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General Being a better pet-parent

Jess12345

Active Member
Cavy Slave
Joined
Nov 24, 2018
Messages
22
Hello everyone- It’s been a long time since I last posted anything here. A lot of things have changed, and I’ve been really struggling with guilt recently regarding how I’ve cared for, and how I am caring for, my Guinea pigs.

I guess I’ve come here not just to get everything off my chest, but to talk to people much more knowledgeable than I am, and with much more experience than I have and hopefully figure out what my next steps should be.



*A warning before I start though, I do talk about my mental health here and I also talk about pet deaths. If that’s not something you are mentally prepared to hear about, or something you are uncomfy with, please be aware that that stuff is in here. I will put disclaimers where needed*



In an attempt to make a long story short, in the beginning, when I got Jin and Cookie, i had barely done any research. When I got Jin, The one thing I remember watching videos for was how to trim their nails. Most research came AFTER we got him, and even more when we got Cookie not too long after. I was around 16 with no job, making me have to rely on my parents for anything I (or more specifically in this case, my Guinea pigs) needed. If I asked them they would get it for me, but I would hesitate to ask for veggies specifically since we were always tight on money it seemed like. I felt like I was adding another burden to their plate whenever I needed to ask them for something, which I know I shouldn’t have since veggies are necessary for piggies. My mom said they always could’ve gotten it for me, because they knew I needed it even if I didn’t ask, but they just didn’t have the money.

There would be periods where I’d have veggies for them and periods where I wouldn’t (due to my own negligence. I should have gotten over myself and did was was best for them). They always had pellets and hay, the only times they wouldn’t have much was when I was waiting on a delivery to arrive with more.



Eventually I got the stuff to make a c&c cage! Unfortunately, when I tried to bond them it DID NOT work out. They weren’t aggressive (thankfully), but cookie did not want Jin near him. Whenever Jin got close Cookie would wheek so loudly, and he was practically frozen in place most of the time. Sparing you the details, I made a stacked cage for them. Jin got a 2x3 (which I know, and knew, was the minimum. I intended to expand when I got more money as I used holiday money to get the supplies needed), and cookie got a 2x4.



In December 2019, we had gone to petsmart for some reason or another (I really can’t remember why, I think my sibling and I had some money to spend for the holidays, but I don’t know why we chose petsmart). There was a single little Guinea pig in that glass cage display thing, and despite knowing that I SHOULDNT be getting ANY animals from a pet store (ESPECIALLY one like petsmart) I let myself be talked into getting him. His name is Caramel! I do not regret getting him, but I do regret supporting petsmart, if that makes sense. It’s not a decision I intend to make again, nor have I since.



I kept him separate from Jin and Cookie, making sure he was healthy before trying to bond him with either of them. This separation was prolonged due to some health scares (and also me needing to get the money to upgrade their cages). He injured his eye during this time, and I had to find ways to treat it myself as I still didn’t have a job, and we didn’t have enough money to pay a vet bill (his eye is healed now, don’t worry). He also had some bald patches, which I was worried might be mites at first, but after investigating some more I decided to use some triple antibiotic ointment on the spots and everything was normal after a while.



Eventually (I believe early-ish to mid 2020), I gathered the stuff I needed to upgrade the c&c cage! I intended to bond Carm and Cookie and make them a 2x5, and upgrade Jin to a 2x5 as well. Bonding Carm and Cookie went a lot better than trying to bond Jin and Cookie, and while it wasn’t sunshine and rainbows (by which I mostly mean Cookie chasing Caramel around periodically) I felt safe to put them in the cage together.

However, either in the morning or a while later (I really can’t remember when I saw this), I noticed Carm had yet another eye injury. I wasn’t sure if it was the same cause as last time (pretty sure he hurt his eye climbing inside the hay sack thing I had at the time), or if there had been a fight and I didn’t realize.

Cookie kept his 2x5, but instead of doing a 2x5 for Jin as well, I had to figure out a way to separate Carm until he healed so I made him what was meant to be a temporary 2x2, and kept Jin in the 2x3.



Jin and Carm’s cages were literally connected, just with grids separating them, so they could see each other, smell each other, and to an extent they were able to touch by putting their snoots up to the grids. They seemed to get along surprisingly well? I know they couldn’t physically be in the same space, but they seemed to react well to each other with the grids between them.

So, new plan was to bond Jin and Carm. They were getting along through the grids, and I was hoping since they had been neighbors for a while that it would work out. I just wanted to get new coroplast for the cage, since Jin’s and Cookie’s was old and didn’t look the best anymore, and Carm’s was cut haphazardly, since I was stressed out while making his cage and tried to do the scoring and cutting from memory (not the best idea, but I just wanted it done and for Carm to heal).



*mental health talk starts here, I don’t go too in depth but please be aware it is mentioned from here on.*



2020 didn’t go the way I wanted it to though. Due to some things I won’t get into here, my mental health hit an all time low in late 2020. I thought my mental health was bad before, but looking back I would take the things I used to have a hard time with over those new things in a heartbeat. I struggled taking care of myself, and in turn my little loafs.

The veggie situation was still the same as I mentioned before as I was still unemployed and we were still struggling with bills and everything else to do with finances. They still had their hay and pellets like mentioned before as well. I mainly started struggling with cleaning their cages regularly, I let too much time pass between cleaning them. Getting the coroplast to re-do their cage bottoms, and subsequently bonding Jin and Carm ended up being pushed farther and farther back.



In April 2021 I FINALLY got my first job. I was 19 at the time, and after trying to get a job for a while, I was so excited to finally be able to do the things I wanted to do, when I wanted to do them. Especially in relation to getting the Guinea pigs what they needed.



Financial freedom I did receive! At a price, though. I went from working a few days a week for a few hours a day, to 6 days and approx 45 hours a week. Getting away from my tiny room and the house and putting my energy into work helped me with the problems I was having with my mental health, but it replaced those old things with new ones.

If I wasn’t working, I was sleeping, if I wasn’t doing either of those I was trying to make up for lost time. My schedule was non-existent. Even if work was consistent for a few weeks, something would change eventually.

Veggies were still hard for me to get, although I did get them more frequently. Even with having my own money and not having to worry about that, I didn’t have my license. I still had to rely on someone taking me to the store, or them feeling like going to the store to get some for me.

I wound up continuing to wait till I had time to take care of everything with the coroplast, which never came.
 

Jess12345

Active Member
Cavy Slave
Joined
Nov 24, 2018
Messages
22
*Talking about pet death below, I wound up going into more detail than I thought I would, so please proceed with caution if this might upset you.*



Jin passed away sometime mid 2021. I didn’t even realize what was happening till it was too late. I think it was bloat, that I gave him too many veggies at once and it upset his little tummy. My poor boy must’ve been sick for days and I either wasn’t around to realize it, I was asleep, or just not paying enough attention to when he was out and moving around to see that something was wrong. My sister held him one day and he made a strange sound, I told her to put him up. I think I said he might have a tummy ache but I don’t even remember anymore. It wasn’t long after (maybe a day or so? Time is blurry around then, I’m sorry) that I went to check on him (I had checked on him between these times, but I didn’t pick him up till now so I wouldn’t hurt him) and I could just tell my baby wasn’t all here anymore. He had no energy left in his little body when I picked him up. I held him for a while, talking to him and petting him and he just started having tremors, I don’t know if Guinea pigs can have seizures but if they can, I think he had one. My poor Jin was in so much pain and I didn’t even realize until it was too late, I couldn’t even get him to a vet since it was the middle of the night and my dad was asleep. I couldn’t even drive him myself since I didnt have my license. I asked my mom to hold him while trying to ask her what I should do about the vet and she got upset because he peed, so I went back to my room and put him back in his cage.

My baby couldn’t even walk properly. He was trying but he was just going in wobbly circles. I just had to pray he would live till I could get him to a vet.

Unfortunately he had passed away. I miss him so much, but I know that at least whatever took him away from us isn’t hurting him anymore. We got him when he was 3 months old (according to the shelter), on February 2, 2018. He was a bit over 3 years old when he passed



Things got harder after he passed, while I wasn’t cleaning the cages as frequently as I should have prior, it got worse after Jin left us. I still had plans to re-do the cages, and I intended to do it soon for the sake of Cookie and Carm. They are my little loafs and I need to give them the care they need and deserve. This time I wanted to get new grids as well.

Time passes, I’m trying to find the time to get the coroplast and grids and then build everything again.



Cookie passed away February 15th this year, I’m really not sure what happened. I had run out of Timothy hay faster than I thought I would, and my dad went to pick me up some from a store until my delivery came. I think he got me alfalfa? I really can’t remember anymore, but it was all that store had. I gave it to them so they wouldn’t be without hay, they didn’t seem to want it, but it was what I had at the time to give them so I just hoped it would work till my Timothy hay got here.

The day I got the delivery I gave them some when I was leaving for work (I had just woken up not long before, so they didn’t wait long after I woke up to get the hay), and when I got back and walked in my room i knew something was wrong. Cookie would have moved, lifted his head or ran over and raised up on the grids or something. But he didn’t. He looked like he was just laying down and taking a little nap.

My big chonk was gone, and I didn’t get to say goodbye to him. I had gone to work fully expecting him to run to the corner of the cage when I got back, he was eating before I left and everything. I really don’t know what took him away from us. He was my little mush-mush, I miss my big baby and giving him chin rubs and head pats.

We got him February 28, 2018. I don’t know how old he was when we got him, but I suspect he was full grown when he was re-homed to us.



*end talking about pet death*


Bringing us back to today, I’ve been committed to keeping up with veggies for the last while (mostly: lettuce, cherry tomatoes sometimes, baby carrots sometimes, green bell pepper (I need to get more today since I have none at the moment- the one I had had a weird mold on it? I’m not sure how to describe it)and im going to try basil and cilantro). Im also looking into getting a car, and i will hopefully get my license soon so that will make things a lot better.

I could still do better with keeping Carm’s cage clean, but I’m working on it. I have coroplast here at the house so as soon as I disinfect the grids (I have tried to buy new ones, but they were cancelled both times I tried to order them? I don’t know what was going on there), I can get some zip-ties to hold the grids together and set everything up. Hopefully ill be able to do this on Tuesday.

I’m not going to let anything get in my way this time, I’m doing this for Carm. Mental health be darned, everything else be darned, I refuse to give my boy less than he needs anymore.



My question is though, should I even be allowed to try to do better?? I’ve been having excuse, after excuse, after excuse all these years, is trying to do what I should’ve done from the beginning now enough to make up for it?? I feel terrible about this, my three loafs deserved better than me, better than what I gave them. Is it too late to do better?? As much as it breaks my heart, should I try to re-home to someone better? If I do better now, is it alright for him to stay with me?? I don’t know if this makes any sense, hopefully it does. Please let me know what you all think
 

CavySpirit

Administrator
Staff member
Cavy Slave
Joined
Jan 3, 2004
Messages
6,624
Well, Jess, your post brought tears to my eyes in deep appreciation for your courage to post this. I don't know of too many saintly people who haven't compromised their guinea pigs' care in one or multiple ways over time. I don't think any person on this planet really appreciates the level of effort and time and expense that guinea pigs require before they experience it for themselves the first time. One can intellectually read it and say, yup, sounds like small pets are hard work, but they really don't get it until they've been deep in it for years and the novelty and excitement have long since worn off.

Also, I don't think your story is as unique as you might think when it comes to getting in over your head with cavy care. And factor in that 2020 was covid lockdown drama and I know I'm still not over it really. I've altered my lifestyle permanently as a result and we've all had to deal with various aspects of a new reality. And it still takes its toll.

As a young adult trying to find your way in this crazy world with very limited means and control, trying to keep probably the most expensive and hardest work small pet is a monumental challenge. Growing into adulthood has become so difficult these days, especially if you weren't born into an opportunity-laden home. I personally thank God I'm old. I just hit retirement age (not that I can retire) and I don't know how I would have managed to become 'me' in today's times.

All of that is to try to make the point that you shouldn't beat yourself up about it. In fact, stressing at all about the past is such a waste. It's one of the things you learn with the wisdom of years, but not stewing on it seems like an impossibly unrealistic thing to do, but truly, let it go. You can only affect the here and now. So be in this moment and make your decision based on what you think is best for now and the immediate future.

I always tell things like it is and if that means some 'tough love' advice is in order, rather than trying to just make someone feel good about themselves, that's usually where I come down on things. But, kindness matters immensely, too.

First and foremost, you need to be kind to yourself. Seriously, I think that is the most important thing right now. Be kind to yourself. It bears repeating.

Realistically, MAYBE -- it's your decision to make -- but maybe, with still limited means, you need to focus on your own life and your own stability and get some more life experience under your belt so you have some more fodder for charting your own course forward. You could responsibly rehome him (www.GuineaPigFinder.com is my site it helps people responsibly rehome their guinea pigs). You could feel better about sending him to a home that has more means and time right now and might fulfill someone else's wishes. You could come back to guinea pigs later when you are more established and really do it right -- especially now knowing what it takes.

OR, with a fresh eye and fresh ambition do a restart. Of course, you deserve a chance at a restart. Absolutely. You just really need to be committed this time to see it through. Set SMALL and SIMPLE goals. Baby steps. Things don't need to be perfect, they just need to be better. A little better week by week.

Fresh hay, fresh pellets, clean water, clean cage. Start there.

But, make part of your small goals to check in with yourself with an honest assessment of how you are doing. Maybe, it's just too much right now and the best course of action is to responsibly rehome. That would be totally okay. That isn't being a failure, it's just being completely honest with yourself and your current circumstances. That is what you are doing right now, being completely honest with yourself. That is great and self-honesty is to be admired and is a giant step in the right direction, whichever direction that is!! :) So, you can decide to marshal on and improve things and still possibly rehome later if you need to.

So, it's still an assessment that only you can make. ❤️
 
Last edited:

Jess12345

Active Member
Cavy Slave
Joined
Nov 24, 2018
Messages
22
Well, Jess, your post brought tears to my eyes in deep appreciation for your courage to post this. I don't know of too many saintly people who haven't compromised their guinea pigs' care in one or multiple ways over time. I don't think any person on this planet really appreciates the level of effort and time and expense that guinea pigs require before they experience it for themselves the first time. One can intellectually read it and say, yup, sounds like small pets are hard work, but they really don't get it until they've been deep in it for years and the novelty and excitement have long since worn off.

Also, I don't think your story is as unique as you might think when it comes to getting in over your head with cavy care. And factor in that 2020 was covid lockdown drama and I know I'm still not over it really. I've altered my lifestyle permanently as a result and we've all had to deal with various aspects of a new reality. And it still takes its toll.

As a young adult trying to find your way in this crazy world with very limited means and control, trying to keep probably the most expensive and hardest work small pet is a monumental challenge. Growing into adulthood has become so difficult these days, especially if you weren't born into an opportunity-laden home. I personally thank God I'm old. I just hit retirement age (not that I can retire) and I don't know how I would have managed to become 'me' in today's times.

All of that is to try to make the point that you shouldn't beat yourself up about it. In fact, stressing at all about the past is such a waste. It's one of the things you learn with the wisdom of years, but not stewing on it seems like an impossibly unrealistic thing to do, but truly, let it go. You can only affect the here and now. So be in this moment and make your decision based on what you think is best for now and the immediate future.

I always tell things like it is and if that means some 'tough love' advice is in order, rather than trying to just make someone feel good about themselves, that's usually where I come down on things. But, kindness matters immensely, too.

First and foremost, you need to be kind to yourself. Seriously, I think that is the most important thing right now. Be kind to yourself. It bears repeating.

Realistically, MAYBE -- it's your decision to make -- but maybe, with still limited means, you need to focus on your own life and your own stability and get some more life experience under your belt so you have some more fodder for charting your own course forward. You could responsibly rehome him (www.GuineaPigFinder.com is my site it helps people responsibly rehome their guinea pigs). You could feel better about sending him to a home that has more means and time right now and might fulfill someone else's wishes. You could come back to guinea pigs later when you are more established and really do it right -- especially now knowing what it takes.

OR, with a fresh eye and fresh ambition do a restart. Of course, you deserve a chance at a restart. Absolutely. You just really need to be committed this time to see it through. Set SMALL and SIMPLE goals. Baby steps. Things don't need to be perfect, they just need to be better. A little better week by week.

Fresh hay, fresh pellets, clean water, clean cage. Start there.

But, make part of your small goals to check in with yourself with an honest assessment of how you are doing. Maybe, it's just too much right now and the best course of action is to responsibly rehome. That would be totally okay. That isn't being a failure, it's just being completely honest with yourself and your current circumstances. That is what you are doing right now, being completely honest with yourself. That is great and self-honesty is to be admired and is a giant step in the right direction, whichever direction that is!! :) So, you can decide to marshal on and improve things and still possibly rehome later if you need to.

So, it's still an assessment that only you can make. ❤️
Being completely honest here, I was sobbing reading your response. I was so terrified to post this- I genuinely tried to delete it (thankfully I only managed to delete my reply (which I re-posted), and not the thread itself). I really don’t deserve the credit I was given for being courageous



Nevertheless, thank you so much for your response, it means a lot more to me than you might think. Having someone give me their thoughts and for them to try to help me come to the best decision really means so much



Setting small goals is incredibly hard, but I think you’re right. I want to do everything perfectly now, but in order to get things right and keep them right I need to focus on everything piece by piece, and do the best I can at keeping up.



Still, I know this is a conversation I need to continue having with myself. Even if I feel like I can handle everything now, I need to keep making sure that I can CONTINUE handling it. I really do want to make the best choice for Carm. For right now, I would like to keep trying, but if I do end up deciding that re-homing is the right choice for him later on then I won’t be afraid to, even if I would miss him. Whichever way I go, I want to do what will give him the best life and the best care.



And again, genuinely, thank you for taking time out of your day to respond. It really does mean so much to me, and I’ll take the things you’ve said and use them to better myself and better my care for Carm. Thank you so much
 

CavySpirit

Administrator
Staff member
Cavy Slave
Joined
Jan 3, 2004
Messages
6,624
Awww. Thank you and thanks for the follow-up. I think you'll do great and just remember that you are not alone and you are doing better than many. Look forward to future updates. :)
 

Mizz P

Member
Cavy Slave
Joined
Jun 17, 2022
Messages
4
Hi, all! I'm new to this forum and this is the fist post I've read. Jess - Thank you for being honest about your situation. It sounds like you have learned a LOT about caring for a pet and caring for yourself as well over the past few years! I totally agree with CavySpirit. Stay honest with yourself, recognize where you can improve and take actions - even small ones. And yes - start with the basics - clean hay, fresh pellets, clean water, clean cage. I would only add love/attention to that list! I have found that my single pig seems to like it if I sit next to his cage while I read or talk on the phone (he thinks I'm talking to him!) As far as food - Fresh vegetables that aren't already pre-packaged are usually the best value. For example, at the grocery, the big bin of loose, whole carrots is cheaper per pound than the pre-packaged pre-peeled baby carrots AND they stay fresh longer. A head of romaine is WAY cheaper than the bags of cut-up romaine. ;=) Also, continue to read and post to these forums. They are an excellent source of information, knowledge, and support! I think everyone who reads your post will understand - we all know it's a lot of work and can be challenging at times. Stay positive! We're here for you!
 

Jess12345

Active Member
Cavy Slave
Joined
Nov 24, 2018
Messages
22
Hi, all! I'm new to this forum and this is the fist post I've read. Jess - Thank you for being honest about your situation. It sounds like you have learned a LOT about caring for a pet and caring for yourself as well over the past few years! I totally agree with CavySpirit. Stay honest with yourself, recognize where you can improve and take actions - even small ones. And yes - start with the basics - clean hay, fresh pellets, clean water, clean cage. I would only add love/attention to that list! I have found that my single pig seems to like it if I sit next to his cage while I read or talk on the phone (he thinks I'm talking to him!) As far as food - Fresh vegetables that aren't already pre-packaged are usually the best value. For example, at the grocery, the big bin of loose, whole carrots is cheaper per pound than the pre-packaged pre-peeled baby carrots AND they stay fresh longer. A head of romaine is WAY cheaper than the bags of cut-up romaine. ;=) Also, continue to read and post to these forums. They are an excellent source of information, knowledge, and support! I think everyone who reads your post will understand - we all know it's a lot of work and can be challenging at times. Stay positive! We're here for you!
I appreciate your reply!! I really hadn't considered buying whole carrots (pre-packaged baby carrots just seemed simpler since they were already small and peeled) so thats really good to know! I’ll definitely keep that in mind!

Definitley going to keep checking in with myself and see where i could be doing better (and how to improve), and overall see how things are going and be honest with myself about it.

Thank you for your advice and taking time out of your day to reply!! I really appreciate it!
 
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