• Kaaren Poole

Guinea Pigs Protest Carrot Shortage


I have a pretty rigid schedule of animal chores first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Everyone – my dog, two cats, two guinea pigs, two rats, and squirrel in rehab (I’m a member of the local Wildlife Rescue Squirrel Team) – knows exactly what to expect and when to expect it.


The other night I was approximately mid-way through the routine, and it was time to prepare the fresh carrot chunks for the guinea pigs and rats. I began digging through all the stuff in the hydrator looking for the carrots. Nothing! What??? I looked again. And then a third time. It was apparently true—I was out of carrots. How could this be?


After a year of California’s covid restrictions, I was pretty fed up with all the planning required for my weekly grocery store trip. It’s true that one trip a week was better in some ways than just shopping when I needed or wanted to, but the restrictions were getting old, and my planning was slipping. Apparently I had neglected to add carrots to my list the last time I shopped. Or, equally likely, I wasn’t paying perfect attention to the list as I ambled through the store. In any case, there were no carrots.


It was time for damage control. Since the next day was grocery store day, supplies on hand were low. I had barely enough apples and celery for the next morning, and my search of the refrigerator yielded no guinea pig goodies of any kind. The only thing I could find was broccoli. I carefully chopped it into pieces as attractive as I could possibly make them and approached the cage. I took a deep breath and laid the broccoli in their dish. I couldn’t bear to watch. I just turned away.


The protests began immediately. The whistles got shriller and shriller. Each time I walked back through the room, they amped up the volume. It only stopped when I finished my routine, turned out the lights, and retired to the bedroom.


The next morning I found the uneaten broccoli pieces strewn about the cage. Thank goodness I had the ingredients for every one’s expected breakfast.


This incident made me think about routine and how important it is, even, apparently to guinea pigs. And of course that makes sense. How could we possibly get through our days if we didn’t have routines to give us that comfortable feeling of knowing what’s coming next. Without routines, our lives—and minds—would be chaos at best. And it may not be an exaggeration to say unlivable. Some mornings I resent the extended animal chores, but Penny and Annie have given me a valuable lesson in how important they really are. Thanks, little guys!


By the way, the rats, Colwyn and James, ate their brocoli. I guess rats are more flexible than guinea pigs.


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