To make sure your guinea pigs are happy, healthy and safe, it is important to ensure their house is suitable. In this article you will learn the following:
Ideally guinea pigs are best kept indoors if your home isn't too noisy. However, if they have the appropriate hutch, they can also be kept outside providing the weather isn’t too cold. Please check our guidelines on keeping outdoor guinea pigs.
Even if you find a hutch that looks perfect, you must consider if it is going to be suitable for your pet and somewhere he will be happy.
Guinea Pig Cage Size
If you are new to guinea pigs, you need to be sure that you are buying the right sized house. Unfortunately there are many cages and hutches for sale that do not meet the minimum size requirements that are recommended by the RSPCA.
The RSPCA recommend housing of at least 120cm long x 60cm wide and with a height of 45cm (4ft x 2ft x 1.5ft) for 2 guinea pigs.
Generally, bigger is better but it depends on how many guinea pigs you have as to how much space they need.
Guinea pig houses come in all shapes and sizes including single, 2 and 3 tier hutches and single and double storey cages. However, it is essential that at least one of the floors has lots of room to run and play.
Are You Keeping Your Guinea Pigs Indoors or Outdoors?
Whether you need a hutch or a cage is dependent on where you are likely to keep your new pets. Will they be outdoors or would you prefer them in your home?
Indoor Guinea Pigs
We think it is better to keep you guinea pigs indoors. They like the same temperatures as humans which means that it can be dangerous for them to be outside if they don’t have a hutch that is sufficiently protected from the weather.
Outdoor Guinea Pigs
If you do decide to keep your guinea pigs outdoors, you will need a good safe and secure wooden hutch which also has protection from the weather and from predators. If it is very cold you may need a second cage in case you need to bring them inside, unless you have an outbuilding or shed which offers more warmth and security.
How to Set Up a Guinea Pig Cage
As well as the housing, you need to know what to put in the cage and how to set it up. This will vary on whether you have an outdoor cage or hutch and the type of bedding you are using.
The basics that you will need are:
- Some kind of bedding - check out the best guinea pig bedding options
- Lots of hay to keep the cavies warm
- A pigloo or hidey hole so they have somewhere to feel safe
- Food bowls for nuggets and fresh veg (check out what food your guinea pig will need here)
- Water bottle
- Toys to prevent boredom (here are some ideas for toys that are suitable for guinea pigs)
Guinea Pig Bedding
You will need plenty of suitable bedding for the whole hutch or cage to keep your guinea pig clean, warm and comfortable.
Generally, for the main part of the cage you will need to have some paper or wood based bedding. Lay some sheets of newspaper down first and then pile the bedding on top.
Please take a look at our page on guinea pig bedding for a list of suitable options and for more in-depth information about the best bedding for your guinea pig.
Guinea pigs like to sleep in dark cosy places so it is essential you set them up with an area where they feel safe and comfortable.
A pigloo stuffed with hay is a really good idea as they are fully enclosed and can bury themselves inside meaning that they will feel secure. You can also buy fabric hidey holes but they are not generally as enclosed as a pigloo. You can check out the price of a pigloo on Amazon here.
If you have a hutch, it may have a separate sleeping section. Put plenty of hay in the sleeping area of an outdoor hutch to ensure your guinea pigs are warm. The addition of a pigloo (as well as the hay) will give extra protection and help keep them more snuggly.
If you have a C&C cage and use fleece as the bedding, it is good to have a darkened area which has a lovely cosy bed.
Your guinea pigs will enjoy having toys that they can chew as well as places to hide. If they don't have enough to do they may become bored and depressed. Just make sure they are safe and specially designed with guinea pigs in mind.
The kind of toys your cavy will particularly enjoy are tunnels which they can run in and out of or boredom breaker balls that they can chew or push around the cage. .
Food Bowls and Water Bottle
They must have fresh (daily changed) water at all times given in a bottle that is attached to the cage to ensure cleanliness. A daily supply of guinea pig nuggets and fresh veg are also needed so you’ll need food bowls too.
Cleaning a Guinea Pig Cage
It is important that your guinea pig cage is kept clean and hygienic. Guinea pigs tend to poop and wee in various places around the cage and if it’s not cleaned regularly, they will become unhappy and may experience health problems.
You might find that your guinea pigs tend to do more poops in one particular area.They tend to like darker places to go to the toilet so if you can make a small area of the cage a little more sheltered and dark, they might use that space to poop. This can make cleaning out a little easier.
However, it is difficult to train a guinea pig to use a litter tray or one area of the cage. They like to spread it around a bit!
How Often to Clean a Guinea Pig Cage
There are two types of clean that you will need to do - a daily spot clean and a regular full-clean. It does depend a bit on how old they are (bigger piggies mean larger and more poops) and how many piggies you have as to how regularly you need to clean.
We recommend a full clean every 3 or 4 days to ensure your guinea pigs have as clean a cage as possible at all times. Some people do this every week but you don’t really want to wait until it is very smelly as it isn’t nice for your pets.
Each day, after our guinea pigs’ daily clean, they get very excited, running and popcorning. This proves how much they enjoy a good, clean environment!
How to Spot Clean
The daily spot clean involves removing the poops and any bedding that has become soiled and damp. It depends on the bedding that you are using in the cage as to how easy this is. Some bedding, such as Fitch or Carefresh is very absorbent and won’t get damp too quickly.
If you use fleece, it has a tendency to get damp quicker but it is easy to clean the poops. You can put rubber gloves on and pick them up or use a small dustpan and brush (only ever use for your cavies though!).
It is really handy to also have a handheld vacuum cleaner to get the last few bits. The vacuum cleaner can get a bit smelly though so you’ll only want to use it for cage cleaning and not around your home! We use the Vax Cordless Handheld - you can check out the price on Amazon here.
In summary, to spot clean the guinea pig cage:
- Remove as many poops as you can
- Remove the wet, soiled bedding
- Add more bedding if necessary
How to do a Full Cage Clean
You will first need to put your guinea pigs in a safe enclosed area while you clean the cage or hutch. Make sure they are out of the way of any household pets and not in any danger of escaping. The pet pens are great for this or you can put them in a run.
Remove all the bedding and get rid of any poops, hay etc so that the cage is empty. If you have a recycling bin in your garden, you can put it in there. If you use fleece, you must give the bedding a good shake outside to remove as much hair and hay as possible.
Get a bucket of water, and some pet-friendly disinfectant. You must not use regular household cleaner as this can be dangerous to your guinea pigs.
If you are cleaning a wooden hutch, you will need a scrubbing brush and perhaps an old toothbrush to give the cage a good scrub. The toothbrush will get into the corners and edges to give a thorough clean. This is especially useful when cleaning a wooden ladder.
If you’re cleaning a plastic cage, you will be able to do this with a cloth but the toothbrush may also come in handy for certain areas.
Spray the disinfectant around the cage (or on to the cloth) and clean thoroughly. Make sure your guinea pigs aren’t close by as it’s never good to breathe in the spray from these cleaners.
You should ensure that every part is absolutely clean and then leave it to dry. You could speed up this process by giving it a quick wipe over with a dry cloth to get the worst of the dampness out of the cage.
Once it is all dry, your guinea pigs can go back and enjoy their lovely fresh cage!
In summary, to give a good full clean of your guinea pig cage:
- Put your guinea pigs in a safe enclosure before starting
- Remove all bedding and poops etc from the cage
- Using pet-friendly disinfectant and hot water, give it a good scrub
- Leave the cage to dry
- Once dry, return your guinea pigs to the cage.
What is the Easiest Guinea Pig Cage to Clean
If you are wanting to keep your guinea pigs in a house that is easy to clean, you should keep your guinea pigs inside and choose a plastic cage. They are a lot easier to maintain than the wooden hutches and you don’t need to go out in all weathers either to do this.
It is absolutely essential that you have your guinea pigs indoors if you are opting for a cage or they won’t be safe.
Flooring in Your Guinea Pig's Home
You should ensure that the flooring in the hutch or cage is smooth without nails, ridges and definitely not meshed.
Remember that a guinea pigs feet and legs are very small and delicate and can easily get caught in wire or mesh. This could lead to serious injury, loss of a limb or even death.
Unlike some other animals, but like us, they don’t have furry or hairy feet. This means that they need a comfortable surface to run around on. Imagine how uncomfortable your feet would be if you were to run around on wire mesh all day!
Housing Guinea Pigs with Rabbits
Although it may look cute, you should NEVER house your guinea pigs with a rabbit for these reasons:
- Rabbit kicks can injure and even kill guinea pigs
- Rabbits will try to mate with guinea pigs and this can be stressful for them
- Guinea pigs eat different types of food to rabbits
- The two pets have different needs
Housing your guinea pigs with a rabbit could result in your guinea pig becoming seriously injured or even dead, so please don’t take the risk.
Further Information about Housing Your Guinea Pig
For more information to help you decide on the type of housing you should buy or to make sure your guinea pig has the right type of home, please check out the following articles: