HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — They’re not from Guinea, nor are they from New Guinea, nor are they pigs. Guinea pigs actually hail from the Andes Mountains of South America, they are a type of rodent known as cavies, they are cute (boy, are they cute!) and they make really good pets. March is Adopt a Rescued Guinea Pig Month.

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“I think a lot of people enjoy the personality of a guinea pig over some of the other critters you may encounter,” Kristi Kleinfelter, Community Outreach Coordinator for the Humane Society of Harrisburg Area said. “If you’re not looking for a huge responsibility such as a dog or a cat, a guinea pig might be a place to start for a beginning pet owner, someone who’s not looking for a ton of responsibility, but they do require their fair share of time, money, love and attention.”

Guinea pigs were brought from South America to Europe and North America by European traders in the 16th century. Originally an “exotic” pet, they quickly became popular in all levels of society. Their cuteness, small size, gentle temperament, cuteness, amusing squeaks, ease of care, and cuteness endeared them to just about anyone who met them.

Did we mention they’re cute?

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But sometimes being adorable isn’t enough, and things just don’t work out. “We sometimes get Guinea pigs that are surrendered to us by families that can no longer care for them,” Kleinfelter said. The reasons for surrendering Guinea pigs are many. Sometimes lives become too busy for a pet of any sort, or people have to move and can’t take their Guinea pigs with them, or folks find out they don’t really have enough space for them, or the Guineas might even trigger allergies.

Sadly there are also people who think guinea pigs are disposable. On February 10th, 2022 a Swatara Township police officer found eight abandoned Guinea pigs dumped at a parking lot by the Greenbelt. It was a very cold night, and they would probably have frozen to death if they hadn’t been found.

In 2002 the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) held the first National Adopt a Guinea Pig Month to draw attention to guinea pigs in animal shelters.

Kleinfelter says Guinea pigs placed at rescues usually don’t stay too long. “I think the average stay for a guinea pig is between one to four weeks, depending on the time of the year, and who’s looking to adopt a guinea pig.”

“A lot of people these days do prefer to rescue and adopt critters over going to the store and buying them, ” she adds, “And there are plenty of guinea pigs locally to rescue. If you are looking for a critter to add to your home, we are a really good place to start.”

If you don’t find a guinea pig at your local rescues, Kleinfelter suggests you visit the petfinder.com app or website. It’s a place where animal rescues posts information on their charges, so people can learn about them before making long trips. (The Humane Society has some of their adoptees posted there.) She demonstrated it on her cell phone.

“For example I type in my zip code here, and I’m searching within a hundred miles.” (At this point over 100 Guinea pigs popped up.)

Oh, and those eight Guinea pigs that were dumped? Swatara Police posted their report on their website, and the Guinea pigs all had new homes within a few hours.