Blackjack the cuddly guinea pig has been declared the winner of the Oxford Mail Perfect Pet 2022 competition.
We asked people to enter the contest and were staggered with the response when we received hundreds of entries.
After a shortlist of 10 entries was drawn up, readers used coupons in the paper to vote for their favourite and Blackjack emerged the winner.
Charity shop manager Laura Horton, from Kennington, bought Blackjack for £25 during lockdown in 2020 to help her daughter Amelie, now 10, who was missing her friends.
Ms Horton said: “We can’t believe Blackjack has won – Amelie is thrilled and is so excited she was screaming about it with her friends in the playground.
“Guinea pigs are so lovely – you get a lot back from them – they are so cuddly and they lick you to show you they love you.”
Ms Horton bought Blackjack and his brother Twiglet from Pets at Home in Cowley for £25 each.
The pets are often sold in pairs because they can get depressed if they are left on their own.
Ms Horton added: “We call Twiglet Boris because he has scruffy hair like Boris Johnson – we thought he looked too scruffy to enter the competition.”
The shop manager said the guinea pigs were ‘fairly straightforward’ to look after.
She added: “Amelie keeps them in a big cage in her bedroom and there is a run for them out in the garden.
“We haven’t had any problems with them apart from the time I thought I had found a growth on Blackjack and rushed him to the vets as an emergency – it cost £200.
“After five minutes the vet said there was nothing wrong – it was just Blackjack reaching his sexual maturity.
“We were told the guinea pigs were girls when we bought them but it turns out they are boys – we were only at the vets for a few minutes – I was fuming.”
Ms Horton said she would recommend families get guinea pigs if they are considering buying a pet.
She added: “Guinea pigs graze for about 20 hours out of every 24 – they eat a huge amount of hay.
“They also need a constant supply of biscuits and fresh vegetables twice a day.
“Our two have a big selection – spinach, dandelions, tomatoes, cucumber, parsnips and carrots – we pack in as much as we can.
“And they also get bananas and apples twice a week as a treat.”
Ms Horton said the pets are very fast and mobile and enjoy playing with toys and jumping up and down.
Runners up in the competition were Sue Webb’s boxer dog Winnie – sometimes called Wiggles – and Sarah Heatlie’s dachshund Baxter.
Ms Horton and Amelie have won £50 in prize vouchers and a framed Oxford Mail Perfect Pet 2022 certificate.
This story was written by Andy Ffrench, he joined the team more than 20 years ago and now covers community news across Oxfordshire.
Get in touch with him by emailing: Andy.email@example.com
Follow him on Twitter @OxMailAndyF