If you’ve ever been a person who is into pets, there’s a good chance you’ve had a dog, a cat, maybe a fish, and quite possibly, a guinea pig in your backyard. But you may be slightly alarmed to realise that your furry, squeaking little rodent could have been desperately lonely unless he had a companion.
The Swiss are leading the way here, with Switzerland making it forbidden for people to keep just one guinea pig, as the highly social animals can be prone to loneliness and need each other’s company.
They’re herd animals, and need buddies to run around with to feel at home.
In fact, Switzerland introduced a raft of interesting new laws as part of sweeping animal rights legislation introduced in 2008. The ‘social rights’ put into place for animals include that if you own a single cat, it must be let outside or be able to see other cats from the windows. Else, if you want an indoor cat only, you have to have two.
The laws even cover fish – if you own pet fish you need to be able to produce a full day/night cycle for them. You can only become a dog owner after taking a course involving two to three lessons and follow it up with practical training.
Even parrots are covered, with the law stating parrots will be considered victims of abuse if they don’t live or interact regularly with others of their species. Other European countries have similar laws, including Sweden.
The laws come with a range of unintended consequences though. For example, while people cheerfully get two guinea pigs (or more!), they tend not to live to the same age, which can leave one guinea pig left alone.
The industrious Swiss are all over it though, with more than one animal matchmaking agency available to pair up lonely guinea pigs that have lost their partners, often as part of rental arrangement to keep older guinea pigs company. Priska Küng runs one such organisation and receives three to four calls a week looking for a young or old guinea pig for the right situation.
Australia’s laws aren’t as strict but there’s still plenty of sensible animal welfare legislation in place. Dogs need to be registered and cats in most weekends, and bringing pets into the country from overseas requires a range of quarantines. But there’s not much around guinea pigs in terms of hard laws. Spread the news, it’s good to have a guinea pig herd!