Taking on a cavy or guinea pig (or two or more) requires a firm commitment of not only your time, but your money. Although nowhere near as expensive as keeping a horse or most dogs you should expect to pay an average of about one thousand dollars a year per two cavies. This is a worst case scenario kind of figure. Although many guinea pigs do not need to go to the vet every year, I arrived at this figure based on taking a guinea pig to a vet every year.
This might seem like an incredible amount of money, but if you really want a guinea pig in your life, you’ll find the money. Think of how much you spend on entertainment, or dining out at restaurants, or for new clothes. And, as you get the hand of being enslaved by guinea pigs, you will find ways to economize on their supplies and still keep them healthy and comfortable.
How Much Should A Guinea Pig Cost?
Ideally, a guinea pig should only cost you the adoption fee from your local animal rescue shelter. You might even decide to take on a guinea pig from a family member of friend who can’t keep him any more. If you want a good pet, instead of a guinea pig that HAS to be a particular color or hair length, please consider adoption before buying a baby guinea pig from a pet store.
Even if you buy a guinea pig, this will only be anywhere from five to thirty dollars (US). You’ll find that, in comparison to maintenance costs, this will be the smallest expense connected with keeping a guinea pig.
Guinea pig cages vary considerably in price in size and complexity, but a basic cage for one guinea pig should be at least two feet by three feet. They need solid floors and good ventilation. Guinea pigs do not do well in aquariums, as they often get too hot and stuffy for them. Cages with a barred top that clip onto a solid plastic bottom do really well. On average, a guinea pig cage will cost about sixty dollars (US). Many cages for guinea pigs come in kits, which help out a bit in cost.
Bedding is a big issue in terms of expense and quality of life for your guinea pigs. The price of bedding keeps changing according to the economy. Cheap cedar bedding is NOT cheap because it will make your guinea pig sick. Stick with aspen wood or “carefresh” bedding or kiln-dried pine. You save if you buy in bulk, especially in multi-pig households.
Good food for guinea pigs is actually more expensive than getting good food for cats. They need timothy hay, pellets, hard treats, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Keep in mind that your guinea pig, just like people, needs to eat foods with vitamin C because their bodies cannot make vitamin C by themselves.
Keep the food in air-tight metal tins or Rubbermaid to keep it fresh. Guinea pigs will not eat stale food. Do not buy food in bulk, as it goes off fast. Pellets only cost about $5 (US) per bag, but you will go through a couple of bags of hay a week, which will be anywhere from $4 – $10 per bag, depending on current hay prices.
Guinea pigs are not big on toys, especially wheels. They prefer a good romp around a room or a pen in the back yard for their exercise. When I had my little colony of female guinea pigs, I managed to make an enclosure for them in my bedroom out of milk crates and Rubbermaid totes as a “fence”.
Guinea pigs enjoy old clothes to nibble on and snuggle in. I did a load of “piggy laundry” a week in coin operated machines, which was (at the time) about $3 a load. They also enjoy running and hiding in large cardbaord tunnels, overturned flower pots, paper bags and old shoeboxes. Be sure to remove any toy or hiding place that gets wet with urine.
This is the biggest expense in owning guinea pigs, but if you keep them clean, well-fed, well-watered, out of extreme temperature changes, you’ll be able to prevent a lot of reasons for going to the vet. Guinea pigs don’t need vaccinations, but they will need medicine for getting rid of parasites that happen even to the cleanest of piggys.
Guinea pigs are prone to accidents, get infections and tumors. Males need to be neutered if you don’t want to be buried under guinea pigs. Fortunately, the success rate for these surgeries has gone up in the past fifteen years. But count on at least $50 (US) per vet visit.
There will be times when you will feel as if your guinea pigs will be eating your wallet, but the companionship and love of these remarkable animals will more than repay you. Besides, your money can be replaced. Your guinea pig can’t, not even with another guinea pig. Each one is unique and brings priceless moments and memories into your life.