Is it best to keep guinea pigs inside or outside?

This is a question we are often asked by those new to keeping guinea pigs. Keeping guinea pigs outside can make them vulnerable to predators whilst keeping guinea pigs inside can be tricky due to their sensitive hearing. We have learned through our experience that the best way to decide which one is right for your guinea pigs decides on a few factors:

Your home environment

Is your home a quiet, peaceful place or a busy hive of activity? Guinea pigs have very sensitive hearing so if you have a lot of noise in your house and no quiet room to keep them in, then its likely they will be happier outside in a large predator proof wooden hutch and run like this or this.

Guinea pigs don’t like sudden loud noises and can become startled easily. If you’re lucky enough to have a fairly peaceful house then your guinea pigs should be perfectly happy in a large cage inside. They still to be able to run about and explore so its worth investing in a suitable indoor cage.  Keep the cage away from electrical wires and cables as guinea pigs love to chew!

If you do keep your guinea pigs inside, don’t forget they are social creatures so they will love to be in a room that is quiet and also visited frequently. This is so they can get used to you and have some social interaction. Don’t ever put guinea pigs in a garage which is used as the car fumes can kill them.

Your outside environment

Our new home is located in the countryside and is frequently visited by foxes and other guinea pig predators so keeping our little piggys outside was an automatic no no. We gave them a try outside during the day the first summer we got them but they really didn’t seem to settle. You can tell if your guinea pig isn’t happy outside as they will stay inside their hidey holes and won’t really eat the grass. We tried our guinea pigs outside over two weeks and they seemed more startled and scared after they have been outside. If you have a private garden that is sealed off from your neighbors and away from the road then your guinea pigs can live outside safely.

An outside guinea pig eating grass

Ensure you buy the best quality and biggest hutch you can afford as guinea pigs need a lot of space so they can run around and explore. It needs to be rodent proof to stop not only them escaping but also other rodents such as rats from chewing their way into your little guinea pigs house. Ideally the guinea pigs sleeping areas should be away from direct contact with the ground. This avoids the guinea pigs getting cold and damp overnight. In our experience when the sleeping area is located on the ground it provides easier access for rats and other predators to gnaw their way into the hutch whilst the guinea pigs are sleeping. Another common issue we have found with outside cages and runs is that foxes are able to dig underneath some of the wire to the floor designs and get inside the hutch/run. When buying a new cage and run give it a quick check over and identify if there are any inside or outside sharp corners and work out how you will be able to cover them. This will ensure no one (piggy or you) gets hurt.

Their outside hutch and run needs to be placed over grass that doesn’t contain any of the plants that are harmful to them. Guinea pigs often eat harmful substances that can make them ill and die.  Similarly keep their hutch away from flowerbeds and herbicides/pesticides as these are poisonous also. Ideally chose a run or hutch that you can move easily so you can provide your guinea pigs with fresh grass several times a week – they make excellent lawn mowers!

Your memory


An odd point but a busy household can often forget about outside guinea pigs when your number one focus in the morning is getting the kids up and going out to work whilst also planning dinner and paying the bills. We’ve heard from friends of ours about people often forgetting about their dear little guinea pigs whilst rushing about with busy lives. If you think you are likely to forget about your little furry friends then bringing them inside to a quiet peaceful house may be the best solution to your guinea pigs problems. Once they are inside they get used to your routines and ours squeak very helpfully at meal times to give us a gentle nudge that they want some food.

Similarly if your family spend a large amount of time outdoors particularly over summer doing activities such as gardening or playing with the children then they guinea pigs are more likely to enjoy spending the majority of their time outside too. This way they will get the social interaction that they need from you whilst you’re also concentrating on your hobbies.

Where you bought them

A surprising factor but we have found it really does make the difference. Our latest piggies where purchased from Jolleys pet store and lived in a very calm and quiet cage with each other. Rather surprising for a pet store I know! The pet store was located fairly out the way of busy foot traffic and the staff were very knowledgeable and caring towards the piggies. This means that our guinea pigs are rather calm and wary of sounds. It’s the reason they just didn’t like being outside.

Your desire to be flexible

An interesting point is even if you do decide on having your guinea pigs outside, then its very plausible that you will be bringing them in when there are extreme fluctuations with the weather such as when it is very hot and very cold. You will either need an outside hutch that is fine for bringing in like this one or a separate cage to have inside when needed. I personally think having a separate dedicated indoor cage is really useful when you have to split them up due to fighting or if one is unwell.

If you have indoor piggies then a separate cage outside isn’t really needed. Whilst guinea pigs do need a lot of grass, you don’t have to have a dedicated outside run to accommodate this. We cut the law with scissors and bring the grass in for our piggies to eat!

Remember the temperature!

Whatever you chose remember that guinea pigs are very sensitive to hot and cold weather. They ideally like a temperatures of between 18 – 23 degrees Celsius. Any hotter than this and your guinea pig can get heatstroke but any colder and they may get a chill. Temperature control is much easier to do inside as there are already these controlling systems in place with central heating, heaters, fans and air conditioning. This doesn’t mean that guinea pigs aren’t happy outside, it just takes some extra work on your part to ensure they stay at a nice happy temperature.  Guinea pigs use blood flow to help to control their temperature. When they are cold, the blood flow to the skin is reduced to lock the heat in and when they are hot, this blood flow increases in an attempt to cool them down. Interestingly enough guinea pigs can not sweat as they don’t have any eccrine sweat glands on their body!

Remember even if you decide to keep your guinea pigs outdoors, if the temperature drops to below 15C they should be moved indoors until the temperature rises.m

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.