Wednesday, July 2, 2014

How to move cross-country in a rental truck with a guinea pig

The guinea pig beat is not my normal beat, but there was a dearth of information related to these circumstances. Here I am, chiming in, hoping this post will be well-indexed by search engines for future reference.

I recently moved from Seattle to Philadelphia in a rental truck, with my guinea pig. (I previously had two guinea pigs, but one died from lymphoma weeks before the journey.) Guinea pigs aren't allowed on any airlines I could find, so I wrangled a friend to fly out and make the drive with me. I spoke with my vet before the trip, asking for tips on moving via truck with a guinea pig. She suggested a large tupperware with holes drilled to hook up a water bottle, and paper lunch bags for hiding. I went to Fred Meyer and found the tupperware, and drilled the appropriate holes. Guinea pig forums suggested newspaper and fleece for the bottom, so that was my plan. I also planned to keep a shoebox of hay in the cab, in addition to juicy vegetables. I gave her lots of hay, but not so much that she was swamped in it.

My guinea pig Sally is a diva. She's a high-maintenance guinea pig who thinks highly of herself. Yes, I can tell. She was born to a rescued show pig on January 3, 2013, and I adopted her that May. She was spayed in August.

Wondering what's going on


Day 1: Sally wasn't thrilled with me packing up the apartment, but it was alright. But as soon as I started driving, she freaked out. I first had to remove the water bottle from the cage, since it rattled and dripped with the truck's motion. She was terrified of the motion and sound, and immediately burrowed under the fleece (so, just barely above the newspaper, when she didn't kick that out of the way). I had my co-driver empty and take the top off a tissue box so she could use that for hiding. She didn't take the bait. The whole first day of driving was bad for this pig. I tried to let her run around in the hotel room, but she hid under the bed and was hard to retrieve. I made the decision that she wouldn't do much running around on the trip, and hoped it wouldn't hinder her overall health. She seems to have gained a bit of weight, but nothing troubling.

Day 2–7: The next day was a million times better. I lined the cage with newspaper, towel, then fleece, and continued out. She was a champion. This continued through the remaining six days of the trip. The most difficult parts for me were dealing with her water and changing the cage bedding. At one point, she had peed one two many times on the tissue box, so I replaced it with a paper bag from breakfast. I did this once more. My piggie loves hiding in paper bags.

Water: Since the water bottle couldn't be in the cage while we were moving, I had to get creative. The water bottle would always stay in the cage whenever the truck wasn't moving. Even at gas stations. But when we were driving, she would want her water bottle. She started nosing her head up to where the water bottle usually would be, and then I would know to carefully offer it to her. It was like attachment-parenting a guinea pig.

Food: Hay, pellets, veggies. If I was eating an apple or a banana, she'd get a little piece. If she was wheeking and confused, she'd get a piece of romaine (kept in my insulated lunch box, though it didn't last as many days as it would in an actual fridge). Normally these are nighttime-only things, but stressful situations with non-verbal animals call for a little bit of appeasement. If I did something to make her mad, like take her in for lunch, she'd get a baby carrot (ONLY one daily--it's important to remember that guinea pigs can't eat carrots like Bugs Bunny). Every night would end with a Daily C tablet.

Bedding: I stocked up on free newspapers before I left Seattle, so that was never in short supply. I also had thrift store towels and fleece that I had long been using as bedding. I ended up removing some dirty things and uneaten food from the cage every night, but I only completely cleaned it out three times. The first was on the first night, after I realized I needed a better system. The second, two days later in a hotel room. This time, I hand washed the towel and fleece in the sink, and hung them out to dry overnight. The towel didn't dry (of course), so it got crammed in a plastic bag for later re-washing. The penultimate night I spent at my parents' house, so I took advantage of their laundry there. The second day in my new house, I made a new cube & coroplast setup; the old coroplast was too gross to transport cross-country (it was the first one I had made, so it wasn't picture-perfect), but the cubes were fine!

Stops: "Don't leave your guinea pig in the car," as I was told by everyone on- and off-line. Duh, but yes, good advice. When it was still cool, there were some gas stops or (very) quick meal stops where it was alright to leave her in the car with the windows rolled down a little. On the second day, I realized how middle-of-nowhere I was, and got nervous about birds flying into the truck and disturbing her. From that point, I brought her in wherever we were going in her carrier. This pig even traveled to the monument at Mount Rushmore! Nowhere I went had a problem with guinea pigs. I didn't necessarily ask, but I took "no pets" to mean "no dogs," since they all had pictures of dogs, and seemed worried about dog energy/bathroom situations.
Thinking about eating, but really just annoyed

Yes, I'll eat this lettuce

At Mount Rushmore

Second-to-last day of driving. Exhausted (or just sleeping all day like a guinea pig should do).



Visiting the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. They had another guinea pig visitor the previous day!


The real lesson from all this is: use common sense, and keep Critical Care onhand, just in case. I was worried that she would stop eating because of the stressful situation, but there were never any issues. The trip with this pig wasn't easy, but we all survived. Finally, I recommend keeping your Instagram followers updated on the trip, because everyone loves an oversharing guinea pig parent.

Exploring the new place