Your kids might be convinced they're ready for a dog, but you know that you would end up doing most of the feeding, walking, and cleaning that dogs require. For families who are first-time pet owners, veterinarians often recommend smaller pets, like guinea pigs, because, as Dr. Laurie Hess, DVM, wrote for VetStreet, guinea pigs are less fragile than other small animals like rabbits and hamsters. And, much like a dog, there are a number of guinea pig breeds to chose from.
A guinea pig's breed can affect its temperament, hair type and maintenance, and health conditions. Once you've figured out what guinea pig breed is best for you, you could head to your local animal shelter or check out an online guinea pig rescue. .
In addition to a variety of breeds and lack of fragility, guinea pigs are relatively easy to care for. They don't usually suffer from serious medical conditions as long as they're properly cared for. They also eat a relatively simple diet of hay, fresh vegetables, pelleted food, and, according to Hess, a vitamin C supplement. Their water supply should be refreshed regularly, and their cage should be lined with bedding that is cleaned throughout the week. These are all tasks that kids can perform pretty easily, which is why guinea pigs make a far less daunting first pet than a dog, for instance.
Have we convinced you to adopt a guinea pig just yet? Here are some of the most popular guinea pig breeds, though new breeds are still emerging
The American guinea pig is the most common breed, according to Guinea Pig Hub. They have a sweet, lively temperament, making them great companions for kids. Their short hair also makes them much easier to groom and take care of than long-haired guinea pigs.
Crested, also known as White Crested, guinea pigs often look very similar to American guinea pigs, but they have a swirl or "crown" of hair on top of their heads, according to Guinea Pig Hub. Their temperament is similar to the Americans and their coats are also easy to maintain.
Coronet guinea pigs are long-haired guinea pigs with a swirl at the top of their heads from which their hair grows and parts, according to Spruce Pets. They are curious and playful, according to Somerzby Pet Products, but they require a lot of grooming thanks to their long coat.
Peruvian guinea pigs have the longest hair of all the breeds, to the point that it usually covers their eyes. A Peruvian holds the record for longest hair on a guinea pig at 21 inches, so don't adopt or buy this breed unless you're prepared to keep a regimented grooming schedule. Some owners of Peruvians trim their long hair to make it more manageable, but Guinea Pig Hub recommends letting it grow naturally.
Peruvians are just as sweet as other breeds, but they are often much more alert and curious.
Himalayan guinea pigs have the coloring of Siamese cats, though their dark points don't usually develop until a few months after they're born. Their eyes are red, so their overall color combination is incredibly unique. Though Guinea Pig Hub notes that they are sociable and gentle, Himalayan guinea pigs are best for people who have owned guinea pigs before because they're somewhat high maintenance and need to stay indoors, according to Somerzby Pet Products.
The Silkie, or Sheltie, guinea pig's hair grows back away from its face and down its back, though shouldn't part down the middle, according to breed standards. Silkies come in a number of different colors, and they're known as the most gentle breed, according to Somerzby Pet Products. That said, they might not be well-suited to kids because their longer hair requires more maintenance.
Teddies are known for their stiff, wiry coats, which are short and have a kink to them, according to Spruce Pets. The texture makes them resemble teddy bears, thus their name. It also makes their coats incredibly easy to maintain, though they do need the occasional brushing.
Teddies are the only breed with an upturned nose, according to Guinea Pig Hub, and they have one of the best temperaments, making them a great family pet.
Texels look a lot like Silkies, only with curly coats that require a lot of grooming. When their coats are long enough the curls can even become defined ringlets, according to Somerzby Pet Products.
Texels make great show guinea pigs because of their beautiful waves and curls, but the maintenance they require means they're best suited to someone who has the extra time to spend on grooming.
Rexes have a short, dense coat that resembles wool, according to Guinea Pig Hub, and they're also well-known for their droopy ears, which apparently makes them look like hedgehogs.
Rex guinea pigs might be what you could call "lap guinea pigs," if such a thing existed, because they enjoy being held and pet, according to Somerzby.
The Skinny guinea pig, usually just called the Skinny pig, is almost entirely hairless except for the hair on its face, legs, and feet. As a result, their skin can be sensitive and they can develop fungal infections or injuries, meaning they're probably better pets for adults who can keep a close eye on them.
Skinny pigs are indoor pets, and their cages should feature a "nesting material," like a small blanket. according to Somerzby Pet Products.
Sheba Mini Yaks, or Shebas, are often called the "bad hair day" guinea pigs, thanks to the swirls (known as rosettes) in their coat that make it stick out in different directions. Though cute and a little funny looking, their coat requires a lot of maintenance. Thankfully their sweet and curious temperament means they probably won't fight you when it's time for brushing.
Alpacas are much less common guinea pigs, so you probably won't find them in a pet store. Their dense, curly hair grows forward over their head and requires a bath about once a month.
Alpaca guineas are loved for their affectionate nature — they will want to spend time with you, which is good, because their coat also requires daily combing.
Regardless of what breed you choose, be sure you have the time to bond with them. Guinea pigs are loving pets with funny and kind personalities, and though they don't need as much daily exercise as dogs, they will need your time and love just like any other pet.