Although guinea pigs are small creatures, they need plenty of space to run around.
Providing them with spacious housing and a secure outdoor run will help keep them active, happy and healthy.
Guinea pigs can live indoors or outdoors – there are pros and cons to each.
Keeping guinea pigs indoors
Indoor cages can come in large sizes – but they’re often very cumbersome and leave little opportunity for you to be creative with the environment.
If you’re thinking of keeping indoor guinea pigs, look out for modular cage ranges like those offered by C&C. They’re more flexible and more suited to empty spaces in your home – plus relatively low cost and easy to make.
- Pros of indoor guinea pigs: your piggies are likely to become more confident around you and being hand fed. You’re more likely to spot health concerns, and these may even be reduced as they will be in a dry, warm environment with a reduced risk of fungal and respiratory issue. They’ll also be safe from wild predators and bad weather
- Cons of indoor guinea pigs: it may be tricky to find a room that gives your guinea pigs quiet time. If you have cats or dogs they’re more likely to watch the piggies and cause them stress. They will have reduced opportunities to graze on grass, as they will need to acclimatise to the outside temperatures. You may also be allergic to their bedding.
Keeping guinea pigs outdoors
There are many hutches available in pet stores and online. However, many are very poorly made and often fall apart within the first two years. Consider investing a little more with a welfare approved hutch company where the hutch is made of strong wood with suitable bolts on the doors.
Double level hutches are not ideal for guinea pigs. Although some will use both levels, most only end up using one. They’re also at risk of falling down the ramp or floor hole when they are elderly and less mobile.
Consider using sheds or Wendy Houses
Whatever hutch you choose, try to place it inside a shed or well ventilated out building with natural daylight. This will keep your guinea pigs safe from predators and warm in the winter.
In fact, wooden Wendy Houses or garden sheds make an ideal home for your guinea pigs, especially if you have a group. Sheds can easily be converted with mesh doors and a step over barrier to stop them escaping. The shed offers more floor space for the guinea pigs and suits families who want to socialise with their guinea pigs but may be put off by the weather.
- Pros of outdoor guinea pigs: they will have a larger living area if you use a Wendy House or shed, and a calmer, quieter area away from determined pets such as dogs and cats. It’s easier to allow them to graze throughout the year, as they will be more acclimatised to the weather. It’s also safer if anyone in your home suffers from allergies
- Cons of outdoor guinea pigs: you’ll have less opportunity to socialise with your guinea pigs. They’re more likely to have health issues that go unnoticed for longer periods, and are at risk of wild predators such as foxes, stoats and rats. A risk of them becoming cold and damp during winter and overheating during the summer.
Ideal enclosure sizes for a pair of guinea pigs
Whether you choose an indoor or an outdoor set up, here’s how much space your piggies will need. Males often prefer a slightly larger space to avoid squabbles. Groups of four or more guinea pigs need a larger indoor set up or a converted shed or Wendy House.
- Hutch or indoor cage – 5 ft long by 2 ft deep (153 cm by 61 cm)
- Run for the garden – 6 ft long by 4 ft wide by 18 inches high (2 m by 1.25 m by 46 cm).
All guinea pigs need a garden run
Guinea pigs are naturally grazing animals. Weather permitting, they need a minimum of 4-6 hours a day on grass or with access to a good mixture of safe garden plants. Guinea pigs who are confined to a hutch for long periods of time are more likely to suffer health conditions and potentially fight with their companions.
The garden run needs to be secure, have a lid and be well-built to prevent predators and young children trying to climb in when you’re not able to supervise.
Metal folding runs and A-frames are not suitable for guinea pigs. Metal runs don’t often have a secure lid and are flimsy against predators and weather. A-frames often only have one door so rounding up the guinea pigs can be very tricky – and they’re rarely available in the required minimum size.
Your guinea pigs will need at least three hiding areas or tunnels within their run. They don’t feel safe grazing in open spaces and will often hide in one corner or under the only shelter if they don’t have several options to move between.
Building your own: what you need to know
If you’re considering building your own guinea pig accommodation, it’s vital you use the right materials. Here are a few things to bear in mind before you start building:
Before you bring your guinea pig home, make sure you have already purchased and set up the cage and that you have appropriate food available. You should also have a supply of bedding for the cage and a suitable brush.
Commercial housing for guinea pigs is often undersized. Most cages sold for guinea pigs are designed for a single animal, not for 2 or more. It is recommended that 7 square feet (0.7 m 2 ) of space be provided for a single guinea pig (for example, a cage 42 by 24 inches [106 by 61 cm]). An additional 2 to 4 square feet (0.2 to 0.4 m 2 ) of floor space should be provided for each additional guinea pig. A cage height of 18 inches (46 cm) is desirable. Cages of these sizes provide space for play and other activities that contribute to a healthy life for your guinea pig.
Cages can be constructed of glass, plastic, metal, or wire. Good ventilation is important to keep guinea pigs healthy, so if a cage with solid sides is selected, the top should be wire mesh that allows for plenty of air. Guinea pigs do not jump, so a lid is not required to control guinea pig activity. However, a lid may be needed to protect the guinea pig from other pets in the household.
Because the small feet of guinea pigs are often injured by walking over wire mesh and other narrow objects, the cage bottom should be smooth and without rough ramps, mesh shelves, or floor grids. Providing a small wood or cardboard box inside the cage will provide a sense of protection and a welcome place to sleep.
Place your guinea pig’s home in an area out of direct sunlight and drafts where the temperature is between 65°F and 75°F (18°C to 24°C). This should be away from areas of heavy moisture (such as laundry rooms or damp basements). Guinea pigs should not be housed in the same cage or close to rabbits because some infectious diseases can be transmitted between the species.
The bedding in your pet’s home should not be allowed to get wet or accumulate moisture. Wood shavings (do not use cedar or raw pine) or shredded newspapers (printed with soy inks) should be provided and changed at least once a week. Sawdust and cat litter are poor choices because sawdust particles may be inhaled, causing damage to the lungs, and cat litter may be eaten. High-quality soft grass is often used above the shavings or shredded newspapers, but good-quality grass hay (timothy and orchard grass are popular) is often a better choice; eating hay will provide more of the tooth abrasion your guinea pig needs for good dental health.
Guinea pigs are herbivores (plant eaters). A good-quality guinea pig diet typically contains commercial pellets, hay, fruits, and vegetables. A small, smooth-surfaced heavy ceramic dish makes a good “dinner plate” because these dishes are hard to tip over and can be easily cleaned.
Most guinea pigs enjoy almost any type of vegetable but tend to be partial to green leafy vegetables such as carrot tops and lettuce. (Use romaine or green leaf lettuce rather than the less nutritious iceberg lettuce.) Small pieces of carrots and other vegetables and fruits are also welcome. Uneaten fresh food should be removed after a few hours. Good-quality grass hay should be available at all times.
Guinea pig pellets, which are readily available in pet stores, should make up most of your pet’s diet. Before buying pellets, it is a good idea to scan the label. Good-quality pellets should be free of animal byproducts and low in corn content. Many guinea pig pellets have a high alfalfa content. These pellets are suitable for young, growing, and pregnant guinea pigs; however, a timothy-based pellet, which provides less calcium, is a better choice for fully grown animals. Consult your veterinarian for advice on pellet content. Adult guinea pigs will eat about 1/8 cup of pellets a day assuming they have adequate access to hay and fresh vegetables and fruit. However, you should adjust the quantity of food based on your pet’s consumption.
Guinea pigs, like people, lack the ability to synthesize vitamin C. They must get plenty of this vitamin in their diets to avoid scurvy. You should not substitute pellets formulated for other animals (such as rabbits) for guinea pig pellets because these pellets will not contain enough vitamin C. Commercially prepared guinea pig pellets should have sufficient vitamin C. However, much of the vitamin C may be lost if the pellets are stored for more than a few months. It is a good idea to supply adequate vitamin C in other ways, such as through fresh vegetables and fruits that contain high levels of this vitamin Some Fruits and Vegetables with High Vitamin C Content .
Fresh water should be available at all times to prevent dehydration. A drip bottle attached to the side of the cage at a height easily reached by your pet will keep contamination at a minimum. Clean the drip bottle and change the water daily. Do not add supplements to the water and avoid both distilled water and water with a high mineral content, especially water that has a high calcium content.
Guinea pigs can be picky eaters. They tend to develop preferences for foods at a very young age and they do not like to have their diet changed. It is a good idea, when purchasing or adopting a new guinea pig, to find out from the store or previous owner what foods it is accustomed to eating. If you are purchasing or raising a young guinea pig, you can try small amounts of different pellets, fruits, and vegetables to increase the range of foods the animal will accept.
Routine exercise is necessary for the health of your guinea pig. Careful arrangement of your pet’s cage will encourage activity. Placing the sleeping area (a small wooden or cardboard box) in one part of the cage, the water in a second location, and food in another encourages activity. Introducing a second level (accessed by a solid-floored ramp) or a small barrier can further encourage exercise. Placing a few pieces of PVC pipe (5 inches [13 cm] in diameter or larger) in the cage can provide a welcome runway for your pet and further encourage needed exercise. Exercise wheels can injure guinea pigs and are not recommended.
Guinea pigs are gentle, friendly, social, often highly vocal animals. They prefer to live in small groups (only 1 male in a mixed group, however). Guinea pigs can make a range of noises, from a “squeak” or “chirp” to a “tooth-chatter” noise that sounds like a purr.
Guinea pigs rarely bite, even when handled improperly. The correct way to pick up a guinea pig is to gently hold the animal with one hand under the chest and the other supporting the hindquarters. Guinea pigs that are handled when they are young are often very affectionate and enjoy being held carefully.
Now many owners are choosing to keep their guineas inside as part of the family. All guinea pigs need a palace fit for royalty – read on for our best DIY tips for creating one for your pet.
Indoor living guineas have many advantages. For one, it is easier to control their environment as you don’t need to deal with the elements outdoors. Having your GPs indoors also means they get to be more involved with the action and spend precious time with their favourite humans.
Despite being small animal, guinea pigs need a lot of room to exercise and run around to be happy pigs, and for this reason are suited best to large accommodation. Exercise is very important for healthy guinea pigs; their best way of getting the exercise they need is to run laps around their housing. If their area is too small they will get bored and are at risk of serious health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.
A house fit for a piggie Queen or King
Indoor accommodation for your guinea pig can be fun and easy to create. It is also a great excuse to get creative and to build a perfect haven for your beloved companion.
Most hutches found at pet stores are far too small for your guinea pigs to be able to display natural behaviours and live the life they deserve.
To create a perfect and tailor-made house for your guineas then you may consider building a ‘C&C’ cage. A relatively new concept compared to the standard hutch, a ‘C&C’ cage stands for cubes and coroplast. Cubes refers to the metal grid system that forms the cage structure, and coroplast is the plastic ‘tray’ that forms the base of the cage.
Building your own C&C cage
The materials to build your cage can be easily sourced online or at hardware stores. To build a C&C cage, you will need a sheet of coroplast big enough to form the base of your cage, and the metal grid ‘cubes’ to form the walls. We recommend the following as preferred minimum sizing to adhere to ensure your guinea has all the space they need (dependant on the number of guinea pigs):
- 1 guinea pig: Area – 0.7sq m / Grids – 2×3 grids / Size – 76×91cm
- 2 guinea pigs: Area – 0.7sq m / Grids – 2×4 grids / Size – 76×127cm
- 3 guinea pigs: Area – 1sq m / Grids – 2×5 grids / Size – 76×157cm
- 4 guinea pigs: Area – 1.2sq m / Grids – 2×6 grids / Size – 76×193cm
The structure and soft furnishings inside your DIY guinea pig house can be made from easily sourced and inexpensive materials. All that is required is some time, a few basic tools and some imagination. It’s the perfect way to get creative and put your own touch on the space. Whether it is an L-shape or using different levels, building your own creation means you can have it just how you want it.
Undoubtedly the best part is seeing your piggies run around squeaking with joy at something you created for them.
The best location for your guinea pig house is a room that isn’t too warm or prone to becoming damp, as GPs don’t cope well in these conditions. Choose somewhere safe away from other pets and loud noises, but close to the family.
The best bedding
Now you have your guinea pigs’ house built, it’s time to make it a home. When exploring bedding options remember that, above all, it needs to be absorbent as guinea pigs don’t use litter trays like rabbits. Common bedding options include recycled shredded paper, wood-shavings, and layered towels and fleecing. Just be sure to avoid any wood shavings that might have a high content of volatile oils or preservatives as these can be poisonous.
Both wood shaving and shredded paper are single-use and will need to be disposed of and replaced when they are soiled.
Using layered towels and fleecing can be more efficient as these can simply be washed and re-used. You can get creative with colours and patterns of fleecing and create a unique piggie palace to suit your guineas’ personalities.
It’s all about the detail
Once you’ve created the foundations, you can move onto the furnishings for your guineas’ pad.
Guinea pigs need lots of stimulation and entertainment; the more for them to do, the better. They love running around, darting in and out of tunnels, up and down ramps and snuggling away in hiding-holes.
Tunnels can be made to any length to suit their new house and can be made from plastic or material. These can easily be made from left over fleece blankets wrapped around cardboard.
Create your own ramps that lead to a higher part of the cage. These can be made out of safe-to-use wood or plastic.
These materials can also be used to create small platforms or igloo style dens for the guineas to hide in. Take note that your guinea pigs will need an area within their new house to hide away and sleep in. This could be a ‘hutch’ that is placed in a corner of the accommodation or a purpose-built undercover section.
As long as the house and materials you use for your guinea pigs’ accommodation are safe and pose no risks to their health or wellbeing, you can set up their new home however you choose. Section it off or keep it flat with more floor space; it’s up to you. As long as the GPs have plenty of room and stimulation, they will be happy and living a wonderful life.
For more information about creating a guinea pig palace, visit these websites:
It is important to provide these sociable and complex little animals with an environment that is interesting, varied, and safe.
Although they are small, guinea pigs require plenty of space to exercise, the more the better. Provide an enclosure as large as possible; the minimum dimensions for the enclosure of a pair of guinea pigs are 2500 cm 2 of useable floor space for guinea pigs over 450 g with an additional 900 cm 2 for each additional guinea pig weighing over 700 g. Enclosures should be at least 25 to 30 cm high. So as an example, an enclosure for a pair of guinea pigs could be 2m x 0.5m x 25cm high to provide the minimum space required but ideally their enclosure should be larger than this. All outdoor enclosures should be completely enclosed (eye have a roof or wire so they are fully covered) and strong enough to keep the guinea pigs safe from other animals, particularly predators such as dogs, cats, and foxes.
Make sure that the materials used to construct your guinea pigs’ enclosure are durable, non-toxic to guinea pigs, and easily cleaned. The design of your enclosure should also allow for easy cleaning. The enclosure should have a solid floor (wire floors cause discomfort and damage to guinea pigs’ feet) and should be placed in an area that is quiet and peaceful and also free from drafts, chills, extreme heat, and sudden temperature changes.
Guinea pigs can be prone to getting painful and serious foot conditions if kept on wire or hard flooring so it is important to provide them with soft floor covering and bedding. Enclosures should be lined with newspaper and then at least 5cm of soft, nontoxic, nonabrasive, inedible, dust-free and absorbent bedding to provide cushioning and prevent foot problems. Suitable options for bedding include soft grass hay, fleece fabric, and shredded paper. Sawdust or wood shavings can cause respiratory issues and should be avoided. Straw should also be avoided as it does not absorb urine well and the hard stalks can cause injuries.
It is important to regularly change bedding and floor material and clean out the enclosures to avoid ammonia build-up from urine and also to help minimise the attraction of flies to the area. The bedding should be cleaned and changed as required (this is typically once a day). The enclosure should be thoroughly washed and disinfected once a week. You should have a secondary enclosure or a travel container that your guinea pigs can stay in while you do this, or you can put them in a safe and escape proof room in your house. Make sure that after disinfection the cage is rinsed well and completely dried out before you add fresh bedding again and return your guinea pigs to their home. Rinse feeders and waterers every day, and thoroughly clean these once a week.
Guinea pigs can be susceptible to fly strike (which can be fatal), so it is also important to fly-proof their enclosure using fly-screen wire or mosquito netting in areas where flies are a problem.
Guinea pigs are also very susceptible to heat stress, and this can be fatal. Therefore, always ensure that they are kept in an area that is well-ventilated, provides adequate shade, and does not become hot. Animals in enclosures, hutches, and cages can die from overheating easily. The ideal ambient temperature for guinea pigs is between 16 to 24°C with a relative humidity of between 40 and 70%; outside of those temperatures/humidity you will need to take steps to safeguard the health and welfare of your guinea pigs. Steps must be taken to prevent heat stress, if predicted temperatures exceed 26°C . If the day is particularly hot then ideally guinea pigs should be kept in an air-conditioned environment. Guinea pigs can also suffer if it is cold, wet, and windy and are prone to respiratory problems which can be serious. Please ensure that your guinea pigs’ enclosure has areas that are draft free, dry and warm, and if it is particularly cold or stormy, it is best to move them inside if they are normally outdoors.
Guinea pigs are prey animals and so they need places to hide where they will feel safe, especially when they are stressed, afraid, unwell, or want some time away from other guinea pigs or people. You will need to provide open space interspersed with enough shelters and hiding places so that every guinea pig in the enclosure has the option for their own separate hiding area, and also a main shelter/hiding place that is big enough for all of your guinea pigs to comfortably rest together inside. You can use hiding places such as cardboard boxes, custom made igloos, wooden boxes, fabric guinea pig beds, tunnels made from PVC piping or, if possible, you can even plant long grasses such as timothy grass for your guinea pigs to make their own tunnels through.
Guinea pigs are small, sociable and ‘chatty’ rodents. They’re traditionally thought of as great first pets for children.
Guinea pig fact file
Guinea pigs, also known as ‘cavies’, are social animals with a compact, rounded body shape, short legs and no tail. They originate from the grasslands and lower slopes of the Andes Mountains in South America. There are different breeds and varieties of guinea pig, with a wide range of colour and coat lengths.
Here are some more top guinea pig facts:
- Typically guinea pigs live for 5-6 years, but some may live longer.
- Guinea pigs are active up to 20 hours per day, and only sleep for short periods.
- Guinea pigs are highly social – in the wild they live in close family groups of 5-10 guinea pigs, though several groups may live in close proximity to form a colony.
- Guinea pigs get lonely and shouldn’t be kept alone – they’re happiest in pairs.
- Guinea pigs need a high fibre diet supplemented with vitamin C, as they lack the enzyme needed to synthesise vitamin C and can only store it for short periods.
Want to learn more about these adorable animals? View our full guinea pig fact file!
Understanding guinea pigs’ needs
Read our expert pet care information to find out more about the needs of guinea pigs, including their environment, diet, behaviour, company and health and welfare. You can also download our booklet on how to take care of your guinea pigs.
Adopt rescued guinea pigs from the RSPCA
We rescue and rehome all kinds of animals, including guinea pigs! If you’re considering buying guinea pigs for your family, why not rehome instead?
Guinea pigs can be lovely pets, but there are a few things you should know before making that big commitment. From the expected lifespan to the social nature of guinea pigs, here are some things to consider before choosing a guinea pig as a pet.
Guinea Pigs Are a Long-Term Commitment
The Spruce / Kristie Lee
While a guinea pig doesn’t live nearly as long as a cat or dog, they’re still a large time commitment. Guinea pigs live on average around five to seven years, sometimes longer, so be prepared to provide care over the long term.
Guinea Pigs Are Social
The Spruce / Kristie Lee
Guinea pigs are very social animals and are at their happiest living with other guinea pigs. Keep a same-sex pair to ensure you don't have any unwanted litters. Females can be kept together, as can males without any issues. Be aware that sometimes personality differences in the animals will mean certain guinea pigs won't get along. Introducing them as babies is the best way to get a pair to bond, though even adults can usually be introduced with care.
Guinea Pigs Need a Large Cage
The Spruce / Kristie Lee
Guinea pigs need a lot of floor space, and most cages marketed as guinea pig cages are much too small, especially for a pair. Making a homemade cage is very easy, though, and since guinea pigs are a good size and not escape artists, a homemade cage is a great option.
Guinea Pigs Are Quiet, Sometimes
The Spruce / Kristie Lee
Guinea pigs make a distinctive wheeking or whistling type sound, often in anticipation of getting a favorite treat or when in need of some attention. Though generally not loud enough to annoy the neighbors, a wheeking guinea pig can be surprisingly loud. If you’re looking for an animal whose vocals will never interrupt a dinner party or afternoon nap, a guinea pig might not be for you.
Guinea Pigs Are Generally Easy to Tame
The Spruce / Kristie Lee
While guinea pigs may be nervous or skittish at first, with consistent gentle handling, they usually become tame very easily. Careful handling is a must, and children should be supervised with them, but they are unlikely to bite even when stressed.
Guinea Pig Require Vitamin C
Ganina Ekaterina/Getty Images
Guinea pigs are one of the few animals (humans are another) that cannot manufacture their own vitamin C, so they need to get it from their diet. Choosing a good quality diet and providing a variety of fresh foods and roughage is important, but most owners choose to also give their animals a vitamin C supplement. Vitamin C tablets are considered a better way to supplement than adding vitamin C to your pet’s water.
Guinea Pigs are Often Available at Shelters
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Before heading out to buy a guinea pig, check with your local shelters or rescues for guinea pigs in need of a new home. Many guinea pigs end up at shelters and are in need of a second chance at a forever home. Shelter guinea pigs are generally social and easy-going. It should be easy to bond with an older guinea pig.
They must be provided with plenty of space – which means conventional indoor cages won’t be suitable.
Guinea pigs get along just fine indoors with no enclosure at all, so if you have enough space in your home, you should give them an entire room to themselves. When keeping small animals at home, it is very important to arrange their habitat appropriately. If guinea pigs are given exposed, open areas, they will tend not to use them, choosing instead to spend most of their time in their hutches. The space must be arranged so that it offers plenty of areas of cover. If you have some DIY skills, you could construct a second, raised level for them. This has many advantages: the animals can hide underneath it or use it as a viewing platform, and they can get some extra exercise climbing up and down the ramp. The more opportunities they are given to carry out their natural behaviour, the happier they will be.
When you’re setting up the indoor living space, you should remove anything that might present a risk to the guinea pigs. This includes electric cables, toxic plants, open doors, other animals, furniture with toxic varnish, sharp and angular objects, visitors who are unaware of the animals, etc. If you want to be on the safe side, fence off the area in which the guinea pigs move about. This will make it safer for them to explore beyond their enclosure.
However, if you want a completely safe environment for your guinea pigs, you should opt for a vivarium. For two to three animals it should be at least 2 m² in area (the same rule applies when keeping them anywhere else in the apartment) and any further animals will need an additional 1 m² each. An open-topped vivarium (in the shape of a tub) made of Plexiglas has several advantages over one made of wire: it allows you to see the guinea pigs better, and gives them a better view out.
Making sure your guinea pigs have a suitable place to live is the first step to keeping your guinea pigs healthy and happy. On this page, we’ll take you through things you should do to make sure your guinea pigs’ home environment meets their needs.
Indoor and outdoor space to live
In terms of their living space, your guinea pig needs:
- A secure space that’s large enough for them to exercise and high enough to stand up fully on their back legs.
- Indoor accommodation that’s well-ventilated, dry and away from direct heat sources (such as radiators or sunny windows) and draughts. Room temperatures of 17-20°C are ideal. Some areas of centrally heated houses may get too hot, so be careful where you put their hutch.
- A large exercise area and secure shelter where they can rest, feel safe and protected from predators and extremes of weather and temperature.
- Outdoor accommodation – if you’re keeping your guinea pigs outside, their hutch should be sheltered from direct sun and direct wind. In temperatures below 15°C, you should move them indoors. They’ll also need sufficient bedding throughout the whole enclosure to keep them warm.
Making your guinea pigs’ house a home
Here’s what you should do to make sure your guinea pigs’ housing stays comfortable and interesting for them:
- Clean often – you should clean their accommodation regularly.
- Protect them from draughts and temperature extremes – guinea pigs are sensitive to temperature changes. Temperatures above 26°C can cause heatstroke; below 15°C can cause them to become chilled.
- Keep them in quiet, calm and safe areas away from dogs, cats, ferrets and other pets they may see as threats.
- Give them enough warm bedding – this should be safe to eat, such as dust-free hay. Don’t use softwood products such as pine, as these can cause illness, and don’t give them nesting materials that separate into thin strands, such as cotton wool or similar ‘fluffy’ bedding products. They pose a serious risk to their health and welfare, as they can become tangled in them and they aren¿t safe to eat.
- Regular exercise – ideally, give your guinea pigs free access to an exercise area with pipes and shelters to encourage exercising. They’re active animals and need opportunities to run, stand fully upright on their back legs and stretch out when lying down.
- Give them tunnels and untreated wooden toys to chew – such as fruit trees or willow sticks. Avoid plastic toys as they may harm them if chewed/swallowed. Guinea pigs are intelligent and enjoy gnawing, chewing and exploring by moving to different areas through tunnels.
When you’re away or on the move
If you go away, here’s what you’ll need to do to avoid stressing your guinea pigs:
- Get someone to look after them – you’ll ideally need to find a responsible person to care for your guinea pigs in their familiar home when you’re away. If you’re boarding them elsewhere, keep grouped guinea pigs together and take familiar items such as toys. Guinea pigs prefer routine and can become stressed if they’re around lots of noise and activity.
- Transport them comfortably – keep your guinea pigs safe and comfortable when you’re transporting them. Help them feel at ease by putting familiar-smelling objects in the travel carrier and moving them with their companion(s).
Read more on creating a good home for your guinea pigs in our guide to housing and caring for your guinea pigs.
With proper care and attention, your guinea pig can live for up to 10 happy years and sometimes longer. 4 – 5 years is typical though for a domestic guinea pig.
As children are their main owners, here are some guidelines on keeping your guinea pig healthy and happy.
Guinea pigs are friendly, chatty and very responsive to caring owners.
They each have their own character which makes them endlessly fascinating.
They are herd animals and would naturally live in large groups. They are also known as cavies as they originate in caves and rocky areas in South America where they live in colonies as a form of defence against ever present predators.
As they are so gregarious, they do get lonely and it is best to keep at least 2 together, but beware the speed with which a mixed pair will breed. If you do want to breed, the sow must be between 5 and 9 months before she has her first litter.
You can keep any number of females together. Males or boars are best kept in pairs – if a younger male is introduced to an older one, he must have a tube or pipe he can hide in initially to hide from his bigger new hutch mate.
Do not keep guinea pigs and rabbits together if they have not already been used to each other from a very young age. Rabbits have strong back legs and uncontrollable urges in uncastrated males to mate. This may lead to sometimes potentially fatal wounds in your guinea pig.
Ensure that the hutch they live in is large enough for your guinea pig to stand on its hindlegs without its head touching the roof. Outdoor hutches should have a sloping roof with an overhang to protect it from bad weather and covered with roofing felt to prevent it leaking. It should be away from draughts and direct sunlight.
It should be raised off the ground and have mesh with holes that are very small to prevent mice from entering. This happens commonly as mice are attracted to your guinea pig’s food. They can spread disease.
Guinea pigs are heat and cold sensitive so never keep them in greenhouses. Do not keep their hutches in garages that house cars as they may be affected by the car fumes. Their enclosure can be brought indoors if it gets too cold but keep them away from other pets, the TV and radiators.
They will need an enclosed outdoor run – the tent-shaped varieties are very good as predators such as cats and foxes are unable to enter.
Ensure that there is always somewhere it can hide – a tube or drainpipe is adequate just in case it sights a predator. Outdoors is where you can watch your guinea pig running around and squeaking happily.
Any signs of lethargy, not eating or scratching means we will need to see your little pet.
We advise feeding guinea pig food to your pet. Guinea pigs are unable to process Vitamin C and require supplementing.
Guinea pigs, also known as cavies, are friendly and inquisitive pets. However, they need commitment and regular attention to ensure they stay healthy and happy. Read on to find out how to care for your pocketful of sunshine.
Guinea pigs are sociable pocket pets, are easily tamed, and can live for up to ten years. Their friendly nature makes them fantastic pets. They’re also very intelligent.
Guinea pigs are happiest when kept with other guinea pigs. However, if you do keep males and females together, make sure both animals are the same sex or at least one gender has been desexed.
RSPCA NSW does not recommend keeping guinea pigs and rabbits together. Rabbits can pass on diseases to guinea pigs, and they may bully each other.
Guinea pigs are herbivores. To keep them healthy and happy, they need:
- a constant source of good quality fresh grass or grass hay, such as Meadow, Oaten, Pasture, Ryegrass, Timothy or Wheaten hays. This is important for wearing down their continuously growing teeth.
- fresh, leafy green vegetables and herbs every day, such as broccoli, cabbage (in small amounts), celery, endives, Brussel sprouts, bok choy and other Asian greens, and dark-leafed lettuce varieties; and herbs such as basil, coriander, dandelion, dill, mint and parsley. Remember that carrot tops should only be given as an occasional treat.
- small quantities of high-quality guinea pig pellets. These should have a minimum fibre content of 16 per cent.
- a daily source of vitamin C, such as small amounts of citrus and kiwi fruits
- a constant source of clean, fresh water
Do not feed your guinea pig:
- breakfast cereals
- Clover or Lucerne (Alfalfa) hays
- garden shrubs
- lily of the valley
- onion grass
- potato tops
- raw beans
- rhubarb leaves
- spinich leaves
Guinea pigs need lots of space to exercise – the more the better. She should exercise every day in a large, grassy area, free and safe from predators.
You could also provide your guinea pig with a chewing log made of untreated wood to wear down her teeth, and overturned boxes to hide in.
Daily grooming is essential for long-haired guinea pigs, and ensures their coats remain in good condition. Regular handling will also help build her confidence, and encourage her to become friendly and sociable.
You should also check the length of your guinea pig’s teeth and toenails. If they are too long, get your veterinarian to trim them.
Good cleaning and feeding practices will help prevent many common health problems, including respiratory infections and skin problems.
It is essential to cover your guinea pig’s hutch with a flyscreen. Doing this, as well as keeping her hutch clean, will help prevent flystrike. Long-haired guinea pigs are particularly at risk of this condition, which can be fatal.
Guinea pigs, like most pets, are also susceptible to fleas. Speak to your veterinarian about an appropriate flea treatment if needed. They may also suffer from mite infestations, which can cause discomfort, hair loss and itchiness.
If your guinea pig develops bald batches, this could be a sign of the fungal disease ringworm, so seek help from a veterinarian immediately.
For more information on common health problems, click here.
Your guinea pig’s enclosure should be at least one metre by 0.7 metres, and 0.7 metres high. If you have two guinea pigs, they will need double this space. They will also need their own, separate sleeping areas, which must be covered. You must fly-proof the enclosure using flyscreen wire or mosquito netting, as this will help reduce the risk of flystrike.
Line the hutch with newspaper and soft grass hay to provide cushioning and prevent foot injuries. Do not use sawdust, straw or wood shavings. Remember that your guinea pig needs a soft, clean, dry surface at all times, or she can quickly develop foot problems. Clean her entire enclosure regularly, and her bedding when needed – usually once a day.
Keep the hutch in a sheltered area which is well ventilated, between 18-26°C, and kept out of direct sunlight and strong winds. She must always have access to adequate shade.