There are lots of different ways to adopt guinea pigs but probably the best, safest and easiest method is to pay a visit to your local animal sanctuary. You can adopt guinea pigs from the small animal sections of RSPCA shelters, Blue Cross shelters, and many independent local shelters. Have a look online, in your local newspaper or in your yellow pages to see if there’s anything advertised.
You can also adopt guinea pigs from local independent guinea pig ‘helpers’. All over the country, individual women and men have started up their own sanctuaries for guinea pigs and rabbits, and these can be great places to adopt your pet from. These ‘helpers’ will be really knowledgeable about your pet and are likely to take excellent care of them, but be wary of guinea pig farmers disguised as ‘helpers’. Keep an eye out for the warning signs of lots of baby guinea pigs up for adoption at once, and very high adoption fee (more than about £30).
Guinea pig 'helpers' are a great place to get your pets
There are a few different stages of guinea pig adoption. Firstly, you’ll go to the sanctuary and choose your pet. This might take a bit of time! There are lots of great pets available for you to give a home, and it might take more than one trip to the sanctuary (or more than one sanctuary) for you to make your final decision. It's extremely rare for there to be any problems with animal and owner compatibility, so it’s likely you’ll be able to take home the pets of your choice.
Next up you’ll need to equip your home for your new pets. If you’ve already got guinea pigs then this shouldn’t be a problem, but if your hutch will get a bit crowded once you house your new additions then it’s probably time to invest in another. If you’ve not had guinea pigs before, you’ll need to kit yourself out in plenty of time, preferably well before your guinea pigs arrive. In some cases, this will need to be several weeks before you get your new pets, as sanctuaries often send people round in order to check the environment they’re sending their animals to. Don’t be offended if a sanctuary insists on a house-check before they let you take your pet home. It’s actually really good practise for shelters to do this, as it ensures their animals are going to safe, happy environments where they’ll enjoy the best life possible.
Finally, if all the previous steps have gone off well, you’ll set up a date with the sanctuary for your guinea pigs to come home for the first time. Before you leave to pick them up, make sure you’ve got the hutch all set up, and have got all their food at the ready. See our section on ‘Introducing Guinea Pigs To Their New Home’ if you need a hand with this.
You might be lucky enough to get a free transport hutch from the sanctuary, but it’s more likely you’ll need to bring a box. Make sure the box is lined with a bit of newspaper and fresh hay, as well as a special guinea pig water bottle and a bit of dry and fresh food. It’s really important that the box has a reinforced base (so it doesn’t fall through - be generous with the tape), has air holes, and a lid. The lid is to stop your guinea pigs climbing out, but it’s also because guinea pigs don’t like having a lot of space above their heads. In the wild, they would’ve had a lot of aerial predators, and even though there’s nothing to be scared of now, having an open lidded box or cage still can make them uncomfortable.
Guinea pigs need a safe transport box, full of bedding, food and water
Once you get your pet from the sanctuary, try not to hang around. Guinea pigs rarely like being transported, and it’s best to get them to their new home as quickly as possible. Plan your route to minimise the time it’ll take you to get home, and don’t keep take the lid off if you can help it. Put them in a cool area of your car and make sure that the box is secure – you don’t want it sliding all over the back seat and putting your new pets in danger!
Once you get them home, put them in their new hutch and make sure they have everything they need. Then, crucially, leave them alone to let them get settled in. They’ll be happier if they’re not exposed to a lot of noise, and aren’t picked up by humans for the first week – they’ll be quite nervous and frightened, so try to make it nice and peaceful for them.