May 7, 2003
I was worried about Bubba yesterday. Usually he’s a demanding piggy when we get home from work, perching at the side of his cage and focusing his attention in the direction of the kitchen, source of all that is fresh and edible. Sometimes he chews on the wire mesh of his cage in anticipation, his one really annoying habit. He doesn’t wheep and whistle for food like our girls, Bonnie and Katja, did. I would say his momma didn’t teach him how, but he can make those noises, he just rarely chooses to do so. He saves his loudest squeals for playtime, making himself heard in every corner of the house when he really gets going. When it’s feeding time, he’s usually quiet, communicating his desire for sustenance (other than the boring old pellets in his bowl) with body language, putting his front paws on the top of his tray, the side of his cage, or the top of his house depending on how bad his starvation is at the time.
But last night he wasn’t perching or chewing, not when I first got home and not after I’d gone upstairs and changed clothes and come back down. He was just sitting in his house. If it weren’t a regularly scheduled feeding time, I wouldn’t have been concerned. He spends most of his non-eating hours in his house, where he is safe from the predators that might at any moment appear in the living room and try to eat him. But this was greens time, and not just store bought romaine lettuce, either, but freshly picked dandelion greens, which have been on the menu since the first weed crop of the season matured in our flower beds in the back yard. He didn’t even come out of his house when I arrived cage side with food in hand. He did stick his head out and take one leaf from me, but failed to emerge after he’d eaten it. Usually he’ll rush right over to the rack to gobble the rest of the greens in short order.
I fretted. Was he sick? A guinea pig not eating is a bad sign. He didn’t look or sound ill; his eyes were bright and his breathing normal and he certainly wasn’t wasting away. He just didn’t want to come out of his house, not even for fresh greens. I fed him a couple more leaves, and he did eat them, so I wasn’t in a “let’s take him to the vet” panic or anything, just a little concerned. I left the rest of the greens in the rack per routine and went off to get my own food. Mr. Karen speculated that Bubba might be suffering from the guinea pig equivalent of the cold that laid the two of us low in recent weeks and just wanted to nap a little more than usual.
By the time we humans finished our dinner, Bubba had left his house long enough to eat the rest of the dandelion leaves, though he was back inside it when I next looked in on him. He seemed perkier by playtime, and ate the carrots I offered, so whatever had been bothering him was better by then. Just before I went up to bed, when I was taking away Bubba’s pellet bowl and making sure he had water and hay to tide him over until morning, a thought occurred to me. Putting the alfalfa in the hay rack, a thought occurred to me. Could Bubba have been pouting? I’d just started giving him alfalfa again, in place of the orchard grass I’d replaced it with when I failed to stop at the regular pet supply store on my way home from work and so had to run out and get something at a different store closer to home. He’d turned up his nose at the orchard grass at first, but then decided it was his favorite hay ever and actually ate all I gave him, rather than just spreading much of it around the cage floor in what we’ve come to refer to as a hayscape. Could his retreat to his house during feeding time be an expression of his displeasure at the disappearance of the orchard grass? Was his walnut-sized brain capable of formulating that sort of thought? I had a tiny bit of the orchard grass left, just the fine bits that would fall through the rack and which I usually put into the yard waste bin, and put those in with the alfalfa. Before I’d even taken my hand out of the cage, there was Mr. Bubba, who’d made a top speed scurry from his house at the other end of the cage and was now snorfling up the orchard grass bits from under the rack. That stuff is evidently guinea pig crack, and my furry boy is hooked.