The first decision you need to make is whether your guinea pig is going to live indoors with you or outside in a protected environment. Depending on your living situation and your guinea pigs temperament there are pros and cons for both.
Guinea pigs naturally live in warmer climates in South America so we would recommend if possible, they live indoors with you. This will also give them more stimulation and interaction with your family. You will also notice whether there is a problem sooner rather than later.
Normally female guinea pigs will live quite happily together indoors. However, male guinea pigs as companions may require a more spacious enclosure. Especially if they are still quite young.
Indoors, the guinea pigs should also be free from harassment from other pets and unsupervised children. If you have a noisy, excitable and curious dog (or child!) your guinea pigs may find a less stressful environment living in a shed or outbuilding. Remember, a dog is a predator to a guinea pig, no matter how friendly they are to you and children. They have been known to dig under grass runs to get to “the prey”. Children banging on cages can also be a significant detriment to the well-being of your guinea pig.
A general rule of thumb when picking out an indoor cage is “the bigger the better” and it should be raised off the ground. 120cm x 60cm is the absolute minimum for two sows. Boars will probably need larger. The guinea pig should have somewhere to hide in the cage and a little shelf can be nice for them to hop on and off. For other guinea pig needs, see the section on equipment.
If your guinea pig is to live outdoors, then ideally he will be kept in a hutch inside a shed or outbuilding which lets in daylight but is draft free but with an airflow to avoid condensation/damp. If housed outside, the hutch should be near the house and have a weatherproof cover but you should have somewhere inside you can bring it if the weather should turn really nasty. During the summer months you should be careful to ensure the shed is well ventilated and does not overheat. Some sheds can become hothouses during the summer and the guinea pig will be at risk from heat exhaustion which can be fatal. During the winter you should ensure the accommodation is warm enough, draft free and with the hutch off the floor.
The accommodation can be made child-proof by using padlocks. All outside hutches should have padlocks to deter predators such as foxes, rats, dogs, cats, birds and some children. Foxes and rats are good at opening hutch doors and digging or chewing. The hutch needs to be protected against these predators through securely locking the hutch when the guinea pigs are in there and ensuring foxes cannot burrow underneath, by ensuring your hutch has a solid bottom raised off the ground.
The hutch should have a bedroom end which should be dark and snug, with plenty of bedding.
During the cold, damp months, the hutch should be brought into a shed or outbuilding which lets in daylight but not drafts. If you do not have a shed or outbuilding, you must consider bringing your guinea pig indoors.
You should clean your hutch or cage approximately every three days, topping up bedding in between clean-outs. Get your rubber gloves at the ready! Here is how you should clean your cage or hutch
- Take out your guinea pigs and put them in a safe place. It might be a good time for them to go into your grass run
- Roll up all the dirty bedding in the newspaper which you laid as a base. Use a dustpan and brush and possibly a wallpaper scraper to get any muck out of the corners. Ensure all the toilet matter is removed from the hutch floor
- Spray with a mild disinfectant spray and wipe down, leaving to dry naturally making sure guinea pig is OUT of the cage
- Leave to dry in warm weather, however, if it is cold you will have to wipe dry
- Whilst drying, wash your feeding bowl and water bottle. Don’t forget to fill up the water bottle and place it back in the hutch! It’s a good idea to purchase a spare feed bowl and water bottle. This way you can transfer dry feed into the spare bowl. A newly washed feed bowl leaves a wet residue unless left to dry overnight and the dry feed would stick to it, making it rather unpleasant for the guinea pig to eat
- Line the bottom of the hutch or cage with clean newspaper
- Put plenty of bedding on top of the newspaper especially in the bedroom end.
- If the weather is unsuitable for your guinea pig to go out on the grass, keep him inside the hutch but clean one side of the hutch at a time. DO NOT use sprays. The guinea pig may be frightened at first but he will soon become accustomed to you cleaning him whilst inside the hutch! Remember to talk to him in a quiet, calm voice whilst your do the domestics
Bedding & Hay
A thick bedding of quality hay on newspaper is our first choice. Hay must be available at all times for eating and can be kept in a hay rack off the floor.
Do not use sawdust or wood-shavings! Research has proven, sawdust or wood-shavings can cause respiratory problems, even if they are dust extracted. Remember, guinea pigs are a foraging animal. Sawdust and/or woodshavings can also dry out the coat and skin and can cause problems with the feet. Plus they are often chemically treated.
Your guinea pigs will thrive both physically and mentally, if they have access to a large, protected, grass run every day complete with comfy, floored nest boxes.
Your grass run should allow you easy access to your guinea pigs. This makes life much easier and less stressful for both you and your guinea pig if you are able to easily collect them from the run after a hard days grazing! Your run should have a lid and a shaded area. Floored nest boxes are available from our on-site shop.
Never leave your guinea pig in a grass run overnight as foxes, rats or even pet dogs will dig underneath to get to them. The guinea pigs should be supervised when outside during the day if you have a particular problem with foxes, rats or curious dogs. We would cautiously suggest during the day, your guinea pigs should be safe from predators, however, please use your common sense. If you have a family of foxes who live nearby, then it is quite clearly not safe to leave your guinea pigs outside in a run unsupervised.
The run should be moved on to fresh grass every time it is going to be used. The run can also be moved to a concrete area which will help to keep the nails trimmed. Make sure there is nothing around which may be harmful to your guinea pig like bits of plastic, sweet wrappers, poisonous weeds and dog excrement. More information can be found on Peter Gurney’s website.
- Ceramic bowls – Straight sided to avoid spillage, approximately 11-12cms diameter
- Water bottles – keep the water bottles and water spout clear of algae as this harbours bacteria. 320mls is the regular size for a pair of guinea pigs. Fresh, clean daily water is important to your guinea pigs welfare.
- A large hay rack (optional)
- Disinfectant spray – for use when cleaning your hutch
- A tunnel or climbing toy
- Cage or hutch – depending on if your guinea pig is living indoors or outside
- Outdoor and/or indoor run
- Padlocks – for your outdoor hutch
- Nest Box – Ideal for a place for your guinea pig to hide in when in an outdoor run. One nest box for each guinea pig
The guinea pig should have access to clean, fresh water at all times. The bottle should be cleaned at least once per week. See our section on diet for further information.
The key to all accommodation, inside or out, is the bigger the cage the better. Guinea pigs need space to roam around, nest, and play.