June 19, 2013 at 5:50 PM ET
Don’t let their small statures fool you: Dogs may be man’s best friend, but guinea pigs have long courted their own devoted following, and the zeal of their supporters runs deep.
Just over a week ago, Sean McCoy of Fairfax, Va., began auctioning off a suit of chain mail armor he had made on a whim for his guinea pig, Lucky, on Ebay. From the $5 starting bid, the price quickly shot into the quadruple digits, and is now holding steady at $23,100 with two days left for bidding. All proceeds from the auction will go to the Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue.
“People's generosity is blowing my mind. I was hoping for a couple hundred dollars — which is about what the mail would go for in any other application,” McCoy wrote in an email to TODAY.com. “$22,000 is extremely generous and I'm still a bit caught up in the craziness of this week to wrap my head around how awesome people can be.”
McCoy’s own guinea pig, Lucky, passed away over two weeks ago, but he probably would not have minded seeing the armor go anyway.
“Lucky didn't like it too much, especially as it got bigger and heavier,” McCoy said. “I pretty much made it to put on him once or twice, take photos and then it sat on the shelf on a tiny armor rack.”
Clothes might not be a natural fit for guinea pigs, but outdoor picnics most certainly are. At “pignics,” guinea pig lovers congregate to let their pets roam with other "cavy enthusiasts" — the guinea pig is in the cavy family of rodents.
The now nationwide events were started in the late 1990s by a dedicated group of breeders and guinea pig owners, according to CavyMadness founder Tammy Raabe. She co-founded a pignic in the Boston area, which proved popular, and now draws between 50 to 60 people at each event. There are contests for wildest hair, greatest number of pigs in a family and best costume. And there are rules for proper guinea pig etiquette like “pigs do not always play well with others” and “pens are for pigs, not people.” (Well, we hope so.)
Many participants meet through the Internet, which plays host to a blossoming guinea pig culture. Sandra Landry, who owns an adorable paralyzed guinea pig, attended her first pignic on June 9.
“It was like nothing I had ever seen before,” she said. “Total strangers laughing and sharing stories of their piggies and their lives in general. I found that we were all connected to each other and our piggies.”
Guinea pigs may be easy to underestimate, when cats seem to steal so much of the Internet’s attention, but whether for their docile demeanor or charming good looks, cavy owners are pretty invested in their pets.
“Guinea pig owners aren't too much different than any other pet owner. People carry their dogs in purses, take them to work, dress them up, take them to groomers,” McCoy said. “Guinea pig owners catch flak for being a bit off the beaten path, for sure. They do not bite, they make purring noises similar to cats when they're happy.”
Landry found a true emotional connection with her paralyzed guinea pig, Benny, who suddenly lost the use of his legs last October. Her veterinarian couldn’t bear to put “this adorable piggy" to sleep, so they made him a wheelchair and Benny has been mobile ever since.
“Piggies seem to know what mood people are in and act accordingly,” Landry told TODAY.com. “When I’m sad or upset he watches and squeaks for me to hold him. I think I need him just as much as he needs me.”
Take a look at more pignic pictures below: