If you've never had a cavy before, you may not know what to expect. Here's a few things to get you started.
Cavies are not hamsters! (or rats, or mice, or gerbils...)
Cavies are unlike most of the small rodents that can be found in a pet store. First, their adult weight is between two and three pounds. This makes them much larger than your average hamster. In fact, newborn cavies are about the size of an adult hamster or larger. Newborn cavies also differ from most other pet type rodents in that they are born fully furred with eyes open and eat solid food within 24 hours.
Cavies like to talk
Cavies have a wide range of vocalizations. Mainly they Chut, Purr, Wheek and Chirp in varying ways. Sometimes they're requests for attention or food, othertimes may indicate distress or pleasure. You'll learn what they mean after a time.
Cavies enjoy interaction. A solitary cavy will crave attention from its owner. Cavies enjoy being held, groomed and even bathed. Many owners like to sit with their cavy while watching TV or give the cavy "floor time" for exercise.
Before you buy...
Take the time to read through the Housing and Nutrition sections so you know what you need. You may also wish to read the Showing or Husbandry sections depending on your goals. Get all your supplies and get your equipment set up before you bring your cavy home. Moving to a new home may be stressful on your cavy so try not to add to it by being unprepared.
Choosing your first cavy
If you have not yet purchased your first cavy, you should first take a moment to browse the Breeds & Varieties. In addition to the differences in appearance, some breeds will require more care and grooming than others.
Where should I get it?
Your local pet store is not going to have a full selection of all the different kinds of cavies. Also, pet store conditions are not always conducive to the health of the animals. Due to the crowding and varied sources of the animals, it is easy for illness to spread.
This does not mean all pet stores are bad. It does mean you should be careful. Always check the cavy before you buy it. Be sure the eyes are clear, the nose is clean, there are no bare patches of fur and that the animal is alert and active. Don't buy an animal you can't check and don't buy an animal if any of the others are obviously sick.
You can also get a cavy from a private breeder. Many private breeders also show their animals and if you are interested in showing you should definitely go this route. They tend to have pure breed lines and they are breeding towards a certain showable result. These breeders do not often advertise and you may have to wait for an animal because most do not overproduce, but it should be worth the wait to get what you want.
It goes without saying that you should still be careful and check the cavy you are purchasing. Not all breeders are as reputable as they purport to be and even the best of breeders get sick animals. You are not obligated to purchase a cavy just because you contact a breeder. Find a breeder you can trust. Breeders are one of your best resources when you have a question and many will offer to continue to help you after the sale.
I've got my Cavy, what now?
Enjoy it! He or she may be shy for the first few days while accostoming to you and the new surroundings. Be patient and give lots of love. He or she will be be responding in no time.