The cutest pet in town
Having a pet at home is every child’s wish at some point in life. Be it a golden retriever, a purring kitten, a furry white rabbit or even a guinea pig. The first three are fairly common but owning guinea pigs seems to be the latest fad among kids.
Belonging to the rodent family, guinea pigs look like mice, though they have no tails. Known to have originated in Andes, South America they have a life span of four to five years depending on the care and nourishment they receive. Their squeak (which isn’t much to write home about anyway) is loud and their little bites tolerable.
Often compared to toys, children love playing with them. The flip side is that as long as they are in good health, children don’t complain but if they fall ill they are returned to the pet centers.
Shares Shahid Khan of Variety Pets, “It is problematic because we do not take back the animals that have been sold. It affects our business.”
Guinea pigs’ staple diet is grass and cucumber but they can eat almost all kinds of leafy vegetables and fruit. When domesticated they adapt themselves to ghar ka khana also. Mostly, they are bought as a pair as purchasing a single guinea pig tends to make it feel lonely.
Children take to them fastest probably because of their looks and undemanding nature. Neha Sehti, a primary teacher with Mount St Mary’s school shares what prompted her to buy them.
“My friend has eight guinea pigs and another friend has three so I decided to bring one for myself.”
However, it is important that an adult be present at all time with guinea pigs around. Their scurrying around without sound heightens their chances of getting stuck in a kitchen drain or pipeline. But Manish Karnatak, a radio jockey says, “They are intelligent enough to know the risky regions of the house once they are familiar.” In summer they can be found lazing in air-conditioned rooms, while in winter they prefer the comforts of a thick blanket for a good sleep.
Delhi has around 100 pet stores which stock up on these furry delights. Pet Centre in Lajpat Nagar (established in 1942 and one of the oldest pet shops in the City) frequently receives children aged 7-13, asking for guinea pigs, reveals its owner Mozam Khan.
“They are like toys and they are a hit among them.” The sense of attachment and care can only happen with pets as they love unconditionally, without any judgment.”
There are several breeds which are available in the market today including Peruvian, Sheltie, Rex Mutations, Long-haired, White-crested. Guinea pigs are relatively inexpensive and cost between Rs.1200-1500. Their food, accessories, cage and bedding can cost anywhere between Rs. 2500 - 4000.
While mostly they are taken home as pets, there are those who purchase them for the purpose of breeding too. But such businesses run on the basis of research downloaded from the net coupled with lack of experience. “The current mushrooming of such business is bound to meet their fated end,” says Shahid.
Often brought in Patna and Pune, Lucknow and Kolkata the tricloured guinea pig is the most popular with the kids and hence stocked by most pet centres.