EVERETT — For 364 days a year, a guinea pig is just a guinea pig.
Now, the cavy can join other house pets and be unicorns and superheroes on Oct. 31.
What’s up with that?
At PetSmart, the $6.99 Halloween costumes for guinea pigs were flying off the shelves.
Tricking out cats and dogs is nothing new. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spent $490 million last year to dress Max and Kitty for Halloween, and that doesn’t include the millions spent on T-shirts, dresses and hoodies for everyday wear.
That’s half a billion dollars in Halloween bucks, and there’s even more money to be had with the rodent crowd.
In September, I nabbed the last pumpkin and mermaid guinea pig costumes on the rack.
I knew just who to call: former Herald features editor Jessi Loerch.
I’d seen pictures of her piglet Puddum on Facebook. Guinea pigs are social media gold. They look like fuzzy bedroom slippers. The critters, also known as cavy, have petal-shaped ears, beady eyes and perky noses.
Jessi’s daughter, Hazel, 10, took on the task of dressing Puddum.
Hazel wrote about the experience: “When we first put the costume on Puddum, he cooperated but didn’t like it. The second time we tried to put it on him two days later, he was like, ‘No way! You can get me to wear it once, but not twice.’ He continually made his annoyed noise at us for the whole time we were trying. We tried five more times, with no success, because Puddum kept walking out of his costume. On the seventh time however, my mom told me to pick up Puddum, so she could get the photo. Finally, we finished and got the photo.”
Puddum’s modeling debut in The Daily Herald likely won’t give him the fame of an East Coast piglet named Maisie, whose owner hit the TikTok jackpot for a guinea pig-themed art gallery, The Piggenheim Museum. She recreated famous works of art, replacing the people with guinea pig characters and new names: “The Rodent Lisa.” “American Cavy.” “The Pig with the Pearl Earring.” She hung the art in golden frames at ground level along her hallway for her rescue piglet Maisie to admire.
Puddum should thank his lucky stars he doesn’t live in Peru.
National Guinea Pig Day is held on the second Friday of October to celebrate their esteemed place on a plate. Rather than fluffy adorable pets to stuff into costumes, guinea pigs are a delicacy in Peru.
In the U.S., guinea pigs are affordable to buy (as pets) but require special chow, bedding, shelter and attention.
Kids who beg for them have been known to get bored with them.
This wasn’t the case for Haley Del Valle, who started Bigfoot’s Guinea Pig Rescue in her Marysville bedroom when she was 15. Now 21 and married, she devotes a room in her Everett home to saving and re-homing castoff guinea pigs.
“It’s $40 a pair, and we recommend they be adopted in pairs because they are herd animals,” Del Valle said. “They really come out of their shell when they are with other guinea pigs. Our interaction isn’t the same as having another guinea pig there.”
Guinea pigs are awake about 20 hours a day. They are not native to Guinea, nor are they related to pigs, though they spend a large chunk of time eating, squeaking and doing a happy dance in the air, known as popcorning.
“They are a good first-time pet,” said Debbie Wilkie, owner of Critters & Company Pet Center at Ken’s Korner shopping plaza in Clinton on Whidbey Island.
Her shop has seven guinea pigs available for adoption for $20 each. She doesn’t sell costumes for guinea pigs but has plenty for dogs and cats.
For other pets: “Usually they will make them from doll clothes or knit them,” Wilkie said. “A lot of people do outfits for bearded dragons.”
Amazon has hats and tutus for chickens, and Etsy offers a variety of getups for fowl.
Wilkie’s store plans to give treats to costumed kids as well as pets on Halloween.
Traditional trick-or-treating is considered a high-risk activity for COVID-19 transmission and is discouraged by public health officials. The Snohomish Health District recommends household-only and/or virtual activities.
For guinea pig owners who are too late to get into the Halloween costume action, don’t worry. PetSmart has Santa and reindeer costumes for your special rodents, as well as cute ugly holiday sweaters and fa-la-la hats.
Andrea Brown: firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.