I remember when I first brought my guinea pigs home for the first time.
It was a wet rainy day, and I was stuck in traffic for hours before I made it to the breeder’s house.
After I’d collected my two guinea pigs (they were even cuter in person!), I was worried about the amount of time they’d be in the car, especially as the congestion on the journey there still hadn’t shifted.
Fortunately, I’d set up their new cage weeks in advance, so I didn’t need to fuss around getting everything sorted when I got back home, causing my new pets further stress.
If you’re thinking of owning a guinea pig, it’s important to set up their cage correctly, ideally before you bring them home to avoid giving them unnecessary panic.
Transportation is pretty scary for a guinea pig, so you’ll want to have things as comfortable as possible for them.
To ensure you give your new guinea pig the best environment they need to thrive, I’ll be going over everything you need to know regarding cages for guinea pigs.
Types of Cages for Guinea Pigs
Store/Commercial Guinea Pig Cages
A commercial or pet store cage/hutch can be a decent choice for guinea pigs, but a lot of them lack space as the majority don’t reach the minimum recommended size (7.5 square feet).
This is what is recommended for a solitary guinea pig, but two will benefit from a slightly bigger size (7.5 to 10.5 square feet). Most pet store cages are expensive, but if you want to build your own cage, there is a DIY alternative that we’ll discuss later on.
Try to avoid cages labeled as “starter homes” as they are often made cheaply and very small.
Some pet store cages have ledges, but that doesn’t make them any bigger as ledges don’t count towards the recommended minimum size.
If you want to get a decent-sized commercial cage/hutch for a guinea pig, be prepared to spend a hefty amount of money.
A lot of big pet store cages are pretty pricey, especially if you need more than two to join together for extra room.
If purchasing more than one cage to attach together, ensure both habitats give your pet plenty of room to run rather than conjoining two tiny cages that don’t offer much space.
Aquariums used to be a popular choice for guinea pigs, but they’re now considered one of the worst habitats to keep cavies in.
At first thought, aquariums may seem like a great choice to get for your guinea pig.
They’re cheap, durable (provided you don’t drop it!), and extremely easy to clean.
However, an aquarium’s solid sides drastically restrict air circulation.
Most aquariums don’t provide space for a single guinea pig, and as guinea pigs are social animals, they much prefer to live in pairs or small groups.
Using an aquarium for multiple guinea pigs is a path headed for disaster.
Not only will your guinea pigs be miserable in a tiny habitat; they’re likely to fight. Despite being social creatures, guinea pigs will lash out at one another in tight living quarters.
Finally, aquariums muffle sound which makes them a poor environment for guinea pigs. Solid glass reduces the amount of sound.
Guinea pigs who become accustomed to that habitat may be extremely timid once taken out and faced with noise.
Cube Grids and Coroplast
Guinea pig cages crafted from storage cube grids and Coroplast (corrugated plastic used in sign making) are a popular choice for many guinea pig owners.
This type of cage provides your pet with a huge amount of space to run around in, and they’re cheap to craft compared to others.
Cube grid and Coroplast cages are attached together with standard connectors and cable ties, so they’re not too difficult to get set up.
If you have other pets like dogs or cats, make sure your cage has a lid like wire shelves attached together to keep your guinea pigs safe.
You can get storage cube grids at most big box stores, and corrugated plastic can be found at sign shops or online.
I upgraded to a C&C cage for my guinea pigs after previously housing them in a commercial guinea pig hutch for a couple of years. Since switching cages, my cavies have come out of their shell more and generally seem a lot happier.
In my opinion, C&C habitats make the best guinea pig cage setup, so definitely consider using one!
Homemade/Custom Guinea Pig Cages
Using cube grids and Coroplast is one of the best ways to create your own cage, but you can also select other materials.
Can’t get hold of Coroplast?
Use a shower curtain as a bottom liner in a cube grid hutch.
A paddling pool can also make a fantastic play area for guinea pigs, but ensure the sides are high enough so they can’t climb out.
Provided the design is safe and the materials are non-toxic to guinea pigs, you can make a cage out of almost anything, so get creative!
Can Guinea Pigs Be Caged Together?
Guinea pigs can be caged together – they much prefer to be kept in pairs or small groups as they are very social animals.
If you’re planning on owning a guinea pig, consider getting at least two to prevent loneliness and boredom.
Males can be paired with other males, and females can be paired with other females.
Males and females can also be housed together, but you’ll have to make sure the males are neutered unless you’re prepared for lots of pups. If you don’t want pups, you can keep two male or two female guinea pigs.
I have a pair of male guinea pigs who do everything together, whether it’s eating, playing, or sleeping – They won’t even come out of their cage during free range time unless the other one is with them!
What Size Cage Do I Need for a Guinea Pig?
Although guinea pigs are classed as small animals, that doesn’t mean their habitat should be “small”. Cavies need a lot of space to roam around in, and their environment needs to accommodate this.
A single guinea pig needs at least 7.5 square feet of space – 30” x 26” is a good-sized guinea pig hutch. Two guinea pigs need at least 7.5 square to 10.5 square feet of space, such as a 30” x 50” hutch.
Make sure to adjust your guinea pig cage setup accordingly.
Subjecting your pet cavy to tiny living conditions can have detrimental effects on your pet’s health and wellbeing.
Your pet will be extremely stressed, which can make them more likely to get sick.
This is the last thing you want to happen, so make sure you give your guinea pig the best and biggest habitat possible!
Ideal Location for Guinea Pig Habitat
If you’re keeping your guinea pig’s inside, then make sure you position their habitat away from strong heat sources like direct sun, heating vents, radiators, wood stoves, and fireplaces.
The cage should be placed in a quiet room that is within the recommended temperature (more on that below), and should be out of reach of other pets like cats.
It’s a good idea to use a lid on your cage even if your other pet animals can’t get to it just to be on the safe side.
I can’t tell you the number of times my cat has managed to sneak into my guinea pig’s room despite the door being closed.
Fortunately, my cage has a wire cover to prepare for this type of situation.
Ideal Temperature for Cages Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs should be kept at temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, both inside and outside.
If you keep your guinea pig’s hutch outside, then keep an eye on the temperature daily to ensure your pet doesn’t become too hot or cold.
Consider bringing your guinea pig inside if the weather takes a turn for the worse, especially during colder months. Providing a blanket can also help keep your guinea pig warm.
Can Guinea Pigs Sleep in the Dark?
Just like humans, guinea pigs can sleep in the dark.
They are crepuscular animals, which means they are most active at twilight.
A guinea pig usually sleeps in small segments of 3 to 10 minutes, but giving them a quiet and dark environment to slumber in will make them feel more secure. This will allow them to take a longer nap than what they’d normally take during the day.
Do Guinea Pigs Need Light At Night?
Guinea pigs don’t require light at night, so don’t feel like you need to leave a lamp on for them when it’s bedtime.
Leaving a light on during the evening could confuse your guinea pig’s body clock and trick it into thinking it’s daytime, which could affect your guinea pig’s health or weaken their immune system due to exhaustion and stress.
Guinea Pig Accessories
Guinea pigs require a well-balanced diet that’s packed with vitamin C to live. The latter is especially important as guinea pigs are unable to produce their own vitamin C.
You should offer your cavies unlimited amounts of Timothy hay or any other low-calcium hay, alongside a small amount of high-fiber guinea pig pellets (preferably use Timothy-hay based ones).
Guinea pigs need their diet supplemented with vitamin C, which can be done via leafy green or colored vegetables such as asparagus, bell pepper, kale, and tomato.
Guinea pigs drink a lot of water, so you’ll need to ensure they have access to plenty of liquids throughout the day.
You can use either a water bowl or water bottle, but I recommend having more than one of either, especially if you have multiple guinea pigs.
Change your guinea pig’s water once a day, clean their bowls/bottles daily, and only use fresh water from a tap or bottle.
Don’t put vitamin C drops into the water – your guinea pig should be getting plenty from their diet.
Choosing food dishes for your guinea pigs isn’t too complicated – pretty much anything will do the trick, whether it’s a small dining plate, plastic food bowl, or ceramic dish. You could also add a hay rack.
Personally, I use ceramic food dishes for my cavies.
They’re robust, sturdy, and difficult to knock over.
As my cavies like to topple their veggie dish when it’s empty as a sign to show they want more, a ceramic food dish prevents this from happening.
Exercising is a vital component of guinea pig care to ensure they live happily and healthily.
Aside from keeping your guinea pig healthy, it also helps keep them in good shape and provides them with enrichment.
You should aim to give your guinea pig around 3 to 4 hours of free-range time each day, particularly if their habitat is small.
An enclosed outside run is a good place to exercise your guinea pig, as is a safe room/hallway indoors.
Fill your guinea pig’s area with lots of toys and activities to keep them busy.
But, ensure you tidy away any cables, wires, objects, toxic plants, and gaps that your cavies could reach.
Guinea Pig Toys and Tunnels
Your guinea pigs need enrichment to prevent them from getting bored, especially when you’re not around to interact with them.
Toys are a great way to keep your pet occupied and entertained, so try and provide them with a variety of things they can do in their cage (as much as space will allow).
Chewing toys, tunnels, hideaways, balls, and hammocks are all fantastic toys to add to your guinea pig’s environment.
Cavies are prey animals. Tunnels and hideaways are especially important as they provide your cavy with a safe area to retreat to if they feel stressed.
My cavies are a huge fan of hideaways made from couch grass as they’re a house they can rest in and munch on!
Wooden chew toys are a must in any cage as not only do they relieve boredom, but they also help wear down your guinea pig’s teeth.
Apple, cherry, aspen, basswood, fir, and linden are some safe woods for guinea pigs. Soft, resinous, or aromatic woods like cedar, eucalyptus, redwood, and air-dried pine should not be used.
These unsafe woods release a lot of phenols that can harm your pet.
If any dye is used on the wooden chew toy, make sure it is vegetable-based and safe for small animals.
Like other rodents, guinea pigs have teeth that grow continuously throughout their lives.
It’s important to provide them with the best chew toys to gnaw on so their teeth don’t grow too long.
Do You Have to Put Bedding in a Guinea Pig Cage?
Your guinea pig’s habitat needs some type of substrate – you can’t just leave their environment bare.
Having bedding in your guinea pig’s cage provides comfort, and helps keep their habitat clean and fresh.
What Is the Best Thing to Line a Guinea Pig Cage With?
A good-quality substrate will help absorb urine and spilled water, as well as give your cavies somewhere cozy to nestle down and sleep.
Personally, I use fleece blankets in my cage as they’re soft, comfortable, and a lot cheaper (in the long run) than commercial guinea pig bedding.
Once the fleece blankets start to smell or grow dirty, simply throw them in the washing machine to clean it before putting it back into the cage.
I usually have a stock of fresh fleece blankets to use so I don’t have to wait around for the dirty ones to finish being washed.
If you don’t want to use fleece blankets, then aspen or paper bedding are two other good options.
Bear in mind that a lot of commercial beddings are unsuitable in cages for a guinea pig.
Beddings to Avoid
There are a surprising number of commercial beddings that you should avoid in your guinea pig’s cage, even ones that are specifically targeted for small animals.
Unsuitable beddings can harm your guinea pig’s feet and cause issues like respiratory distress and skin irritation.
Pine and Cedar Wood Shavings
Pine and cedar wood shavings are popular bedding choices for many small animals, but unfortunately, these types of substrates can be extremely harmful to guinea pigs and other small pets.
From first glance, pine and cedar wood shavings seem like great options because they’re absorbent and smell pleasant.
However, both beddings can irritate your guinea pig’s respiratory system and even cause skin allergies (which could later turn into a skin infection!).
Pine and cedar wood shavings contain phenols (aromatic oils) that could damage your guinea pig’s liver.
Definitely avoid both of these substrates to ensure your cavies live healthily!
Corn Cob Bedding
Corn cob bedding is another substrate you should avoid using in your guinea pig’s habitat. This bedding does little to control odors, is hard on your guinea pig’s sensitive feet, and can get moldy when wet.
Some cavies will even attempt to eat corn cob bedding, which can be a really serious problem as the bedding is thought to swell when it is wet.
The last thing you want is a trip to the vets with a sick guinea pig!
Another reason why this substrate isn’t the best choice for guinea pigs is that it can lead to impaction issues in males.
Straw isn’t a good option for guinea pig cages as it isn’t absorbent or soft. It doesn’t control odor very well, and the hard stalks could irritate your guinea pig’s sensitive eyes and nose.
Kitty litter should never be used in your cage as it contains chemicals that could be toxic to your cavy, especially if ingested.
Additionally, kitty litter can cause blockages if eaten as it can form into a stonelike quality.
As you can see, guinea pig cage setup takes quite a bit of work, so make sure you’re prepared before you bring your cavy home for the first time.
Having the right habitat for your cavy is important and ensures they live happily and healthily.
Not only do guinea pigs need a lot of space in their cage, but they also need the right bedding, food, a few chew toys, a guinea pig bed, and other accessories to properly thrive.
I hope this guide has helped you decide on the best habitat for your guinea pigs, as well as ones that you need to avoid.
What type of cage did you end up choosing for your guinea pig’s home? Let me know on our social media platforms – I can’t wait to hear what exciting habitat you have planned!
And, if you’re after more helpful tips and tricks on guinea pig care, be sure to check out our other resources.