Posted: April 15, 2014, 7 p.m. EDT
1. Another guinea pig (same sex)
If you only have one guinea pig, your first priority should be getting a non-breeding friend (same sex, or spayed or neutered). You’ll see new behavior and a higher level of activity with two or more guinea pigs, and your guinea pigs will be healthier.
2. A bigger cage
Guinea pigs love to run around, chase each other and play little games. If your cage is not big enough, then a larger cage should be a top priority. Even if your guinea pig gets floor time for exercise and play, it needs room to live and run around on its own schedule.
3. Floor time
Even if you have a big cage, and especially if you don’t, daily exercise is important to the health and happiness of your guinea pig. Floor time is more than lap time. Provide a safe environment large enough for your guinea pig to run around and explore.
Safe means protecting areas that your guinea may get stuck in, such as behind refrigerators, inside chairs or sofas, behind immovable shelving, in walls, etc. It also means making sure electrical and phone wires are inaccessible, not just unplugged.
© Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio
Guinea pigs are herd animals that prefer to live in pairs or groups.
Guinea pigs need to feel safe. They like to sleep and eat and generally hang out in a darker, more protected area. Every guinea pig should have at least one wooden structure in its cage, either a wooden hidey-house or a wooden tunnel. Cavies use these for chewing much more often than most chew toys.
The number of hidey-houses should equal the number of cavies plus one. For example, three pigs should have four hidey-houses. That allows for a neutral place and more peace in the group.
5. Fresh hay
If you just keep your hay in a hay manger or hay rack, try putting a big clump of hay in the cage, especially if it is fresh, green, great-smelling hay. Nothing perks up a piggy more than a lot of fresh hay to run and play through and munch. It never fails to get them excited. Make sure it is high-quality, soft hay — straw-like hay can cause eye injuries. Remove any soiled hay daily and replace with fresh. Soiled hay can stay damp and cause health problems.
Safety first! Some toys can come apart and leave dangerous small pieces in the cage. Be creative, but think safety first. Some pigs love one type of toy; others ignore it. Some guinea pigs get bored or frustrated after a while. It’s good to experiment and give them variety.
Simple things like a paper bag, a wadded up piece of paper, a cardboard box (perhaps with holes cut in the sides), a towel tent, some shredded newspaper or a tennis ball make good toys for guinea pigs.
Change the toys, houses and locations of toys and houses frequently. Keep toys, and especially houses and food dishes if possible, away from the walls and corners of the cage. Always make sure the perimeter of the cage is free and clear for maximum run and exercise space. Cage accessories and houses should be arranged in the middle of the cage with adequate room to run around the items.
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