A suitable environment for guinea pigs
Make sure your guinea pig has a suitable place to live
Things you should do
- Provide your guinea pigs with secure accommodation that is large enough for them all to exercise in and high enough for them to stand up fully on their back legs.
- You should provide both a large exercise area and a secure shelter where your guinea pigs can rest, feel safe and are protected from predators and extremes of weather and temperature. Ensure all areas of your guinea pigs' environment are well ventilated, dry and draught-free.
- Provide plenty of horizontal space with pipes and shelters to encourage your guinea pigs to exercise.
- Allow your guinea pigs to exercise regularly; ideally they should have free access to their exercise area.
- Protect your guinea pigs from draughts and extremes of heat and cold.
- If housed outdoors, the accommodation should be sheltered from direct sun and the prevailing wind direction. Ideally, when temperatures drop to below 15°C guinea pigs should be housed indoors. If not, they must be provided with sufficient bedding throughout the whole enclosure to enable them to keep warm.
- If housed indoors, the accommodation should be away from direct sources of heat such as radiators and sunny windows and protected from draughts. A room temperature of 17-20°C is ideal. If your home is centrally heated, some areas may get too hot so think carefully about where to locate your guinea pigs' accommodation.
- Place your guinea pigs' home in an area of your house or garden that is quiet and calm and away from dogs, cats, ferrets and other pets that they may see as a threat.
- Ensure the accommodation is safe from predators such as dogs, cats, foxes and birds of prey.
- Make sure your guinea pigs have constant access to safe hiding places, pipes and shelters, where they can go to be alone if they want to or hide if they feel afraid. There must be enough places to allow all your guinea pigs to hide at the same time.
- Provide enough bedding to keep your guinea pigs warm. Bedding should be safe for your guinea pigs to eat, e.g. dust-free hay. Products made from softwood, such as pine should not be used as these can make your guinea pigs ill.
- Provide untreated wooden toys to chew, such as fruit tree or willow sticks. Avoid toys made of plastic, as they may harm your guinea pigs if chewed and swallowed.
- Clean the guinea pigs' accommodation regularly, to ensure they have clean, dry bedding.
- If you are going away, try to find someone who will care for, and meet all your guinea pigs' welfare needs within their familiar home. If boarding your guinea pigs, try to ease the move by keeping grouped guinea pigs together and taking familiar items, such as toys and pipes, along too.
- When you transport your guinea pigs make sure they are comfortable and safe at all times. Putting familiar smelling items and their guinea pig companion(s) in the carrier and the new environment can help make your guinea pigs feel at ease.
- Ensure the size and temperature of any place you leave your guinea pigs (including your vehicle) is appropriate.
- Make sure that where your guinea pigs live is safe, secure and free from hazards.
- Guinea pigs come from the grasslands and lower slopes of the Andes Mountains in South America.
- Living in a draughty, damp, poorly ventilated or dirty environment can cause guinea pigs to suffer and become ill.
- Guinea pigs are active animals. They need the opportunity to run, stand fully upright on their back legs, and stretch out when lying down.
- Guinea pigs are sensitive to temperature changes. They must be kept out of extreme heat or cold. Temperatures above 26°C can cause heat stroke and below 15°C can cause them to become chilled.
- Guinea pigs are not very agile and are poor climbers.
- Guinea pigs are inquisitive. If there are hazards within their environment they may easily injure themselves.
- Guinea pigs must be able to avoid things that scare them. Guinea pigs are a prey species and must be able to hide in a secure place, such as a tunnel, away from the sight and smell of predators (e.g. foxes, cats, dogs, ferrets and birds of prey).
- Guinea pigs are creatures of habit and prefer a routine. They can easily become stressed if they are housed where there is a lot of noise and activity.
- Guinea pigs are intelligent. They like to gnaw, chew and explore by moving from one area to another through tunnels. If guinea pigs are bored, and do not have enough to do, they may suffer.