Preparing Your Home for a Guinea Pig
Preparing for a Guinea Pig in your Home
So you've adopted a guinea pig (or two or three!), or you're thinking about adopting guinea pigs! If you haven't already, now's the time to figure out how to prepare your home so it's safe and comfortable for your guinea pigs. As you read on, you will learn the steps you should take in preparing your home or apartment for the arrival of a little bundle of squishy guinea pig joy.
Where oh Where Will My Guinea Pig Live?
Finding a cozy place for your new furry friend to call home.
If you've ever gone apartment hunting or house hunting before, you know that it can be tough to find one that feels "just right". You want somewhere that you feel safe, protected, comfortable, a place that you can call home; you don't want to be sweltering hot but you don't want to feel drafty either. Think about the qualities that you look for in a home, and apply that to your guinea pig! Just as you wouldn't want to be stuck in a small room with no windows, your guinea pig probably isn't going to enjoy living in a closet either!
Picking a good spot to house your guinea pig may take a bit more time than you anticipate. Guinea pigs have very sensitive hearing, and you'll know really quickly what sounds your guinea pig does or doesn't like when they start "grumbling" at you if you have your music or television on too loudly.
On the other hand, if they're in complete isolation away from you or any other friends or family members that may be around, they are likely to get lonely, and even depressed, believe it or not! Unhappy guinea pigs will be sedentary and tend to gain weight, and won't be as approachable as a happy, well-socialized piggie.
So it's important to find a location in your home that has a balance between peaceful quiet time, and being able to be around you - the person in your piggie's life that they're going to feel happy and comforted to see. With guinea pigs, it really is all about balance, so the following are some tips for where to prepare a comfy, balanced space for your guinea pig's home.
Guinea Pigs and High Frequency Sounds / Loud Noise
How much commotion can your piglet handle?
A place like your entryway or the middle of your living room might not work too well if you often have company over, depending on your guinea pig's personality. I have one guinea pig who adores attention and is often out of his hut, munching on hay and charming guests. The other tends to scuttle away when someone draws near, only to be coaxed out gently by a yummy carrot or pepper. So he stays a bit further out of the middle of things, whereas the other is closer to our couch and our television. Some guinea pigs tolerate noise and people better than others, but if you haven't gotten a chance to meet and get to know your guinea pig yet, it's best to have a backup plan for a more quiet and peaceful spot, in case he or she seems really stressed when placed in a more active spot.
It's good to keep your eye out for a few alternatives for where your guinea pig's cage will go.
Guinea Pigs and Room Temperature
What Goldilocks can teach us about guinea pig climate tolerance
Remember how Goldilocks felt, going throughout the three bears' house, continually testing but only finding the best option when she found a balance between two extremes? Guinea pigs are the same way.
Guinea pigs aren't as sensitive to cold temperatures like hamsters are, but their little bodies are still very sensitive, particularly to heat. If you know your house doesn't have air conditioning and the Summer days get very hot, it will be important to have a place reserved in your basement or a cooler room to keep your cavy comfy during that time. Equally importantly, when it's chillier outside, make sure that your guinea pig is away from doorways or otherwise heavy drafts. You'll know if you walk in the room and your piggie is all "puffed up" and looking angry and cold. Guinea pigs feel best at a comfortable indoor temperature of about 68 degrees. Sudden changes in temperature can make them very uncomfortable, or even sick! So be sure to keep the heat on a comfortable setting even if you know you will be gone all day so you don't come home to pigsicles.
How Big Should Your Guinea Pig Cage Be?
Cramped quarters can make for a miserable guinea pig
Just as you wouldn't want to be confined to a closet-sized living area day in and day out, guinea pigs need some space to play, to explore, to run laps around their cage or 'popcorn' when they get excited. (popcorning happens when guinea pigs get riled up and 'pop' all four feet off the floor at once! Some popcorn a lot more than others, but it's very cute and funny to see!)
The typical 'guinea pig size' cages at pet stores are not nearly competent for a happy guinea pig habitat. You may need to have one temporarily until you can get the materials or space for a larger one, but this is not an ideal situation. When I first got my guinea pigs, they spent several months of their lives in the smaller cages until I graduated college and was out on my own. I still feel bad to this day that they were holed up in small cages for so long, but hopefully they have put those days behind them and are enjoying their bigger digs now!
There are some great, inexpensive resources for building your own cage at a website called CavyCages.com. All you need are some stackable shelving kits, a sheet of coroplast (plastic sign making material. you can get this from sign shops or order online), and you've got the materials to build any of several different configurations of cages! Full information on size requirements and materials is available on that website. I highly recommend it!
There's also a message board for any specific questions you have, or if you just want to tell everyone how cute your piggie is : )
Of course, the bigger cage you build, the more room you will need to make sure you have cleared in your home to accommodate it. You don't always have to put a cage on your floor. You might find an old table you can place one on to enable some room underneath for storing your pet supplies!
Where Should Your Guinea Pig Sleep?
what will happen at bedtime?
A bedroom or home office can often be a good place for a guinea pig in an apartment setting, but something to keep in mind if you decide to keep your guinea pig in your room is the guinea pig sleeping cycle.
Guinea pigs aren't nocturnal like hamsters, but they don't sleep completely through the night and wake in the morning like people either. Their sleep cycle is known as diurnal, which is how we as humans live our lives, with our active time during the day. Guinea pigs, however, don't need as much sleep, and are frequently on an "on an hour, off an hour" schedule throughout the day where they're very active, then napping, then running around, then resting, etc. Typically they only need about 4-6 hours of sleep in an evening, so you may want to keep this in mind when housing them in your room.
If you're a light sleeper and feel that hearing the 'ting ting ting' of the water bottle or some shuffling and munching of hay, or perhaps the intermittent loud squeak will disrupt your sleep, it may be best to find another place to put them. I actually tend to take comfort in those noises now, so even though they're not in my room and I can hear them from the living room when I sleep, it makes me smile.
Back in my family's house when I had one of my guinea pigs in my room, he would wake up and run laps at 5 AM every morning, quietly squeaking and making all kinds of shuffling noise, so that was an example when it didn't work out too well!
Choosing Guinea Pig Chew Toys Wisely
While guinea pigs often won't chew on things as much as rabbits or hamsters will, you can NEVER bee too careful. Guinea pigs have teeth that continually grow like our fingernails do, and they're constantly feeling the urge to file them down on things, whether they're grating their teeth together or gnawing on their food bowl/cage bars, etc.
The corner of a door frame or a table leg can look mighty tasty sometimes! Thankfully, unless there is lead based paint coating these surfaces, generally your piggie will be okay if he or she accidentally takes a little bite out of your woodwork. However, you must watch out for things like power cords!
Prepping your living space for a guinea pig isn't a far cry from "baby-proofing". Believe me, if there's a little hole or opportunity to get out of their contained area, they'll find it! Be sure that you're ready to supervise them at all times if they're having floor time, and cover/remove any hazards like electrical cords, small choking hazards like nails, screws or beads, dangerous people food like chocolate or alcohol, or any other choking temptations like string from clothing.
For a treat and distraction, you could provide a mineral block, guinea pig safe wood block or other hard object that's safe for your guinea pig to chew.
Are you ready?
Hopefully now that you've read through these tips, you'll find a cozy home for your guinea pig! Please feel free to continue to read about guinea pig care in the other lenses in this series featured in the list below. Thanks for reading!
Other Lenses in the Guinea Pig Care 101 Series
Read the other lenses in this series and you'll be on your way to becoming a cavy expert!
- Guinea Pig Care 101 - Part 1: Are you Ready to Adopt a Guinea Pig?
This introductory lens will help you figure out if you're ready to think about adopting a guinea pig into your home and heart.
- Guinea Pig Care 101 - Part 3: Company or a Crowd? When to Have More Than One Piggie
In this lens, you will learn about your options when adopting a guinea pig in terms of deciding whether to adopt more than one.
- Guinea Pig Care 101 - Part 4: What Guinea Pigs Can and Cannot Eat
This lens is all about the dietary dos and don'ts of guinea pig care! If you're thinking of adopting a guinea pig and want to know what to stock up on to prepare, or if you already have a piggie or two and are wondering if you should feed them someth
- Guinea Pig Care 101 - Part 5: To Adopt or Buy - Where to Find your new Guinea Pig Friend
This lens is all about the adoption process for bringing a new guinea pig into your home, and where you should look to find your furry friend. If you're thinking about bringing a guinea pig into your life and you're not sure where to start, this lens
- Guinea Pig Care 101 - Part 6: Finding a Good Guinea Pig Vet
This lens is about finding a veterinarian that will best suit your needs as a guinea pig parent.
Great Guinea Pig Supplies on eBay! - Why pay full price when you can bid?
eBay is such a life saver sometimes, especially if you have a bunch of guinea pigs that you need to buy in bulk for, or if you're looking for a specialty item that you just can't seem to find locally. Take a peek and see if any of these items suit your fancy!
Cavies on Amazon.com
You never know what gifts you might find for you or a guinea pig enthusiast loved one.
Have you found this resource useful? Is there something that you think is incorrect or something you're still not sure of? Please let me know! Use the form below to ask any questions or leave feedback as you see fit. Thanks so much!