Let's face it -- when you see a service dog out and about with their human, doesn't your heart swell with so much love and pride for that dog you just wanna throw a televised awards ceremony??! Service dogs (and other animals, such as miniature horses) perform incredible, lifesaving services each and every day such as alerting for seizures and dangerous blood sugar levels, improving quality of life by "seeing" for those with severe vision problems, and providing tranquility and safety for those with PTSD. While service animals are restricted to those with serious disabilities or conditions and trained to provide specific services like alerting or seeing, emotional support animals provide therapeutic assistance for a broad array of other conditions -- often those related to mental health.
Emotional support animals (ESAs) are prescribed by a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist, licensed therapist, or psychiatrist, to provide therapeutic comfort and relief from emotional or psychological disorders. They are not specifically trained to provide services, are NOT equivalent to service animals, and DO NOT have the same rights and roles of registered service animals. However, for those coping with debilitating conditions such as depression or anxiety, the very presence of an emotional support animal can serve as an anchor and provide true, non-medication relief and healing. Because they are not trained to provide services, any animal can be prescribed as an emotional support animal -- yes, even guinea pigs! With that being said, we have run the data, analyzed our findings, and present to you the ideal emotional support animal: the beloved guinea pig.
GUINEA PIGS ARE FURRY CUDDLEBUGS.
The sweet snuggles between you and your piggy can lift your spirits and ease your heart, and there's a medical explanation for this: cuddling triggers release of the hormone oxytocin, which is involved in processes such as bonding, reducing fear and anxiety, and easing depression. The next time you sit down to snuggle your pigs, take note of your emotions and feelings -- once your guinea pig "plops" or "pancakes" you may just find yourself more relaxed than before.
GUINEA PIGS ARE RELATIVELY LOW-MAINTENANCE PETS.
We never advocate guineas as "starter animals," either for children or adults. No life form is ever a lesson or a way to prove your ability to fill a food bowl and toss in a handful of hay -- every single animal you bring into your home should be given as much love as possible simply because they are a living being. Now, with that being said: cavies are lower maintenance pets as opposed to dogs or even some cats, as they require less room, less food (even though it may not seem that way (: ), and do not have to be taken outside for potty breaks. These qualities make the guinea pig an exemplary candidate for an ESA -- able to provie therapeutic aid without causing more stressors.
THOUGH TINY & FURRY, PIGS CAN BE YOUR ANCHOR.
When someone is battling thoughts of anxiety, fear, hopelessness, numbness, or depression, caring for an animal or two can be incredibly grounding. Many people find their guinea pigs give them purpose, passion, and a reason to get out of bed in the morning. I mean, how can you not when they start squeaking and singing for their breakfast?!
PIGGIES NEVER FAIL TO PROVIDE COMIC RELIEF.
Between popcorning, singing us the song of their people, playing with new toys, sitting INSIDE their food to eat their way out, or participating in "piggy architecture" (rearranging hideys and blankets to get them just right), guinea pigs pack a lot of hilarity in such small packages. They're always so excited just to be a guinea pig -- to be your guinea pig -- they can barely contain it. Their ability to find joy and excitement in the little things will absolutely boost your spirits, and this is essential in their role as ESAs.
GUINEA PIGS MIGHT JUST LEAD YOU TO YOUR TRIBE.
The internet is now such a commonplace feature in our lives, we tend to forget the miracle of unity fostered by the web. It's pretty obvious we love showing off our guineas to the rest of the world, and online communities just for cavy owners provides the perfect shelter to do just that. Guinea pig community pages abound on Instagram, Facebook, even Reddit! We have found guinea pig owners to be some of the most loving, attentive humans, always willing to lend advice and comfort when needed. If you find yourself isolated, or simply needing a bit more community and friendship, please check out these communities. You may stumble upon the best of friends, all because of your little furballs!
AND ON A PERSONAL NOTE . . .
We are passionate advocates of emotional support guinea pigs because we have seen, firsthand, the therapeutic relief and direction which stems from our beloved pigs. In fact, Rosie (from @rosie_andherfriends on Instagram) is my emotional support animal. My (now former) psychologist prescribed an emotional support animal one year ago to aid in the transition back to college at the end of the summer and provide daily comfort and therapeutic relief. My family has owned guinea pigs for 15 years, and I have been comforted by them time and time again -- but having my very own pig, my very own furball at my side to combat depression and anxiety, has brought such joy into my life. I can absolutely testify that Rosie has helped lead me back from extraordinarily dark places. Even when I do not want to care for or feed myself, I know I have to do my best because Rosie depends on me. Even when I feel myself lacking purpose, I know beyond a doubt I have a purpose and responsibility to love my pig with everything I have.
We hope you enjoyed this post! It might be a bit heavy for some, but we really wanted to spread awareness and education of a topic we feel passionately about. Let us know in the comments if you have an emotional support animal and how they have impacted your life!