Chances are if you’re going to buy a guinea pig, you put some thought into it. You may have decided on guinea pigs after looking at how much care a puppy requires, for example. Regardless, setting up your guinea pig home before you get your piggle(s) from the shelter or store is a good idea.
Setting up your guinea pig home begins with the container your guinea pig will live in full time. Generally, commercial guinea pig cages consist of a solid pan for the base and wire sides. The issue with commercial cages is space for the piggle. A single guinea pig needs at least seven feet of space, while a pair needs at least ten.
Fortunately, there are many options for DIY guinea pig cages. There’s everything from having a custom pan welded to using a children’s splash pool if there are no predators in the house. The important thing is to get that space without going vertical. Guinea pigs are not great climbers, so platforms are less helpful for them.
Guinea pig skin is sensitive, so using the wrong bedding can negatively affect their health. You need to avoid using pine, cedar, and similar bedding components. Otherwise, your guinea pig(s) may develop chronic skin conditions or even respiratory issues. Additionally, litter (cat or otherwise), straw, and corncob also pose problems.
Instead, there are several options when setting up your guinea pig home. Composite bedding blends offer both absorption and odor control. Paper bedding is absorbent but cannot have anything printed on it. It also may smell. Fleece is also a possibility for those concerned about waste; however, it requires cleaning like clockwork. The best choice depends on what you’re willing to do.
Additionally, you will need to consider what you want to put underneath your guinea pig bedding. This layering will help with cleanup and preserving your pan. A waterproof layer, like plastic, and extra absorbency are always useful considerations.
There are two options for watering a guinea pig. The first is a container on the ground. This way is closest to what guinea pigs have access to in their natural habitat. However, your guinea pigs may flip the dish over, causing a flood. Also, there is a capacity problem, and you may need to fill a bowl multiple times a day.
The other option is a bottle that hangs off the side of your cage. The guinea pig moves the stopper to get at the water. This design is relatively flood-proof. With the correct water capacity, you may also only need to change it once a day.
Having food on hand before you bring home your guinea pig is essential. Guinea pigs are herbivores and grazers. They will eat over the course of the day. Now, most commercial guinea pig food in a dish works for the guinea pigs. You should also supply grasses and dark leafy greens.
The only caveat is ensuring your guinea pig gets enough vitamin C. Guinea pigs must get all their vitamin C from food since they cannot make their own. Most diets come enriched, but if you opt for an option that doesn’t, you’ll need to provide it through fresh food, tablets, or water enrichment.
Salt + Mineral Licks
Assuming your guinea pig food is balanced, there is no need for a lick. However, if you want to offer a lick, do not provide a straight salt lick. Instead, choose one that includes other minerals when setting up your guinea pig home. This choice will balance out the salt and make it less hard on your new guinea pig’s system.
While guinea pigs are not trainable like dogs, they do deserve enrichment. This enrichment can take many different forms. Enrichment can be either in the cage or offered periodically. They can also take the form of toys, housing, and food, so plan for it while setting up your guinea pig home.
In cage options are things that your new guinea pig can play with at any time. Often, these items are safe for the guinea pig(s) to chew. There are toys to attach to the roof of the cage, wooden logs the guinea pigs can hide inside, and more. You can also use untreated cardboard boxes, like what most cereal comes in.
You can also use food for enrichment. Hay is the most common, provided it’s not treated with pesticides. Guinea pigs also enjoy dark leafy greens, though you shouldn’t give them the same one every day. Occasional, as in once every couple weeks, squash and oranges are also good. Never feed guinea pigs things that produce gas, such as broccoli or beans, as this can kill them.
While no one wants to think about the vet, sometimes it’s a necessity. Procuring a small cat carrier while you’re setting up your guinea pig home is a good idea. You can line the carrier with small towels or paper towels if you need to transport your guinea pig. This carrier is also a great choice when you go to get your new family member(s).