Katy Turner visits Doncaster’s very own Guinea Pig sanctuary
Words: Katy Turner
I have to admit, when someone told me that we have a specialist sanctuary solely for guinea pigs right here in Doncaster, I thought that it must be an urban myth. Under further investigation, it turned out to be 100% true. It transpires that Cavy Corner is an organisation purely dedicated to rescuing, caring for and re-homing little piggies (or cavies, which is the Latin name for guinea pig). Now, because Cavy Corner is a registered charity and because I have the best job in the Council, I got to pay them a little visit under the guise of work. I proceeded to spend a glorious afternoon chatting to Sue Tate, the founder of this wonderful initiative, and had my eyes truly opened to the underground guinea pig subculture taking place in our borough! For example, did you know that Guinea Pig Magazine, the UK’s first (and only) publication dedicated to our furry friends is produced and edited here in Donny? Neither did I!
Anyway, the story goes that, in 2008, Sue and her partner Winston began Cavy Corner after becoming aware of vast numbers of guinea pigs being mistreated and the lack of provision within traditional animal shelters to nurse them and find them a loving home. They started out with just two guineas, Clover and GP, but fast forward almost a decade and the charity is nearing its 10th anniversary having rescued and cared for thousands of guineas of every breed and variety.
Sue and Winston’s dedication to their brood is clear to see and absolutely heart-warming. They can instantly recount the unique personality, background and medical history of each individual guinea. This is immediately apparent from Cavy Corner’s social media, which is a delightful showcase of the guineas’ daily adventures: there is the cuddly Kevin Tuesday, so named because Sue posts pictures and videos of him every Tuesday without fail which has been known to cause public outcry on the rare occasion where she hasn’t got around to it; then there’s the eye-catching skinny pigs, a hairless breed of guinea who look like mini hippos with a few whiskers on their noses; and a whole host of adorable guinea couples who make up the rest of the family (guineas are incredibly social creatures who get lonely if they don’t have a mate sob, sob!)
Cavy Corner’s philosophy is centred upon giving these lovely animals the best lives they can possibly have. However, this requires constant hard work, a military routine of cage cleaning, feeding, cleaning water bottles, nail clipping, grooming and trips to the vet. The organisation also does lots of educational and outreach work, in the form of workshops with schools, events in the community, home visits, therapy visits to care homes and they even run a specialist ‘Guinea Helpline’ which receives calls and enquiries from across the world.
The really special thing about Cavy Corner is that it is run entirely by a team of dedicated volunteers and has no paid staff whatsoever. Everyone who contributes their time does so out of their sheer love for guinea pigs. The charity also relies strongly on fundraising to ensure that the guineas get the year-round VIP treatment they have become accustomed to (keeping Kevin Tuesday well-stocked with strawberries, for a start).
On the way home, as I reflected upon my visit, I thought about how wonderful it is that the charity is turning an issue as negative as animal cruelty and abandonment into something so positive, fun and full of joy. Sue told me that every day she feels blessed because the guinea pigs have led her to meet so many wonderful people. For me, this really sums up the caring and compassionate community of guinea pig lovers that Cavy Corner has helped to unite. When he visited, Ed Miliband commented that “Cavy Corner is a credit to Doncaster”. I really couldn’t agree more.
So, if like me, you have been inspired by Cavy Corner’s remarkable and utterly unique story, there are a number of small things you can do to help sustain the valuable work they are doing:
- Become a regular volunteer – no experience is needed and they are able to cater for all ages and abilities. The only requirement is to be a guinea pig lover!
- Attend fundraising events like this one with your family and friends: Small and Fury Fun Pet Show – Enter your guinea pig, rabbit or hamster into the contest! – Sunday 21st October, 12-4pm at Armthorpe Community Centre, Church Street, DN3 3AG.
- Make a small donation of items like kitchen towels (which Cavy Corner uses at an alarming rate) or items for tombolas/raffles that can be used to raise funds.
- Check out the Cavy Corner website and follow the Facebook Page to become acquainted with all the Cavy characters and spread the guinea love!