Guinea pigs are popular pets for kids, but they're misunderstood. To keep your child's first pet happy and healthy, don't believe these three myths about guinea pigs.

Guinea pigs can live alone

While a lone guinea pig is a common starter pet for children, they're actually a very social species and should never live on their own. In the wild, guinea pigs live in herds of as many as 10 animals, and as pets, they still need to live with other members of their species.

In Switzerland, Sweden and some other countries, it's illegal to only have one guinea pig, since it's considered abusive. To keep your guinea pig happy, make sure it has at least one friend to spend its days with.

Guinea pigs don't need large cages

The guinea pig cages that are seen in pet stores are quite small, and they aren't much larger than the cages designed for hamsters or rats. These small guinea pig cages are too small for your pet to comfortably live in. This is because they can't run on wheels or balls like other small rodents can. This is because they have weak spines and can damage their spines while running on a wheel.

Since they can't run on a wheel, their only other exercise option is to run laps of their cage, and they can't do that in a tiny cage. The Humane Society recommends a cage size of 10.5 square feet for two guinea pigs, and the cage should be even larger if you have more than two pigs.

Guinea pigs are low-maintenance

Guinea pigs have a reputation as being easier pets than dogs or cats, but that's not true. While you don't have to take a guinea pig for walks, they still need a lot more care than you might expect. They can poop as many as 10 times an hour, so you'll spend a lot of time scooping poop out of their cage. Their cage bedding needs to be changed regularly, and their cage and cage accessories need to be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis.

Guinea pigs also have specific nutritional needs. You'll need to make sure that their cage never runs out of hay and that you feed them high-quality fresh fruits and vegetables. They also need their nails cut on a regular basis, and since they tend to squirm during this process, you may find that you need to take them to an exotics vet to have their nails professional trimmed.

For more information, contact Northside Emergency Pet Clinic or a similar location.