The most important enrichment for guinea pigs includes a large cage, places to hide, and other guinea pig companions. Once you have these covered, try other activities such as floor time, enrichment toys such as hay mats, or food enrichment such as scatter feeding.
In this article, we’ll discuss 27 ways to provide enrichment for your guinea pigs, from activities you can do together to toys you can keep in their cage.
Why is Enrichment for Guinea Pigs Important?
Enrichment for guinea pigs is meant to give them outlets for natural behaviors and to keep them physically and mentally stimulated.
When keeping pets, it’s important that we aren’t limiting their lives in any way by keeping them in our homes, as opposed to how the species would act in nature.
Some natural behaviors your guinea pig must be able to act out include chewing, running, socializing, and burrowing. Not being allowed these things can have negative impacts on their mental or physical well-being.
Enrichment also helps keep your piggies from becoming bored, which is especially important for caged animals.
Everyday Enrichment for Guinea Pigs
Below are baseline things that every guinea pig needs in order to thrive. While many enrichment activities are optional, the below are essential parts of their daily care.
If you’re looking to enrich your piggies’ lives, prioritize these things, as they’ll make the largest difference!
1. A Large Cage
Almost all pet store cages are too small for guinea pigs. The minimum cage size for two piggies is 7.5 square feet, while 10.5 square feet or more is preferred.
Remember that these measurements are for flat, unbroken floor space. So, a loft area is a nice addition, but doesn’t count toward the square footage of the cage. Multi-level cages like those made for ferrets aren’t good for guinea pigs, as they aren’t climbing animals.
It’s generally recommended that you buy the largest cage you can afford and have space for in your home. There’s no such thing as too big when it comes to guinea pig cages!
The best enrichment you can give your guinea pig is another piggy! They need to live in groups of two or more, without exception. In some countries, having just one guinea pig is actually outlawed as it’s seen as animal abuse to keep herd animals alone.
While you’ll very rarely come across a guinea pig who cannot bond with others, they should still live side-by-side with a pair of other pigs in a separate cage. While it isn’t ideal, being able to see and hear other guinea pigs will still give them the ability to socialize.
In the wild, guinea pigs live in groups consisting of many females and one male. These groups are often said to work best, so long as the male is neutered. You can also keep a pair or group of females or a pair of males.
Groups of three or more male guinea pigs don’t usually work out unless they have the perfect temperaments and a huge amount of space.
3. Hides and Tunnels
Lastly, guinea pigs should always have hides and tunnels in their cages. Please keep at least one hide per guinea pig, but more is always preferable!
Hides can be as cheap as a box with a door cutout, or a towel draped over one corner of the cage. You can also buy more expensive hides, such as fleece cat houses or handmade items from small businesses.
Personally, I prefer to avoid plastic items and instead opt for either fleece or edible materials, such as guinea pig-safe wood. Plastic can easily be chewed and eaten, which can cause intestinal blockages.
Enrichment Activities for Guinea Pigs
4. Floor Time
One of the most common enrichment activities for guinea pigs is floor time! While it’s not necessary, it does give your piggies new places to explore.
Not all guinea pigs will like floor time, and most will want to return to their cage after around 15-30 minutes. They are homebodies at heart, which many human introverts can relate to!
If your piggies enjoy floor time, you can make the experience fresh by using a different set-up each time. Bring out hides and toys you haven’t used in a while, hide treats for them to find, or try floor time in different rooms.
Be sure to also make floortime safe by picking up anything dangerous, keeping electrical cords out of reach, and providing fresh hay at all times.
5. Quality Time
Quality time with you or other family members can look like snuggling your piggies on your lap, sitting with them during floor time, or speaking to them while they’re in their cage.
This will help you to develop a close bond, and will make your piggies’ days more interesting!
6. Learning Tricks
Consider teaching your guinea pig tricks such as standing on two legs for a treat, spinning in a circle, or following you around the room. This promotes a bond between the two of you and keeps your guinea pig’s mind engaged. It’s also super fun to see how smart they are!
7. Cage Renovations
Expanding your guinea pigs’ cage, adding a loft space, or even changing the shape can help to keep things engaging. It’s kind of like the fresh feeling you get after moving around furniture in your bedroom!
8. Mix it up During Cage Cleans!
For most guinea pigs this is fun and enriching! However, keep in mind that some guinea pigs, such as blind piggies, may find layout changes stressful and difficult to navigate. It’s important to know your fur babies and stick to what’s right for them.
9. Safe, Supervised Outdoor Time
Outdoor time can be dangerous for piggies, so before you go out: make sure they’ll be properly enclosed, and that you won’t be taking your eyes off of them. Bad things can happen very quickly!
When guinea pigs are supervised outside and are only allowed in a small, secure area with a top covering, it can be a lot of fun for them.
If you’re allowing your piggies to graze, make sure the yard hasn’t been chemically treated and that no predator animals, such as dogs, are urinating in the area.
Lastly, this is another one where you need to know your pig. Most of my piggies have liked going outside, but I had one who feared it intensely. It’s only an enriching experience if they’re enjoying themselves!
10. Set up a Maze
Many people set up cardboard mazes for their guinea pigs with treats in the center. Some piggies will catch on to simple mazes, while others will be disinterested, even for food.
You can also use household items to block off a maze. While some people set up more elaborate obstacle courses, be sure to avoid anything that could hurt your piggies such as heights, jumps, or steep ramps.
11. Watch TV Together
A guinea pig’s interest in TV will depend on their personality. Personally, I had one who loved watching game shows with bells or kid’s TV with high-pitched voices. These shows had him hooked and staring at the screen.
It can be fun to figure out what, if anything, will catch your guinea pig’s attention. You can even try watching YouTube videos of other piggies!
12. Grow Grass for Your Piggies
Growing pots or patches of indoor grass for your piggies is great if you live in an apartment, or if they don’t like it outdoors but you want to allow them to graze.
Fresh grass is one of the most natural things a piggy can eat! They’re almost sure to enjoy munching away, and it can be fun for you as well to care for the plant and watch it grow.
Here are instructions on growing grass and the types of grass piggies love!
Enrichment Toys for Guinea Pigs
Toys can provide lots of fun for piggies who enjoy them, but always make sure they’re guinea pig-safe. Many toys and treats sold at pet stores contain harmful ingredients such as dairy or seeds.
I recommend looking at the ingredients list and researching each before buying. Over time, you’ll learn what is safe and what to avoid.
13. Compressed Hay
Compressed hay can’t replace loose, fresh hay. However, it can provide some extra fun for your piggies as they munch on it. They can also carry it around the cage, which isn’t quite as easy to do with their normal loose hay.
14. Hay-Stuffed Toilet Paper or Paper Towel Rolls
What’s better than a free toy? Stuffing hay into toilet paper or paper towel rolls can make it feel different and fun for your piggies to eat.
You can even get creative and add a treat hay (one your guinea pigs aren’t usually fed, but is safe for them) or mix forage into their regular hay to make them more engaged.
15. Wood Items
Wood items like apple sticks, willow balls, and wooden blocks can be enticing for guinea pigs since they love to chew! Of course, make sure the wood you choose is guinea-pig safe.
Though it’s not technically a wood, bamboo chews are also popular with some piggies!
Be careful with any holes your guinea pig chews in their items, just so they don’t get their heads stuck. This can especially happen with ball toys once they start unraveling.
16. Hay Mats
Hay mats are another great edible enrichment toy. As with compressed hay, it can’t replace loose, fresh hay.
Instead, think of it as an extra treat for your piggies to munch on. Some will even lay on their hay mat and fall asleep!
If your piggies pee on the mat, be sure to toss it since it’s no longer sanitary, and they’re unlikely to eat it.
17. Paper Bags
Paper bags can make fun hides or tunnels for piggies during supervised floor time, or they can be stuffed with hay and forage and folded over so that your piggy has to work for their treats. (This should never be the only source of hay in the cage, as it must be easily accessible at all times.)
To ensure your piggies can’t get stuck inside the bag, don’t leave them with it unattended.
18. Cardboard Boxes
Cardboard boxes placed on their side, or upside down with door holes cut out, are the perfect free hides. Remember that your piggies only care about function, not the price tag on their things or the way they look!
If you want to switch up your piggies’ cage but don’t have the budget for new items, things like this are a great alternative.
Some people give their guinea pigs plushies after the passing of a cagemate, or while they’re ill and separated from others. Some piggies won’t care, while others will snuggle up sweetly to the stuffed animal.
When you first add a plushie to the cage, supervise your pigs for a while to ensure they aren’t chewing it. Routinely check for any damage, and remove it from the cage if needed. When chewed, plushies can cause choking or intestinal blockages, so it’s best to be careful.
Food Enrichment for Guinea Pigs
20. Scatter Feeding
Scatter feeding is just like it sounds. Take veggies, pellets, or treats, and scatter them around the cage rather than placing them in a bowl.
Guinea pigs have a natural urge to forage for food, and this helps them to act out that instinct. It’s an easy way to engage their minds and bodies.
21. Hay Piles
Hay piles, rather than hay racks, allow guinea pigs to burrow. Many people see themselves going through more hay this way and find it wasteful, but being able to burrow is actually very enriching for guinea pigs. And there aren’t too many ways we can safely provide this for them!
Hay piles are also safer than many hay racks. They don’t restrict hay access or make piggies work for their hay, which is crucial. They also can’t get their heads stuck on anything, as they might with some hay racks.
22. Snuffle Mats
Snuffle mats are typically made of fleece, with layered fabric that you can sprinkle treats into. Your guinea pigs will have to root through to find their pellets or treats, making them think a bit more than if you’d only fed them in a bowl.
23. DIY Puzzle Toys
There are so many great do-it-yourself puzzle toys! For instance, try putting treats in a small muffin tin and covering them with willow balls, so that your piggies have to lift the balls to get the treats.
The paper bag stuffed with hay and forage we discussed earlier is another version of a puzzle toy since piggies need to use their brains to get the food out.
The possibilities are endless when you get creative with piggy-safe items in your home!
24. Storebought Puzzle Toys
You can also buy simple puzzle toys made for dogs, cats, or rabbits. Most puzzle toys on the market are made for dogs, but the easy-level ones are often good for piggies as well. The harder toys with multiple steps will likely be too difficult for them, however.
I’d suggest looking for ones where your piggy simply has to remove an item from the top or push a cover off of the food.
25. Trying New, Safe Foods
As we discussed above, guinea pigs love foraging. Wild guinea pig species eat a huge variety of foods throughout their lives, as they’re taking whatever they can find!
Of course, we always want to ensure we’re feeding safe foods in the right quantities. You don’t want to give your piggy a big piece of fruit to try every day of the week, for instance, but trying a small piece of fruit weekly is awesome.
This can also open you up to new foods since someone will need to eat the leftovers!
26. Treat Balls
Treat balls are typically marketed toward dogs or cats. They’re typically plastic balls that you can fill with pellets or forage, and the treats will fall out as your guinea pig pushes the ball around.
27. Stacking Cups
Lastly, stacking cups are most-used for pet rabbits. But, guinea pigs can enjoy them as well if you hide some treats between the cups! Just make sure they don’t chew the plastic.
In conclusion, there are so many ways to enrich your guinea pigs’ lives. You don’t have to do everything on this list, and your piggies might not even like all of the things listed here. Try choosing one or two to focus on at a time, and see what you and your guinea pigs think!