Written by Howie with help from Dr Verity Swift who has read the article and approved its accuracy.
Get the Right Size Cage
Guinea pigs love living large. They prefer a cage with an expansive floor area. Wider spaces give them more room to move around and exercise. So, when you are looking for an enclosure, think floor area, not vertical space. According to the Humane Society of the United States, most of the guinea pig enclosures available in the market are small. You may need to fabricate one or reach out to someone who can build one for you.
If you decide to build one, the Humane Society preferentially recommends the following cage sizes or larger:
- One guinea pig: 7.5 square feet, or about 30”x 36”
- Two guinea pigs: 10.5 square feet or about 30” x 50”
- Three guinea pigs: 13 square feet or about 30” x 62”
- Four guinea pigs: 15.8 square feet or about 30” x 76”
The height of the cages should be at least 12” and made from coroplast, a type of corrugated plastic.
Once you have the right size cage, place it at a location where the guinea pig will be comfortable.
Find the Right Location for the Cage
Not only do guinea pigs like extensive property, but they also like prime real estate. They cannot stand extreme heat or cold and prefer an ambient temperature throughout the day.
Guinea pigs can be stressed by noise or disturbance from other pets like cats or dogs. Avoid placing their home near noisy surroundings (for example, by a stereo or close to the kitchen) and place the cage out of reach of small children or other curious pets.
After you have sorted out the cage and location, you can furnish the home.
Furnish the Cage Well by Using the Correct Material
Guinea pigs love the finer things, and it does not stop at property or location. They love well-furnished interiors too.
The floor should have a good-quality liner and a fine carpet of dust-free absorbent bedding (soft paper cuttings or hay). You could feel the temptation to use wood shavings or sawdust, but experts recommend otherwise. Wood shavings, especially from cedar and pine, often contain phenols that are toxic to guinea pigs.
The cage should mimic its natural environment as much as possible. It should have medium-height grass and areas where they can hide or lounge away when the cavies do not want company. Tunnels, cardboard boxes, and pipes can be placed within the cage to mimic a safe hiding area.
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Don’t Hold Back on the Pig’s Lifestyle
Give your guinea pig a lifestyle to match the cage and furnishings. For starters, provide all the necessities. Supply plenty of fresh water in sipper bottles or bowls. Bowls can be raised to help keep them clean and should have a heavy base to prevent them from tipping over.
Guinea pigs love to eat. Provide plenty of nutritious food in a broad and shallow ceramic bowl (not plastic or metallic). Serve them plenty of hay, leafy greens, small amounts of low-sugar fruits, and pellets of processed foods. The pigs need fiber to keep their guts and teeth in tip-top condition and need vitamin C to thrive. Avoid feeding them on human snacks. Diabetes is uncommon in guinea pigs but can be caused by feeding an incorrect diet.
Guinea pigs love clean spaces. As you feed them, look out for pieces of fallen food around the cage and clean it up before the food starts to decompose. Plenty of food and water means that there will also be plenty of excrement and pee. Tidy up messy areas daily and change the bedding twice every week.
Guinea pigs love to play and have fun so provide some chewable toys. The improvised tunnels will make excellent hiding spots where you can play hide and seek.
Give Your Guinea Pig Peace of Mind
Although guinea pigs like company, they can be stressed by handling. Using a small box to move your guinea pig can reduce stress.
If handling, hold your guinea pig under the front legs and use a second hand under the rump and back legs to support your guinea pig’s back. Guinea pigs can dislike being petted around the head or rump. If you would like to touch them, rub them lightly under the chin or on their sides.
Give Your Guinea Pig Company From One of Its Kind
You can get your guinea pig an enormous cage, spruced up with all the necessities, and plenty of play stuff but nothing will make him feel more comfortable and happier than another guinea pig to keep him company.
In their natural habitat, groups of cavies form herds, more popularly known as muddles. One of the reasons they congregate is because it provides a sense of security. There is always a guinea pig on the lookout for predators.
When alone, a solitary guinea pig could suffer from anxiety and eventually depression. We recommend that you seriously consider getting more than one. It will not significantly add to the cost of care. Groups of guinea pigs will have the confidence to exercise more, will feel less boredom and will help each other with grooming.
Be sure about how many guinea pigs you are willing to take in. You will need to change the size of the cage, the quantity of furnishings, the frequency of changing, and the supplies like water and food. Our four male guinea pigs were not neutered. All they did in their cage was fight and bully each other. Spaying or neutering your guinea pigs can reduce fighting, particularly between males.
Things to Be Aware of
Caging a pet might not be ideal for any pet parent, but you can make your guinea pig’s cage comfortable and homely by following these tips.
Look out for signs of ailment or stress such as poor coat quality, rapid breathing, or a change in behaviour; it could indicate a serious problem. Do not hesitate to check with the veterinarian whenever you feel there could be something wrong. When your cavy is comfortable in its cage, you too will be happy.
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.