It is common for new guinea pig owners to be completely unaware of playtime (both indoor and outdoor.) Its common knowledge that guinea pigs need holding, feeding and their cage or hutch cleaning, but very little information is given out about hosting indoor or outdoor playtime (also known as floor time.)
Whether your guinea pig lives inside or outside, play time is still essential to having happy, healthy little piggies! We recommend indoor playtime whether your guinea pig lives inside or out.
Why guinea pigs need indoor playtime
Wild cavies are constantly active and their domestic relatives, guinea pigs are no different. Guinea pigs need daily interactions, social time as well as plenty of exercise.
Don’t forget how curious guinea pigs are! They just love exploring and giving them an extra space to run, popcorn and explore will help keep them healthy along with preventing obesity.
Guinea pigs that don’t have access to a large open space to run in often become bored, depressed, hold extra weight and interact less with their owners.
Hosting playtime also lets you spend extra time with your guinea pigs and watch how they move and play. In time your guinea pig will interact with you. Ours run through our legs, lean against our backs and generally come over to investigate what we are doing!
The best places for indoor play
A clear, dedicated area is required for indoor playtime. The area needs to be away from other pets and is safe for your guinea pig to run around. Some people have a whole room dedicated to their guinea pigs and so the guinea pigs are able to run free after the room has been safeguarded.
If you don’t have a whole room to spare then you can make a playpen from cardboard boxes, use a large easily manipulated cage or if your stuck for space, buy a pop up one. Ensure whichever form of playpen you choose that your guinea pigs are in a draft-free area and they are protected from loud noises.
How to set up for guinea pig play.
The floor should either be one that’s easy to clean or be covered with a waterproof fleece or piece of material. Guinea pigs have very small bladders so do expect multiple droppings and little accidents.
Guinea pigs shouldn’t be placed on any hard surface that could damage their feet or legs. They are delicate creatures with tiny bones. If you are not using fleece then a thick old towel with a soft blanket over the top is fine. Choose any blanket or fleece that is easy to place in the washing machine but remember not to tumble dry since this makes fleeces ineffective.
If you are creating a closed playpen then you can use cardboard boxes. Ensuring they can’t be moved easily by your piggies or you can buy a specially designed pet playpen. They are easy to clean especially if you buy one with a waterproof blanket for the floor. The bars can be easily wiped clean as and when needed.
Don’t forget to put things inside the playpen for your little guinea pigs to play with and explore. Our favorites are tunnels, hideouts and PVC tunnels which can be chewed on. We always put some cardboard boxes to be chewed through along with some upturned old ice cream tubs to be used as “poop trays.”
How to start indoor playtime
If your guinea pig is a new arrival or has never had indoor playtime then its important to remember to be patient. Ensure the playpen is out of household foot traffic and isn’t in a noisy area of your house. To start, ensure you have set up the playpen and have it all ready for their arrival.
Next carefully hold your guinea pig and place it inside the playpen. It’s likely it will run for the nearest cover, so make sure the playpen is all set up before you start.
Don’t take their running personally. Guinea pigs are prey animals so it’s their nature to run and hide in their favourite hideout. We always like to sit with our guinea pigs during floor time.
For the first few times sit in the playpen and talk calmly, trying not to make any sudden movements. It’s best to start getting them used to floor time by letting them spend a smaller amount of time in the beginning and watching how they behave. Refrain from touching them or picking them up during this time.
This is their special time to run, play and explore. Gradually increase the time they spend having playtime and eventually you will have your guinea pigs confident enough to investigate everything in it – even you!
How long should floor time be?
This is a question we get asked a lot and many sites give many different answers. It is recommended between one to four hours a day. If your guinea pig lives outside and has a large run then it is likely to need less than four hours. If your guinea pig lives inside, then it depends upon how large their cage is.
Many pet shops sell cages that are far too small for guinea pigs to live in once they get past six months old.
We have found that whilst it depends on the personality of your guinea pig, it is useful to host indoor playtime in a place that your guinea pigs can access their cage safely. This way they are able to dictate when they have had enough. Our guinea pigs generally have around two hours of indoor play.
This is broken up into two one hour sessions. It varies on what we are doing that day, or how our little piggies are feeling. As a general rule, they should be having at least one hour floor time. A good rule of thumb is the smaller your guinea pigs cage, the longer their floor time should be.
Ideally, indoor floor time should take place at the same time each day and should take place daily. Obviously life is unpredictable so missing the odd indoor floor time isn’t the worst thing. Just make sure they are getting out at least once every other day.
Mostly importantly is to have fun!
Guinea pig playtime isn’t just for guinea pigs! Make sure you get involved too as this is another excellent way to bond with your guinea pigs! What mischief do your guinea pigs get up to at playtime? Comment below as we would love to hear!