Guinea pigs are one of the most endearing small pets. They seldom bite, they rarely get ill and they are both clean and quiet. Indeed, normally the only sound you will hear from your pet is a wonderful “churring” or squeaking when he or she realizes that food is on its way.
However, despite the popularity of guinea pigs as pets, many owners misunderstand the needs of their pets when it comes to housing. The purpose of this article is to provide some common-sense guidance on guinea pig cages to help you keep your pet safe and secure.
The Purposes of Guinea Pig Cages
Before we start to investigate the types of guinea pig cages available it is important to stop and think for a moment about what we are hoping to achieve. By better understanding the needs of your guinea pig you will be in a better position to provide the perfect home for your squeaking pet.
In this respect there are four main factors that need to be considered:
Guinea pigs are relatively shy animals. They are easily startled and may run around madly when surprised or scared. The first consideration in terms of your guinea pig cage should therefore be towards offering this much-needed security.
The easiest way to accomplish this and help make your guinea pigs feel safe and secure is to offer “visible barriers” – quite simply places where your guinea pig can hide away from view. This means that either your guinea pig cage should offer enclosed corners where they can hide, or you should include items such as piles of hay or wooden houses in which he or she can hide if scared.
Next up, of course, your guinea pig cage should prevent your pets from escaping. Whilst guinea pigs very rarely jump it is wise to fully enclose your pet. This means that cages with sealed lids are generally preferable to open cages.
Your guinea pig cage also needs to protect your pet from outside interference, especially predators like foxes if kept outdoors. Once again this means that a solid cage which will not allow people or animals access to your juicy guinea pigs are advisable.
Lastly of course your guinea pig cage needs to offer a high level of comfort. This means that your pet is able to avoid the worst of the weather, to stay dry and to move about in a reasonable space.
Guineas Pig Cage Dimensions
In terms of space, the next question is really how big a guinea pig cage should really be. Here, fortunately, we have some conclusive answers. The RSPCA recommends a minimum cage size of 120cm by 60cm by 45cm for a pair of guinea pigs. Remember that guinea pigs are sociable animals so keeping more than one can be beneficial.
While this sounds like a lot of space for two tiny guinea pigs it is worth remembering that guinea pigs can be quite active pets. If such a space is not possible, consider getting the largest cage you can possibly accommodate, and supplement this with regular exercise, such as in a separate run.
Types of Guinea Pig Cages
There are three main types of guinea pig cages for sale in pet shops or online. Broadly speaking these are categorized as outdoor guinea pig cages, indoor guinea pig cages and guinea pig runs. Each has their own unique strengths and weaknesses so when shopping for a guinea pig cage try taking into account the above points. In doing so you can feel certain that your guinea pig is housed properly.
Guinea Pig Hutches / Outdoor Guinea Pig Cages
The most common form of housing are guinea pig hutches. These are large wooden boxes with mesh over part of the front. This mesh then allows sunshine and fresh air to enter the cage, creating a more natural environment.
Outdoor guinea pig cages however do have their critics. For one, it is important that your pet can stay warm and dry in winter, which can be difficult with an open-fronted cage. For safety, therefore, try to ensure that your pet has a secure bedding area packed with fresh straw so it can get out of the worst of the weather.
In addition to this it can be wise in the worst weather to lightly cover the mesh – using something breathable like a bit of old sacking – to keep out the worst of the rain. Even better, consider moving your guinea pig hutch indoors over winter, bringing it back out into the garden in the nicer months.
Indoor Guinea Pig Cages
Gaining in popularity over the last few years are indoor guinea pig cages. These typically consist of a solid plastic bottom, with a clip-on cage area on top. The plastic base helps to make your pet feel secure, while keeping in mess from wood flakes, excess food and so on. They look, in short, like an oversized hamster cage.
The open cage top allows in light and fresh air, and also facilitates an excellent view. That said, in a guinea pig cage with a completely open top it can be easy to startle your pet, especially when you will typically looking down at it.
In such cases it can be smart to cover up one end of the cage, thus offering extra privacy for your pet. If possible, also consider raising the cage up off the floor. In this way your pet will avoid drafts, be less startled by passers-by and will be just as easy to see.
Guinea Pig Runs
The final options in terms of guinea pig cages are the many runs that are available. These typically provide more overall space than the average guinea pig cage, which can be good for your pet’s health, as well as allowing for more extensive exercise.
Note that the open-topped runs are really only safe for indoor use. If you want to allow your pet to run around outside you will want a fully-sealed unit to protect it from cats and foxes. In addition, guinea pigs allowed to make use of an outdoor run should be properly shaded to prevent overheating in summer.
Putting your guinea pigs into a run can be a great idea and add lots of environmental interest. It can also be great for your lawn, assuming no chemical weed killers have been used on it recently.