Guinea pigs in need: Bridgewater volunteer seeks fosters amidst housing crisis

(Illustration: Carley Mullally)

Hande Barutcuoglu usually hosts three pairs of guinea pigs and fosters out about six. Those numbers are almost three times higher right now, as her intake waitlist grows.

The difference from last year? Our housing crisis.

Barutcuoglu operates the Higglety Pigglety House, a “transition home” for some of our most vulnerable animal friends – guinea pigs and hamsters – out of her home near Bridgewater.

“Guinea pig intake has never been this busy before,” says Barutcuoglu, a former veterinarian. “It’s never not been busy, but now it’s crazy.”

She says cavies are typically brought to her from all across Nova Scotia – from homes where they were purchased for children who lost interest, or owners who became allergic.

But recently, she keeps hearing about housing. “They’re getting evicted, they can’t stay where they are, many are moving back in with family,” she says.

“I have some guinea pigs here because the owners are homeless now.”

The South Shore Open Doors Association saw 390 intakes for housing emergencies in August 2023 – a 260% increase in demand from 2022.

Barutcuoglu says she wants people to stop breeding guinea pigs, which typically live five to seven years – “accidental” litters are already surrendered too often. She has seen more than 500 cavies through her doors since starting in 2017.

The Higglety Pigglety House has a serious need for more foster homes and transport drivers.

Fosters are provided with a cage, supplies and full care instructions.

Why should you foster a guinea pig? Barutcuoglu says cavies are fun, social animals, and relatively easy to care for.

“They’re fairly laid back. They’ll sit in your lap and watch TV.”

Just be prepared to hear excited squeaking when you open the refrigerator – they think they’re getting their vegetables. 

You can learn more and get involved at:

(Illustration: Carley Mullally)


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