How to make your guinea pigs feel at home

Providing your guinea pigs with an environment that keeps them active and mentally stimulated will help them stay healthy and happy.

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Providing your guinea pigs with an environment that keeps them active and mentally stimulated will help them stay healthy and happy.

Although guinea pigs aren’t naturally playful, they do like to be kept busy with toys like rummage bags and grass tunnels. Piggies love activities that involve food!

Keep your guinea pigs happy and occupied

A suitable guinea pig companion is very important. A lone piggy or one with an unsuitable companion will often remain very nervous and reluctant to come out and explore.

Guinea pigs feel safe when they have plenty of areas to run into or hide. Provide your piggies with several shelters – like bendy sticks, card boxes, card or plastic tunnels and even plastic cat carriers lined with newspaper and hay. Some enjoy a cosy fleece cat bed to snuggle in.

Food can be fun too

  • Hay kebabs and forage trees. Simply take two cardboard toilet rolls and stuff one end with their favourite hay, add some dried or fresh forage into the centre and enclose with more hay. Take a willow stick and pass through the middle of the rolls. Place several of these into an empty cardboard box to make a forage tree

  • Forage bags. Half fill a paper bag with hay or dried grass, mix in some dried or fresh forage and give the whole bag to your piggies - make sure you tear off the handle first. No guinea pig can resist a rustling paper bag

  • Stick bundles. Take 10 – 12 willow or apple sticks and tie tightly around the middle. Hang them from the sides of the run for your piggies to reach up and enjoy

  • Plant pots. Mix some hay and dried or fresh forage into a plant pot and turn it upside down. Watch as your guinea pigs have fun trying to get to the treats

  • Herb planters. Grow herbs such as mint or lemon balm in a plant pot and attach an upturned hanging basket over the top. Your piggies will nibble the herbs while they are growing but not destroy the plant’s roots

  • Mock hedges. These are garden hanging baskets or magazine racks completely stuffed with hay to avoid legs getting trapped. You can hang them up in the run to encourage your guinea pigs to reach up and browse

  • Gnawing twigs. Guinea pigs need to be able to gnaw on items to keep their teeth in good shape. Often, piggies do not enjoy wooden chew toys as the tasty bark has been removed. Try offering apple tree or willow twigs as they love to chew all the bark off, plus it’s great for their digestive system

Choosing the right bedding for your guinea pigs

The wrong bedding for your piggies can have a negative effect on their health. Wood shavings, sawdust and straw can often contain fur mites, cause fungal and mange conditions, and can give you an allergic reaction too!

Instead, line your guinea pigs’ enclosure with a thick layer of newspaper and completely cover it with a good layer of fresh, sweet-smelling green hay.

It’s often more cost-effective to purchase hay from a local farm or equine shop by the bale. You can then pick a nice, green bale and reduce the risk of it being old stock and possibly contaminated or filled with sharp thistles. Using hay as bedding also means your rabbits are free to naturally graze on the most important part of their diet at all times.

You can also use fleece bedding for indoor guinea pigs, as long as they have piles of fluffy hay to graze from. However, be prepared to sweep and wash lots of blankets in your machine!

How to clean out your guinea pigs

You’ll need to pick up the poo from the dirty corners of your guinea pigs’ home daily – and replace with clean bedding.

Carry out a full clean at least once a week, although this may need to be done more often throughout the winter when their time in the run is reduced. Remove the guinea pigs, fully sweep out and wipe down their home with pet-friendly disinfectant.

Line hutches and shed floors with vinyl for an easy-to-clean and wipe surface under your piggies’ bedding.

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