Guinea pigs are social pets

When a guinea pig is kept as a When a guinea pig is kept as a pet, it bonds quickly with its humans. Photo Credit: AP, 2009

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Q: We want to get a guinea pig for my son and he wants to keep it in his room, but we are afraid it may bother his asthma at night. We have a very busy house, and there are a lot of comings and goings all the time, so if we keep it downstairs, I am worried it may get stressed out from all our family drama. -- Stacey Miller, Garden City

A: Guinea pigs are in the rodent family, and, like most rodents, they are shy and always worried about getting eaten. But they are very social rodents that live in groups. When a guinea pig is kept as a pet, it quickly bonds with the humans that live with it, and when it has totally lost its fear and worry that something bad will happen to it, then it will relax and allow its personality to develop. It will become clever and curious about the creatures that shares its life, and is going to want to be where the action is.

A guinea pig kept in a kitchen, for example, will quickly learn that when the refrigerator opens, fresh veggies are forthcoming. It will most likely squeal loudly in protest if it does not get any, adding to your family drama.

So, you see, the guinea pig will actually have a better and more interactive life if it is part of a family unit and not shut up in a bedroom all day. Since they are social animals and it is just as easy to care for two as one, I would advise you to actually get a same-sex pair. If you are going to be putting on a reality show for them anyway, there may as well be two so they can enjoy your drama together and compare notes about it afterward.

Q: I have two cats, 6 months old, brother and sister. I have had them since they were 4 weeks old. I adopted them from the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter. When we got them, they were eating kitten food mixed with formula. They are now eating regular kitten food -- dry and wet. The female cat loves running water. She dunks her head and uses her paws to drink the water as well as drinking directly from the faucet. The male cat uses his paws to eat from the wet cat food. He actually scoops the food in his paw and feeds himself. If he had a thumb, he could hold a spoon. The cats are adorable doing these things, but why do they do them? -- Fern Martin, New York City

A: I have seen many cats use their paws like a bear or raccoon and always assumed it was a learned behavior. However, you have a sibling pair, each of whom started to do it from a very early age, which indicates to me this might be a genetic trait.

Q: We just bought a new house and have a backyard for the first time. We want to install a couple of bird feeders, but our neighbor says we should not put them up right now because birds that are supposed to migrate see a food source and will not fly south. When is it the proper time for us to put out the feeders? -- Glen Walls, Oyster Bay

A: Actually, your neighbor is mistaken. It is not the availability of food that causes a bird to migrate, it is the change in daylight.

Having feeders that are full now help out the migrating birds, as they do not have to waste energy or time looking for food.

So, fill them up as soon as you can.

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