Monday, November 6, 2017

Our 2017 Halloween Costumes

Over the years, we've shared a few pictures of ourselves in costume, mostly for Halloween. We're generally not big fans of wearing costumes, but we tolerate it to make our humans happy. (The things we do for those big, silly mostly-hairless apes. Am I right?) And even though we always complain a little at the time, we have to admit that we do look adorable in our outfits. Our previous outfits have included Pokemon, dinosaurs and ladybugs, a tuxedo, and a bumblebee.

We know we're a little late in sharing our costumes this year, but better late than never, right? Who wants to see our Halloween costumes? Okay, here they are:

Lola does not look happy in her pumpkin outfit.
There's a new sheriff in town...
As you may notice, Lola's costume is not fully on. She made it very clear to the humans that she didn't want the strap on the hat connected under her chin, so the humans left it loose. (It's very important to respect your guinea pig's boundaries!)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Help California Guinea Pigs

Hi readers. We want to make you aware of a very serious, very urgent issue that is happening right now in Northern California. A large breeding/hording situation was uncovered this week, and there are nearly 600 guinea pigs who need your help.

The Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue was called in to help out and they drove all the way to Northern California and have spent the last few days sexing, medicating, feeding, and separating a massive herd of neglected pigs.

Here is their Facebook page where you can follow updates:

Here's the first video they posted:

And here is their Facebook live footage of the piggies being rescued:

We at Cavy Savvy have donated and encourage you all to help, too, if you are in a position to do so. They are a 501c3 Rescue and ALL donations are 100% tax deductible.

Want to help out? Here's how:

LA Guinea Pig Rescue's Amazon Wish List

Direct Donation

The good news is that these piggies will finally be getting the help they need and hopefully be adopted very soon. Hooray for the LA Guinea Pig Rescue!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Ask a Guinea Pig: Can Guinea Pigs Eat Lamium (dead-nettles)?

It's time for another installment of Ask A Guinea Pig! For today's question, Tavia R. asks: "Can my piggies eat Lamium (Dead Nettle)?"

Answer: According to Wikipedia, "Lamium (dead-nettles) is a genus of about 40–50 species of flowering plants in the family Lamiaceae, of which it is the type genus. They are all herbaceous plants native to Europe, Asia, and northern Africa, but several have become very successful weeds of crop fields and are now widely naturalised across much of the temperate world." Some of the species are noted as being edible (for humans), including:
  • Lamium album (white nettle): "The young leaves are edible, and can be used in salads or cooked as a vegetable."
  • Lamium amplexicaule (Henbit dead-nettle): "The leaves, stem, and flowers of the plant are edible and have a slightly sweet and peppery flavor, similar to celery. Henbit can be eaten raw or cooked."
  • Lamium purpureum (red dead-nettle, purple dead-nettle): "Young plants have edible tops and leaves, used in salads or in stir-fry as a spring vegetable. If finely chopped it can also be used in sauces"

Purple dead-nettle. (source)
We've also heard of people feeding purple dead-nettle to rabbits (although that doesn't necessarily mean it's safe for them). But what about guinea pigs specifically? It seemed like a lot of people just did not know. However, we did find warnings about one Lamium species (Lamium amplexicaule) for alpacas and sheep. And, according to Toxic Plants of North America, "Because of the uncertainty regarding their intoxication potential, the other species of Lamium should be considered suspect as well." So it looks like there's just not enough evidence to say for sure, but what evidence does exist is cause for concern. I'd avoid feeding your piggies dead-nettles if I were you!

There are lots of things that you can safely feed your piggies instead of dead-nettles, such as these pink pearl apples!
Got a question for us? Just leave a comment!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Rent a Guinea Pig in Switzerland

In 2008, Switzerland passed some new animal rights laws, which established social rights for animals. This means that animals that are classified as "social species" need to be allowed to have social interactions with others of their own kind. Guinea pigs are one of these social species, and so Swiss pet shops will not sell just one at a time.

This creates a legal issue when one guinea pig outlives the other. As we've mentioned, guinea pigs live 5-7 years on average, and in our experience, serious health issues are much more likely to appear around age 5, such as Buffy's uterine mass. In the past, each time one of us in the Cavy Savvy cage has passed on, there were 3 piggies in the cage. We haven't been in a situation where there were only 2, and we were at risk of one piggy being left all alone. (Even though there's no social rights law for guinea pigs in the USA that we're aware of, it's still better for the mental well-being of the piggy not be solitary.)

Although it is a very unpleasant thought, it is something we might want to start planning for, given that there's currently only 2 of us, and Broccoli is about 6 years old now. Luckily, he still seems to be happy and healthy (apart from a broken tooth), so hopefully there's still plenty of time to figure that out.
Oh no, I don't think Broccoli likes me talking about this at all. Let's get back to talking about the Swiss...
But getting back to Switzerland, an animal-lover there named Priska Küng decided to start a "rent a guinea pig" service to help out humans and their lonely piggies in this unfortunate situation; as ABC News explains, "Without her rent-a-guinea pig service, the owner would have to purchase a new, probably younger guinea pig as a companion to the ageing survivor, whose eventual death would force the purchase of yet another guinea pig, locking the owner into an endless cycle of guinea pig purchases in order to adhere to Swiss law." (ABC News, we got some news for you: we're fuzzy and delightful, and any human would be lucky to be "locked" into an "endless cycle" with wonderful creatures such as us! But, I digress.) Küng would charge 50 Swiss francs for a male and 60 for a female as a deposit, and you get half of your deposit back when you return the piggy.

While this overall seems like a good thing since it ensures solitary guinea pigs don't spend their twilight years alone, there are some potential issues here. Küng is president of IG Meerschweinchen an organization of guinea pig breeders. As we've mentioned before, breeders often operate without the best interests of the piggies in mind, although in this case, it appears to be a labor of love for Küng, who has said: "It's a hobby that costs me more money than I earn from it." We'd still be comfortable with the idea if it were associated with guinea pig rescues rather than breeders, who may contribute to overpopulation. On the other hand, we've heard that overpopulation is less of an issue in that region, so perhaps there's less of a chance that people would be passing up an opportunity to take home a shelter piggy for a breeder piggy. (On the other hand, another person claimed Switzerland does have many piggies in shelters needing homes, so we don't know what to think.) Any Swiss readers out there who can weigh in?

Although some may also feel that the service sends a message that "guinea pigs are disposable," Küng also says: "It's important that none of the rental guinea pigs just keep getting passed on... If an animal has been hired out once, it either stays with me for the rest of its life or it moves somewhere else for good." This was good to read, since adjusting to a new home tends to be stressful, and we would hope that any similar services would also place guinea pig welfare over profits.

If you are in the unfortunate situation of having one guinea pig outlive the other, and don't live anywhere near the Rent A Guinea Pig service, what other options do you have? You could, of course, adopt another guinea pig. However, if for some reason you don't want to be "locked in" to an "endless cycle" of joy and cuteness for some unfathomable reason, there are other options besides letting your remaining piggy live in solitude. Rescues may take back your remaining piggy, although it's probably hard to give up your furry companion in their time of need. Some rescues may offer a "fostering" option, similar to the Rent A Guinea Pig service, where you can bring home a companion for your piggy and have the option to bring it back to the rescue after he or she passes. Of course, you may become attached to your foster piggy, and not want to give them back after all!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Madame Shiva: The Guinea Pig Sports Oracle

Cavy Savvy readers already know that there are some talented guinea pigs out there, including cops, artists, and more. We have also mentioned that there are guinea pig fortune tellers. Along the same lines, did you know there was a guinea pig sports oracle?

Many people have heard of Paul the Octopus, the famous animal oracle. Paul lived from 2008 to 2010, and in those two years, he correctly predicted 12 out of 14 soccer (AKA "football" outside the USA) matches (that's an 86% success rate). He would choose the winners by eating from one of two food bowls, each with a team flag of the competitors in an upcoming game.

After Paul died, many animal oracles tried to pick up where he left off, including Madame Shiva, a guinea pig:
The one and only guinea pig sports oracle! (image source)
Madame Shiva was sponsored by Swissaid, an international aid organization that focuses on things like poverty and sustainable agriculture. Madame Shiva would choose the winners by being placed on a flat surface painted with the two teams, and would then demonstrate her interest in one or the other, such as by leaving a poop:

Here's how Madame Shiva's predictions turned out:
It looks like Madame Shiva only tried to predict those 3 matches, and her record wasn't too impressive. But hey, even Paul was wrong on 2 of his predictions. Maybe Madame Shiva was just getting warmed up and, if given the chance, would have gotten all the rest of the games right that season!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Guinea Pigs and Solar Eclipses

Humans here in the United States caught eclipse-mania a few weeks ago due to the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. Do guinea pigs react to solar eclipses? Is there anything you should be concerned about when they happen?

Because animals behave differently during night and day, as you can imagine, they can get confused during a solar eclipse and behave as if it suddenly became night time. According to a National Geographic article, "modern astronomers and eclipse chasers have also reported wild and domestic animals noticeably reacting to eclipses: Dairy cows return to the barn, crickets begin chirping, birds either go to roost or become more active, and whales breach in the seas."

There's actually an app for nature-loving humans called iNaturalist that allows users to record their observations of nature, and during the eclipse, they had a special project called "Life Responds" to systematically track how animals responded to the solar eclipse. Unfortunately, while there were plenty of dog and cat observations, we did not find any guinea pig observations in the project records. However, there were some observations of our distant relatives on the evolutionary family tree:
  • Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) - "No squirrels were seen - but there was A LOT of squirrel chatter all at once at 2:41pm! Reminded me of their warning call when a snake or raptor is about."
  • Domestic Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus ssp. domesticus) - "Grooming itself and eating, which it usually does around 4 PM"
  • California Ground Squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi) - "Squirrels bothered tourists as usual during the eclipse."
Kind of a mixed bag here, but looks like a lot of our distant cousins didn't even notice the eclipse.

On a related note, is there anything you should be concerned with regarding a solar eclipse? Humans have been very concerned about eye damage from looking up at the solar eclipse without proper eye protection, causing a condition called solar retinopathy. This can happen from staring at the sun during regular times, although ordinarily, your body feels pain and tells you to stop it. Is this a concern for guinea pigs? There was a debate about this on the Guinea Lynx Forum:
  • WindeSpirit: "I've been seeing a number of things about folks protecting their dogs & cats from the upcoming eclipse, but nothing about for the other indoor animals... In particular, those that have a window close to them or access to seeing out of, specially from floor height. Please take a simple precaution measure and close blinds, hang up sheets if need to.  Remember, piggies can play statue so easy, and sleeping with eyes open? One can only guess at what sort of damage that could potentially happen to them, and their sight is poor enough as it is. Better not to risk it with such a easy thing to do."
  • Kimera: "I don't understand what you are afraid of. Eclipse reduces the amount of sunlight, not making it stronger or more dangerous in any way. Eye protection, for example, very dark glasses, are necessary only for curious people who want to look directly at the sun to observe the eclipse."
  • crowcrash: "For future reference: The concern is that because the light is more dim, animals will look up or stare at the sun because it doesn't hurt to look up at it. But it will still damage their eyes."
  • kailaeve1271: "I am late as well, but I should let everyone know animals do not naturally look at the sky for no reason except if they sense a bird or something in a tree. Animals don't just stare at the sun. They just assume it is getting late outside. Trust me your animals are safe."
  • WindeSpirit: "To answer, what I am afraid of during eclipses? A piggy who normally sleeps in their safe and happy sunny spot suddenly starts bumping into things as if she had a stroke. Unless any one of the tests afterwards came back a false negative, which was unlikely. The vets only other conclusion was to ask about the partial eclipses, access to sun & exact day it started, that was both positive. We could only figure that the lack of sun allowed whatever natural instincts for her eye to look towards the sun, and assumed she was asleep when it happened since that would have been the ideal position, not to mention the position she usually was in, while in her sunning spot. Perhaps the shadow on her made her think I was standing outside and her eye naturally gravitated? ...The point is, there are times where enough of circumstances happen that can get a animal to look up... the piggy I was speaking about above was our Cotton princess. She lived a long and happy life, though she didn't sunbath as much the following 4-5 years, I ended up having to get a sun lamp."
So it sounds to us like guinea pigs probably don't care much of about solar eclipses (us two being the exception since we write a blog that makes us interested in just about anything guinea pig related), and will probably just ignore it. But there's at least one anecdote of a guinea pig being hurt by a solar eclipse, so it might be worth taking a moment to block off windows during the next one.
Although the risk is slim, it wouldn't hurt to take precautions to protect my eyes!
It will be some time before the next solar eclipse, but it's still something to keep in mind!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Pink Pearl Apples?

Have you ever stopped to consider all the many wonders of nature that are out there? There's such a huge variety of things to look at, sniff, and--most importantly--chew on. And just when you think you've chewed on it all, nature finds something new to surprise you with. Sometimes the surprise is even hiding inside of something familiar. Take today's food review, for instance. You have what appears to be a regular, old apple, but cut it open, and... SURPRISE!

Wow! It's pink!
Yes, it's pink inside! Hence the name, pink pearl apples. These apples are only ripe from late August to mid-September, so keep your eyes peeled if you want to join in the fun.

Like all apples, we can have pink pearl apples 1-2 times per week.
Why are you giving me that look, Lola? You have your own.

My pink apple!
Admittedly, it tasted just like any other apple. But that's not a problem for us, as we love apples! The splash of color was a nice surprise, too. 5/5 stars!