Happy Halloween!

31 Oct

It’s Halloween — the most wonderful day of the year, in my opinion. I’m busy hosting a party and cleaning guinea pig cages today, so I don’t have much time for writing. But as promised, we have some super-adorable, reader-submitted photos of cavies in costume to share with you.

From Sharon, one of our Wheekly readers: cute Pokemon guinea pigs.

My daughter loves Pokemon, so it seemed perfect to dress up our cavies as The Pokemon Pigs. Kio the red roan was Flareon, Ebony the black was Umbreon, and Arlo the broken starred as Pikachu. She selected the right Pokemon characters for each pig, and I created the costumes. We had fun showing them off at our cavy club show.





We also had some of our readers dress up with their pets, in coordinating costumes. Check out Gail’s Bacon and Eggs costume.

Pretty creative stuff, guys. Let’s keep them coming! If you have cavy costumes you’d  like to include, feel free to email me at thewritingguinea@gmail.com and I’ll be sure to put them up as well. The more pictures the merrier!

And thank you again to everyone who submitted a photo. We love seeing all your fun ideas.



Cavy Costume Contest

26 Oct

Since this week’s post will land on Halloween, I wanted to try to do something special. I know many of you, on one occasion or another, have dressed up your cavies for Halloween. Well, this is you chance to show your creativity to the entire cavy community! Send your photos and perhaps a brief bio to thewritingguinea@gmail.com, and you may find you costume featured on the Wheekly Reader this week.

Big bonds with small creatures: my favorite cavies

24 Oct

There’s this thing going around on Facebook right now where cavy fanciers tag their five friends and ask them to post pictures of their five favorite cavies. I know a lot of people who breed and show cavies, so, naturally, I’ve been tagged.

But rather than share the pictures with a few Facebook friends — I choose to keep my Facebook closed to all except those I know in person — I decided to share a couple pictures and memories with the world.

I don’t have pictures of all of them. Sorry about that.


Aragon was a self red Abyssinian, and my very first cavy. I got her for free from some kids my mom knew after months and months of begging my parents for a guinea pig. They had finally relented, agreeing that I could have a guinea pig if I could find a way to pay for one. So I scrapped up my pennies, and found a free guinea pig, for which I then bought a commercial pen, bedding food, hay, toys — all the necessities. I think my parents figured it was a phase, something I would grow bored with, eventually. I didn’t. I read everything I could find about cavies, and after some time of demonstrating that I could and would take good care of my new pet, my parents allowed me to get two more cavies. Even though I desperately wanted a long-haired cavy, I ended up with two more mixed-breed short hairs. That’s a long story I’ll have to tell you some other time.

I had Aragon for several years before she died after being treated for dental issues. She was old, and didn’t handle the procedure as well as she had others in the past. I, of course, bawled my eyes out. And my dad, doing what most dads do in this situation, offered to take me to a cavy show the next day and let me buy any guinea pig I wanted.

We came home with my first breeding pair of Peruvians.

Once we got our first little caviary set up, my dad made a big sign that read “Aragon’s Legacy” to put on the biggest pen we had. We later derived the name of our caviary, Legacy Caviary, from the sign.

Legacy Lloth

Lloth, a black-and-white Peruvian, wasn’t my first show pig, but she was the first I managed to get into some semblance of showable coat condition. Those of you who have tried to show long hairs know this in and of itself would make any guinea pig special. But Lloth also had the genetics to back up my fledgling grooming ability, and she became my first grand champion by the time she hit breeding weight. She gave us one litter, a pair of sows, and then subsequently refused to allow any other boar near her ever again. Since she wouldn’t breed, I decided to clean her up and coat her out again — an effort that earned her three additional legs, the equivalent of earning a second grand champion status.

Legacy Tycho

Tycho was born for the show table. He came out of a long line of show animals, going back to Lloth and those original Peruvians, but he came out as a silkie, which wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but I went with it, anyway. Tycho was not only a stunning show animal, but also a bit of a character. He more or less tolerated being groomed, unless you were my dad, in which case, you weren’t allowed to touch him. Naturally, my dad took over the effort to coat Tycho while I worked an internship away from home for a few months. When he and my sister did manage to get all the hair out of his wraps, Tycho made a habit of spinning around and sitting on top of his hair so no one could comb it. He later tamed down and became quit persistent in his demands for attention: Whenever someone walked by his pen, Tycho would stick up his nose and wait for you to pet him. If you didn’t, he would chatter and wheek in protest.

Tycho just passed away while we were at a show two weeks ago. He had grown rather elderly, so it wasn’t entirely unexpected.

Legacy Gapper



It’s not his best picture, so he doesn’t look very impressive, but Gapper was the first Peruvian satin I had tear up the show table — or at least, he came as close to doing so as any Peruvian satin I have every owned. Gapper took best of show, once, after a rather amusing exchange. During the show’s best of show round, with all of the breeds on display, the judge paused to admire Gapper and remark that he was a rather nice Peruvian Satin. “But,” he said, “let’s compare him to this Peruvian over here.” The judged walked over to the Peruvian on the table, ran his fingers through its coat, and, with a rather shocked expression, pointed to Gapper and said “that one’s best of show.”

Gapper never bred for us; we sent him to a veterinarian friend of ours who thought she could persuade him to produce some offspring. We now have his son, David, and several grandchildren.

Legacy Padma

Padma is one of my most recent Peruvian satins, and also my most recent national champion — Padma took best of breed at the 2014 ACBA Specialty. He recently retired from the show circuit and is now in breeding.

Legacy Marshall and Legacy Rodney


I’ve included these two together because they’re brothers, and because that is an important part of their history. Marshall is the oldest; we knew almost as soon as he was born — a singleton boar — that he would be a phenomenal animal. But after a month or two, Marshall contracted pneumonia. We caught it early and began treatment, but the prognosis for pneumonia in cavies is not good, so we didn’t think he would survive. Worried we would lose possibly the best Peruvian we had ever bred, we put his parents back together and hoped for the best. Marshall not only survived and went on to a long and successful show career (though he always has had a funny wheeze ever since), but his brother, Rodney (the black and white one), turned out even better and had an even more spectacular show career. Both are retired and in breeding, with litters on the way.


So that might be more than five. Oops. I guess I have trouble with basic math. Or, more likely, I can’t narrow it down to five favorites. I have felt a special bond with each of these animals, and I couldn’t narrow it down any further.

Your pedigreed cavy comes with a special name — here’s why you shouldn’t change it

17 Oct

If you’ve ever bought a cavy directly from a cavy breeder and had the opportunity to pick up that cavy’s pedigree, then you might have noticed that pure-bred pedigreed cavies come with special, two-part names. What’s that about?

Like many other pure-bred animals, cavy names follow a certain naming tradition that is intended to establish the cavy’s lineage, to some extent. Generally speaking, a cavy’s official name has two parts — a “prefix” name, and its given name. Some breeders have more elaborate given names than others, but most I know, including myself, stick to something simple. So it’s the prefix name that most newcomers to the cavy community may find unusual or confusing.

Essentially, the prefix name is a name that acts like a surname, except that it isn’t based on the sire’s name and it comes before the given name. The prefix name comes from the name of the caviary where the cavy was born. Each name is unique to an individual caviary. Ours, for example, is Legacy, short for Legacy Caviary. So a cavy born at my home might be named “Legacy Rodney” formally, and might be called just “Rodney” informally. Other breeders just use their own last name for a caviary prefix name.

Now, let’s say you’ve just bought a new cavy, but you don’t like the name it’s breeder gave it. Unless the cavy has been registered with ARBA, you’re probably safe to change the cavy’s given name to whatever you want. Most likely, the cavy won’t remember its old name. And of course, you’re always welcome to change the call name, even if the cavy has been registered. Nobody keeps track of what you call your guinea pig; it’s just the pedigree and registration records we’re concerned about.

But, it’s generally view as impolite to change the cavy’s prefix name. There are two reasons for this. For one, the whole purpose of the prefix name is to make it easier to trace a cavy’s lineage. It is possible at some future date that you may sell your cavy, or else that you yourself may want to track down where its parents came from. If the prefix names on the pedigree are changed, you can’t track the cavy’s origin nearly as accurately. Second, the prefix name can be seen as a sort of attribution. Even if you now own the cavy, if someone else bred it then they are due part of the credit for anything that cavy achieves. Just as you cite your sources whenever you borrow someone else’s work to write a research paper, you should also strive to accurately cite the sources behind your own cavy or caviary’s success.

So by all means, call your cavy whatever you wish. But for the sake of cavy genealogy, let’s strive to keep our pedigrees and records as accurate as possible.

The writing guinea pigs have new digs

10 Oct

My husband and I just wrapped up moving the last of our things into our new house — including the caviary. Moving with animals is always something of a feat, and it can be especially tricky when you’re moving a dozen or so guinea pigs.

The thing with moving guinea pigs is that you need someplace to put the guinea pigs. You can’t just throw your guinea pigs into your car, drive them to your new place, and then turn them loose in the house. So before you can move the guinea pigs, you have to have a pen or set of pens pretty much ready to go. In our case, this meant a week or so of splitting our time between my old place and our new place while we tried to assemble a new caviary during the few hours we have free each evening. Because of course neither of us took work off — that would have been too easy.

In any case, we got it finished last week. I’m rather pleased with the end result:

The general basis for this caviary schematic is the same I used in my last place. I use custom-built C&C cavy condos for the majority of my cavies’ housing. For more on how to construct this kind of setup, there is a three-part tutorial beginning here. I did, however, make one modification to the design this time around. I lined the inside of each individual pen with window screen I bought in a big roll at Home Depot. The idea here (which was originally thought up by my sister. Full credit where credit is due) is that the window mesh will prevent the guinea pigs from kicking their bedding all over the floor while allowing the cavies proper ventilation. So far it seems to work pretty well, though it does require a bit of effort to cut the window mesh to the proper size and then attach it to the inside of each pen with zip-ties. I definitely advocate doing this while building the pens — trying to attach it to the inside of pre-existing pens would be a real nightmare.

In any case, I’ll let you know if the mesh continues to perform as well as I hope.