If you’re thinking of getting or already have a guinea pig, here are some tips on creating an indoor run. Guinea pigs need to come out of their cage or house for exercise every day to prevent boredom, stress and becoming overweight, leading to severe health problems.
In guinea pig care, this daily exercise is known as Floor Time. Many owners are delighted at the sight of their guinea pig ‘popcorning’ when they have enough space to properly stretch their legs in- doing excited little flips and turns. This is one of the healthy signs of a contended ‘piggie’.
They key to it all is space. Imagine housing a mini-athlete – these little animals can really run. One guinea pig rescue organisation has an entire site devoted to guinea pig housing and recommends a minimum house size – 7.5 square feet for one guinea pig, increasing by at least 3 square feet for each new guinea pig. They favour modular Cubes and Coroplast (C&C) caging. These are made from grids normally used to make home and office storage. Choose one with grid squares not bigger than 1.5 inches across and connect them together using cable ties. You can use the same grids to make a super indoor run, and you may want to put down an old run underneath that you can easily remove after Floor Time to put through the washing machine. Newspaper is also handy; floor tiles are easy to clean but can be stressful for the guinea pigs if they can’t get a good enough grip on smooth tiling. As for size, make it bigger than their house so they’re really getting that vital exercise – and then build it as big as you possibly can!
Always be on the lookout for dangers:
- Wire floors can be stressful, uncomfortable for their feet or even cause injury
- Sharp edges (cut wires, splinters, etc)
- Treated wood or materials – many chemicals are poisons for pets
- Larger wire or mesh ’spaces’ – could feet, or noses etc become caught? Could the guinea pig become trapped in anyway?
- Are there electrical wires or sockets in, on or right by the run – guinea pigs can be prolific chewers and have been known to chew through live wires
- Have any products been used to clean carpets or rugs they’re on – these could be poisonous to them
- Is there anything they could chew that will end up in little pieces – this could be sharp and injure eyes etc – or their digestive system if swallowed?
- Certain houseplants are poisonous to pets – check in a handbook or better still move all plants far from the run
- Other pets – although cats and dogs may show no interest, they may want to chase or attack the guinea pig – can they be in another room with the door safely shut?
- Are any children around used to handling and caring for small animals – if they try to pick up or cuddle the guinea pig without proper training in how to do this, they could easily accidentally injure him or her.
Some of the runs in pet stores are amazingly undersized – the idea is to exercise outside the house and if the run isn’t big enough, well, they represent a bit of a rip-off.
Make/ Buy a ‘Hidey Place’
Guinea pigs feel secure when they’re able to ‘hide’ in something, so place something safe into the run for them to scurry under. Pet stores do sell hiding ‘toys’ and there are low cost options too – some owners have simply opted for low-level durable plastic ’stools’ the guinea pig can scuttle under.
IMPORTANT: None of this information is intended to replace the advice of a knowledgeable professional vet on guinea pig care. These articles are intended as a general introduction to the topics only. Every single animal has different needs – so whilst efforts have been made to provide helpful information, we respectfully advise you to check with your vet to accommodate your individual pet’s needs. Thank you. More blog available here – bcidrywall.com