Like most grad students, Michelle Fredrickson does not have a lot of free time. The enterprise editor for The Rocky Mountain Collegian is a graduate student in public health focusing on health communication and epidemiology. She is a teaching assistant for two classes, a research assistant and is currently taking five graduate classes.
“What comes with that? Being stressed out a lot,” she said.
But she recently rescued a guinea pig, Cashew, and the new addition has been great for stress relief.
“As soon as I pick him up, I feel my stress levels going down,” Fredrickson said.
It’s also been helpful to have the added responsibility of taking care of a pet. “People are a lot less likely to go out and do crazy things because they know they have a little pet who is relying on them,” she explained.
Fredrickson got her first guinea pig when she was 5 years old, and raised hundreds of them through 4-H until she was 19. She was a multi-year state guinea pig champion breeder in Washington State during high school.
“It starts with one guinea pig and snowballs from there,” she said, when talking about this childhood hobby. Or, as one of her favorite judges once put it: Guinea pigs are like potato chips, you can never have just one.
At one time, Fredrickson said she was raising 70 of the little creatures, which are native to South America. They lived in a heated cabin behind her family’s home.
People don’t realize that guinea pigs have distinct personalities and are very talkative, Fredrickson said. They also get very attached to people. “They’re really sweet animals and wonderful creatures,” she said.
Follow Cashew the Cavy on Instagram: @cashew_cavy (Cavy, pronounced cave-y, is the scientific name for guinea pigs.)