It makes me so sad when I’m on Facebook and I see a friend has gotten a single pig, pet store cage, no hay in sight, or all of the above. I want to educate people about proper pig ownership but seem to be having a difficult time doing so. Even when I’ve simply just linked this site or guineapigcages.com people seem to go instantly on the offense.
What are your guys go-to ways of going about this sensitive topic? I’ve never been a confrontational person but I can’t just ignore people unknowingly mistreating their pets.
Thanks again guys!
One way to go about it (which I think someone already said) is to casually bring things up in conversation, like, "guinea pigs can get up to some really funny stuff when they're running around in a large space, it's really cute." Or, "my guinea pigs can't get enough hay."
Or, when you see someone has purchased a guinea pig, you could say, "congratulations, guinea pigs are wonderful pets! This website has been so helpful to me as an owner." (And then link to the website, for example this one.) Or, "if you need any advice, let me know!"
Another really important thing is, when bringing up this subject with people, assure them that it's not their fault that they didn't already know this stuff. Guinea pigs are still presented to the public as being low maintenance pocket pets, and most people just aren't aware of the needs they have. When I got my first piggy nine years ago, I had no idea that they needed hay until the vet told me, or that they needed lots of space. We have to start somewhere, and the most important part of owning any pet is being willing to learn.
So, when I see someone not looking after their guinea pigs properly, I relate it to the mistakes I once made as a new owner. For example, " Did you know that pet store food actually isn't healthy, and that they need a constant supply of hay? I couldn't believe it when I found this out, I had no idea when I first adopted guinea pigs!" This will help people to not immediately get defensive. You could also put them in touch with an exotics vet who will tell them the same thing, but might carry more weight coming from a professional.
If none of that works, sadly there's no way you can force people to listen. Some people want a low maintenance pet, and won't want to hear anything that goes against their perception of guinea pigs as being that pet.
It is also helpful to add an explanatory sentence following a comment like, "...they need a constant supply of hay" with:
"Because their teeth grow constantly, they need the hay to help wear them to the right length. Does wonders for their digestion too (they're like little horses) and hay is a great boredom killer!"
I have a friend who had a rabbit in a typical "pet store" cage "made for guinea pigs"-so obviously it was very small. I told her about my rabbit, who was free range (he passed away a couple years ago) and how he used a litterbox just like my cats. I also told her how much fun he had running around and how much we enjoyed him being able to hop up on the couch and cuddle with us whenever he wanted. The next day she got him a litterbox and he's had free range of the second floor ever since. (It really helped that her kids loved it)
I'm a big freak when it comes to hay because when I had my very first rabbit (different from above) we had no idea she needed constant hay. My science teacher just knew I loved animals and since her son had gone into the military she asked if I would take his bunny. We had her for 8 years. One day she stopped eating. We rushed her to the emergency vet but there was nothing they could do. She had a giant hairball in her stomach, which the vet said was probably due to not having constant hay. We had to put her down right then. I almost always tell people about this because even though it is extreme, I can get my point across without anyone getting defensive. I didn't know at first either.
With guinea pig cages, I usually tell people about how much popcorning they will see if their pigs had the room to do it. Showing videos of my pigs running around helps.
When it comes right down to it, I will say point blank: "the acceptable size for a guinea pig cage is considered by veterinary standards to be 7 square feet" "they NEED constant hay-and if they are over 6 months it cannot be alfalfa" "it's considered animal cruelty in some countries to keep one lone guinea pig or rabbit"
I probably get away with this more than some people might because I'm studying veterinary medicine (specifically exotics) and everyone who knows me already comes to me with all of their pet questions.
Honestly, all the studying in the world can't make up for experience. I learned so much more from reading your care guide than I ever have in books. "Exotics" are really not taught very much in detail, even when you specialize. I adopted my first guinea pig a little over a year ago and thought I'd know everything because I understood all about their anatomy and diet. I was so wrong. I knew nothing about behavior or habits or even all the sounds they make. This site helped me tremendously, so thank you! (And you should totally teach classes!!!)