Any areas where you let your guinea pig free-roam or where your pal might possibly access on his own must be guinea pig-proofed for the safety of your friend. iStock.com/MingzheZhang
You love your guinea pigs like family. Some people even call them their furbabies. Just as with children, precautions are necessary to minimize any possible dangers in your home so that your guinea pigs never suffer a broken bone, poisoning or worse. By guinea pig-proofing your home, you make it safer for your precious pals. It might be too difficult to guinea pig-proof your entire home or even a room. If that’s the case, opt to let your guinea pigs enjoy daily roaming time in a large pet exercise pen.
General Guinea Pig-Proofing Guidelines
A lot of guinea pig-proofing is common sense. Anything that would hurt you should obviously be kept out of guinea pig reach. You also need to go a step further, because — unlike you — guinea pigs won’t know that some things can harm them. For instance, nibbling on a pill that fell to the floor or bumping a lit candle. Their depth perception isn’t the best, so walking off a table or tumbling down stairs could easily happen.
Wherever you choose to let your guinea pigs roam, always get down on your hands and knees to inspect the area fully beforehand. This gives you a guinea pig view of the space, which makes you more likely to spot any possible hazards. Who knows, maybe there’s a spider hidden in a corner or thumbtack kicked under a couch.
Guinea pigs are chewers, so pay particular attention to any items that might get chewed. All guinea pigs are individuals with different tastes and habits. Some might really like to chew your furniture, others might chew cords and others might chew your electronics. Be alert to your guinea pigs’ own quirks and protect them from themselves.
Once you guinea pig-proof, provide toys and mental stimulation for your guinea pigs. If they have plenty of chew toys to choose from and daily interaction with you, they are less likely to get into trouble.
Make your home as safe as possible, but realize that accidents can still happen. Talk to your veterinarian so you know what to do if injury or poisoning occurs. Keep the phone numbers handy for your veterinarian, a nearby 24-hour veterinary hospital with doctors who know how to treat guinea pigs, and a pet poison hotline.
Guinea Pig Poisoning
Most guinea pigs are explorers, and part of their exploration involves nibbling or eating things they find along their travels. Seek your veterinarian’s advice if you have doubts about the safety of anything in your home, and learn about what can be toxic to pets. Some items that you might consider harmless could actually be a danger. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center website lists toxic plants, toxic household products, and toxic foods. Below is a brief list of possible toxins to keep away from guinea pigs.
- Insecticides, herbicides, and anything designed to kill other living things must never be in guinea pig reach.
- Household cleaners should also be locked away or behind secure cupboard doors. Some might cause problems if used near guinea pigs, as breathing in fumes or touching a surface after cleaning could be enough exposure to cause a problem.
- Medications, either for you or for your guinea pigs or other pets. Ingesting an unnecessary medication or the incorrect dose can be deadly. This includes over-the-counter, prescription, supplements, or recreational drugs.
- People foods that are dangerous to other pets should probably be avoided for guinea pigs. This includes sweets, salty foods, onions, garlic, raisins, grapes, avocados, macadamia nuts, alcohol, anything caffeinated (including chocolate), and anything with the sweetener xylitol.
- Houseplants that are poisonous if ingested must be placed out of reach or removed from your home. Philodendrons and Dieffenbachia are only two of many common houseplants that pose a danger.
- Fertilizers, anti-freeze, lead-based paint, and coins are some of the miscellaneous items that are also a danger.
It’s impossible to list all of the possible toxins, as even something as simple as toothpaste could be a hazard. The following rule should help you decide the safety of most items: If it’s not something you are comfortable with a child getting into, then don’t leave it in reach of your guinea pigs.
Guinea Pig Injuries
Accidents happen. You hear this a lot because it’s true, and guinea pigs aren’t immune. Some accidents are easier to prevent than others. Always be mindful of where your guinea pigs are and what’s around them, and you minimize their chance of injury. The below list covers some of the more common injuries to prep against.
- Electrocution most often occurs when a guinea pig chews on power cords. Keep all power cords covered in protectors to prevent this. Protectors are available from hardware, home improvement, and other stores.
- Broken bones from a fall or crushing accident mostly occur due to inattention or inability to handle properly. Keep your guinea pigs off surfaces higher than several inches unless barriers will prevent a fall and when carrying a guinea pig, always support the body properly. When guinea pigs are roaming free in a room, make sure everyone is aware that they are roaming and never walk or sit without checking the location of the guinea pigs. Recliner chairs should never be used around guinea pigs. Never let your guinea pigs be handled by young children or people who can’t understand how to handle them correctly.
- Burns occur from open flames in fireplaces and candles, heating elements like portable heaters and even chemical burns. Use such items only when your guinea pigs are safely in their habitat or if the hazards are completely blocked off or out of guinea pig reach.
- Fight wounds with other guinea pigs or other pets are avoidable. Be cautious when introducing any new guinea pig, as not all guinea pigs get along. Guinea pigs should never be unsupervised together until you are certain they are bonded. Never leave guinea pigs unsupervised around any other free-roaming pets. Dogs and cats who might seem friendly to the guinea pigs might accidentally or intentionally cause injury. Any pet that seems unfriendly to guinea pigs should never be in the same room with them.
- Puncture wounds from sharp objects can hurt any part of a guinea pig’s body, and the eyes might be most susceptible. The corner of a book on the floor, a worn piece of furniture with a sharp piece sticking out at guinea pig height, a dropped knife or box cutter — anything sharp within a foot of the floor is a guinea pig hazard. Inspect for such items before setting guinea pigs loose.
- Getting trapped in small nooks under or behind furniture, or even in a wall, is avoided by blocking off such areas. Watch out for hidden nooks, such as those created in many kitchens along the baseboard. Sometimes the baseboard leaves a space at the top that a pet might crawl inside.