cavymadness: guinea pig care and gifts

about cavymadness.

I began CavyMadness in March of 1999, as a result of needing a hobby that would satisfy my need to help people, challenge me as a designer, and provide an outlet for my enthusiasm with guinea pigs. The idea that drives CavyMadness is knowing that guinea pigs, who are widely misunderstood, are a great companion for people, and that the best way to care for them is to learn from one another.

Basil, my first guinea pig. 1994-1998


CavyMadness is meant to be a beginner's portal to the online world of guinea pigs. There are so many sites out there with a wealth of information; CavyMadness is simply the beginning point, to help people get a handle on the basics before they move on to bigger and better sites.

the evolution of the Madness.

Basil and Emma, 1994.

Emma always looked terrified. 1996.


In summer of 1993, I had just graduated from college and began a year as a nanny in the Boston area. I missed having animal companions; my parents loved animals and we always had pets in our home. My employers had no animals in their house. Each weekend I would visit the MSPCA shelter to see the animals. It was calming and sad at the same time.

One weekend in late 1993, a tuft of orange and white hair wheeked at us. Basil, an orange and white Peruvian, was my first guinea pig. He was my solo piggy for a while, and I took him everywhere. Basil is the genesis of all this guinea pig madness. He was bonded to me. I would take him to the Boston Common on a leash and let him hang out in the grass while I read a book.

Nhan graduated from MIT in 1994, which landed us at the University of Minnesota for two years. Because I now had a full-time job, Basil needed a buddy. I neutered him and adopted Emma, who quickly bonded to him. Basil was still attached to me, but they were an adorable little couple. Emma always had this strange expression on her face - a cross between abject terror and "huh?" that made her very endearing.

We also adopted two kitties in 1995: Armand and Gabrielle. You can say that they chose us: Armand, from walking underfoot at the Animal Rescue Fund cat house, and Gabrielle, from her pointing paw at the top of the cat tower in the "social cat" room at the SPCA. "You. I'm coming home with you." Thankfully, the cats always considered the guinea pigs fascinating but never worth stalking!

Emma with baby Portia, 1998.

baby Ophelia, 1998.

Ophelia was fearless!


We moved to Boston in September 1996. We were quite happy with our two pairs of pets, until Basil died in February 1998 from pulmonary edema. Emma was very sad and needed a new friend, fast. We got Portia, piggy number three, the very next day (Valentine's Day!) so Emma would have company. A week later, we were smitten by Scribble, and figured that three was really no more trouble than two.

(Unfortunately, that same reasoning leads to four, five, and six.)

Portia was so small that she fit in the palm of my hand. I asked the employee how old she was; he insisted that she was six months. Later, my vet confirmed that she was only a few days old. Portia was also infested with mites, which meant a round of shots for everyone.

We gave Portia a lot of extra love and attention, and beefed her up a bit with Nutri-Cal and baby food. She grew into a sturdy, adventurous piggy.

Scribble, found a week later while we were buying cat food, was a customer return; Petco had unwittingly sold a pregnant female, and the customer returned the babies to them. Scribble was being chased by the other, larger piggies in the pen, so we felt sorry for her. We felt guilty for supporting pet stores, but she really seemed relieved to be coming home with us. She settled right in and became best friends with Portia and Emma.

For a few months, we had a little trio. But Ophelia, with her teddy coat and little golfball head, proved irresistable at the June 1998 Pignic. It wasn't even ME who caved in; my husband walked toward me, grinning ear to ear, holding her in his hands. As soon as I saw those little eyes it was all over for us. There is something about teddy-coated guinea pigs that just melts you. And so we were up to four.

cavymadness herd

cavymadness cordelia and desdemona
baby Cordelia and Desdemona, 2000.

Viola (grown up) 2003. Note the hamster-ness.

Pandora: hard to photograph. 2003.

The famous Cordelia "blank stare."

Bianca and Olivia, 2002.

In August 1999, an undetected bladder stone suddenly lodged in Emma's urethra and we had to euthanize her. She was already over five years old, so surgery would have been too harsh for her. I still cry thinking about her face after they gave her the shot. The CavyMadness logo is a tribute to our little Emma piggy, who provided the outline for the original sketch.

Portia became the new matriarch of the herd, and the three girls were cute all snuggled together.

cavymadness ophelia and desdemonaIn February 2000, we discovered two very young piggies, Cordelia and Desdemona, in bad shape in a pet store. Alas, Desdemona had a fatal illness that killed her within days of our bringing her home. Cordelia also harboured a horrid illness that resulted in Portia becoming gravely ill, and Ophelia dying a month later.

It was interesting to note that after the quarantine period ended, Ophelia had a serious beef with the two new ones. Portia had to guard the new babies so Ophelia wouldn't nip at them! Eventually, things settled down, and our herd was now four. Portia went through surgery to remove a huge abscess on her throat. The vet suspected something like bortadella, but we could never get a positive diagnosis. It was terrifying. I had even quarantined the new ones for a week, and nothing seemed amiss. Sometimes you just don't know.

At this point, I had a revalation: when we had shelter, the pigs would go into it and never come out. I decided to remove the shelter, and see if the pigs would be OK. Ever since then, my girls have been much less skittish. I believe that NOT having a shelter allows them to become more comfortable in their surroundings. Of course, if there's some sort of stressful event, I provide shelter, but in general, I only have short tubes, toys, and little overhangs in my pen that allow the girls to play but not hide.

A few months later, in July 2000, we attended the Guinea Pig Extravaganza in Washington, D.C. Peter Gurney was a featured speaker; the Winking Cavy Store and artist Caroline Whittle were also honored guests. We visited Judi at the Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue, enjoying her spoiled piggies and Waffles the bunny.

A four-week old Viola came home with us and proceeded to stay little and hyper. We jokingly called her Hamster. She was very quiet on the car ride home, but once she got used to her new home, she became a little spitfire! During cuddle time, we'd let the pigs wander on our bed. When it came time to return them to the pen, they instinctively knew to wait near the side of the bed. But Viola got impatient, and sometimes would LEAP into our arms!

For the summer of 2000, we were now up to five pigs. All of them got along well, and would snuggle together. I began taking more photos of the herd, and they would even line up for their photos!

Scribble died November 17, after one day of suddenly being lethargic and unable to move. We don't know whether she was ill or if something just happened. Even our veterinarian was at a loss.

I adopted Pandora, a huge black mass of hair, early in 2001 while visiting a rescue north of Boston. Pandora was an interesting mix of black and charcoal, with some brown near her rear. I assume that she was an Abyssinaian and Peruvian mix, for she had a chronic case of bedhead.

Another random trip to the Boston MSPCA led us to Claudia, a stocky kitty with half a tail. Whenever she sits, she always puts one paw up and kneads the air with it. Bringing Claudia into the home caused such a furor that we had to put Gabrielle on Kitty Prozac. After a few days of hissing at everything and being tense, Gabrielle finally compromised.

So we now had four guinea pigs and three cats all living harmoniously. :)

We fell for two more rescue piggies in need of a home at the June 2001 Pignic. Bianca and Olivia were two Peruvians that are just so beautiful and fluffy. I looked at Bianca, and thought she was the meek, timid one. Olivia looked wise and calm. It turns out that Olivia is actually the screaming wuss, and Bianca is the quiet, strong one! Funny how you really CAN'T judge a book by its cover. So now we were six.


portia and cordelia
Portia in 2002. Note Cordelia in the time-out room.

Armand kitty with Portia and Bianca.


cavymadness 2001 pignicOur herd was intact for a while; Cordelia sometimes would challenge Portia's authourity, making it necessary to implement the Time Out Pen. We'd have to put Cordelia in there for a few days now and then to cool off. Portia wasn't a pushover; she was definitely the alpha piggy, and that was that! Poor Olivia would get so stressed when Cordelia and Portia were rumbling to each other. She'd go into a corner and "hide."

In October 2003, Portia suddenly stopped moving. It turned out that she had tumours growing on her bladder and kidneys. She had shown no signs of being sick or in pain, so we were thankful that she didn't suffer; her body simply shut down that day.

A few weeks later, Cordelia had sudden kidney failure, and died during the night before we were scheduled to see the vet. It was horrible, especially after losing Portia only weeks earlier. The Madness was back to four. After a period of mourning, Viola emerged as the new alpha piggy. The girls huddled together for a couple weeks after Cordelia died; I think they were a bit shocked by the sudden change in the herd, and also comforting each other. I spoiled them with extra strawberries.


Titania, 2006.

Nutmeg, 2006.

Gwinnie (then Gertrude) at the 2005 Boston Pignic

Winnie, 2005.

Chestnut, 2005

October 24, 2003: Titania, a silver agouti Teddy, launched a surprise attack, appearing from underneath a Pigloo at a local pet store near us. I had wanted to wait until I could rescue one, but Titania was a moment of weakness. She was born in August 2003, and was deadly as a baby piggy. She's been called our Brillo piggie, and was dubbed Wombat at a Boston Pignic. There's something about Titania that makes her even more lovable than usual; she's like an ambassador for piggies, always waddling to the front of the pen and saying hello, licking noses, and generally being way too cute for words. :)

With the addition of Titania, I was settled, and not searching for any additional piggies. However, it never quite happens as we plan it, does it?

Nutmeg came to us in December 2003. We had pig-sat her while her owners were on vacation; I fell in love with Nutmeg, and her person decided that Nutmeg was indeed happier with a herd instead of being a lone piggy. Nutmeg was one year old. She blended with the herd so naturally that we just couldn't resist her. Nutmeg also had a quiet strength about her; Viola sensed it and often rumbled to her, but Nutmeg wouldn't fight back.

In the spring of 2004, we lost two more of our elder piggies, Pandora and Bianca. Both had experienced the "wasting" associated with old age; they had slowed down, slept a lot, and generally lost weight, but had remained healthy and active despite their old age. Both were over 5 when they died.

In 2005, Viola started showing signs of wasting due to age, and developed cataracts and arthritis. She was always a fiesty little thing, even in her last weeks. She was practically blind and had lost so much weight, and still would fight for the coveted strawberry treat. She died on 25 June, 2005.

At the September 2005 Pignic, we adopted Winifred and Gertrude from a woman who couldn't keep them any more. Gertrude's name was changed to Guinivere, to make the pair Winnie and Gwinnie. Winnie was born in December 2001, and Gwinnie, a big, hairy black Texel, was born in September 2003 - the new baby of our herd! She is a month younger than Titania.

There were some skirmishes getting the two into the herd, mainly between Nutmeg and Winnie, both of whom have dominant personalities. Gwinnie and Olivia would just head over to a corner and wait for the drama to pass. In fact, Gwinnie is a mute piggy. She CAN wheek, and does, loudly, on occasion; she just ... doesn't. The others started to snack on her long coat, so I eventually trimmed it. She is insanely fluffy with a short, thick coat. She's our Hairy Little Beastie.

We had to put Winnie in the Time Out Area because the fighting was getting a little too serious. Winnie eventually settled down, but she was the loudest pig in the herd. She would NOT be silenced! WHEEEEEEEEEEEEK! Yes, adorable, but not at three in the morning, four feet away from our bed. :)

The really cute thing about pigs in the bedroom, with a Plexiglas front of the pen? When we wake up, they know feeding time is not far off. So we have little faces peering at us, waiting for food. And then the orchestra of wheeking commences.

So! For fall of 2005, the Madness consisted of Nutmeg, Titania, Olivia, Winnie, and Gwinnie. I like a herd of five; five is a good number. And so it went, until the June 2006 Pignic.

Two guinea pigs needed homes, Chestnut and Hazel. Both are very skittish piggies, but have adorable personalities. But SEVEN! We had never had seven before. This was truly madness. We had pig-sat Chestnut and Hazel before, along with their pen-mates Pepper and T.T. I never knew the exact ages of Chestnut nor Hazel, but they were at least 3 or 4 when we adopted them. Thankfully, both Chestnut and Hazel were submissive piggies, so there was no drama introducing them to the herd. Nutmeg continued to be alpha, Winnie had calmed down and just served as the diva of the herd, and everything was peaceful.

A herd of seven is a beautiful thing. It's so adorable to see them stampede for food, although no one could match the gluttony of Winnie. She would be the first one standing up to grab a strawberry treat, and would eat it quickly so she could go grab others' treats.

Hazel continued to be a very skittish piggie, despite fitting into the herd rather seamlessly. Hazel has a habit of screaming her head off as soon as someone so much as looks at her. It's almost like having Olivia back!

Hazel, 2006

Olivia, 2006

cavymadness nutmeg
Nutmeg, January 2007

Hazel, September 2008

on being pig-less.

I don't know when we will have more guinea pigs in our life. My husband and I have decided that we would like to wait until we have a slightly larger apartment, since having the herd next to our bed was wreaking havoc on his allergies. I intend to continue CavyMadness, though; I have enjoyed meeting so many pigs over the years, and the site has become a very integral part of me.

As 2006 drew to a close, I was saddened by the realization that I had some senior piggies. Olivia was very thin, but still had a healthy appetite and didn't let anyone bully her. She slept a lot, like the other senior pigs, but she was far from feeble. She still screamed when someone would get too close to her - she never liked anyone stepping on her hair.

Olivia died in January 2007, a very old but healthy piggy. She was at least 1 year old (and assumed to be over 2) when we adopted her in 2001 - she was our longest-living piggy to date.

On 25 March, Winnie died very suddenly. She had an episode of being disoriented a few weeks earlier, but she perked right up after some orange juice for hydration and vitamin C. We watched her for a few days, but she was completely normal, ever the glutton when it came to feeding time. That Saturday, we had just fed the herd, and Winnie didn't seem interested in food (which for most guinea pigs is a sign of illness, and to be taken very seriously). We gave her a bit of dandelion, which she started munching. We left the room and about 15 minutes later, Winnie was on her side, dying.

On 12 May, Chestnut died in much the same way; I was out of town, but Nhan noticed she wasn't eating in the morning and died shortly after. Chestnut was definitely an elder piggy, since we had pig-sat her several years ago, but it was still as much a shock as with Winnie. It was also a shock to go from seven pigs to four.

Gwinnie and Titania were, at this point, our youngest pigs at three years old. Nutmeg had started to sleep a lot; she would be five in December 2007, so we expected a slowing down due to older age; she was still healthy, active, and eating normally. Nutmeg had developed corneal abrasions because Titania kept licking her eyes (yeah, I know. Gross! But there you go. Weird little piggy).

In October 2007, we traveled to Las Vegas for a week. We left Nutmeg in very good hands, but she took a turn for the worse and died the night before we returned home. We determined that she had some sort of deficiency despite having a varied diet; she had just suddenly stopped eating one day and quickly passed. She had been having days where she seemed very sick, but then she'd get better. I should have taken her to the vet, but then she'd always perk up.

November 2007, the Madness was three: Titania, Gwinnie, and Hazel. I took everyone to the vet for a general checkup, and because Gwinnie was straining to wee. Gwinnie ended up having a bladder stone removal surgery; Titania got an Ivermectin shot for skin irritation; and Hazel got a shot to shrink an ovarian cyst.

In January 2008, Gwinnie died after getting a second stone, which was very aggressive. We were discussing treatment options, as it was apparent that her stones would keep recurring. In June Titania suddenly died, which was devastating! Her Ivermectin shots had helped ease her itchiness, which had flared back up in the spring. The vet said she was in good health in February; in May we noticed she was slowing down a bit, but didn't think anything was wrong because elderpigs tend to sleep a lot more.

Still, we scheduled a vet appointment for Titania in late June, but she died the night before the appointment. This death was hard, because Titania was our little piggy ambassador of sorts, and it left us with one lone pig, which makes me sad.

October 2008...
Hazel had been having some trouble with bladder sludge, and we gave her the medications to help ease her pain. She improved, and then passed a very large stone followed by a LOT of blood. She held on for another day, but despite all the care we could offer, died while we were sleeping. This photo (below) was taken one month before Hazel died.



other pigs ...

cavymadness angel

Angel, 2004.



Over the years, we've done our share of pig-sitting and fostering. I've always been afraid of having a new pig over for a long time; I'm always worried they will worm their way into my heart and I'll want them to stay! In fact, that's what happened with Nutmeg; I said, "I don't HAVE to give her back, do I?" .... of course it was jokingly, but her person decided that Nutmeg would love her new family (she was a lone pig at home).

The most memorable pig is Angel, who came to me in 2004 because her person was not caring for the pigs properly and needed help. A friend of mine took Daisy, and I took Angel, who was paralyzed from scurvy. She required sub-Q fluids and a lot of therapy; I nursed her back to health, and always kept her separate from my girls; even though she was a lovable piggy toward humans, she hated other guinea pigs!

My first foster guinea pigs were affectionately named Thing 1 and Thing 2, because I didn't want to get attached to them. The male was a jet black Teddy, and the female was a white Peruvian with black eyes. They were so gorgeous, and I adopted them to a friend who had them for a long time.

Another pair that were adorable together was Baby and Ruby. I set up an adoption page on CavyMadness, and they were very popular! They were adopted quickly. It was sad to see them go, because they were goofy pigs during floor time.




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