “We found out that they needed a friend so we went on a hunt for a friend and then, doing so, we found out how many are there on Kijiji needing a home.”
Warren said that she started adopting numerous guinea pigs and, when her husband questioned her, she voiced her concern about what was going to happen to them if she didn’t adopt them. When she started to have too many guinea pigs in her house, she had the idea of keeping them temporarily and then re-homing them to a trustworthy family.
“That’s how GPS was born and it’s grown exponentially since then. It started out with just a few and it grew and grew,” said Warren.
The GPS also changed its location recently.
“I had them at my house but then I thought it would be best, for a number of different reasons, to have them all in foster homes,” said Warren. “Some of the Pet Valus decided to foster them at their stores until they got adopted. It’s a better situation for them because they get more one on one attention. We felt like that was a good move.”
Warren said that, sadly, the number of requests from people trying to put their pets to adoption increases a lot a few months after Christmas and Easter. That usually happens because people give them as gifts and then lose interest in the guinea pigs. Except for those months, they have a lower number of requests.
“It varies but the average right now probably is in the range of five to 10 requests a month. There were times when I was receiving five requests a week so it can vary greatly,” said Warren. “There is always a constant need out there, there’s a lot of people that, for whatever reason, want to avoid the Humane Society. I think they’re great for dogs and cats and they can do small animals and they do but they fill up quickly. And those small animals, like rabbits and guinea pigs, being around a lot of barking dogs all the time is very stressful for them.”
The creator of the Guinea Pig Sanctuary also voiced a worry about the online ads.
“Putting them up on Kijiji for free often means that unscrupulous people will want them for snake food and horrible things like that,” commented Warren. “They’ll go on there saying ‘Oh yeah, we’ll give them a good home!’ And then they turn around and they’re snake food. That’s why I got into doing this, keeping them safe around there and having a safer option for people, you know, because it’s not always safe out there rehoming them on your own.”
Undoubtedly, Warren’s passion for the small animals was clear when asked why guinea pigs make great pets.
“I think they’re pretty much the perfect pet,” Warren said. “They’re very affectionate and loyal like dogs and they’re self cleaning like cats. . . . They have little personalities that most people don’t think of because they’re technically rodents and they don’t think of them as affectionate but these ones are. . . . They’re very entertaining to watch, they do something when they’re happy, called ‘popcorning,’ when they kinda jump up on the air and twist and oh, it’s funny to watch.”
She also commented on some perks of having a guinea pig. According to Warren, guinea pigs don’t require someone to walk them or regular veterinary visits, only a semestral check-up. They are also caged animals, which means they will be contained and not a worry for someone with other pets or curious children.
“It’s the best of both worlds,” described Warren.
Since the GPS runs completely depending on donations, things can get harder sometimes.
“One of the most recent cases we’ve had, we’re still paying for that,” Warren said. “I think our bill, right now, is still sitting on around $1,000 for two surgeries. You’ve got to have some money available because you never know when one of them is going to need that.”
When the sanctuary used to be located at her own house, the donations would go to supplies such as food and bedding but now, with the foster homes, she can leave those donations free to go mainly to the vet bills.
“We are completely donation run, so there is a link on our website to donate,” Warren commented. “Of course, people can donate at events like this as well.”
The adoption fees vary, from $20 for just one guinea pig, in case the person already has the accessories and a cage mate, to $80 for the package with two guinea pigs, cage, water bottle, pellet dish and hide.
As for now, there are no future adoptions events confirmed, but the Guinea Pig Sanctuary’s Facebook page is always posting updates on their next events.