There’s a reason guinea pigs are called “pigs.” They aren’t especially clean animals!
It’s not really their fault–who could be clean when they poop over 100 times a day? It’s up to us to give them a clean, odor-free environment.
If your guinea pigs smell, you most likely need to clean their cage more often. Guinea pig cages should be spot cleaned daily and deep cleaned 1-2 times weekly. You might also need to change their bedding type, as some don’t absorb odors well and will leave the cage stinky.
In this article, we’ll talk about if all guinea pigs smell, why your guinea pigs smell bad, how to keep a guinea pig cage from smelling, and more.
Why Do My Guinea Pigs Smell Bad?
If your guinea pigs smell bad, you most likely need to clean their cage more often or use a different bedding type. While guinea pigs do have a distinctive smell, it should not be overbearing.
The cage shouldn’t smell heavily of urine or feces. If this is the case, it’s likely been way too long since their last cage clean!
Do Male or Female Guinea Pigs Smell More?
Male guinea pigs tend to smell more because their grease glands are more active. While all guinea pigs have a grease gland, males use theirs more to mark territory.
Males also tend to need boar cleanings as they get older, and this process is quite stinky! If you don’t clean them enough, the piggies themselves might begin to smell.
Another thing to watch for is spraying urine. Females seem to spray more frequently, but males’ spray is stinkier.
It might end up on the sides of the cage, or even outside of the cage on the walls or floors. Tall cage walls can prevent this from happening and make clean-up easier, while wiping the walls of the cage during each deep cleaning helps to reduce smell.
How to Keep a Guinea Pig Cage From Smelling
1. Spot Clean Daily
Guinea pigs poop over 100 times a day, and they urinate plenty as well! This means that us piggy guardians need to do a lot of cleaning to keep their cage comfortable for them to live in.
At least once a day, spot clean your guinea pigs’ cage by sweeping or vacuuming up any poops. Check for soiled bedding, and remove and replace it as needed.
This should take just 5-10 minutes. If you’re extra sensitive to odors or the cage is in an area where you spend a lot of time, you might want to spot clean 2-3 times a day instead.
2. Deep Clean 1-2 Times Weekly
The entire cage should be cleaned 1-2 times a week. Exactly how often will depend on the type of bedding you use, how cleanly your guinea pigs are, and how your cage is set up.
Full cage cleans consist of:
- removing all of the bedding from the cage,
- sweeping or vacuuming up any stray poops or hay, and
- wiping the bottom of the cage with a guinea pig-safe cleaner, such as a vinegar and water mixture.
3. Check the Bottom of the Cage
The bottom of the cage can hold onto a lot of odor if it’s the wrong material, or you aren’t cleaning it thoroughly.
First, make sure you’re cleaning the bottom and sides of the cage every time you do a full cage clean. Even if you don’t see any mess, it might begin to smell like urine if it’s not cleaned each time.
Next, check that you’ve used the right material. Plastic cage bases are popular because they aren’t absorbent. While wood cages look nice, they must be sealed or lined with a waterproof layer, otherwise they’re going to absorb odors.
4. Try Different Bedding
Some bedding types are smellier than others. In addition, different people have different preferences. Some claim fleece is smelly, for instance, while others despise paper bedding.
This might be due to user error, personal preferences, or simply different experience with different brands.
First, check that you’re using a safe, approved bedding for guinea pigs. It should consist of a top layer that wicks away moisture, a bottom layer that absorbs the moisture, and a waterproof layer at the bottom.
One way to test this is to pour a small amount of water onto the bedding and see what happens. The water should run through the top layer and it should dry quickly.
Remember to never use scented bedding, as this can cause respiratory issues for your guinea pigs. Avoid dusty bedding for the same reason.
5. Use More Bedding
Another common problem with disposable bedding is that people don’t layer it deeply enough. Remember, urine needs to be able to soak through the top layer and be held in the bottom layer.
Disposable bedding should be at least 2-3 inches deep and packed in firmly. Press the bedding down with your hands until it’s compact before measuring.
Any less, and it won’t be able to do its job effectively. This creates odors and can also be hazardous to your guinea pigs’ health.
6. Add a Litter Box
Guinea pigs cannot be fully litter trained. However, a litter box often reduces the mess throughout the rest of the cage.
Set up a litter box by first finding a container that’s large enough for all of your guinea pigs to fit inside comfortably alongside a pile of hay. It should be shallow and easy to climb into.
Place guinea pig safe bedding of your choice on the bottom, and then give your piggies a pile of hay to eat.
Guinea pigs poop and pee while they eat, so the box will capture all of that–keeping the rest of your cage cleaner for longer.
Remember to clean the litter box multiple times a week, otherwise this area will still become smelly!
7. Add a Kitchen
Another option, if you don’t want to use a litter box, is to set up a “kitchen” space instead. This is the same concept–it keeps the hay, and thus the poops and pees, in the same place.
Instead of using a box, a liner is used to keep clean-up easy. This has the added benefit of not interfering with your guinea pigs’ running space.
8. Add Pee Pads
If you use fleece liners, pee pads are a life-saver! They greatly reduce your laundry.
Pee pads are like fleece liners, only smaller. They’re typically used under hidey houses, in tunnels, near the hay, and other places your guinea pigs spend time.
When these areas get wet, you can simply replace the pee pad instead of the entire liner. Your cage will be able to go longer without a full clean, without sacrificing cleanliness or making it smell.
9. Trim Your Guinea Pigs’ Fur
Long-haired guinea pigs like the Texel breed tend to get dirtier, and thus smellier, than short-haired piggies.
If you find their fur is collecting debris, either use pet fur clippers or scissors to trim your guinea pig’s fur short. Repeat around once a month or as-needed to keep the fur from dragging on the ground.
Be very careful not to cut your guinea pig in this process. Use pet clippers with safety guards or carefully place your fingers between their fur and the scissors.
10. Give Them a Bath
Guinea pigs should not get regular baths. But if it’s been a while and the guinea pigs themselves are smelly, they might need some washing up.
Avoid human soaps, especially anything with a fragrance. Instead, use a shampoo made for guinea pigs that will be gentle on their skin and sensitive respiratory systems.
Remember that guinea pigs should be bathed as little as possible–not more than a few times a year. If they’re getting smelly, it’s likely due to improper bedding or cleaning. Be sure to fix the underlying problem so that you can avoid unnecessary baths in the future.
Things to Avoid for Your Pets’ Safety
Avoid Harsh Cleaners
Most people opt for a mixture of white vinegar and water to clean the cage. Spray the mixture onto a rag or paper towel, then wipe the cage down.
Never Use Scented Products
Lastly, remember not to use scented products around your guinea pigs. It might seem obvious to use candles, air freshener, or other items to mask the smell, but this can hurt or even kill them.
Guinea pigs’ respiratory systems are too delicate to handle scented products like this. Instead, use the above advice to get to the root of the problem.
I hope these tips help you keep your piggies’ cage smelling fresh and clean. Remember that a urine or feces smell coming from your guinea pigs isn’t normal! It means that they need different bedding or for their cage to be cleaned more often.