Indoor play time for your Guinea pig

It is common for new guinea pig owners to be completely unaware of  play time (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 play time (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 play time

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. Unless your cage or hutch is enormous then its likely your guinea pig will benefit from some playtime in an environment they are safe to explore.

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. Due to guinea pigs curious nature, its common for them to become bored stuck in a cage or hutch all day. Allowing them to have a large, safe place to explore can relieve that boredom. 

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 play time. 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 buy a dedicated playpen for guinea pigs. Ensure whichever form of play pen you choose that your guinea pigs are in a draft free area and they are protected from loud noises. 

How to set up your playpen 

The floor should either 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.”

Swap the toys you put in the playpen the same way you do with their cages and hutches to ensure they don’t get bored with the same toys. 

How to start indoor play time 

If your guinea pig is a new arrival or has never had indoor play time then its important to remember to be patience. 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. Its likely it will run for the nearest cover, make sure the playpen is all set up before you start. Don’t take their running personally. Guinea pigs are prey animals so its their nature to run and hide in their favorite 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. Its 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 play time 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 is depend 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 play time 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 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. 

Guinea pig lap time: The ultimate way to bond with your piggie

A natural part of having pets is wanting to bond and have special “together time” along with companionship. All pets enjoy this human interaction and guinea pigs are no exception! We’ve found that a great number of pet shops undersell the amount of attention and companionship that guinea pigs need. Lap time (or cuddle time!) should form part of your daily routine and is important for both you and your guinea pig friends.

The importance of lap time

happy-guinea-pig

Bonding with your guinea pig is an important part of learning to care for them properly. From the moment you bring your guinea pig home, the bonding process begins and it is great for you as well as your guinea pig. The more time you spend with your guinea pigs, the more used to you they become. They may still run for cover when you go into the room or near the hutch since that’s part of their “run from predators” nature however they will be eating out of your hand (literally) the more time you spend with them.

A guinea pig that is handled frequently will be more tame, calm and relaxed in their day to day life. They will feel comfortable in their environment and will love exploring when it comes to indoor play! Guinea pigs are social and love the attention from humans as well as their own kind. The more you talk to them and the more that they have time on your lap the happier and more comfortable with you they will become.

We often get comments on how confident happy and calm our guinea pigs are and this didn’t happen through chance. The more time and love you put into caring for your guinea pigs, the more love you will get back.

Lap time is an important part of bonding as it gives you one on one time with them to just enjoy being with each other.  I often find myself just chatting away to our little piggies as they listen, Chocolate in particular will just lie down and listen to me whilst Orange climbs right up to my face!

Without lap time your guinea pig will stay scared of being picked up or held and will always run for cover when approached. They won’t respond to your voice and will always hide whenever you are near.

How to introduce lap time

If you have a new guinea pig, then you should start with our how to hold your guinea pig for the first time article. If you’ve had your guinea pigs a while and have tried and given up on lap time then its useful to refresh yourself on how to hold them. Its always best to start slowly when introducing lap time to guinea pigs, so don’t expect them to sit for hours and be happy with it.

We recommend always keeping a towel, thick blanket or a training pad used for puppies since guinea pigs have very small bladders and are known for leaking on their owners. The last thing you want during lap time is to be uncomfortable or wet as your guinea pig will feel like something is wrong and may become afraid. Ensure you have somewhere not too far away from their cage or hutch so you are not walking up and down stairs the first few times you get your guinea pigs used to lap time.

Set the area up before you bring your guinea pigs out, having their favorite tasty treat is also great to have as this will help your guinea pigs associate lap time with treats. We usually start with a maximum of five minutes for the first few attempts at lap time. Refrain from brushing your guinea pig during their first few outings and just stroke them gently, talking softly whilst they are munching!

If they start squeaking or trying to run for cover, calmly place them back inside their home. Try not to feel down heartened as it can take several weeks or months for some guinea pigs to get used to lap time.

Duration and frequency of lap time

happy-guinea-pig

This is a question that we get asked quite frequently and the answer isn’t as straight forward as we’d like! The duration of your lap time should be based around your guinea pigs reactions to it along with their personality. Some guinea pigs are happy to sit on their owners knees for a good hour before wishing to head home whilst others never really take to it and are fairly relieved to go back after ten minutes.

The best indication is to take the lead from your guinea pig, if they become nibbly, biting at your clothes, trying to dig, wriggle or make a high pitch squeak then its fair to say its time to put them back inside! We would say a good duration of lap time would be between ten minutes to one hour, but do let your guinea pig decide. One day they may be happy to sit whilst other days they desperately want to go back inside their hidey hole.

Can I watch TV with my guinea pigs?

Another question we get asked a lot! Guinea pigs love sound due to their poor eyesight so there is no harm in your guinea pig watching TV with you as long as the program isn’t excessively noisy and contains sounds such as gun shots, loud music or drums. Obviously don’t sit too close to the TV and ensure your attention isn’t solely focused on your favorite show.

We would advise that young children do not hold guinea pigs whilst watching TV as they tend to become too distracted and may forget they are also caring for a guinea pig. With regards to frequency, We would advise that between once and twice a day is perfect for your guinea pig especially since they will also be enjoying indoor play time, again take the lead from your guinea pig.

Do guinea pigs enjoy lap time?

All guinea pigs are different and some guinea pigs love lap time, others will get used to it with time whilst a few hate it always and forever! There are several ways to make lap time more enjoyable for your guinea pig, ensuring you are calm and relaxed helps them learn there is nothing to fear, along with using the same blanket or fleece each time you hold them.

They will associate it with lap time. Feeding them vegetables can also help to settle an anxious piggie. Remember some piggies are more active during lap time then others as well!

What to do if your guinea pig doesn’t like lap time

Firstly its important to remember guinea pigs are not toys and so not all like to be cuddled! Patience is key along with using the tips above. Never force lap time. Starting slowly with just a two minute lap time and building up can work wonders as can combining lap time and indoor play.

This way you can let them run over your legs without you touching them. They will learn that your not so scary and you can slowly introduce stroking them. Do not force them into lap time though, if it causes them distress to have lap time, increase indoor play and spend your time sitting next to their cage and talking to them instead.

A complete guide to grooming guinea pigs

Once your guinea pig has settled in and is used to being handled, its a great time to introduce grooming into part of their daily routine. Guinea pigs are very clean animals and can often be seen licking themselves and even nibbling on patches of their fur. Guinea pigs are very good at spotting when dirt and grime appear on their fur and make every attempt to clean it off, if you have close cage mates you may even see them helping each other out on those hard to reach areas!

Guinea pigs (like cats) have a natural instinct to clean themselves and keep their fur tidy and free of debris. Have you ever seen your guinea pig clean its face? its definitely one of the cutest things they do! If you watch them regularly, you will notice before the face cleaning begins that a white milky substance builds up in the eyes first. Guinea pigs then take this liquid from their eyes and wash their face with it! Whilst guinea pigs are great at cleaning themselves, grooming should still form part of your daily routine since it gives you time to bond, check for signs of ill health and helps ensure their fur remains clean and mat free.

Brushing

The first and often easiest step for grooming is brushing. How often you groom your piggie is determined by their breed and how comfortable your guinea pig is with being handled. An anxious guinea should still be groomed it will just take a little longer to get them used to the process. In our experience most guinea pigs love to be brushed once you’ve pushed through the early grumpiness your guinea pig will have with you the first few times.

Whatever frequency you decide upon its important to ensure you brush them regularly and using specially designed brushes . The shorter haired breeds of guinea pig do not require as much brushing as the long haired breeds. Typically guinea pigs need to be brushed only once or twice a week for the short haired breeds whilst long haired piggies should be brushed daily. Remember that guinea pigs are seasonal hair shredders so they will need more brushing during their shedding phase.

To brush a guinea pig, use a small soft brush designed for guinea pigs and brush in the direction that your guinea pigs fur is growing in. The first few times you brush your guinea pig, they may freeze or wriggle, simply stop and give them a fuss. Once they’ve settled down, you can start to brush them again. Ensure you don’t put any pressure when you brush your guinea pigs fur and allow the brush to run from head (between the ears) right down to the bottom. Most guinea pigs don’t like having their bottoms touched so expect a slight jolt to show you they don’t like it! Regular brushing helps to keep your guinea pig’s coat in good condition and tangle free. Longer haired guinea pigs may require a small silver wide tooth comb to ensure all the tangles can be removed.

How to deal with tangles and matted fur

Short haired guinea pigs rarely have matted fur or tangles so this only really applies to long haired breeds. It can be rather frustrating to find a matted piece of fur or tangle that wont come out with the usual gentle brushing. Really want to remove it so it doesn’t make your guinea pig poorly but you also don’t want to cause any pain to your piggie. The best approach is to try your best to brush it out using a little gentle pressure but not hurting or causing the guinea pig distress.

If this doesn’t remove the matted fur or tangle, then take some special guinea pig scissors and gentle cut the mat or tangle out. If the matted fur is too close to the guinea pigs skin, then try to smooth it out as best you can with your fingers and do this daily. Eventually the piece of fur will be long enough to remove with scissors.

The best way to prevent tangles is to detangle your guinea pig daily. Matted fur can also be deterred this way but it wont prevent them completely since its common due to long haired piggies fur to drag along the ground and pick up debris and urine.

Giving your guinea pig a fur cut

If your guinea pig is suffering with multiple tangles or frequently mattered fur then it might be a good idea to give them a fur cut. This will stop long hair from touching the floor and picking up debris and urine. In order to trim a guinea pigs fur take the hair and place it between your two fingers.

This protects the guinea pig from being hurt accidentally with the scissors. You should also use ball scissors which are rounded at the tip opposed to pointed. This stops your guinea pig from getting injured when they are wriggling around.

The best place to start trimming your guinea pigs fur is the bum as this is the most difficult. If your guinea pig has thick hair then it may be useful to use some soft grip hair clips to move the top layer out the way so its easier to access the fur underneath. Then you can release the top layer and trim that also. If your guinea pig is wriggling or squirming then offer them a tasty treat as a distraction.

Remember if your trimming your boar (male) guinea pig then be careful of their genital area as any nicks or cuts here would be extremely painful.

Giving your guinea pig a bath

Guinea pigs rarely need baths unless they become stinky from poor cage hygiene, or if it has mites (check with your vet on how to care for your piggie) Guinea pigs are naturally very good swimmers however the average domestic guinea pig wont be a fan of bath time!

Preparation is key to the successful bathing of your guinea pig so ensure you have several thick towels, special shampoo and scissors handy (cutting guinea pig hair is easier when its wet.) Place one of the towels in the bottom of your guinea pig bath tub and fill the container with lukewarm water. Place the guinea pigs bottom half into the water first and set them down on the towel.

Carefully pour water over the guinea pig avoiding its head from getting wet. Add a small amount of shampoo and then rinse off thoroughly.

After the bath, carefully remove your guinea pig from the water and dry off with a thick towel. Ensure you guinea pig is thoroughly dry before placing back into a clean cage. 

What to do with a smelly guinea pig that hates bath time

If your guinea pig really hates bath time but is a big smelly then simply use a water less shampoo like this one that we use. It has a leave in formula that cares for the piggies coat whilst also nourishes the skin. Its the perfect item for piggies who don’t like getting wet. You can also spot clean your guinea pig opposed to giving them a full bath, just use a warm wet washcloth or sponge to remove the grease or grime. Ensure the shampoo is thoroughly rinsed out afterwards. 

How to choose your new guinea pig

Its a very exciting time when you head out to choose your new guinea pig – even if it isn’t your first! There is a lot of conflicting information out there so we have produced this guide to help you get the best out of your new best friends. There are a few things to look out for to ensure you choose healthy, happy piggies:

Physical attributes

Whether you are getting your guinea pig from a pet store, family friend or rescue centre its important to give them a quick check over to ensure they are healthy and well cared for. The guinea pig should be slim, slender and lean. It shouldn’t be too thin or fat. Ensure it is walking well and able to place its weight equally on all of its paws. Check when the guinea pig walks that it also uses all four of its paws and isn’t sluggish whilst moving about as guinea pigs are sprightly and often zoom about the place.  This ensures you aren’t buying a piggie with leg damage or broken bones. The guinea pig’s overall body condition should be free from lumps, bumps or swellings.

Its coat should look shiny and silky – No mattered fur or bare patches.  It should look well groomed and clean with no red patches on its skin. Whilst it may seem rather undignified, check around the guinea pigs rear ensuring there is no mattered fur, soling or red skin as this may be a sign of tummy issues such as diarrhea or poor hygiene of the pet store. Have a good look at the guinea pigs legs and feet, they shouldn’t be swollen or bleeding. The leg bone should be straight.

Have a good look at the guinea pigs face, its eyes should be shiny and bright with no discharge or crusting. The eyes should be open and alert. Check over the guinea pigs nose as it shouldn’t have any discharge or soreness around it. Both the ears and eyes should be clean and dry.

A difficult one to check but well worth it is the length of the guinea pigs teeth. They should be well aligned and not long or protruding. The mouth area should be dry with no dribbling and scratch free. It’s great if you get the chance to feed the guinea pig a treat before you buy, then you can see how it eats and get a better look at its teeth.

Lastly listen to the guinea pigs breathing, it should be quiet and regular. Watch out for wheezing, panting or laboured breathing as these are signs of serious health conditions.

Male or Female

Whether you choose a male (boar) or female (sow) guinea pig, if they are going to share a cage then they need to be the same gender otherwise they will breed and wont stop, even when it is unhealthy or dangerous for them to do so! Whilst it is possible to neuter both male and female pets with the price costing around 50 it is generally considered the best option to keep them in same sex groupings to save them undertaking any necessary operations. The choice of male or female mainly comes down to personal preference although there are some slight difference between the two genders:

Boars (Males) – Male guinea pigs are best housed together if they have been previously housed together otherwise they are prone to fighting with each other until they either are unable to be housed together or have established hierarchy. Boars are known to occasionally scent mark their territory including their owners. Whilst the gesture is appreciated, unfortunately the smell turns into a strong fishy odour that requires regular cleaning of the cage (more so than usual) However once this scent has been removed, it can reintroduce the hierarchy battle since you’ve remove the scent and they are trying to establish who the boss is again. Once the boars have created a well established bond then this is less likely to happen. The way boars mark their territory is by dragging their little bottoms along their cage, whilst this is perfectly natural and healthy it does mean they have a tendency to collect a lot of other things in it such as poo, hay and fur. These items mainly stick to the boars bottoms however they also can get lodged inside the anus. Boars also tend to suffer with a serious foam of constipation called impaction when they get older if they aren’t clean regular. Whilst this task isn’t the most pleasant, it can easily be part of your grooming routine and takes just a few minutes. Boars also have what is known as boar glue (ejaculation) that is a hard and sticky subsistence. It commonly gets on the cage and even on their own fur which must be cleaned (usually cut off fur) regularly as it has an unpleasant odour to it. Boars are also described as cheeky and much more energetic than sows making them very entertaining! The boys also appear to love lap time much more than girls and I’ve know a few to fall asleep on friends laps whilst getting patted.

Females (sows) – Females live together happily and seem to have no issue with being introduced to each other even if living together for the first time. Sows are even more likely to continue to get along well into adulthood as well. Sows generally smell a little better than boars since they don’t feel the need to continuously mark their territory the way boars do but they still need cleaning out regularly. Sows will still have hierarchy battles but they tend to be less severe and cool off quicker than boars although sows are known to squirt urine at each other during times of battle and even at their owners!

Whether you choose boars or sows they will have their own personalities and be inquisitive, cuddly and a great friend to have.

Long or short hair

There are several different types of guinea pig breeds that fall under the categories long haired and short haired.  Short haired guinea pigs are easier to look after since they require minimal grooming (we groom our short haired piggie a few times a week) and they are less likely to require a bath unless they get exceptionally dirty. Long haired guinea pigs need more care with daily grooming and frequent baths. Our long haired guinea pigs usually has a bath once a month unless she gets very dirty but her fur needs combing daily. She also needs the fur around her rear checking to ensure no poo or urine has dirtied it.

Whether you choose short or long haired guinea pigs they both still need their nails clipping and to be checked over regularly to ensure they are healthy and happy.

Behaviour

Spend some time watching the guinea pigs before you buy them, watch how they move and explore. They should be bright, playful and never slow or sluggish. They will startle easily and run for cover which is a good sign as that’s part of their basic instincts. They should be alert and active, they should be able to move around comfortably with no signs of injury or lameness. Observe how the guinea pig reacts and interacts with other guinea pigs, watch for any signs of aggressive or acute fear. Watch how it responds to people, especially you. It should be skittish but relatively calm and settled. It should be somewhat used to being handled and petted. Keep a watch over its personality as whilst there share similar characteristics, they all have their own unique and wonderful personality. Is it playful, mischievous or shy?

The Living Conditions

This point is usually overlooked, but we’ve visited some pet shops where they have multiple guinea pigs all crammed in a too small space which results in aggression and injury. Identity if they have a water bowl or bottle as it will help prepare you for when you bring it home. Observe what hay they are using and which dried food they are eating. Even something as simple as buying the same hidey hole they are used to. Having this at home will bring them comfort when they are in unfamiliar surrounding for the first time.

Ask questions

The place you buy your guinea pig from should be able to provide you with how old the guinea pigs are (they shouldn’t be sold until they are over 6 weeks old), their favorite treats and their medical history.

An introduction to Guinea Pigs

The guinea pig (or domestic guinea pig) is a member  of the rodent family, specifically the Cavildae family (Cavia genus). They are also knows as cavy or domestic cavy. They actually originate from the Andes in South America despite their common name suggesting they are from Guinea in Africa.

Spanish sailors travelling from South America in the 16th century brought guinea pigs to Europe and they were really expensive to purchase. This meant that only the wealthy could afford them. Thankfully guinea pigs are much more affordable now and can be purchased from a wide range of pet stores across the UK, Europe and the US.

Guinea pigs have been rising in popularity over the last decade thanks to their friendly and gentle nature making them the perfect pet for all ages. In some parts of the world there are organisations dedicated to the specialised breeding of specific breeds with varying coat colours and textures.

Below is some useful information about Guinea Pigs. Click on the links or use the menu at the top of this site to learn more.

Guinea Pig Facts

  • A full grown guinea pig weighs between 700 – 1,200g (1.5 – 2.6 llbs) and is typically 20 – 25cm in length
  • Guinea pigs typically live between 4-8 years. The oldest guinea pig was 14 years and 10.5 months old! Life span can be affected by their living conditions and nutrition.
  • All breeds are usually a similar size and the temperament is more or less the same between breeds. There are ten types of domesticated guinea pig breeds.
  • Guinea pig litters range from one to six babies. The young of a guinea pig are referred to as pups.  Newborn pups are well developed in relation to hair, teeth and claws. They are born with partial eyesight and are immediately mobile. They also begin to eat solid food immediately whilst also continuing to suckle.

Behaviour and sounds

Guinea pigs are timid creatures and when scared they freeze or run for cover. They are poor climbers but are able to jump small obstacles. Their strongest problem solving strategy is motion.

Guinea pigs jump when they are happy which is referred to as “popcorning.”

Guinea pigs are very chatty! They talk to each other all the time and once settled into their new home with you, will start talking to you too. They make a variety of sounds (whistling and purring) You can learn more about that on our communication section.

Nutrition

A guinea pigs main food is hay. They can also eat endless amounts of grass. Guinea pigs are unable to make their own vitamin C like humans so its important to incorporate it into their diet or to buy a good quality guinea pig dry mix that contains vitamins.

Home Comforts

Wilda cavies have been identified in the 20th century and are thought to have been domestic and have been reintroduced to the wild. Studies have shown they live on grassland in groups of several females (sow) and one male (boar) Their young also form part of this group. They take shelter in the abandoned nests and burrows of other animals although do not actively make these homes themselves.

Domestically guinea pigs live in cages and in smaller groups usually consisting of two sows or boars. Their cages are lined with various types of bedding such as hay, shredded paper or corn on the cob type material’s.

Social

Guinea pigs are social creatures and it is recommended that you purchase more than one guinea pig when buying. Previously it was believed that guinea pigs and rabbits cohabited well together however now this opinion has become divided with research suggesting rabbits tend to bully the smaller guinea pigs. Evidence shows that some larger animals (such as dogs and cats) can be trained to tolerate guinea pigs with some showing genuine affection towards them.

Grooming and handling

The amount of time spent on grooming your guinea pig is determined by the type of breed it is. Long haired guinea pigs need to be groomed daily whilst shorter breeds can be groomed weekly.

Guinea pigs should be handled correctly from a young age. This results in happy adult guinea pigs who are happy to be handled and carried. They also seldom bite or scratch. Well handled guinea pigs will often whistle with joy on the owners approach!

Health Issues

Guinea pigs suffer from common aliments such as vitamin C deficiency (Scurvy), abscesses due to infections, respiratory problems and diarrhea.