The guinea pig joined the family in 2013. He was a Christmas gift for my then-12-year-old son. The real gift was that we trusted him to be responsible enough to take care of a guinea pig.

Our guinea pig was a young male, with fur of black and white and brown.

We named him Little Jerry, after an episode of “Seinfeld.”

He lived in my son’s room upstairs, and my son indeed kept him fed and watered and his cage (mostly) clean.

When Little Jerry got excited, he would squeak and make little hops into the air. Guinea pig people call this “popcorning.”

Guinea pigs are very social creatures. In the wild, they live in herds. But Little Jerry seemed to do fine by himself. He slept all day, ate all night and made a smelly mess of his living quarters. Not unlike his human roommate.

Now that the son has moved to college, I have become the Keeper of the Guinea Pig. I have had to learn some things:

1. Keep your hands away from the guinea pig’s mouth, for they have nasty, big, pointy teeth and will bite when they feel threatened.

2. Guinea pigs always feel threatened.

3. Guinea pigs must be fed a diet of special guinea pig pellets and special guinea pig hay. They eat lots and lots of hay. I spend a lot of time at the pet store buying very expensive bags of grass.

4. Guinea pigs are not really pigs. They are rodents, like squirrels or rats, but cuter. 

5. Guinea pigs don’t come from Guinea. They come from the Andes Mountains in South America, where they have been domesticated as livestock. And by “livestock” I mean, “people eat them.”

6. Guinea pigs typically live between seven and nine years. The oldest guinea pig lived to be almost 15. Which means I could conceivably be cleaning the guinea pig cage until 2028. Sigh.

7. Guinea pigs have four toes on their front feet and three toes on their hind feet. This is important to know because guinea pigs need their toenails trimmed regularly. (See No. 1.)

8. Guinea pigs are bigger than hamsters are bigger than gerbils. 

9. Guinea pig don’t need no exercise wheel.

10. Pet stores will stock either male guinea pigs or female guinea pigs but not both. This is because guinea pigs breed like rabbits. Or tribbles.

11. Scientists have long experimented on guinea pigs, which is where the phrase “human guinea pig” comes from.

12. When a guinea pig dances, it’s called a guinea pig jig.

13. A guinea pig’s living quarters are guinea pig digs.

14. If a guinea pig can get a band together, they play guinea pig gigs.

15. If a guinea pig gets his CDL, he can drive a guinea pig big rig.

Lisa Davis is Features Editor of The Anniston Star. Contact her at 256-235-3555 or ldavis@annistonstar.com.

Features Editor Lisa Davis: 256-235-3555.

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