Keeping your little furry friend healthy and happy should be a priority for any owner and, along with providing the right food for guinea pigs, finding an appropriate cage for them should be at the top of your priority list. Although, as you can see in this post here, there are numerous options on the market when it comes to commercially available guinea pig cages, some owners have opted towards a more do-it-yourself approach.
Many guinea pig parents complain that the regular pet store-sized cages are nothing but ‘glorified litter boxes’ and therefore are looking to improve the well-being of their cavies by making them a healthy and large-enough living enclosure, rather than buying one.
If you are one of those owners, this article will guide you through what you need to know before you start making a DIY cage for your guinea pig and what options you have when it comes to materials, design and features.
What Size Should I Make My Cavy’s Cage?
When it comes to the recommended minimum requirements of a guinea pig’s cage, most Internet articles mention sizes between 2 and 3 square feet. This guideline is considered ‘out-of-date’ and restrictive by most owners though. Not only that, but cavies are social animals who benefit greatly from interactions with other guinea pigs and are happiest when kept in groups of two or more.
Therefore, you should be looking at building a cage starting at 7.5 square feet for a single guinea pig, and up to 10.5 square feet for a pair.
What Type Of Cage Is Best For My Guinea Pig?
There are several styles of cages to choose from, depending on your and your pet’s needs and space restrictions.
Aquariums are probably some of the most commonly used living spaces for guinea pigs. Unfortunately, they’re not the most comfortable, spacious or healthiest option for your pet, as the solid sides prevent air circulation in the enclosure.
Child swimming pools are another popular alternative to the pet store cages, as they are quite affordable and easy to set up. Pay attention to the height of the pool though, as the guinea pigs can jump out or, even worse, your other pets can just come into their living space, if the sides aren’t tall enough.
Cubes and Coroplast style cages are possibly the most recommended option for a DIY cage for your pet. They are easy to install, customizable and cost-effective. They also provide lots of space to roam for your piggy but, similarly to the kiddie swimming pool option, you will have to be careful to install a lid to this cage if you have any other pets that could jump in. Many owners choose to line the C&C cages with felt rather than the regular bedding, to make the pets more comfortable and the cage easier to clean.
A Guinea Pig Hutch is probably the ‘crown jewel’ of living enclosures for your friendly, little rodent. The wooden hutch does require stronger DIY skills, more materials and tools and a bigger investment than the regular cages though.
That being said, with a little creativity and some spare time on your hands, making a hutch for your pet can be a very rewarding process for you and your family, all the while providing a healthier and enjoyable environment for your guinea pigs to live in.
A running pen is not really a habitat for your guinea pig, but rather a more specialized structure for exercise. This is basically a portable, larger cage frame without a bottom that can be placed directly in your garden in warmer weather, so your pet can enjoy a nice change of scenery.
All you will need to make an exercise pen is some wood for the frame and some wire mesh for the sides and the roof. Ideally, you want the pen to be light but sturdy, as unsupervised guinea pigs can easily become prey to neighbourhood predators, such as cats or birds. An exercise pen can also be incorporated into an existing hutch, if this is large enough.
What To Put Inside My Guinea Pig’s Cage?
All cages need some form of bedding, especially the Cubes & Coroplast ones, as guinea pigs do not handle wire flooring well. It is recommended to avoid cedar or pine shavings as bedding. Aspen Shavings are a better solution, but owners should also look into the more recent alternatives, such as recycled paper beddings.
Your furry friend will most certainly want a nest box or a hiding place in its cage. A small cardboard box or maybe a reversed plastic tub should be appropriate. For a more complex option, you can use a PVC pipe with thick walls to make a hiding tunnel for your guinea pig.
Contrary to popular belief, wheels and exercise balls are not the best choices of toys for your pet’s cage. Experts consider that guinea pig’s bodies are not made for this type of exercise and that the risk of injury is too high. Other, less intense, options such as wooden blocks, hard plastic or even crumpled paper are better suited for the cage that you’ve just built for your guinea pig.
You have to make sure that your pet is fed and comfortable in its new cage — that’s why a hefty ceramic food bowl is probably the best option to keep your guinea pig happy and its living enclosure tidy for longer. Bear in mind that, even with a food bowl, you will still need to clean your piggy’s cage weekly.
You will also need to provide a water supply for your little friend — most owners recommending a water bottle with a steel spout and ball. You can also add a small hay hopper, so that your piggy has a batch of clean hay to pick at from time to time.