We all like to play with toys.
Of course… your guinea pig does too!
Or does he? A trip to Petbarn or Pitcity will leave both you and your little guinea mates completely underwhelmed. Neither of these places have a section dedicated to guinea pig toys… but instead lump them all together under the banner of “small mammals”.
Therefore, it can be very confusing trying to find a decent toy for your guinea pig in Australia.
Piggies in particular have very ‘species specific’ needs – and if you want to find a toy that is fulfilling to them, you’ll need to understand these needs.
The last thing you want is to end up with a toy intended for rabbits or hamsters, as this could even be harmful to your piggies.
For some reason, guinea pigs tend to get ‘overlooked’ and tagged onto products with “oh yes, this toy is suitable for them too”. So think twice about any toy that says made for “rabbits, gerbils, guinea pigs, chinchillas, etc”!
It’s a wild west out there folks.
In fact, could it be that most mainstream items sold as “guinea pig toys” are completely unsuitable for them and could even be harmful? Let’s take a look at the facts.
Guinea Pig Chew Toys
What the hell is a “chew toy” anyway?
Of course… it’s a type of toy invented mainly for dogs – to help with the pain associated with teething. Even after teething, everybody knows that dogs love to chew on things (like bones).
But the fact of the matter is that guinea pigs don’t need chew toys!
Your guinea pig already spends most of his day eating (i.e., chewing). Guinea pigs in the wild forage and eat all day long. In fact, they need to chew (eat) in order to wear down their teeth – which are constantly growing.
Grass is already perfectly designed for this purpose since it is rich in silica, a substance very tough on the teeth. Given you’ve already supplied your guinea mate with a constant source of fresh hay and grass, he really doesn’t need a synthetic chew toy.
There are two sides to every story. Guinea pigs do like to nibble on twigs and small branches occasionally.
So, when it comes to satisfying any occasional urge they may have to chew on something a bit different to grass… the best ‘chew toy’ you can give them is a few carefully selected twigs or branches from the local area!
The best, most delicious trees to choose from are reportedly apple, pear and willow (they love to chew the bark off these branches), so try to search out these trees specifically if you can. Otherwise you may end up picking a species of tree they don’t like – especially if you’re not a botanically minded.
Make double sure the twigs you select are fresh and cleaned of any mites, lichens or other life forms.
If this all sounds like too much hard work, you can even purchase apple wood chew sticks for your guineas! We suggest checking out Baraka Station or these are also good. Bear in mind supply can be seasonal (they are currently harder to get due to the drought issues we had last year in Australia).
Make sure to avoid the food of any fruit that bears a ‘stone’ or ‘pit’ such as cherry trees. These contain cyanide and could be toxic to guinea pigs.
Lastly, remember that the wood used in any commercial guinea pig chew toy you find in the pet shop may well be treated with toxic substances and be stuck together with horrible glue. I’d avoid them.
Soft, Plush & Stuffed Toys For Guinea Pigs
Do guinea pigs like stuffed toys?
I’ll be honest, we haven’t yet tried Milo & Oreo with one (although I will – and update this blog post when we’re done). My first thought was that piggies wouldn’t really care about soft toys, since they wouldn’t really recognize them for the purpose their human creators made them for (to be cuddled… how do you cuddle something without arms?)
That said, there are numerous ad-hoc reports from around the Internet that, yes in fact some guinea pigs do actually establish attachments with stuffed toys! There are numerous pictures of them rubbing their little faces up against these toys and even using them as pillows.
So it seems to be a matter of taste. Some guinea pigs will just try to eat soft toys, whereas some actually will play with them.
Guess you’ll need to try this out with your piggie to see which way it goes!
If you do decide to try this out, then the obvious caveats are to make sure that the soft or plush toy in question is safe. This means eyes that won’t become detached and get swallowed, removal of labels, ribbons and anything else that could be tempting to nibble on.
Generally, a plush toy suitable for a human baby should be suitable for your guinea pig. So apply this same level of diligence in your selection.
If you do find that you piggie is simply eating the toy instead of interacting with it in any other way, I’d just take it away. The insides of these plush toys are going to be very bad for your guinea pig’s health, regardless of whether or not they enjoy eating it.
It is of note that stuffed toys can be particularly useful for guinea pigs if you find yourself in bereavement situation… or with a single guinea pig for any other reason.
Lastly, there are also various stories of boars (boys) using a stuffed toy as a ‘humping’ target (rather than their cage mate). Why not, I say?
Homemade (DIY) Guinea Pig Toys
OK, now we are getting to the good stuff.
The best guinea pig toys are ultimately going to be those that are homemade.
And I don’t mean delicately stitched together in some kind of artisan craftsmanship extravaganza… I mean cobbled together with a collection of cardboard, string and pieces of hay!
Let’s take a look at three of the easiest and most popular DIY guinea pig toys:
Socks stuffed with Hay
These are super easy. Grab one old sock (preferably clean… although it won’t be for much longer) and stuff it full of fresh hay! Tie up the end of the sock and then poke a bunch of holes through it with a pair of scissors. Pull little bits of hay out of each one of the holes with the end of your scissors, so your piggie has something to start tugging on.
Toilet rolls stuffed with Hay
Similar to the socks, this is essentially a hay stuffing exercise. Of note, is that in Australia our toilet rolls tend to (apparently) be a bit smaller than those in the US. There are numerous reports around the Internet of piggies getting their heads stuck in these TP holders, after having a good nibbling session… It’s hard to imagine this, but apparently it does happen, so be warned!
In either case, you can cut the toilet roll first (in any manner of inventive fashions – spiral anyone?) to prevent this happening.
Cardboard boxes are an endless source of fun for any animal (including my children, apparently) and guinea pigs are no exception.
There’s virtually no limit to the number of different toys you can create with a cardboard box, a knife and a ball of old string. Oh yes, since guina pigs love food more than anything else in the world (apart from other guinea pigs of course), feel free to incorporate hay, grass and vegetables into your creations. Use your imagination!
As a starting point, you can knock up a Chateau (or… maybe it’s more like a bunker) like the below in about one minute.
Just remember, don’t use masking tape (they will nibble it), glue, staples or anything else that could be harmful. Even the plain cotton string can be problematic sometimes, piggies get their legs or feet caught up in it – so bare this in mind and design your engineering marvels accordingly.
And The Best For Last – Guinea Pig Tunnels
Alright, finally, now it’s time to start cooking with gas! I am talking, of course, about guinea pig tunnels.
In the wild, guinea pigs use complex, interconnected networks of runs dug into dense low laying vegetation (this goes someway towards explaining why guinea pigs seem to be attracted to tunnels like furry little magnets).
So if we really want to entertain our little guinea mates and fulfil some of their innate instincts, then all we have to do is provide them with toy tunnels to play in… the more complex the better!
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