OK, so you’re ready to get your first guinea pig cage.
Your guinea friends are either ready and waiting… or on the way.
Now you want to know about the “ins and outs” of all this and – at the end of day – which cage is best for your guinea pig.
Well, luckily for you (and us), this page will give you the benefit of all the trials and tribulations we went through when selecting a cage, the mistakes we made – and what we’d do better next time.
There are 3 main factors you need to consider when selecting a cage for your guinea pig:
1. Guinea Pig Cage Size
Let’s starting with the most important factor of all: size.
The size of your guinea pig’s cage is going to be the single most important factor in determining the quality of life you provide for your pet.
You must understand that wild guinea pigs are active, forage animals. They live in small family groups, each occupying a ‘home range’ of between 0.6 – 1.1 km2 – which the male will defend against other families by chasing them away!
To keep such a naturally active animal inside a small cage will just make them depressed and unhealthy – don’t do it.
Bare in mind that most pet shops really don’t care about this and will happily sell you a cage that is woefully insufficient for your pet. Take a look at the one below, which we bought to help transport our little guinea mates in the car (sadly the pet shop assistant said not a word about size – we just asked for a ‘guinea pig cage’):
Instead, here are the minimum recommended cage sizes from the Humane Society:
- One guinea pig: 7.5 square feet cage (minimum), but more is better; generally 30″ x 36″ is a good size.
- Two guinea pigs: 7.5 square feet (minimum), but 10.5 square feet is preferred; generally 30″ x 50″ is a good size.
- Three guinea pigs: 10.5 square feet (minimum), but 13 square feet is preferred; generally 30″ x 62″ is a good size.
- Four guinea pigs: 13 square feet (minimum), but more is better; generally 30″ x 76″ is a good size.
Although even these guidelines are on the low side. The European Parliament recommends a bare minimum of 2.5 m2 for two guinea pigs, while the Australian Ethics Committee goes one further suggesting 3.4m2 for a pair of animals. Bigger is better, when it comes to caring for your guinea pig.
2. Location, Location, Location
The location of your guinea pig cage is something you need to give some serious thought to!
The first question you might ask is “should I keep my guinea pig inside or outside?”
Let’s make this real easy for you: keep your guinea pig inside.
Keeping a guinea pig outside is not really suitable in the Australian environment with its hot days, cool nights and abundance of nasty insects (fly strike can be fatal to guinea pigs)!
Perhaps it might be a more realistic option in cooler climes, with less aggressive predators. But keeping your piggie outside in this country is just asking for trouble. Attacking possums are particularly nefarious.
So, the decision boils down to where within your house your guinea pig cage will live.
Ultimately, domestic guinea pigs have become inquisitive, social creatures and can become very tame given the right circumstances. Shutting them away in the corner of a bedroom where they get no attention and can’t see anything about what’s going on in the house is not a good solution.
Instead try to select a location where they get a continual amount of foot traffic and can see (hear and/or smell) what’s going on in the world. Consider them as part of the family, just as you would with a dog!
This will help you bond with your piggie and encourage kids to establish a connection with them.
You might also be surprised to learn that guinea pigs do like to have their place of abode elevated – they love to be at face height with you so they can see what’s going on. As prey animals they get very spooked when folks continually approach them from above – even if they are their guinea parents!
Also consider that guinea pigs do best with a temperature between 18-22C, with good air flow and humidity around 45-70%. They also need a regular circadian rhythm (light and dark cycle) just like us.
Lastly, do bare in mind that guinea pigs are sensitive to loud noise – so putting them right next to your son’s drum kit isn’t going to work out well either.
3. Types Of Guinea Pig Cage
There are 3 main types of guinea pig cages: hutches, runs, wire cages and C&C cages.
The type that you choose will depend largely on the location and how much space you have available.
If, for whatever reason, you have no choice but to keep your piggie outside, you’ll need a guinea pig hutch. Just as it sounds, a hutch is a wooden construction with a solid waterproof roof and sturdy door intended to be predator proof.
Hutches are not generally suitable for the indoors.
This is because the ammonia from your guinea pig’s wee will soak into the wood over time and slowly become unsanitary – and somewhat stinky!
You’ll also find that many hutches tend to have solid wooden walls on several sides, creating more of an enclosed space. This is good for protection, but if kept indoors, can have the unintended consequence of actually isolating you more from your pet.
Runs are a sort of outdoor cage that are designed to give your guinea pig a (temporary) safe area to run around on the lawn. If you live in a house with a back yard, you should give strong consideration to buying a run.
This will give you the peace of mind to go inside and make lunch while your guinea mate has a nibble and stretches his legs!
It’s a great way of ensuring your piggies get their daily exercise in the summer.
There are some incredible guinea pig runs available from Omlet.
You will find that many outdoor guinea pig cages seem to combine a hutch and a run together. These are not ideal, as they essentially force you to keep your little friend out in the middle of the lawn year long. Not suitable for a guinea pig in Australia!
If you choose (like we do) to keep your guinea pig inside, then it basically comes down to a toss up between the main two types of indoor guinea pig care: a wire cage or a C&C cage.
Wire cages are just as they sound – what you might traditionally think of as a cage. They typically have a plastic base with 70cm high sides.
Do keep your eyes peeled for wire cages that, while marketed at guinea pigs, are totally unsuited for them!
When shopping around, we noticed some odd contraptions that looked as if they were more suited to birds than guinea pigs! The General Pet Store has some good, sensible options here in Australia.
Use some common sense and make sure that if you do opt for a wire guinea pig cage that any ramps are made of solid wood – if they don’t already have sides, you’ll need to build them on yourself (like we did) to stop your little guinea mates plummeting to a fate worse than death!
Cubes & Coroplast (C&C for short) are the ‘latest and greatest’ type of cage to be marketed at guinea pigs.
The C&C cages are based on a sort of interlocking, customizable system, where you can adapt and change the layout in any configuration you choose (depending of course, on how many ‘cubes’ you purchase). The “coroplast” part refers to a kind of corrogated polypropylene sheeting – a bit like what ‘plastic cardboard’ would look like, if you can imagine that.
The “cube” parts are essentially pieces of metal fencing that are then erected around the coroplast inner and clipped together with little plastic clips.
These have become very popular recently (probably because coroplast is so cheap to manufacture – about $0.40c per cage). They are also completely non-biodegradable – so not a great option for the planet – just saying.
In all honesty, they are not technically cages at all, more like ‘enclosures’. This is in fact a bit of a double edged sword… while on the plus side they are a very flexible option and provide you with a lovely ‘open top’ environment, where you have easy access to your piggies – this is also their potential downfall. This kind of setup won’t be suitable for all households, particularly those with other animals who might not be ready to mix safely with guinea pigs.
The other potential downside of this type of guinea pig cage is the numerous reports from around the web of the piggies eating the coroplast sides. If they do this, you’ll need to figure out a way of stopping them – plastic lodged in your guinea pigs digestive system could be disastrous.
Lastly, C&C cages also limit your options for building more than one level into the environment. Since they don’t have solid plastic bottoms like wire cages tend to, there is not as much scope for building upper levels.
If you do decide to go with this option, you can find a good variety at Guinea Pigs Australia.
Well, we hope that was helpful. And don’t forget, you’ll also need a guinea pig house to go inside the cage itself.
We’ll keep this guide constantly updated as we learn more. Let us know if there’s anything you can think of!
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