Guinea Pigs as Classroom Pets - Why Not

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Mar 10, 2009
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Coventry UK
Animals in classrooms - The official welfare stance
Our forum stance on this subject follows RSPCA guidance, which is the leading official UK animal welfare organisation (i.e. the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). This stance is the result of far too many tragedies and suffering resulting in life-long trauma and health problems in the lucky survivors.
Creating suffering in the classroom in an unsuitable environment and often welfare incompatible way of housing and care (especially during out of school hours) is not the most effective way of teaching kindness to animals and introducing animal welfare in a positive way.

The RSPCA offers many more effective and much less cruel alternatives to promote kindness and animal welfare in schools in a better way.

This link here with their information on how to create an animal friendly school in keeping with the current welfare standards and guidelines is a downloadable pdf document for printing and distribution in your school if wished:

Guinea pigs in classrooms - why not

Why do guinea pigs in particular not make good classroom pets and why will any good welfare standard rescues refuse to rehome into a classroom situation?

- Guinea pigs are group animals that require the company of their own kind round the clock for ongoing interaction and stimulation.
Guinea Pig Facts - An Overview

- They are a ground roaming species that should have as much ground space as possible.
They are territorial; being moved around between lots of homes and places all the time is very stressful for them.

Cage Size Guide

- Guinea pigs are prey animals. A loud, boisterous environment is very stressful for them.
Arrival in a home from the perspective of pet shop guinea pigs
Understanding Prey Animal Instincts, Guinea Pig Whispering And Cuddling Tips
How To Pick Up And Weigh Your Guinea Pig Safely

- Unlike widespread and persistent opinion, they are NOT an ideal children's pet.
A classroom situation does not lend itself to supervised interaction at all times if they are kept within reach of the children.

Guinea pigs are NOT living cuddle toys! Seeming complacency is actually their prey animal instincts running on high alert - a guinea pig that is boring for a playing predator may be left to live another day.
Children And Guinea Pigs - A Guide For Parents
Children And Guinea Pigs - Age Appropriate Interaction And Responsibilities.
" Biting" And What You Can Do (Biting, Tweaking, Nibbling and Nipping)

- Guinea pigs - when well kept - are actually one of the more labour intensive and expensive pets to keep.
The average life span of a well kept guinea pig is 5-7 years. At some point or other they will need to see a vet for a yearly health check and in the case of illness. Since they are small pets with a much faster metabolism this cannot wait for days or even weeks. As prey animals, guinea pigs are wired to suppress any signs of illness for as long as possible. An ill looking piggy is a very ill animal indeed and it can go downhill with terrifying speed!
You need to have a fund that runs into the hundreds of pounds or dollars in order to afford adequate vet care in an emergency. A guinea pig off their food also needs round the clock feeding care to stay alive until medical treatment is kicking in and the recovery is well underway.
New guinea pigs: Sexing, vet checks&customer rights, URI, ringworm and parasites
A guide to vets fees, insurance and payment support.
Emergency, Crisis and Bridging Care until a Vet Appointment
Not Eating, Weight Loss And The Importance Of Syringe Feeding Fibre

Guinea pigs need to digest their food, which should consist of up 80% of hay, hay and more good quality hay and fresh dog pee free grass fibre twice; they produce special poos which they eat again (caecotrophs) in order to break down the rough grass fibre further. This means that you get waste poos not just once, but from either run through the gut.
Guinea pigs cannot be potty trained and should be cleaned out twice and not just once a week for health and smelling reasons.

- Weekend and holiday cover
Can you assure that guinea pigs are seen, fed and watered on a daily basis including weekends and holidays by an experienced and welfare savvy guinea pig owner who can pick up on the very subtle signs of illness early on and that they are protected from the extremes of weather (especially heat spikes and heat waves in classrooms) at all times? Can you assure life long weekly weigh-ins and body checks to make sure that the piggies are healthy and well cared for?
Far too many guinea pigs go without feed and water over weekends. Too many holidays in the hands of inexperiencered parents or teachers have fatal consequences due to lack of supervision.
For these reasons, the person specifically responsible for the care of any classroom pets is now also legally liable for their welfare and can be prosecuted for failure in their responsibility (UK Animal Welfare Act, 2006.)

- Many classroom pets are some of the most neglected and traumatised guinea pigs out there.

Sadly this is an experience that virtually every decent rescue has had ample experience of - and these were the lucky survivors!
Having adopted and looked after a deeply traumatised guinea pig myself, I can add my own first-hand experience as to how devastating life-long consequences this can have for even a most lovely natured guinea pig.

Guinea pigs in the classroom - please say NO!
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