At first, it sounds like one of the silliest laws ever: in Switzerland, you’re not allowed to own just one guinea pig or parrot. The reason for this is that they’re social species, and they are considered victims of abuse if they aren’t able to regularly interact with others of their species.
If you’re an animal person, you’ll love Switzerland. In recent years, they’ve passed quite a few pet-friendly laws which I hope will be implemented in more places throughout the world. For starters, dog owners must take a course that teaches them how to take care of their dogs, care for their needs and deal with several behavioral situations. Anglers (fishermen) are required to take a course on humane fishing. But perhaps the most heartwarming Swiss law is about guinea pigs: you’re not allowed to have just one! They need social interaction to be happy, so owning a single guinea pig is considered harmful to its well-being and forbidden by law.
They need social interaction to feel good, so owning a single guinea pig is considered harmful to its well-being and forbidden by law.
Guinea pigs are quite curious and inquisitive in nature, but they are timid explorers. They get very attached to their owners and partners. If something does happen to their partner, then owners need to find another one — and that’s not easy (for the humans as well as the guinea pigs). This is why Swiss animal lover Priska Küng runs a kind of matchmaking agency — for lonely guinea pigs.
“Because they hardly ever die at the same time, even if they are exactly the same age, people who don’t want a new guinea pig and lose one of their two animals need an interim solution,” she says.
Her service is in high demand, but it’s also challenging: even though they don’t want to be lonely, guinea pigs can be quite picky about who they live with.
“A young animal can annoy a four or five-year-old guinea pig by being too temperamental and active,” says Küng. But sometimes the opposite is true: Küng has also known guinea pig grandpas to feel rejuvenated by the addition of a younger companion.
What do you think about this approach? Sweden has similar legislation in place and several other countries have sensible laws protecting social animals. Is this something you’d like to see implemented everywhere, or does it feel like overkill?
Andrei's background is in geophysics, and he's been fascinated by it ever since he was a child. Feeling that there is a gap between scientists and the general audience, he started ZME Science -- and the results are what you see today.