Indoor Guinea Pig Cages Complete Guide
Guinea pigs are small creatures, but the bigger the room they have to roam, the healthier and happier they’ll be! The minimum guinea pig cage standards for a single guinea pig or a pair of them is around 0.7 square meters, but if you can give them more room, they’ll be much happier. Ideally, you should add 20 to 30 square centimeters per guinea pig that you add into the mix. So a cage containing two guinea pigs should be 1 square meter. A cage with three should be 1.2 square meters, and a cage with four should be at least 1.4 square meters. This gives them plenty of room to run at full speed and get away from each other when they need some space. Doubledecker guinea pig cages are encouraged, but you should make sure that the upstairs entrance is offset at the side of the cage so that it doesn’t interfere with their running. Additionally, upstairs space does not count towards the recommended cage area because they usually can’t run at full speed up the ramp, around the upstairs, and back down to the bottom.
Aside from their happiness, you also want them to have extra space for their health. Guinea pigs can succumb to illnesses like diabetes if they become overweight, just like humans can. Female guinea pigs are especially susceptible to this as they get older; it’s also more difficult to diagnose ovarian cyst and other reproductive issues if they put on too much weight. Adult males have a specific issue to look out for called impaction. This is a loss of muscle tone in their anal area due to insufficient exercise, which causes their intestines to become constipated and will require the owner to clean them out periodically. Overweight guinea pigs of any age can acquire bumblefoot, heart disease, bladder infections, or respiratory problems, just to name a few issues. It’s in your best interest and theirs to make sure the pen is large enough in relation to the amount of guinea pigs that you have sharing a cage.
The best way to build a guinea pig cage is to use coated metal grids with a Coroplast bottom and sides. Don’t worry. To date there’s never been a report of a guinea pig falling ill from ingesting the coating. The grids are easily connected to each other and you can find them rather inexpensively by searching for them online. You want the smallest squares available within the grid, so you should look for grids that have squares that are approximately 1.5 inches. The Coroplast is also easily found with a light Google search and provides a solid bottom and siding of about 5 to 6 inches in height to keep the pen from leaking or the critters from making a mess in the floor. Here’s a sample table of guinea pig pen sizes and how many grids you would need to complete that:
Guinea Pig Cage Size Information
|# of Guinea Pigs||Minimum||Recommended||
|1||0.7 sq m||1 sq m||76 x 127||2 x 4 grids|
|2||0.7 sq m||1+ sq m||76 x 127||2 x 4 grids|
|3||1 sq m||1.2+ sq m||76 x 157||2 x 5 grids|
|4||1.2 sq m||1.4+ sq m||76 x 193||2 x 6 grids|
Once you get your grid constructed, line the bottom and sides of it with Coroplast. This is a hard, corrugated plastic material that the guinea pigs can’t chew through and should be the only type of plastic that’s ever anywhere near their pen. Note that pregnant females, babies, very young guinea pigs, and very small guinea pigs require higher internal cage walls (the Coroplast portion) to prevent them from escaping or falling out. I recommend nine inches and this can easily be done by temporarily adding extra Coroplast or cardboard. Additionally, be mindful when using wire hay racks with small guinea pigs as they can get stuck in them and asphyxiate. There is also the slightest possibility that your guinea pigs may break a tooth on the cage if you have males in sight of breeding females in estrus that are separated only by the wire grid. In those cases, it’s recommended to put up a temporary divider that goes a little higher than the guinea pigs can see over when standing on their hind legs. You can use Coroplast for this, but it should only be done in very large cages and even then only temporarily as they do need plenty of room for exercise. And don’t panic if they do break a tooth; they tend to grow back fairly quickly. Once you have the Coroplast down, it’s time to place the bedding!
You have a few different options for this. The most highly recommended shavings to form the bottom of the cage bedding are aspen shavings as guinea pigs have a very strong sense of smell and aspen is mild. Kilndried pine can also be used, but make sure it has as minimal scent as possible to increase your pets’ quality of life and reduce the chance of them coming down with respiratory issues. You can top the base layer with either hay or CareFresh, which is a specialized pet bedding that is very absorbent, shouldn’t stick to the bottom of the pen, and is both biodegradable and compostable, much like the hay. Buy careFRESH and use it. It is highly recommended and lasts longer than hay as it’s more absorbent, but if you don’t mind cleaning the cage every other day, you can go for hay. One other option is to combine one of these methods in half of the pen and lay down towels on the other half. If you’re okay with washing towels every few days, this is a good option to cut down on bedding costs while maintaining a clean cage and healthy environment for your guinea pigs.
Cleaning and Maintenance
You should use about 1 to 1.5 inches of bedding your guinea pig cage and change it frequently. If you change it often enough, there should rarely be damp spots in the bottom of the pen. If it’s building up and you’re constantly having to clean up those damp spots, consider adding more bedding material, change the type of bedding being used, or clean the cage more frequently. The cage should also never have a strong odor and you should give your guinea pigs some floor time to run free (within a guinea pig proofed room) while you clean out the cage. Deciding how often is often enough in regards to cleaning will depend on your piggies. I.e., how many you have, their age, how large the cage is, and where they generally urinate and defecate within the cage. Generally speaking, guinea pig pens should be completely cleaned once per week, although some people may change it as frequently as every three or four days.
There are several different ways to maximize your cleaning potential. The first is to just put the bedding straight into the pen and use a small broom and dustpan to scoop out the bedding and dispose of it. When you change out their pens, keep in mind that you can also use your guinea pig waste in compost piles or even in your garden! If you don’t have either of these options and perhaps live in the city, check your local ordinance regarding disposing of animal waste in the city pickup of your trash and recycling to be sure it’s not illegal in your area.
The second method is to line the bottom of the pen with newspaper first and then include the bedding. This is one of my favorite methods as it allows you to just roll up the newspaper with the bedding inside for a quick, easy cleanup. Make sure that you never use a plastic liner, though. They will get to it no matter how deeply you bury it under the bedding material and ingesting bits of plastic can kill them.
A third idea is a little more complicated and not really worth the time and effort, in my opinion, but I’m going to lay it out there for you anyway. If you’re utilizing the grids and Coroplast material we discussed, you can disengage one grid and cut a flap about nine inches wide in the Coroplast. Then just pop a trash can underneath and rake all of the bedding in that general direction.
The final idea is to take the cage outside for a good cleaning. This is good for people with allergies, as you’re not stirring up all of the pet dander in a closed-off space. However, it requires a lot more work than any of the other methods and may not be as feasible for folks who live in the city. This method also requires you to secure the grid with cable ties instead of relying solely on the plastic connectors and you’ll still have to use one of the methods listed above or dump it upside down to get the bedding out.
Regardless of which method you end up choosing, you’ll need to wipe down the Coroplast with a solution. The safest one for your guinea pigs is a solution of one part water to one part white vinegar. Vinegar is an acid and urine is an alkaline, so the vinegar neutralizes the alkalinity in the urine and helps cut through buildup and remove the smell. Stubborn odors or buildup can be removed with uncut white vinegar and you can just rinse it out with water afterwards. I prefer to avoid using bleach in my animal containers, but if you insist, be sure to rinse it out thoroughly. Don’t put your guinea pigs in a cage that you’d be afraid to touch and then rub your eyes.
After it’s cleaned, you’ll want to put down fresh bedding and put the guinea pigs back in! Happy guinea pigs are healthier guinea pigs. Proper construction and maintenance of indoor cages allows for them to get a ton of exercise and keep the pen cleaner for longer, which reduces worrying, the cost of vet bills, and means you can enjoy your pet’s company a lot more. Less time cleaning means more time playing, so go construct your new guinea pig pen today and you’ll visibly see how happy they are!
Also ensure you know how to properly take care of your guinea pigs. We have written a guide on this.
A good choice for a guinea pig cage is the Midwest Guinea Pig Habitat and it has got great reviews from people who have used it. It is big and provides 8 sq feet of play area. You also don’t need any tools or connecting pieces to set it up. Buy it from Amazon if you need a good guinea pig cage with all the features needed for your bundle of joy. We highly recommend it !
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