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People & Pets

Glorious guinea pig

5/2/2018

The perfect apartment pet

Cassidy Dixon is a self-described animal lover, so it comes as no surprise to her that, in her late-20s, she is a first-time guinea pig owner.

“We were always kind of a dog family, but dogs are harder to have in an apartment, and my son really wanted a pet,” Dixon explains. “They’re [guniea pigs] a great pet to have, and I think they’re definitely underrated.”

West Des Moines resident Cassidy Dixon and her 1-year-old guinea pig Bubbles.

On a mission to find the perfect apartment pet for their West Des Moines dwelling, a year ago, Dixon and her 7-year-old son, Kalijha, wandered around PetSmart together before deciding a guinea pig would be their new family addition. They later mutually decided on the name Bubbles.

“We both love ‘The Powerpuff Girls,’ ” she laughs.

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Will there be more guinea pigs to complete “The Powerpuff Girls” trio?

“We’ll probably wait until we’re in a house to expand the guinea pig family,” she says.

Similar to most small animals, Bubbles’ diet consists mostly of pellets and water, but Dixon likes to mix it up with cabbage and carrots. For treats, Bubbles’ favorites are bird treats with seed, a honey core and peanut butter.

“Just to supplement the pellets because they’re pretty lame and boring,” she says.
Although technically in the rodent family, guinea pigs — of which there are 13 different breeds — aren’t skittish or mean, says Dixon.

“I think hamsters and gerbils are more of the scurry-around-crazy kind,” she says of the common misconception.

Interestingly, Dixon says guinea pigs’ personalities are more commonly associated with dogs. They crave affection, companionship, and often become attached to their caretakers. Guinea pigs, including Bubbles, communicate these feelings through sound.

“It’s just like a baby,” she says. “You can tell the different noises, sad versus happy.”

They purr when they’re petted, squeal or scream when they’re distressed and will “popcorn” — described as an animated shake, leap or skip — when they’re happy.

“They love to snuggle; they’re big snugglers,” Dixon adds, and says Bubbles also likes to cuddle up to her by burrowing in her hair.

Bubbles is even content to be toted around by Dixon in a book bag her little sister made in a home economics class at Valley High School.

In an apartment complex, pets can be hard to come by, and Dixon says Bubbles is “the neighborhood excitement.”

During summer break, she’ll have up to 15 kids in her home wanting to play with Bubbles. Some get over zealous and want to take Bubbles home.

“I love having the house where all the kids come. It’s nice, I don’t mind it at all, but I definitely mind when they’re all trying to steal my pet,” she laughs. ♦

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