Small Pets

Where to Get Guinea Pigs Without Supporting Unethical Breeders

Guinea pigs are sweet, docile pets who make great companions. You might have heard that you shouldn’t adopt them from pet stores–but where are the best places to get guinea pigs?

The first place to look is your local guinea pig rescue, if you have one. You can also check your local shelter or adopt from guinea pig owners in your area who need to rehome their pets. Lastly, you can try to find a reputable guinea pig breeder, though they’re rare–and backyard breeders are, unfortunately, abundant!

In this article, we’ll discuss four places to adopt guinea pigs and also where to avoid purchasing from.

1. Local Guinea Pig Rescues

Local guinea pig rescues are the best place for new piggy guardians to adopt. They can provide support and resources to make sure your guinea pigs get the best care possible.

Since their focus is only on guinea pigs (and sometimes other rodents), they tend to know more about guinea pig care than shelters that take on every type of pet.

Guinea pig-specific rescues are also great if you have a single guinea pig who needs a friend. Many will allow you to bring your guinea pig in to meet others until you find the right match, while others will allow you to foster a guinea pig and introduce them at home before committing. This greatly reduces the chance that you end up with two single piggies instead of two bonded ones!

Some guinea pig rescues offer health checks and grooming services as well and are a valuable community resource.

Guinea pigs in a shelter

2. Local Animal Shelters

Your local animal shelter is also a great place to adopt from, although their care and knowledge about guinea pigs can be hit or miss. Many shelters are overcrowded and underfunded, and their staff might not know how to care for exotic pets properly.

Double-check any care advice you receive, but don’t avoid local shelters if they have piggies up for adoption. Adopting from them is saving a life!

3. Rehoming From Other Piggy Owners

There are several sites where you can find guinea pigs that need to be rehomed, such as Pet Finder and Guinea Pig Finder. You might even know someone who doesn’t want their guinea pigs anymore and can give them to you instead.

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This is how I found three of my guinea pigs. Their previous owner bought them for her young daughter, who lost interest in caring for them.

Do your best to avoid backyard breeders online. While an adoption fee isn’t a red flag, a very high price might be. People with several litters of baby guinea pigs might be looking to make a quick buck as well, though there are unfortunate situations where breeding gets out of hand quickly.

You’ll also want to ensure that you stay safe when adopting from a stranger. Meet in a public location with people around, and bring someone with you if you can.

Rehoming a guinea pig

4. Reputable Breeders

Lastly, finding a reputable guinea pig breeder is a true challenge. If you do find one, you’re going to get healthier piggies who are likelier to live long lives.

However, it’s very easy to mistake a backyard breeder for a reputable one without ample research. For this reason, I don’t recommend buying from breeders if you can help it.

Here are some green flags that you’re dealing with a reputable breeder:

  • They have a waiting list. Reputable breeders don’t breed often and they find homes for the babies before they’re born. Being able to bring home a guinea pig the same day you inquire about them is a red flag.
  • They’re knowledgeable and willing to answer questions. Breeding guinea pigs without the right knowledge can be dangerous to the mother and babies and often leads to genetic health issues being passed down. It’s also vital that a breeder provides quality care to your guinea pig during their first weeks of life and that they give good care advice to those adopting from them.
  • DNA testing to prevent genetic illnesses from being passed down. Some things your breeder should screen for include the satin trait, roan gene, and Dalmatian gene. These can cause Satin Syndrome or lethal whites if the guinea pigs aren’t bred properly.
  • They’ll take baby guinea pigs back no matter what. Your contract should state that, should you need to rehome your guinea pig, they must go back to the breeder. Reputable breeders do not contribute to overpopulation in shelters and rescues.
  • They provide health records and a referral to their veterinarian. Reputable breeders have no problem proving that their guinea pigs see the vet regularly, and will allow you to contact their vet to ensure the piggies they breed are healthy.
  • You can visit them in a home setting. Reputable breeders will breed from their homes and have no problem letting you see where their guinea pigs live. Cages should be the proper size and all of the guinea pigs’ needs should be provided for, including cleanliness!
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Guinea pig family

Why You Should Avoid Buying From Pet Shops

It’s never okay to buy a guinea pig from a pet store. While many of us–including me!–have made this mistake, it’s important to do better once you know better.

Below are some reasons to avoid pet stores if you’ve never heard of this before!

Breeding Mills and Backyard Breeders

Big chain pet stores get their guinea pigs from breeding mills. Like puppy mills, they churn out as many animals as possible for profit while ignoring genetics and health. The animals are typically kept in overcrowded environments and the guinea pigs being bred, in particular, never get to live normal, happy lives.

Even smaller pet stores don’t get their guinea pigs from reputable breeders. We know this because no reputable breeder will sell their guinea pigs to a pet store, even a decent one! They want to meet potential owners themselves to ensure their animals go to the best homes possible.

Reputable breeders also don’t breed often enough to stock pet stores with guinea pigs. They space out their litters to provide optimum care and to ensure the health of the mothers.

Poor Care, Dangerous Items, and Bad Advice

Pet stores often don’t provide proper care to the guinea pigs in their stores either, housing them without hay, without hides, or in small glass tanks without proper ventilation. Many pet store guinea pigs are sick when you adopt them and those who aren’t may develop genetic conditions down the line due to poor breeding.

The cycle continues when people adopt guinea pigs from pet stores, as they’re often given poor advice and an awful selection of items to choose from.

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For instance, the only proper guinea pig cage you might find in pet stores is a Midwest–and even that only meets the bare minimum requirements for two guinea pigs! They also sell foods, treats, and toys that are unsuitable and even dangerous.

Pet store cages are too small for guinea pigs
Most cages sold in pet stores are too small to house guinea pigs


Some people want to believe there are exceptions to not adopting from pet shops. It’s understandable to want to choose the easy option, especially if there aren’t rescues near you.

However, it’s better to not adopt guinea pigs, to wait until you find them up for adoption nearby, or to drive a few hours to pick them up, than it is to give money to breeding mills that abuse the animals in their care.

It’s also understandable to want to rescue guinea pigs from awful pet store conditions. However, it’s important to remember that as long as people are buying their animals, pet stores will continue to replace them and the cycle will continue.

There are also guinea pigs behind the scenes being overbred and often neglected, who will live out their lives at these breeding mills. The only way to prevent this is to shut them down.

If you have a bleeding heart, it might be best to avoid pet stores that sell live animals if you can. I no longer shop at these stores unless I absolutely can’t find what I need elsewhere, and it’s taken away that temptation to adopt the poor piggies at the store.

You can also call your local lawmakers and ask them to vote for or introduce legislation that bans the sale of live animals, like guinea pigs, in pet stores. There are already several areas that ban the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits.

I hope this article has helped you to decide where you’ll adopt your next guinea pigs from. Remember to start with local guinea pig rescues if possible, and to avoid pet stores. If you’d like to learn more about their care before making a decision, check out our guinea pig care guide.

Here’s to a long, happy life for you and your future piggies!

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