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When guinea pigs change your life

 In our back garden is an empty hutch.

We got it a few years ago when we intended to get rabbits. That didn't work out, sadly. Then we spent a long time talking about getting pets - but not quite yet, maybe after the next holiday, or when the weather warms up.

Finally we introduced two fluffballs to our family by the names of Lily and Violet. They're guinea pigs. But of course they are far too cute to live outdoors, and have to have a cage in the dining room where they can squeak at us during dinner. So the outdoor hutch is still empty, for now.

Lily left, Violet right
 

A lot of other things change when you get guinea pigs, though. Here are a few I wasn't expecting.

You cut grass in your pajamas 

Somehow we've got into this routine where Graham, who is up first, gives the guinea pigs their vegetables. Then by the time I get up they are ready for a big bunch of grass. So there I am, wading through the dew in my flipflops and dressing gown, cutting grass with scissors. This is before I get any breakfast, mind you, otherwise they sit there looking reproachfully at me while I'm drinking coffee.

Now it's summer they can go outside and cut their own grass!

It's up to my ears!

You talk more to the guinea pigs than the rest of the family

We've all found ourselves doing it. We come in and say, "Hello Lily! Hello Violet! How are you?" then as an afterthought: "Oh, hi honey. You OK?" Greeting the guinea pigs has become part of Graham's routine after work, even though they are more likely to dive for cover when he approaches, than to show any sign of welcome.

You find hay everywhere

Seriously. Guinea pigs like lots of hay, and that stuff really spreads around. Our vacuum cleaner is astonished by its new diet of hay, woodshavings and guinea pig pellets, and we still keep finding bits all over the floor. We have a huge bale in the garage, and a smaller one up in the loft - not to mention water bottles, food bowls, chew toys, and all the other paraphernalia which pets bring with them.

But I like hay!
 

Your neighbour brings you carrot peelings

We are fortunate to have very lovely neighbours who have already looked after the guinea pigs when we went on holiday recently. Many things travel regularly between the two houses - kids' shoes, fidget toys, bunches of flowers and bits of cake - and now carrot peelings for the guinea pigs have been added to the list. Lily and Violet are keen on carrots, so these are always received enthusiastically. They also love kale, parsley, and cucumber, but we haven't been able to interest them in peppers, tomatoes or spinach, even though these are meant to be great foods for guinea pigs.

Your Facebook feed fills up with guinea pig bottoms

Well, you join these guinea pig interest groups, you see, and among all the posts about what food they can eat and how big their cage needs to be, there are fairly regular ones saying, "I got these two guinea pigs and the shop said they were both female, but now I'm not so sure". These are invariably accompanied by photos of said guinea pigs' back ends, so that the experts in the group can pronounce on the sex. I have no intention of trying to learn how to sex a guinea pig; the breeder we got ours from said they were female, and I've seen no reason to doubt it so far. At least, they don't fart, burp, or talk about cars!

The front view is far more photogenic
 

You have yet another set of toenails to cut

So you go to pick up your cute new pets, and the breeder remarks casually, "Oh, you just need to trim their claws every few weeks." What? My own children won't let me cut their toenails until they get long and curly and full of grot, and now you're telling me I've got to wrestle with squeaky, slippery guinea pigs as well? I've done it once so far, and it wasn't actually that bad, but I have a suspicion that it's only because they didn't know what was coming. They need their claws clipping again soon, and this time they'll be expecting it...

You can't remember when they weren't part of the family

You know what it's like. Pets are messy and hard work and expensive, and as soon as you've got them you can't imagine life without them. Toby and Theo love cuddles with the "floofballs", and we've spent several hours just watching them explore and nibble parsley leaves. They are very cute.


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