You’ve just adopted your pet cavy, bought a large enough cage and even some guinea pig toys for your furry piglet. As we recently explained in this article, your next step is finding the right bedding for your guinea pig to line the cage with. And get ready to buy a lot of it, you will have to change it quite often – this will be your pet’s bed, play area, dining room and even toilet. Yes, toilet.
This is an aspect some pet owners don’t really think about before bringing their new little rodent into the family – they will have to constantly clean its droppings from all over the habitat and refresh the bedding very often.
There Is Hope!
To help keep your guinea pig’s enclosure tidier, cleaner and more hygienic, you can try to limit the area in which it goes potty. In other words, you can potty train him or her.
Yes, you read that right. Like most domestic animals, guinea pigs can be potty trained. All you will need is patience and constant positive reinforcement in the form of some treats.
Understanding Your Guinea Pig’s Potty Habits
Before you start training your pet, you should first try to understand its habits. Cavies are very vulnerable animals that get scared quite easily and have limited abilities to escape their predators.
Because of this, they usually look for a darker area where they do most of their business – eat, sleep and potty, an area where they feel safe. You will notice that more often than not, this safe area is in a dimly lit corner of the habitat.
If you can provide this small, darker corner for your pet, where it can sleep and eat its food, it will also start going potty in the same area. Just by doing this, you’ve restricted its ‘toilet’ area. You will start noticing that your little friend isn’t leaving droppings all over the cage anymore.
Next step – the litter tray!
Picking The Right Litter Tray
After you’ve observed your guinea pig and its preferred dimly lit corner, you now have to buy a litter tray or litter box that can fit in said corner of the habitat. Choose one that is the right size for both your friend and its living enclosure.
When picking a litter box, ideally you want it to be big enough so that your little rodent friend has a bit of space to move in it.
Alternatively and much more cost-effective, you can use a small cardboard box as the litter box.
Preparing The Litter Box
Your guinea pig’s new little ‘toilet’ will have to be filled with some sort of bedding. The most common option is to use the same bedding that is used in the rest of the cage, adding even some of the hay that has already been soiled.
This will guide your guinea pig to the tray, since it already has its smell all over it.
Observe The Guinea Pig’s Behavior Again
After you’ve placed the new litter box in the cage, you now again have to take a step back and observe your guinea pig’s behavior and habits. See how it reacts to the litter tray. Is he or she using it? If so, make sure that you reward your friend with a treat every time it goes potty in the correct location.
Is your cavy avoiding the litter box? Is it because it prefers a different corner of the cage? If so, move the litter box in said corner and try again. You can also try a different kind of bedding that maybe makes it more comfortable for your guinea pig to use the litter tray.
You should also try to place in the litter box all the droppings that your little rodent has left around the cage. I know, it doesn’t sound like the most fun activity that you can do with your cavy, but some owners explain that this way, your piglet will understand better that it should be using the designated tray.
Clean The Litter Tray
You shouldn’t give your friend any motivation to avoid the new litter box, so try to keep it as clean as possible without overdoing it. Refresh the bedding at least once every three days, if not daily, but only wash it once every other week. This way, your guinea pig’s smell will still remain on the litter tray/box and it will know to return to it.
Training The Guinea Pig In The House
After your little furry friend has mastered the art of using the litter box in its own cage, you can now try to train him or her to use it when you let it roam free in the house.
Start small, in a closed area where you can observe the guinea pig and from where it can’t go into hiding. Just like it did in its cage initially, your cavy will look for that safe, dimly lit corner.
Place the litter box in said corner and wait for your piglet to discover it. In order to help guide your pet towards the litter box, it might be worth blocking its access to the other corners of the room.
Once your guinea pig gets used to the litter box in this initial, smaller area, you can slowly start expanding the zone. If you keep the tray/box in the same place, your little rodent friend will know where to go, even if its roaming area is getting bigger.
Every guinea pig learns to use the litter tray in its own time. While most of them pick it up quite fast, for some it takes longer.
Do not yell at or punish your cavy. This helps with nothing and it can only have negative effects on its health and wellbeing. Always encourage and reward good behavior with treats. Positive reinforcement is the best tool to train your guinea pig.