Keeping guinea pigs inside in cages is the most common way of keeping them. But in this case the cage must be species-appropriate. Guinea pigs are in general very lively and love to run and jump. If the guinea pigs don’t have enough space they won’t get the opportunity to do so and will get stressed, which will lead to depression, illnesses or aggressive behavior. Therefore the right choice of a cage is a really important decision for the life of the guinea pigs. Additionally, when kept inside in cages, guinea pigs need a run at least once a day. This can be in a fenced area in the garden or the door of the cage can be opened so that the guinea pigs can run around the flat. Be aware that guinea pigs are rodents and love to nibble at everything they see. To secure expensive furniture an enclosure for the flat can be built or bought.
The right cage
Most standard cages that can be bought in pet shops are quite small and are not species-appropriate. The minimum area that every guinea pig should have is 0.5m² / 5.38 feet², but that is really only the minimum. The more space guinea pigs have the better it is for them. An area of about 1m² / 10.76 feet² per guinea pig is recommended. In order to achieve that amount of space per guinea pig, it is recommended to build a homemade cage.
Homemade cages are mostly built out of solid wood or chipboard. In order to clean the cage easily the floor should be coated with a waterproof material. A cheap material to do this is pool liner which can be bought in every DIY market. At least one or two walls of the cage should be made of wood or chipboard for the guinea pigs to feel save and secured. The other walls can be build out of perspex or wire. Keep in mind that guinea pigs need fresh air and thus not all walls should be made of a solid material in oder to ensure good ventilation.
An old cupboard or shelf can be converted to a cage as well. In this case the measurements should be big enough to give the guinea pigs their needed space.
An other option for a guinea pig cage can be a vivarium which is often made of perspex. Although a vivarium is in most cases big enough to fit at least two guinea pigs, all walls are transparent. The guinea pigs don’t have a safe haven in this cage and therefore a vivarium is not an ideal cage for guinea pigs.
Tanks (aquariums or terrariums) are not a good option as guinea pig cages, because all walls and the cover are made of solid materials. Thus no ventilation exists and the moist air can’t escape.
In pet shops a lot of different types of bedding are available. The range involves pellets, shredded paper substances or wood shavings. Most of them absorb liquids and smells equally well. Due to the sensivity of guinea pigs paws, harder or peaked substances should be covered, for example by a softer layer of hay or straw. Cat litter shouldn’t be used, because when guinea pigs eat it, it can lead to their death.
Cleaning the cage regularly is a must, otherwise the guinea pigs get ill quickly and it will smell unpleasant. Since guinea pigs usually do not have one unique area for their faeces, the whole cage has to be cleaned thoroughly. This has to be done at least once a week. In addition the water bottle and bowls should be cleaned daily.