So as winter is finally thinking of creeping upon us in the UK, i thought I would do a post about indoor accommodation for Guinea pigs. Guinea Pigs through traditionally viewed as being an outdoor pet, do not cope well with extremes of temperature. Just as much as the cold and damp of winter can bring breathing and fungal illness and infection in them, so the summer can also create breathing problems, and heat stroke and exhaustion which they are very prone too.
In an ideal world we would all be able to bring our Guinea Pigs indoors for the winter, I appreciate that this is not a possibility for all, even myself. I had spent years keeping Guinea Pigs solely outside before they were moved into a heated shed. Still in all the years I have had more issues with the exceedingly hot weather to the very cold.
I will cover outdoor winter care in my next housing post but today I wish to concentrate on indoor accommodation.
Indoor housing for Guineas can be bit of a minefield. There are a number of options, and new guinea pig owners especially can be pretty overwhelmed with the best choice. Indoor Guinea Pig housing can fit into the following catagories:
- Commercially sold indoor cages
- C&C (cubes and correx) home build cages
- “Hybrid” cages
- Complete DIY cages
They all have their pro’s and cons, so that is what this post is looking at exploring.
So, you walk into your pet shop and see a cage for sale, it has a plastic base, bars, a little house and is marked as being suitable for two Guinea Pigs. Perfect.
Sadly many of the most easily obtained commercially produced indoor cages are not fit for purpose and are far to small, and hugely over priced, especially when sourced from shops.
In the UK the RSPCA have a recommended minimum cage size of 4x2ft, 8sq ft of floor space for two guinea pigs, sadly this is not law and is not enforceable to the producers of small animal cages. Although rescue organizations can specify that cages meet this size as part of their re-homing agreement.
The most common cage sizes commercially sold are 80, 100 and 120 cm. Although 140, 150 and 160 cm cages are all available. The absolute minimum size cage that Guinea pigs should be kept in is a 120cm cage, even this is a false measurement as the published sizes tend to be the bar measurements, not the the tapered base, so you can usually expect to knock around 5 cm off your animals living space.
The best place of course to source indoor cages are online, there is a significant price difference between the two. For example I have found a 140 cm cage for sale from a pet store at £129.00 and a cage the same size online from a reputable store at £69.99 a £59.01 difference. That’s a lot of moolah!
Another huge gripe of mine is double tier indoor cages, these often suffer a smaller floor space, being generally 100 cm long, and rather tall. this means that the ramps are far too steep for little guinea pigs who are not that athletic, and will require some adjustment to make them safe. Along with the fact that as the sizes get bigger, the bases get deeper, making it more difficult for the Guinea Pigs too see out of them.
Of course they have their advantages, they are easy to assemble, and easy to clean, they are relatively aesthetically pleasing and can be squeezed into most empty household spots due their size and the fact they can easily be lifted off the floor.
Commercial cages have themselves a bit of a savior though in the form of a new cage making it’s way from the US called the “midwest guinea pig habitat” this is essentially a modular system with the most basic starter kit being a 4×2 ft cage. These can be extended simply, have lids put on and so on. It’s an airy spacious cage that is easy to assemble and can be fully and flatly collapsed when it is not in use. It is cheap in comparison to other commercial cages of that size. It’s a cage i really approve of, especially if people are having to work on a budget.
The C&C cage, is unless you are building everything from scratch, is the king of indoor Guinea Pig cages.
C&C stands for “Cubes and Correx” the two metials the cage are built from. This is a frame made from storage cube grids, and lined with correx (corrigated plastic) to make a base.
C&C is the most versatile type of cage that could exist, that can be made to fit in pretty much any space, have multiple floors, and can be easily extended to make a larger cage, or to add an temporary additional run space.
As the panels are usually around 14 inches square so each one will provide just over a foot of space, meaning that they provide far more floor space, for example, a 5×2 grid cage is 177 cm, pushing 6 feet and bigger than the largest available commercial cage.
Cost for C&C’s seems to vary greatly and in the US certainly seem to be viewed as the cheap option than buying a cage from a petstore, however the materials do not seem to be so easily found in the UK. The most straightforward method of obtaining them is from any number of the “pre-built” cage suppliers. Either through independent sites, Amazon or eBay. Where all the parts required are delivered and you build it. Either way, larger C&Cs still work out a good £20 -£30 cheaper than a commercial cage of the same size.
C&C cages only suffer few downfalls, the size of the holes in the grids are easily for baby Guinea’s to slip through, or at least get their heads stuck through. And extra measure needs to be taken to ensure they stay together and are potential predator proof. (Meaning Cats, Dogs and over interested children). I have found that the connecters used to keep the panels together often pop off, so would always advise putting a few cable ties in between panels also to strengthen the structure.
The hybrid cage is what people are in increasingly referring to when they are, unsurprisingly finding a way to improve the cage they have without completely disregarding it.
I’m quite the fan of the hybrid cage, mainly as they can demonstrate a little bit of creative problem solving. Also because I don’t like the thought of spending g money on something if I don’t have to!
The most commonly seen hybrid is extending small pet store cages by adding a small C&C or fold out run to them. Usually done by lifting one side of the cage, or dropping the side door down to be used as a ramp. Alternatively people may choose to attach two commercial caves end to end.
Not a lot more can be said about the hybrid cage, other than its the perfect option for making the most of what you have!
The DIY cage is a much rarer thing. I suppose, in a day an age where we can get every thing quickly and cheap. People are not so keen on labouring away on a thing they can just buy.
In mainland Europe, especially Germany and the Scandinavian countries (where is is illegal for Guineapigs to be sold to live alone, and indeed be kept alone) the home built cage is at large and by far some of the best Guinea pig cages can be found cropping up on German forums and websites.
Most of these DIY cages take form in large run areas, or a more traditionally sized box with 3 solid wooden sides and perspex/plexiglass frontage to clearly see the Guinea pigs. The idea and trend to to make their living space as natural as can be and rarely are colourful plastics involved in any way!
The second form of DIY cage most seen is the “furniture hack” or “IKEA hack” the description says it all. Using furniture to hack together a home. Whilst many are brilliant they tend to gave been produced by conjoining two or more of the same item of furniture together.
Unfortunately many furniture hacks do not provide the Guinea pigs with the open floor space they need and have a few steep levels which some Guinea’s may not be fond of. It would appear that aesthetics rather than functionality are behind many of these designs.
So to list their pros and cons for ease
- Easy to source
- Cheep to buy online
- Quick to assemble
- Base is easy to clean
- Smaller than stated
- Difficult to get into/poor access
- Need to take apart whole cage to properly clean them.
- Noisy to open and close (scaring the guinea pigs)
- Larger sizes are rarely stocked
- Sides are often too high for Guinea Pigs to see out of.
- Difficult to securely attach a water bottle
- Once enrichment is added, the Guinea pigs have limited floor space
- Good lighting
- Getting size for your money
- Will fit into most spaces with some creativity
- Easy to access
- Space for lots of enrichment and still room for happy guinea pigs.
- Can be flimy is not re-enforced
- Holes are big enough for babies to get through
- Need additional grids to make them dog/cat proof
- Hard to source the materials individually
- Make full use of cages you may already have
- Cheep way of enlarging a cage
- Relatively versatile
- Can be tricky to fit into tight places
- Can be tricky to extend upwards
- Extra care needs to be taken to make sure all the parts are well connected and secure
- Extra predator proofing may be beneficiary
- Can be any size
- Any shape
- Can be made from most materials
- 100% customizable so can fit with house decor and not stand out
- Labor intensive
- Can be expensive to make
- Furniture hacks not always suitable
And there we have it. A nearly 2000 word break down of indoor housing options for Guineas.
As always I hope this educational for any readers, and if any one who see’s this who was considering getting Guinea Pigs. Or purchasing some indoor accommodation for ones they already have, I hope this has shed a little light and given some ideas.