Why do guinea pigs need a run?
Plenty of exercise is essential for guinea pigs. They are very active pets and love to run around and play so it's vital they get a good amount of exercise each day in a large area to prevent boredom and to provide enrichment to their daily lives.
A good hour or two in a run each day will help keep them fit and healthy. As a bonus, their personalities really shine through when they have lots of space to play so they will provide you with great entertainment if you watch them!
Your guinea pigs will need an outdoor run or indoor playpen to keep them safe. Find out which runs are the best and what to look for in this article.
Quick guide: 8 best guinea pig runs & playpens 2020
Providing the weather is good, it is preferable for your guinea pigs to have a run in the outdoors, especially if they are usually kept inside. It will give them the chance to get some natural light and fresh air, both of which will benefit them.
Tips on buying an outdoor run
Before you decide on the best run for your guinea pigs and your space, consider the following:
Do you need a folding guinea pig run?
Some runs will fold down whereas others don't and are designed to be left out on a permanent basis.
The large 6ft Pawhut run folds down once the top has been removed (the top is secured with screws) so is a good choice if you want a run that is left outside for part of the year but can be easily folded away for the winter.
The smaller Bunny Business run (122cm square) is fully folding so you can easily put it away at the end of each day and store in your shed without it taking up a lot of room.
The hutch/run combos are designed to be left outdoors. They don't fold away but they do have the advantage of providing your guinea pig with a good sheltered area if required.
Bear in mind that the Bunny Business Hutch/Run Combo offers a good run area but we don't advise using this as a permanent hutch because the actual hutch size is below minimum requirements. However, the hutch space is great for short bursts during the day when they are out in the run as it is a great place to hide and feel protected if required.
The Kendal 6ft Hutch/Run Combo can be used as a hutch and run so could save you money compared to buying them separately. The hutch will comfortably house a pair of guinea pigs and they have the added bonus of having access to a run when they feel like it although at night time this area should be closed off for their safety.
What space do you have outside
Do you have a large garden or just a small patio area? Always buy the biggest run you have space for and can afford as this will be better for your guinea pigs.
If your outdoor space is limited, make sure you measure up to ensure you can fit the run you have chosen.
How safe is your garden?
Many animals, even pets, are predators when it comes to guinea pigs.. Do you get foxes, dogs or cats in your garden? Birds such as hawks or even seagulls can also be a danger to guinea pigs.
An outdoor run should always have a top to protect from all potential predators whether they are pets or wild animals or birds. A solidly built wooden run is the safest option as a metal pen is more easily moved or knocked.
The pitched roof playpen is made from galvanized steel and may be fine if your garden is very safe. However, use your judgement on this and only purchase this for the outdoors if you are confident they will be safe from harm.
Bad weather can seriously harm guinea pigs
Guinea pigs should not be outside in a run when the weather is very hot, cold, windy or if it is raining. They can become very ill if left outside in these conditions so it's worth having an indoor pen for those days when outdoor exercise is not an option.
Hot weather can cause heat stroke whereas cold, wet, windy weather can cause pneumonia. Guinea pigs are very delicate animals and can become ill fast so be mindful of this when deciding which run to buy, where to position it and what the weather is like on the day.
The run should always be at least partly shaded from the sun and have an enclosed or covered area that protects them from the wind, sun, rain or cold in case the weather changes before you have time to bring them indoors.
Bear in mind that if it is a hot day, a pigloo or small house that you put in there for shelter will be even hotter inside, especially if it is not in the shade. It is advisable to buy one that is large, has plenty of airflow and preferably made of wood like this one as they tend to be cooler inside than plastic houses.
More info and tips on having your guinea pigs outdoors
- Make sure there are no poisonous plants or vegetation in the area where you let them run.
- Never leave your guinea pigs in an outdoor run overnight. It is not safe and they may become scared. If you have a hutch/run combo, close off the run area.
- Never let them roam free in your garden. There may be a hole that you haven't noticed which they will use as an escape route or they may eat something that is poisonous.
- Make sure the run is on level ground and that there are no gaps underneath where they can get out or a predator could work their way in..
- If you are building a run, it should measure at least 1.2 metres x 1.2 metres and be 30 cm high. However, consider building a larger run that is 1.8 metres in length as this gives them a much better space. It can consist of wire mesh attached to a wooden frame but ensure that there are no sharp wires or bits of wood which may hurt them. This frame should be made so that it is light enough to move around your garden.
- Guinea pigs love munching on grass so they'll help keep your grass short and will even fertilise it for you! Although a lot smaller, their droppings are very similar in quality to horse manure.
Even if you have a large hutch or cage, it is beneficial for them to have the use of a larger enclosure too to really exercise their legs. View the buying guides...
Playpens for Indoors
You may not have a garden or ample outdoor space to allow your guinea pigs to exercise outside. In this case you'll need to buy an indoor playpen.
In fact, even if you are going to use an outdoor run, we recommend you also have an indoor pen for those bad weather days.
Choosing the best run for indoors
The VivaPet Outdoor Octagon pen is the one we recommend for indoors. The great thing about this is that you can buy as many as you want and join them together to make one big run to suit the space you have. One pen gives adequate space but two gives a really lovely big area for them to run around in.
If you don't want to buy a pen, you may be able to section off part of a room for them to run around in but it is far more convenient, cleaner and safer for them to be in a pen.
Protect your flooring
Most pens won't have a base so you will need to protect your flooring whether you have carpet, wooden floors, lino or laminate flooring. A small piece of tarpaulin with a fleece over the top is perfect as it gives your floor protection while your guinea pigs have a comfortable surface on which to run around and play.
Keeping them safe from pets
These metal indoor pens are not necessarily safe from a cat or dog. They are quite flimsy and could easily be knocked over or even jumped into if there is no cover. Even if your other pets aren't usually bothered about your guinea pigs, it is safer to err on the side of caution
If you have a large room, the pitched roof playpen is probably the most sturdy of the metal enclosures with the benefit and safety of a top.
What to put in a guinea pig run or playpen
You will need to put a few items in the run or they will most likely go into the corner and stay there feeling rather frightened and vulnerable with all the open space. The main purpose of a run is to get your guinea pigs to exercise so put in toys that encourage this. Here are some ideas:
A shelter or house
It is essential your guinea pigs have somewhere to hide and shelter so a wooden house is ideal for this purpose. Make sure if you have several guinea pigs that you have enough shelters for them all. This will make them feel safe and also protect them in case of an unexpected shower.
Boredom breaker balls
The Haypigs Treat Ball is probably the toy that gives our guinea pigs the most fun and exercise. Fill with a few pellets and pea flakes or their favourite treat. As they roll it around their treats will come out the holes.
Tunnels and Bridges
Guinea pigs love bridges and tunnels so include a tunnel or two such as the Trixie wicker bridge. They will also enjoy munching on this one! The Haypigs Cannonball Tunnel is a lot of fun for them as is the Snugglesafe Flexible Tunnel.
In summary, give your guinea pigs an hour or two at least each day in their run. Make sure you buy one that is safe, sturdy, as large as you have space for. Position it where they can have plenty of shade and is safe from predators. Add a safe hidey house or two plus some enrichment toys.