Guinea pigs are cute and cuddly pets, known for their sweet dispositions and playful personalities, but they can also have a bit of an odour. If you are considering getting a guinea pig or already have one as a pet, it is important to understand their odours and how to manage them.

What causes odours in guinea pigs

First, it is important to note that all animals have some type of natural odour. This is especially true for small animals like guinea pigs, who have a high metabolism and produce a lot of waste. Their faeces and urine can contribute to an odour in the environment

Additionally, guinea pigs have scent glands on their skin that produce an oily substance. This substance is used to mark their territory and can give off a musky smell. This is a normal part of guinea pig behaviour and is not something to be concerned about. However, if the smell becomes too strong or unpleasant, it may be a sign that your guinea pig is stressed or not feeling well. In this case, it is important to consult with a veterinarian to determine the cause of the odour and address any underlying health issues.

There are a number of things you can do to prevent or reduce strong odours from your guinea pigs:

1. Clean your guinea pig's cage regularly.

This is the most important step you can take to reduce odours. Guinea pigs produce a lot of urine and faeces, so it's important to deep clean their cage at least once a week, with regularly spot cleans in between. Use a planner to keep track of cleaning schedules. Make sure that any disinfectants and cleaning products are animal safe and do not leave behind residue that can contaminate food.

If you use fleece liners, accessories and bedding in your guinea pig cage, you can typically machine wash these on low heat or wash by hand. You should keep multiple sets of bedding to hand to rotate regularly and keep the cage clean and fresh.

2. Use high-quality bedding.

Some good options guinea pig cage bedding include:

  • Wood shavings made from softwood that is safe for guinea pigs to ingest. Wood shavings are typically absorbent and help control odours. Not to be confused with sawdust which can cause respiratory issues due to the dust content.
  • Fleece is a soft and comfortable material that is easy to clean and maintain. It is also hypoallergenic, which is important for guinea pigs with allergies.
  • Recycled paper fibres are also soft, absorbent, and control odours well.

It's also important to change the bedding regularly to keep the cage clean and hygienic for your guinea pig.

3. Feeding your Guinea Pig correctly

Guinea pigs, like humans, need a balanced diet to maintain healthy digestion and prevent odour-causing gastrointestinal problems.

Offer a constant supply of hay.

Hay should make up the majority (80%) of your guinea pig's diet and should be available at all times. Try using a hay tray or feeder to ensure there is plenty of hay available at all times. Guinea pigs need hay to maintain healthy digestion and prevent gastrointestinal problems. Choose a variety of hay, such as timothy, oat, and meadow hay, to keep your guinea pig interested and encourage them to eat.

Provide a small amount of fresh vegetables.

Fresh vegetables are a good source of vitamins and minerals for your guinea pig, but they should not make up the majority of their diet. Offer a small amount of fresh vegetables each day, such as leafy greens, bell peppers, and carrots. Check out Can Guinea Pigs Eat for a guide on safe foods

Guinea pigs enjoying some fresh leafy vegetables
Guinea pigs enjoying some fresh leafy vegetables

Avoid overfeeding your guinea pig.

It's important to be mindful of portion sizes when feeding your guinea pig. Overfeeding can lead to bloating and obesity, which can increase the risk of gastrointestinal problems. If you are unsure as a new owner you should consult your vet, it is better to be cautious and always introduce new foods sparingly and see how your guinea pigs react.

Offer a small amount of pellets.

Pellets/nuggets are a concentrated source of nutrients and should be offered in small amounts as a supplement to hay and vegetables. Choose a high-quality pellet that is specifically formulated for guinea pigs. There are lots of different options out there and if your guinea pigs are fussy eaters, you might have to try a few options to find the one they like.

4. Keep your guinea pig's water clean.

Clean the water bottle daily as part of your cleaning routing. Use a bottle brush to scrub the inside of the water bottle, paying particular attention to the spout. Rinse the bottle thoroughly with hot water and refill it with fresh water. You should also look to change the water daily. Even if the water bottle looks clean, it's important to change the water every day to prevent bacteria from building up. This will help keep your guinea pig's water fresh and clean.

Guinea pig drinking from a water bottle
Guinea pigs need a constant supply of fresh water. Mounted water bottles are best to avoid contamination

To improve the quality of the water you could use a water filter. A water filter can help remove impurities and contaminants from the water, which can help keep your guinea pig's water clean and fresh. Unfiltered tap water may be low quality and contain chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride that can be harmful to your guinea pig if consumed in excess.

5. Using deodorisers and air fresheners.

Deodorising sprays can help reduce odours in your guinea pig's cage, but be sure to read the label carefully and only use a product that is safe for small animals. Do not spray them directly on your pets. Air fresheners in the house might help to mask the smells but it is best to deal with the underlying issue as it may be a sign or cause of health problems for your pet.

Good airflow can help reduce odours in your guinea pig's cage. If possible, open nearby windows to circulate fresh air.

When you decide to own guinea pigs as pets, you should be fully prepared to take on the responsibility of keeping them clean and healthy. By following the above tips you can keep control of these odours and with proper care and attention, your guinea pigs will be a beloved addition to your household.