This is a question we are often asked by those new to keeping guinea pigs. Guinea pigs originate from the Andes in South America despite their common name suggesting they are from Guinea in Africa.
Domestic guinea pigs can live inside or outside. Living 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 it’s likely they will be happier outside in a large predator-proof wooden hutch and run like 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 piggies outside was an automatic 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-hole 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.
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 pig’s 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 lawnmowers!
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 pig’s problems.
Once they are inside they get used to your routines and ours squeak very helpfully at mealtimes to give us a gentle nudge that they want some food.
Similarly, if your family spends 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 were purchased from Jolley’s 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 of 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 also 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 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 lawn 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 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!
Home is where you are!
The most important thing to remember is that your guinea pigs are most comfortable in a place that suits you as well as them. They need love and attention. Where do your guinea pigs live? Comment below!