A home within your home is the ideal for a guinea pig. After all, your new buddy needs a place of his or her own as a retreat. A place that keeps your pal safe and your belongings safe. Several options work, so consider guinea pig needs and your available space.
Which Habitat For Your Guinea Pig?
The layout of your home helps determine the type of guinea pig habitat you provide. If you have an extra room that can be guinea pig-proofed, putting a pet gate at the door and adding the gear your guinea pig needs is one option. If only part of a room is available, then a pet playpen that keeps your furry companion safely corralled also works.
Many guinea pig owners choose to add flooring and walls to a table top, dresser or section of floor to create a guinea pig habitat. These are called C and C cages. Other cages are another possibility. If a cage is your choice, remember the rule that larger is always better and more guinea pigs require more space. Look for a cage with lots of horizontal space, at least 2 x 3 foot, and a solid floor. Some cages can have a smaller upper level, but the vertical height should be short. Guinea pigs don’t have good depth perception and could walk off an edge. Ventilation is critical for guinea pigs, so a habitat with solid sides, such as an aquarium, won’t work. If you choose a wire cage, be sure the wire spacing is small enough so your guinea pig can’t get his head through and be caught. For adult guinea pigs, this means wire spacing of 1.5 inches or less. Guinea pigs don’t climb, so a cover over the top usually isn’t required.
Another consideration besides space when choosing a habitat is ease of cleaning. Your guinea pig needs a clean home, so plan to clean it often.
Choosing A Habitat Location
Whatever habitat you choose, be alert to the micro-environments within your home. Avoid placing your guinea pig’s home in a drafty area or one that gets direct sun. Other poor location choices are near a kitchen with its cooking fumes or in a laundry room with the excess heat or humidity. The comfortable temperature range for guinea pigs is 65 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the book “Ferrets, Rabbits, And Rodents Clinical Medicine And Surgery.” This means rooms that regularly fall outside this ideal range won’t be good either. And the higher the humidity, the higher the “feels like” temperature rises.
If you have other pets, be sure that your guinea pig’s home is out of their reach. This means that if you have a cat, the guinea pig habitat likely has to be in a room behind a closed door. Also, consider any stress that the noise of another pet might cause. A loud parrot as a roommate could frazzle a guinea pig’s nerves. If you have a rabbit, don’t house your rabbit and guinea pig together. This is due to the risk of injury to either species and because rabbits can spread a respiratory infection to guinea pigs. As a rule, only the same species should ever share a habitat.
Outfitting The Habitat
The enclosure for your furry pal needs lots of “furnishings” to make it a home. Start at the bottom with bedding. Choose something soft, like paper litter or fabric, to protect your guinea pig’s feet. Hard surfaces can cause bumblefoot, which is a painful foot inflammation that is debilitating if left untreated. Cedar or nonkiln-dried pine should be avoided, as these might cause respiratory problems.
Choose food and water dishes that won’t tip over, and be prepared to clean them daily. Guinea pigs are messy. Also offer a water bottle. A hay rack is another nice addition. Clean the food bowls and water bottles or bowls daily with hot, soapy water. Check that the water bottle sipper isn’t clogged. Thoroughly rinse and dry the containers, and add fresh water and food.
No home is complete without a few hideaways and toys. Hideaways give your pal a “hideout” within the habitat. Guinea pigs need a place to relax. Add a few tunnels, some chew toys and bell or ball. When choosing toys, always consider safety. No small parts that could be chewed off and ingested; no toxic paints, woods, metals, or dyes; and nothing sharp.
Some guinea pigs can be litter box trained, so don’t forget this. Use of one will never be 100 percent, but it might save you a bit of work.
Other Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs are herd animals, so most enjoy sharing a home with another guinea pig. A pair or group of girls works well. A pair or group of boys might work if they grew up together. Some boys might fight, especially if they are strangers. Mixed groups of males and females might work, but spay/neuter must be done to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Keep It Clean
You are your guinea pig’s clean-up crew, and it’s an important task. Your guinea pig’s health depends on the cleanliness of the environment. Bumblefoot and respiratory problems are just two of the medical conditions that arise from a dirty environment. The amount of cleaning involved can vary depending on your pal’s living habits.
Inspect the habitat daily and remove and replace any soiled bedding or spoiled food. All bedding should be switched out weekly. Consider doing a thorough cleaning of the habitat once a month. Always use pet-safe cleaners and allow items to dry thoroughly before putting your guinea pig back inside. A bonus to being the clean-up crew is that it gives you the opportunity to monitor your furry friend’s food and water input, and elimination output. A change in either could be a tip-off to illness.
No matter how wonderful a habitat is, out-of-cage time is still a must for a healthy guinea pig. Getting the chance to run around for 20 minutes or an hour daily in a guinea pig-safe room to play with you or other guinea pigs is wonderful exercise and stimulation for the mind. It’s also a delight for you to watch guinea pigs express their personalities outside their habitat.