There are approximately 800,000 Guinea Pigs being kept as pets in the UK alone and it is increasingly popular for our furry friends to live inside the house alongside their owners. Whether Guinea Pigs are kept inside or outside, it is essential that the environment they live in reflects the conditions of their habitat in the wild. With that in mind, let's explore some of the things you can do to ensure your Guinea Pigs thrive inside.
Stretching their tiny legs
Guinea Pigs love to move and if you're a current Guinea Pig owner you will be very familiar with the site of your piggies charging from A to B when they are given the space to roam. Enclosures, cages, homes etc. are there for your Guinea Pigs' protection. If you have other domestic pets such as cats and dogs or perhaps you have a baby or small children, you should consider an appropriate housing solution with a lid or full surround to keep them safe.
If you have the space in your home, it can be a good idea to give them a small room or sectioned off 'pen' and allow them free roam of the floor space. We appreciate this is a luxury to be able to afford such space for your pets but this is typically easier for them to navigate than multi-storey layered homes.
Once our first Guinea Pigs hit full adult size we could see that typical shop-bought cages are not an appropriate size for them and we have always opted for a custom-built housing solution that gives our Guinea Pigs the space they need and is tailored to the design and layout of our home.
Comforting your Cavy
When you come to the interior design of your Guinea Pigs indoor home, make sure to give them plenty to interact with. Objects and obstacles such as tunnels to pass through or houses to relax inside will help them feel comfortable. Guinea Pigs will not typically pass through large open spaces as they are prey animals and it presents a worrying environment for them and their short vision, so keep the house busy with 'stuff'.
It's also important to keep certain things out of a Guinea Pig enclosure. As they are in the home, be careful where you position them and steer clear of wires from nearby sockets, furniture that may be coated in harmful varnishes and any toxic plants that might take their fancy. While this may seem obvious, Piggies like to explore and they might surprise you as a new owner.
The right building materials
High street all-in-one cages are commonly made of a plastic water-resistant tray that protects your home from mess and a metal cage surround that keeps them safe from the world around them.
In the wider Guinea Pig community, there are some amazing architects and we've seen some very impressive homes made of timber, acrylic, metal and more. Whether you favour the modular metal build of C&C grids or you're a dab hand at carpentry, it's important to keep a close eye on what materials you are putting in and around the Guinea Pig's home.
Guinea pigs are born with a natural instinct to chew. and they do so to keep their teeth at a healthy length as they continuously grow throughout their life. Any plastic trays, timbers, fabrics, adhesives etc. that might find their way into their path presents a risk to their health if it is in any way harmful.
You might be inclined to think that Guinea Pigs roaming on a laminate/vinyl flooring is best for keeping your home clean but it does pose problems to your piggies' feet to regularly walk on hard flooring. This is why Guinea Pig enclosures are normally padded out with soft, nontoxic, nonabrasive, inedible, dust-free and absorbent bedding. Suitable options for bedding include soft grass hay, fleece fabric, and shredded paper.
Keeping it clean
It's important to get into a routine of deep cleaning your Guinea Pigs weekly with regular spot cleans keeping them fresh as you go. If you struggle to keep on top of things, try our dry-wipe planner. Cycle through sets of bedding as you wash them to ensure they always have a comfortable home as mentioned above. If you use a hay tray for feeding or toilet training be sure to change the bedding regularly. Our hay trays can be quickly emptied and wiped down before refilling with sawdust or a dust free paper confetti.
Comfort aside, it is paramount to keep the cage clean to keep your piggies in good health. This prevents ammonia build-up from their urine and also helps minimise the attraction of flies to their enclosure. Rinse out their food bowls and drinkware regularly as you are topping up their food and water bottles.
Tis the season
Here in the UK, our weather is consistently inconsistent and while your indoor Guinea Pig house will protect your Piggies from the strong winds, blistering rain and occasional snow, you must remain mindful of the microclimate that you are providing for your pigs.
Guinea Pigs must be kept in a well-ventilated space with adequate shade and well clear of nearby radiators and direct sunlight. The ideal ambient temperature for guinea pigs is between 16 to 24°C and they are very susceptible to heat stress, which can be fatal.
On the other hand, it is also important to keep them suitably warm in the winter months. Heat pads, fabrics, bedding and more can be used to provide some much-needed insulation within their hideys.
Indoor vs Outdoor - What should I do?
There are pros and cons to both sides of the indoor vs outdoor debate but we believe that, with the right conditions as mentioned above, Guinea Pigs as a domestic pet can be better cared for within your home.
We appreciate that not everyone can give Guinea Pigs the appropriate accommodation and if you are looking at owning some piggies for the first time then you need to consider whether you can provide the lifestyle they desire and whether you can care for and clean them regularly. Guinea Pigs are for life, not just for Christmas!