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Can I Keep My Guinea Pig Outdoors?

I love guinea pigs, but they can be hard to raise indoors, and it is possible to raise them outside if certain conditions are met.

You can keep your cavies outdoors if you take extra precautions to keep them safe and healthy.

You can keep your cavies outdoors if you take extra precautions to keep them safe and healthy.

Your Guide to Raising Guinea Pigs Outside

If you are reading this article, I assume you have already decided that you like the idea of having a pet guinea pig. Now, you might find yourself wondering whether it is okay to keep your guinea pig outdoors as opposed to inside the house.

Speaking as someone who used to have an entire stud of guinea pigs that were a combination of pets and show animals, I can say that, provided your climate is not a particularly hot or cold one and the conditions you keep your guinea pigs in follow some basic rules, there is no reason why they won't be perfectly happy and healthy living outside. In fact, keeping your cavy (as I prefer to refer to them) outdoors provides a somewhat natural way of life.

Much of guinea pig care looks the same whether you choose to keep your pets indoors or out. This article covers most normal aspects of care but also provides extra information specific to outdoor cavies

Cagemates and Safety

Guinea pigs are social creatures that can get lonely, so keeping them in same-sex pairs or groups is best, and you must ensure they have adequate bedding and secure housing. In other words, if you plan to keep them outside, their cage or hutch must be both predator-proof and escape-proof.

Vitamin C

It is also vital you provide them with plenty of vitamin C in their diet, as they cannot naturally produce it in their bodies (like most mammals can). Vitamin C is found in many natural vegetables like cabbage, carrots, lettuce, etc. Outdoor grass contains some vitamin C, but supplementing it is always a good idea.

If you are concerned your guinea pig may not be getting enough Vitamin C, then put a normal human Vitamin C tablet into their water bottle. As Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, you cannot overdose your pet on it because they will pass out any excess in their urine. Always check to make sure the water in their bottle has not frozen in cold weather. You can slow this down a little by using slightly warm water to fill the bottles and wrapping them in bubble wrap for insulation before reattaching them to the outside of the wire mesh.

This hutch and pen would be ideal for a guinea pig kept outdoors.

This hutch and pen would be ideal for a guinea pig kept outdoors.

Outdoor Hutches

If you are going to keep your guinea pig outside, then make sure you buy the best quality hutch you can afford. It will need to be rodent-proof (not just to stop your guinea pig from escaping, but to stop rats from chewing their way in). Ideally, the sleeping area should not be in direct contact with the ground as damp and cold will rise up through the wood into the sleeping quarters, as well as giving rats and other predators easy access to gnawing their way into the hutch. Try to cover sharp external corners with metal to avoid them being chewed on by outside creatures who want to gain access.

Outdoor Roaming Pens

A pen that allows access to grass is another great addition, but make sure it does have a wire floor so that nothing can tunnel underneath it to get to your guinea pig. The grass will still protrude through the wire so your pet won't miss out, and providing you move the pen a few times a week the wire won't be uncomfortable for them to walk on because the uneaten grass will act as a cushion. Fit a ramp that leads from the outside pen into the sleeping area and make sure this area is filled with good quality (non-dusty) hay or straw.

A wire roof to the pen is equally important, as this will stop predators from targeting your cavy from above, e.g., birds of prey, cats, terriers, rats, polecats, etc.

Another ideal set up for a guinea pig.

Another ideal set up for a guinea pig.

Hutch Location

Locate the hutch/cage in an area that is not in direct sunlight and is well sheltered from wind and rain. Too much heat will quickly kill your guinea pig, and if the cage is facing straight into oncoming icy winds and rain your pet will suffer a similar fate. The best option is to move the hutch or cage undercover if the weather turns really cold, e.g. a shed or garage, but if there is nowhere for you to move the cage, then try getting a thick blanket and covering over the front of the cage at night (or during severe weather conditions) to keep the drafts out and the natural heat in. This is another good reason to keep two or more cavies of the same sex together, as they can snuggle up and keep each other warm, as well as generate body heat to warm the hutch.

If you are going to keep more than one guinea pig together, I recommend keeping all females to avoid babies. You could try a few males together, but this only has a chance of working if there are no females anywhere nearby. If there are other females close, the smell of them will cause fighting between your males.

Other Pets

Please please don't be tempted to put a rabbit in with your guinea pig as a companion. Rabbits tend to bully the smaller guinea pig, so the guinea pig ends up fearful and miserable, (if not seriously injured.) Often very obvious nips and tears appear on the guinea pig's ears as a result of the rabbit picking on them.

Safety and Veterinary Care

Always keep an eye on your guinea pig's health. If he or she shows any signs of being unhealthy, take them to a vet as soon as you can. They don't have a great ability to fight infections and tend to 'give up' very easily, which is why you should not delay in taking them to a vet if they show any signs of being unwell. Look out for runny noses, a dull, "staring" (non-shiny) coat, runny eyes, or lifeless looking eyes, lethargic behavior, loss of appetite/weight, shivering, or lack of activity. If you spot one or more of these danger signs, then take your pet to vet as soon as you can. It might just save their life.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2012 Cindy Lawson


Emma on May 17, 2020:

Hi we have 3 male guinea pigs that live outdoors. We just got a new hutch and the sleeping area is up top. My question is should I put them in there at night in the cooler months and close it off so they can’t can’t get down during the night and let them out in the morning.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on November 11, 2018:

They don’t stop drinking the water, trust me, I used to breed and show my cavies and they were always extremely healthy. Most vitamin C tablets have a slightly orangey taste, which if anything the guinea-pigs enjoy.

Emmy on November 11, 2018:

I don't believe you should put Vitamin C tablets in your guinea pig's water bottle. Your pet might not like the yaste and stpp drinking water.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 19, 2016:

Thank you lrdl3535, I am glad you enjoyed this post.

Richard Lindsay from California on March 19, 2016:

Thanks for a great post with lots of information. I am considering moving my guinea pigs outdoors in the future.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on August 28, 2013:

Sadly Luis it is very very unwise to rely on a dry food with Vitamin C added to it as a reliable source of Vitamin C. In many cases the food has been stored for a long time and the Vitamin C content is either non-existent, or virtually gone. Fresh fruit and veg is always the best source of Vitamin C, but as I explained before, don't rely on the store bought fruit and veggies as they have often travelled many hundreds (if not thousands) of miles to get to you over many days. This means the vegetables may look fresh, but in fact the vitamin content is virtually gone. Unless the produce is grown locally, or you grew it yourself, I would always suggest adding a Vitamin C tablet to your guinea-pig's water bottle in the winter months. You cannot overdose on Vitamin C as it is a water soluble vitamin, so any surplus the guinea-pig does not need will be passed through its system harmlessly (trust me, I have worked for more than one veterinary surgery). It is pointless buying expensive Vit C from vets, as it is the same stuff as you can buy cheaply online or through any human pharmacy, all you will achieve is the vet's practice charging you more for it. My cavies/guinea-pigs were prize winners at good competition levels, and they were more than happy to drink water with a standard Vit C tablet in it all winter, plus I fed them fresh local vegetables as opposed to long travelled ones from abroad.

Luis on August 27, 2013:

A diet with fresh veggies and vmaiitn C already added to the dry mix should be enough. If your guinea pig is not well, some extra vmaiitn C can help, just ask for ascorbic acid at the pharmacy (without flavouring or colouring) and that can be added to syringe food or sprinkled on normal food to help if recommended by your vet (or the vet can probably get Oxbow vmaiitn C for you).

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on August 27, 2013:

Usually with Vitamin C tablets in the water bottle the guinea-pigs love the taste because it is generally orange or fruity in flavour. I agree a healthy diet should ensure enough vitamins are provided, but sometimes in the winter months the vegetables you buy in the shops may be quite old or have been transported for many days, so reducing the vitamin content. To be on the safe side a vitamin C tablet in the water bottle is a good idea at this time of year. I would never condone using supplements instead of a healthy diet, but as well as a healthy diet certain mineral licks and vitamin C can be beneficial (the guinea-pigs will only use the mineral licks if they need them).

Alsmani on August 27, 2013:

when piggies have a good diet they don't need vitmain supplements. if you use drops etc in the water or food they may nt eat/drink it as it changes the flavour you also can't tell if the piggies is getting enough, if you feed a slice of green bell pepper (no stems or seeds) a piece of broccoli or some corriander along with 2 or 3 other types of veggies the piggy will get enough vitmain c. also some shops will tyr and sell you mineral and or salt block piggies don't need these either. please get 2 piggies they are social creatures and should be kept in same sex pairs.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on August 19, 2012:

You are very welcome Cora. You might also enjoy my article on guinea-pig care in general:

Cora S on August 19, 2012:

I am currently looking after two guinea pigs while my friend is away. Glad I came across this as I have never kept them before. Thanks for the information

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 12, 2012:

Thanks Simone, I have to say I found this image so cute I just had to use it :)

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on March 12, 2012:

Good advice! Also, the first image you decided to use... kind of made my day :D

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 12, 2012:

Thanks Michele, glad you enjoyed this :)

Michele Travis from U.S.A. Ohio on March 12, 2012:

This is an interesting hub. I have never had a guinea pig before, but they looked very nice. Their cages looked nice. They could go in, or out. Never read a hub like this. Voted you up!

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 11, 2012:

Hi Bob, lol, yes growing up my stud of show guinea-pigs and later my horse, were my two main hobbies so I learned a lot of info about both along the way :)

diogenes from UK and Mexico on March 11, 2012:

Hahaha Missy. Another facet to your complex character: queen of the guinea-pigs! You are a true rennaisance woman.


Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 10, 2012:

Thanks Debbie, glad you liked this. My other article covers more fully the care of guinea-pigs if you want to read any more :)

Debbie Roberts from Greece on March 10, 2012:

It's been years since I've had guinea pigs, but the cure picture at the beginning of your hub caught my attention and had to read on.

Good advice on not keeping guinea pigs and rabbits together, people often make that mistake to the detriment of the guinea pigs.

You have included some sound advice in your hub. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and the cute picture.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 10, 2012:

Hi Kelly, the Vit C problem is unique to Guinea Pigs so your hamster should be fine. He will still benefit from some fresh veggies as a treat though :)

Showing guinea pigs (cavies) is a big thing in both the UK and I believe in the US too. I still have a huge carrier bag of trophies and rosettes I won with mine when I had them. It was good fun, especially with the long haired varieties like Peruvians, Shelties, Coronets etc.

Your hamster sounds so cute. My friend had 2 gerbils that escaped some years back. They ended up living under her bath for a couple of years. Goodness knows how they survived when the same woman had 17 cats in the house.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 10, 2012:

I agree Sherry, there should always be an area they can go like a hutch where they can escape excess hot or cold weather. Thanks for commenting :)

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on March 10, 2012:

I was just curious about the answer! Lol. My girls have a hamster - I swear he is the sweetest, most friendly one ever! He's an escape artist! Lol

I didn't know people showed guineas? The photo in of the Teddy is beautiful! I also didn't know they didn't make vitamin C in their bodies - do you know if that fact is true for hamsters also?

Right before my oldest moved out a couple months ago - she said "oh btw I found your missing hamster!" I said "oh thank goodness!" and she said "too bad I didn't know he was missing first and it freaked me out bc I thought it was a rodent running in the house!" HAHA!

Sherry Hewins from Sierra Foothills, CA on March 10, 2012:

I had a pet Guinea-Pig that died as a result of being put outside on the grass with a cage over it. We had done it many times before. It was not sunny in that area when it was put out there, but the shady spot moved and apparently the sun was too much. Just a warning, be careful.