Emotional support animals (or ESAs for short) come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They are a radical new treatment for a variety of mental health disorders, and have had a startlingly positive effect for patients up and down the United States. The rationale behind emotional support animals is that their presence can treat the most persistent symptoms of prominent mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, PTSD, and bipolar disorder. They require no special training and can happily slot in with the patient’s regular lifestyle. They can also be any species of animal that works for the patient, not just a breed of specialised animal, as is the case with therapy dogs. If you’re looking to think outside the box, and don’t feel ready for the challenge of a bigger pet like a dog or a cat, then consider an emotional support guinea pig.
Many people immediately opt for a cat or a dog when they’re granted an ESA. However, it’s often prudent to consider all options, and not be locked into one particular pet. Remember, although you require an ESA letter from your doctor to legitimise your emotional support animal, the doctor has no particular say in which animal you settle for. That’s entirely up to you; as long as the animal provides you with a sense of peace and serenity, it can be any species you want. Guinea pigs may not seem like the obvious choice, but they have plenty of good points; depending on your specific condition, an emotional support guinea pig might be just what the doctor ordered (quite literally).
Often the first question people ask is “Where can I get an emotional support guinea pig?” – or any ESA, for that matter. Well, the good news is that there’s no specific place to procure an ESA, as they are treated like normal pets for all intents and purposes. Following that logic, the best place to get an emotional support guinea pig is your nearest trusted pet store. Pet store guinea pigs will likely be healthy, raised well, and used to people. A reliable pet store is by far the best place to purchase smaller animals like guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, or gerbils, as you can trust that you’re receiving a good-quality animal. Be wary of purchasing guinea pigs at local markets and such, as they are often found to be unhealthy in some way. Pet stores also provide the perfect opportunity to stock up on all the necessary items you’ll need to care for your new pet. Remember, they’ll need a relatively large cage or hutch, water bottle, food bowl, and a constant supply of fresh sawdust.
So why should you opt for an emotional support guinea pig, as opposed to say a dog, cat, or rabbit? First off, guinea pigs are remarkably gentle creatures. This makes them the perfect choice for patients suffering from anxiety, as they can be a calming influence in the home, and rarely become aggressive or agitated, unless under extreme stress. If you’re thinking of getting a friend for your guinea pig so it won’t be alone (which is much advised, as they are not naturally solitary creatures), rest assured they are also very pacified with each other too. It’s usually no problem at all to keep two of them in the same cage or hutch, but do make sure it’s big enough for both of them.
Guinea pigs are also relatively low-maintenance. Although they do like going out of their cage for a run and should be given the opportunity to exercise daily, most often they will be content to observe their surroundings. You won’t be constantly cleaning up after a guinea pig, and also won’t need to worry about it trying to escape all the time. What you will need to do is keep their cage clean and make sure their food and water are topped up sufficiently. You can do this every five days or so, or whenever you think their cage might require a clean. Bear in mind that guinea pigs also love keeping themselves clean, and will invest a lot of time each day into grooming themselves.
Guinea pigs are also small enough to travel well, which means they can easily take advantage of one of the perks of ESA status: the privilege of accompanying their owners into an airplane cabin. They are also easy to move from home to home, and don’t require many specific living conditions like a dog or cat might. Remember, the ESA letter gives you entitlement to live with your emotional support animal in rented accommodation. If you think you might be moving around a lot, a guinea pig might be the perfect option, as they make simple and convenient travel companions. Ultimately though, the main purpose of emotional support animals is to ease your mental health symptoms. If you think a guinea pig might be the perfect support for you and your condition, give them some serious ESA consideration as you make your decision!