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.

Helping your guinea pigs settle in

There is no better feeling then when you’ve brought your new guinea pigs home for the first time! Whilst its really exciting for us humans it can be a really scary time for guinea pigs. Follow our helpful tips to ease their transition and help them settle in:

Putting them in their new home

Once you place your guinea pigs in their new home they will no doubt run for cover! Don’t take it personally though as guinea pigs are very timid and are used to predators. You should have already set their cage or hutch up with good quality hay, chosen their bedding and provided fresh water in a bowl or bottle. 

They should also have hay racks filled with fresh hay (or with grass which we fill ours with for our indoor guinea pigs) and have some food out. Its typical to think that your guinea pigs aren’t happy if they freeze or spend long periods of time hiding when they first arrive, this is normal guinea pig behaviour and it will take a few weeks or months for it to settle down. I remember when we brought our guinea pigs home and we didn’t think they had eaten or had any water for days since they just stayed in their hidey holes and didn’t come out.

They were actually being very clever piggies and sneaking out at night to eat, drink and have a good run about. Guinea pigs remain skittish for a while and even now our piggies run for cover when we first approach them as its their natural instinct. They pop their heads out the hidey hole and then start wheeking once they realise its only us! Whilst its normal for piggies to hide for the first few days or weeks do spend some time talking to them and checking that they are leaving pellets around just to ensure they are actually eating and drinking normally.

Let them be

Whilst its tempting to take your guinea pigs out of their cage to feed them, hold them or even give them a quick clean out – Don’t. These first few days are really important for allowing your guinea pigs to settle in and feel safe. Its tempting to rush this bit since all you want to do when you bring them home is hold and fuss them so its rather disappointing not being able to (especially if they are a pet for children.) Instead you can attempt to feed them treats through the bars of their cage / hutch and spend time with them talking.

I have some very fond memories of sitting on the wet grass talking to our last set of piggies whilst they were settling in. It’s acceptable to open the cage to replace and remove food but don’t be tempted to try and stroke them even if they are sticking their heads out of their safe haven. Any contact during the first few days is likely to set back the amount of time it takes them to get used to their new home and environment. I’m a bit of a neat freak so for our guinea pigs we purchased this guinea pig igloo so all the droppings are collected in the one place and then when they are out and about its much easier to clean.

Confidence and trust building

Whilst it seems like you don’t have too much interaction with your new guinea pigs in the first few days there is actually a lot you can do to build their little confidence so they feel safe and ready to venture out when your there. Talking to them is a really good way and especially effective when bringing them their meals. It helps them become familiar with the sound of your voice along with the sound of the food being prepared (if they are indoors when you are preparing it.) Make sure you are talking them in a quiet and gentle way so as not to frighten them. We always talk to ours during the settling in phase (as well as now!) and its a good idea to talk to them whilst offering a tasty treat like a carrot through the bars. Even if they don’t come out to accept the tasty treat they will get used to your voice and associate it and you with food. Food is a great confidence builder for guinea pigs! It wont be long until they “wheek” at you every time you open the fridge like ours do! Ours even “wheek” now when we come in from being outside as they expecting a treat.

It can be tempting to take away the guinea pigs hide away so as to “force” them to come out and play – NEVER DO THIS! It doesn’t help them feel more confident in fact it has the opposite effect and be very damaging.

The best to build trust with your piggie is through food! The way to a guinea pigs heart is definitely through its stomach! Start by feeding them through the bars and talking to them so they know you are there. Guinea pigs hate sudden movement since they cant see whats right in front of them thanks to having their eyes on either side of their head. It will take a lot of patience before they approach you to take some food but they may eventually eat out of your hand if you remain still. After this has been mastered you can attempt to move your hand slowly around their cage and eventually you can move their toys around (not any place that they are hiding in) just so they can get used to you. The last stage is gently stroking your piggy and hoping them don’t run away. This is a fairly long process and may take up to two weeks. Remember to always approach your guinea pigs from the side, never from above.

Lap  and play time

Once your guinea pig has settled in and is cautiously moving around their cage or hutch its time to approach lap time! You can read our full guide on it but we’ve broken the basics down here. Guinea pigs should have lap time / play every single day as its good for them to get out and about their cage, you get some quality time with them plus it helps bonding. Not to mention its great for sneaking a health check and grooming session in! Lap time is when your play, stroke, talk and spend some time with your guinea pig on your lap. Its a great idea to also feed them a little treat as well so that even the most timid / independent guinea pig will enjoy it. Play time is when your piggy can run free in a secure area that is easy for you to clean.  You can make a run using cardboard or buy one. There are lots of options to chose from such as this specially designed one or this one intended for puppies!  Play time involves putting toys in the playpen along with hidey holes and watching your little piggies run around and explore. If you have any other pets, make sure they are out of the room. The room used for play time should also be free of draughts. Its a lot of fun watching the piggies play and they often do the “popcorn” which is a special move guinea pig’s do when they are happy which involves running back and forth whilst jumping in the air.