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Friday Arcade

Guinea Pigs for Sale?

So they aren’t from Guinea and they aren’t pigs but don’t hold it against them. They, like the koala bear (not a bear!), may have one of the most misleading names in the animal kingdom but they make splendid pets.

Guinea pigs are a common pet in the UK and have also played some crucial roles in times gone by. There you go, you didn’t know that did you?

Whilst most people opt for a rabbit or a hamster, I personally think guinea pigs are a good combination of the two. They are docile and friendly and make a great addition to your family.

Across South America guinea pigs play a huge part in the folk culture of many indigenous groups. The sad part for the poor little pig (not pig) is that quite often they are eaten. However they were also worshipped by many Andean tribes, so it’s swings and roundabouts really. Sometimes they’re eaten sometimes they’re praised.

They have also been used to diagnose disease. There you go, how many domestic pets do you know that can do that? They make the goldfish look like a fool. In Latin America shaman would rub a guinea pig against the body of a sick person to diagnose illness and they were also seen as a supernatural medium.

Now you want to get a guinea pig don’t you? You’re even thinking of trading in your cat for one. No? Well let me carry on.

Spanish, Dutch and English traders brought guinea pigs back to Europe where they quickly became a status symbol for the rich and royal. They were deemed exotic pets then and even Queen Elizabeth I had one. That’s right royalty; the guinea pig was pretty much on the throne.

They are also pretty clever. Not only can they diagnose diseases in South America but they can learn complex paths to food and remember them for months. And you thought the dolphin was clever. Guinea Pigs are even good swimmers!

Now for the sad news; guinea pigs have been used in scientific research for years. They have been subject to animal testing and experiments. So much so, that the term ‘guinea pig’ is actually used as a metaphor for a subject of scientific experimentation. So ensure you give a guinea pig a good life and buy one, forget the rabbit.

If you are going to get a guinea pig it is advised to get a pair or a small group because if they are left alone then they can suffer from stress and depression. If handled carefully at a young age they can grow up being easy to handle and won’t bite or scratch you. They aren’t expensive to look after and their basic diet is grass.

So they are a sacred animal in some parts of the world; they are clever; Queen Elizabeth had one; and they are friendly and docile. Next time you are thinking of getting a pet give a thought to the guinea pig.

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