In the hit animated movie G-Force, a squad of computer-generated guinea pigs is armed to the teeth, swimming, parachuting and using blowtorches. But real-life guinea pigs are nowhere near as tough as their fictional counterparts — they can’t even survive falls or rough handling from young children, let alone survive in the wild.  

That’s got experts worried about an inevitable increase in the popularity of these quirky little animals as pets. Domesticated since 5000 BC, guinea pigs were bred for certain desirable qualities like fur color, size and temperament, which has resulted in remarkable docility but also a fragility that makes them susceptible to disease and completely dependent on proper care from humans for survival.

While many children will undoubtedly beg their parents to get one as a pet after seeing G-Force, the ‘proper care’ part of owning a guinea pig is not as simple as it may seem. They need a constant supply of the right food — hay, vegetables and vitamin C, all of which are provided in guinea pig food pellets — and must be kept in a fairly temperature-stable environment, as anything over 80 degrees Fahrenheit can cause dehydration. If you forget to feed them or fail to keep them cool on a hot day, they’re toast.

In the movie, the G-Force guinea pigs are seen using hamster balls, but potential pet owners shouldn’t confuse what’s okay for hamsters with what’s okay for guinea pigs. Unlike hamsters and mice, guinea pigs don’t have the flexible spines necessary to use a ball or wheel. They also require special bedding, as the aromatic oils in cedar and pine bedding irritate their sensitive upper respiratory systems.

Even if guinea pigs could really walk around on their hind legs and carry guns, they wouldn’t fare well being handled by small children without careful adult supervision. Falling a small distance — like, from a 5-year-old’s arms onto the floor – could cause paralysis that eventually leads to death.

Though Disney has posted statements on the G-Force website and on promotional materials urging the responsible ownership of animals, experts say that isn’t enough and urge parents to forgo adopting live guinea pigs altogether in favor of stuffed toys.

Your kids may not be thrilled at first, but a few days of disappointment is better than a wave of mistreated and unwanted animals entering shelters across the country.

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