Peter Gurney came to appreciate guinea pigs rather late in life—he was 48 years old when he owned his first cavy.
Peter Gurney Official Site
Yet he devoted his time and energy to these little guys and gals that make so many people happy.
He spent the last 20 years of his life learning everything he could about them, and the best part is that he worked tirelessly to pass his knowledge on to other guinea pig lovers.
Gurney was born in Luton, about an hour’s ride north of London.
He spent his career driving buses and trucks until an accident disabled him permanently. That’s when he discovered the furry little critters that we all know and love so well.
In trying to take care of his pets, he realised that most veterinarians have a dearth of knowledge about guinea pigs.
Frustrated in his attempts to provide the best possible care for his pets, he made the acquaintance of Mrs. Vedra Stanley Spatcher, who founded the Cambridge Cavy Trust.
With her worthy assistance he was able to put together several books about the care and health of guinea pigs—and he educated quite a few small animal veterinarians as well as pet owners.
He dedicated the veterinary portion of his book to Mrs. Stanley for the priceless help she gave him in gathering his information.
Gurney was an inveterate critic of many animal people who supposedly meant well but lost their message in their methods.
He criticised the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) for putting bureaucracy and profit ahead of pet safety, although he would grudgingly admit that some of their efforts protected animals’ lives.
He was staunchly against the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. As people like Mrs. Stanley and Gurney gained knowledge about the best care for guinea pigs and then took the next step of sharing that information, many RCVS vets protested.
They did not object to specific information; they just didn’t want to lose the business of treating guinea pigs, even if they did a poor job of it.
Gurney participated in a roiling controversy about whether to anaesthetise guinea pigs for dental work.
He spoke vehemently against the Countryside Alliance for promoting sports that use animals as targets in one way or another. He wrote diatribes against celebrities on television who put the spectacle of entertainment using animals against the safety of those helpless creatures.
His best accomplishments, however, were the books he put out for every guinea pig owner to own in order to provide the best possible care for pets.
Peter Gurney Publications
Piggy Potions: Natural Remedies for Guinea Pigs Came out in 1995.
He actually began its writing in 1992, when his doctor told him he had kidney cancer, and he used the project to keep himself busy during his treatment and recovery.
With Tracey Sammie’s inimitable illustrations, this book set out to be a first point of contact for anxious owners who wanted to try a home remedy for their pet until the vet could be reached.
The Proper Care of Guinea Pigs followed in 1999.
This second book is a veritable wealth of information for guinea pig owners, and its infinite supply of information is well illustrated with over 200 photos that make the author’s point easy to understand for people of all ages.
The Proper Care of Guinea Pigs
The Sex Life of Guinea Pigs and What’s My Guinea Pig?
both came out in 2000, with the latter of these being informative about the various breeds available.
In 2006, after successful years advocating for the health and care of guinea pigs—and all animals—Gurney lost his battle with cancer.
It returned with a vengeance, but he had time to find new homes for all of his pets before he lost his final battle at the age of 68. Right up until his death he had been working on his last book, Last of Their Kind, which was published in 2007 after his death.
This last volume was rather short, only 60 pages, and supposedly celebrates his life with his pets, but it’s very difficult to find a copy.
Gurney’s website still provides a wealth of information for guinea pig lovers.
Every year on the 9th March, which was his birthday, guinea pig lovers all over the world light a candle.
If you’d like to do this next March, you can email the Guinea Pigs Daily Digest with your location, and the website will display a map pinpointing all the locations—all over the world—where people still remember Peter Gurney.