Believe it or not, housing a guinea pig isn’t exactly as easy as it sounds. While many people think it’s as simple as popping a few furry friends into a cage they bought at the pet store, chances are, that enclosure is likely too small – possibly even dangerous. Often, most of the cages in pet stores that are marketed for guinea pigs are actually not ideal at all. Not only do guinea pigs need separate spaces for nesting and ample room to roam, but they also require designated bathroom, food, and water areas as well.
Aside from being smaller than they should be for larger rodents, cages sometimes have other potentially harmful drawbacks. The fact is, it’s essential to spend some time researching what habitat is best and choose appropriate housing for your cavies. Fortunately, we’ve come up with this guide to help you find the best guinea pig cage for your furry friends. With this information, you’ll be able to pick the perfect one in no time.
Table of Contents
Guinea pig cage requirements
Size – why it matters so much
As one of the largest creatures in the rodent family, you’d assume that their cages would be substantially bigger than their miniature relatives, hamsters, gerbils, mice, and rats. Yet, when you walk into a pet store, people are often sold a cage that’s only marginally larger for their cavies in comparison.
On top of that, these smaller cages tend to be tall to increase living area and utilize vertical space. Sounds great, right? All that extra height is meant to encourage climbing, digging, and burrowing. But, there’s only one problem with this picture – guinea pigs don’t climb like their rodent cousins. As such, they really do rely on floor space. Adding platforms and ramps in cavy enclosures – at low heights – do provide variety and a hint of excitement. However, size matters so very much when it comes to selecting the best guinea pig cage because guineas need the wide space to walk and exercise.
Even if you take them out of the cage every day for some playtime, it doesn’t make up for the limited habitat space. No animal or person would be content with the equivalent of living in a closet 24/7, even if they get a few minutes of fresh air every now and then. So, yes, cage size does matter. Indeed, it matters very, very much.
Ideal guinea pig cage size according to The Humane Society is:
- One guinea pig: 7.5 square feet cage minimum, but more is always better. 30″ x 36″ is a good size for one guinea pig.
- Two guinea pigs: 7.5 square feet is the minimum, though you’re better off going bigger again, so try to find around 10.5 square feet as it is preferred. 30″ x 50″ is a good size for two guinea pigs.
- Three guinea pigs: 10.5 square feet is the minimum size but aim for 13 square feet to make your cavies happy. 30″ x 62″ is a good size for three guinea pigs.
- Four guinea pigs: 13 square feet minimum, but again, more is better. For four guinea pigs, 30″ x 76″ is a good size.
As mentioned before, there’s no need to get a very tall habitat as cavies don’t climb. However, to create sufficient ventilation throughout the cage, ensure there are 12 to 18 inches (30 – 45 cm) of overhead space, at the very least.
Factors to consider
Before deciding on what is the best guinea pig cage for your friends, consider the following factors.
- Temperature: Guinea pigs cannot sweat – making them particularly susceptible to heat stroke – so it’s crucial to place them in a spot away from strong sources of heat like direct sun, heating vents, fireplaces, and wood stoves. Ideally, the ambient temperature should be approximately 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit (18-24 degrees Celsius). Conversely, don’t place your guineas’ habitat in an unheated room or location that is chilly or breezy. Also, make sure to place the cage in an area that is draft-free area.
- Humidity: Another factor to think about is humidity because dampness promotes the growth of mold. Under these conditions, their bedding or hay can become moldy, making your piggies sick.
- Activity level: Guinea pigs love hanging out with their human family members and enjoy being around activity. Plus, when they’re in a place where they’re easy to see and hear, they tend to benefit from more attention. The living room or family room works well for cage location, but as they do need quiet time once in a while, make sure your pets have a place to retreat to within the habitat when they want to take a break.
- Noise: Cavies do welcome a certain amount of activity, but they shouldn’t be in an area where there’s constant or regular loud noise. With their very sensitive hearing, it’s best not to put their cages next to televisions or sound systems.
Cage location restrictions
- Children: If there are young children in your household, place the habitat in an area where you can control access to the pets and supervise interactions between the kids and pigs.
- Other pets: Make sure your cavies’ home is safe from other pets who may see them as toys or prey.
- Sanitation: For sanitary reasons, don’t keep your guinea pig’s habitat in your kitchen or other areas where food is prepared.
Types of guinea pig cages
Cubes and coroplast (C&C) cages
First on our list is the gold standard of guinea pig housing – C&C cages. Made from storage cube grids and coroplast, a corrugated plastic material used in sign making, grids are kept together with standard connectors and reinforced with cable ties. With these materials, cages can take on almost any size or shape you want them to.
Typically, pet parents line these habitats with washable fleece bedding, which offers a softer surface and easier cleanup, to provide the ultimate in luxurious cavy living. But, of course, you can use any conventional, guinea-safe bedding you prefer.
One crucial thing to consider when buying a C&C cage is the number of grids. You should avoid 5×5 and 8×8 grids on your C&C cage because cavies can get their head stuck and strangle. Rescue groups recommend getting 9×9 grids.
- provides a spacious environment
- simple to clean, depending on bedding
- easy, inexpensive DIY project
- can be built in different designs
- makes it easier to access pets
- depending on size, can take up a lot of floor space
- 8×8 and 5×5 grids pose a strangulation hazard so you should always get 9×9 grids
Built to be open and spacious, modular, C&C cages are by far the best type of guinea pig cage available. This option is sturdy, safe, easy to clean and provide a large environment that allows for easy access and extra cuddles. Truly, C&C cages are versatile in design – create whatever shape suits your space – and even top it off with a second floor or hay loft without taking up additional floor space in your home.
If you’re considering this kind of cage but are not sure where to start, these might be a good choice:
Pet store cages
Pet stores sell a grand assortment of cages labeled as perfectly suitable for guinea pigs. Unfortunately, the truth is, a lot of them don’t meet the minimum size requirement for even one cavy. Steer clear of “starter home” cages – it’s usually code for something that’s cheaply made and way too small.
While many store-bought commercial cages have neat little ledges, these extra pieces don’t count toward livable square footage. Sure, they make for handy places to hang water bottles, set-up hay wheels and keep food bowls, but it’s not actual “living space.”
If you decide to go the store-bought cage route, most likely, you’ll need to spend a bit more money to upgrade to an appropriately sized enclosure.
- can be sturdy construction and well-made, depending on brand
- attractive looking
- kits usually come with “everything you need”
- light-weight, easy to move around
- base models or starter kits generally are cheaply constructed
- typical pet store recommendations for sizing is much too small
- tend to be taller as opposed to wider
- will cost extra money to ensure appropriately sized cage
- not always easy to clean
When it comes to pet store cages, the following one meets all requirements. Plus, you can connect two of them for more floor space:
Wooden guinea pig cages & hutches
When we talk about wooden cages and hutches, more often than not, we’re referring to outdoor habitats. Although, there are a select few brands that make smaller versions that could work indoors. Regardless, it’s essential to select one that is safe for your pets. Remember, guinea pigs chew on wood and hay, so the last thing you want is to purchase a cage that is made of toxic material.
Speaking of chewing – a weekly “perimeter check” will be necessary to ensure your wooden cage is still fully intact. And, since it’s made of yummy, delicious wood, this also means you’ll have to chance cages more frequently, compared to a habitat that isn’t manufactured with “edible” materials.
Certain woods are dangerous for guinea pigs to come in contact with and ingest:
- White willow contains a natural form of aspirin
- Cedar has phenols that can cause permanent and sometimes fatal respiratory and liver damage.
- Pine wood has the same types of toxic chemical compounds as cedar, phenols that make cedar wood toxic.
- Redwood and eucalyptus wood also emit phenols, so avoid them as well, even though they’re less commonly used in pet products.
Another word of caution: skip using treated woods when choosing wood habitats, toys, and accessories. These may contain adhesives, glues, chemicals, and toxic dyes that could poison your guinea pig. If you can’t find any information about the wood structure, then for safety’s sake, skip it altogether.
Lastly, natural woods from vines or fruiting trees are acceptable to use, however, do make sure they haven’t been sprayed by herbicides, pesticides, or insecticides – these could obviously kill your cavy if ingested.
- all-natural materials (but make sure not to use dangerous woods)
- prefab homes are typically large in construction – a great size for guineas
- an inexpensive DIY project
- edible – from a guinea pig’s perspective – and requires a new purchase from time to time
- guineas may escape if you’re not performing frequent perimeter safety checks
- can be toxic if wrong wood used
- hard to clean
- cannot be sanitized
- heavy, not easy to move
Not too long ago, aquariums were typically used to house guinea pigs. Some people still do use them nowadays, though there are better, healthier options on the market. At first, an aquarium might sound like a good idea, especially considering that’s what pet stores usually use to display their rodents and other animals.
Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to get good air circulation in these things since their sides are solid. Now, imagine housing more than one guinea pig in an aquarium since they should always have a cavy companion- suddenly, you end up with a hot little greenhouse that has improper circulation instead of an ideal habitat. Add to that the likelihood that the aquarium is too small for so many pets, and they’ll be fighting for their own space. Definitely, not the ideal scenario.
Lastly, all that glass muffles sound. Not only will you be unable to hear your pet properly, but you may end up with skittish creatures who are unused to outside noise.
- improper air circulation – can cause mold buildup
- muffles sound – you won’t be able to hear your pet and it may cause them to be skittish with outside noise
- sizing often an issue to ensure enough space for pets
- smaller tanks are usually inexpensive, but the price jumps exponentially with larger tanks
- glass sides pose a shatter hazard
My personal experience: C&C vs store-bought cage
In the spirit of sharing my personal experience and expressing some preference, I’m going to go ahead and tell you about my guinea habitat story.
When our family first adopted our guinea pigs, Muffy and Lilly, we decided we would build our own DIY C&C cage after extensive research. In the end, it really didn’t cost much: a large sheet of coroplast and pack of storage cubes (that were on sale) came to a grand total of about $35. We already had a huge pack of plastic ties so that didn’t add to the price. While the habitat was, in my opinion, enormous – basically, a piggy mansion, complete with second floor hayloft – after a few weeks, it became clear that their home wasn’t as straightforward to maintain as I had hoped.
Here’s the thing… at the time, I had 3 very young kids, and I was on my own to clean up after all humans and pets in our household. With a cavy condo that took half a day to clean – because I had only one set of fleece pads which took several hours to wash and dry thoroughly – changing the C&C cage became a real chore. Add to that the fact that the habitat took up about 1/4 of my kids’ bedroom – this thing was massive – and I quickly fell out of love with the whole set-up, regardless of it being the best type of cage for cavies.
While it was a really cool thing to have that provided tons of space for them, I found it too difficult for someone in my situation to maintain it. Truthfully, I desperately needed something that was easier to clean.
A couple of years later, Lilly passed away. At that point, I decided to switch over to a pet cage – one that was super big for a solitary pig. Suddenly, instead of half a day of washing and drying padding, it now takes all of 10 minutes to swap litter. It’s perfect, in my opinion – an easy solution for me.
In all honesty, from experience, I believe a C&C habitat is the way to go. But, you need to have that time to maintain and clean it. Otherwise, I’d suggest a store-bought cage like what we have, keeping in mind that you need one that’s the appropriate size for your number of guineas.
A final reminder for pet parents
No animal is meant to live out their lives in a cage without the chance of leaving it regularly. Please, make sure to provide your cavies with proper exercise outside of the cage on a frequent basis.