Adorable, gentle-natured, and expert snugglers, guinea pigs are genuinely wonderful family pets. Compared to other small rodents, they tend to have a relatively long lifespan and can live until the ripe old age of eight years. When you first welcome all that fluffy cuteness into your home, you may not realize just how often you’ll need to clean their cage. Sure, the lady at the pet store told you to clean it when it’s dirty, but what does that even mean? How often should you change their litter, scrub their cage, and wash their toys? And those fuzzy little piggies, will you need to clean them too?!
There’s no need to panic, piglet parents! We’ve got you covered with this comprehensive, step-by-step guide on how to clean a guinea pig cage. With our easy-to-follow guideline, you’ll know exactly how to create a clean, safe, and healthy environment for your lovely little fluffballs, so they can run free, frolic, and burrow to their tiny heart’s content.
Table of Contents
How to clean a guinea pig cage
Section 1: Settling your guineas into their temporary home
First thing’s first, you’ll need to remove your fluffy friends from their cage and settle them into a safe, temporary location, like a small enclosure or an open-topped box. Whatever you do, don’t leave them to roam the living room floor, they’re likely to wander off and get into trouble. When it’s time to clean my guinea pig cage (mine is just like the one from MidWest) I usually set Muffy up in her cozy sleeping bed, which has sides that are high enough to keep her in place. Truth be told, it’s actually a giant cat bed, but hey, what she doesn’t know won’t insult her sensitive piglet side!
At this point, do keep in mind that these little rodents are quite skittish, so any loud noises tend to send them off into a mad digging dash. Even though their new location is temporary, the emphasis must be placed on the “safe” part. The last thing you want is your pet getting injured, simply because you happened to make a loud noise. If this is the first time you’re cleaning your pets’ cage, and you’re worried about what might happen to your guineas, ask someone to hold your pets.
Section 2: Everyday cleaning for a healthy cage
On a daily basis, you’ll need to give the cage a good look-over to see if there are any particularly dirty spots. To keep their environment as clean as possible, discard uneaten food, sweep up piles of waste, and use a damp paper towel to spot-clean the cage. Also, change any bedding that is excessively soiled.
Prevent bacterial growth in water bowls and food containers by washing them in hot, soapy water. Again, this should be done every day to ensure your guinea has clean, healthy surroundings.
Section 3: Weekly cleaning for proper sanitation
Keep your pets’ cage hygienic with scheduled weekly cleanings. Daily spot-cleaning isn’t enough, considering your pets eat, sleep, play… and poop… in their cage. If you want healthy fuzzy friends and a cage that doesn’t stink, you’ll need to adhere to weekly cleaning. Also, consider potty training your guinea pigs to keep the cage cleaner.
Take out all objects from the enclosure. From food bowls to chewing toys, absolutely every item needs to be removed.
Wash items that can be cleaned, like the water bowl, food container, and Mr. SnugglePumpkin’s favorite blanket, in hot, soapy water. Launder washable material items in hot water with detergent for sensitive skin. Before doing so, ensure that droppings, food particles and hay aren’t stuck to these things. Regular cleaning prevents bacterial growth, as well as yucky sliminess and stinky odors. Wash your pets’ hiding house as well.
For this next step, you’ll need several garbage bags. Using disposable plastic gloves, remove the remaining material from the cage. Basically, you’ll be taking out the old, dirty bedding, hay, droppings, and litter, as well as any paper lining.
To speed up this process, I use a small brush and a dustpan (this cleaning tool set might come in handy). Since I prefer to use Yesterday’s News pet litter, which is ultra absorbent, all I have to do is scoop up the decomposed paper with the dustpan, and dump it into the garbage bags. In total, this takes 5 minutes, maximum, including the time I need to sweep up the remaining dust.
Using a mixture of mild detergent and hot water, scrub the inside of the cage. Then, disinfect the entire enclosure using a one-part distilled white vinegar/two-part water spray. This particular mixture is strong enough to kill bacteria, but gentle enough for delicate guinea pig noses.
After disinfecting with the vinegar/water spray, you’ll still want to give it a good rinse. Even though it’s diluted, the vinegar spray will need to be washed off. Once rinsed, give the cage a good sniff. If you detect a strong vinegar scent, rinse it again.
Using paper towels, dry the enclosure, and make sure to get into every nook and cranny. Ideally, you’d let the cage air-dry. But if this isn’t a possibility, just ensure there’s no dampness left behind. Before adding any paper, bedding or litter, run your hand across the surfaces of the cage. If you feel any wetness whatsoever, use more paper towels. The goal is to get the surface 100% dry because moisture creates mold problems, which can quickly lead to your pet becoming ill.
Section 4: Rebuilding your pet’s habitat
Now that you know your cage is perfectly dry, you can line it with your favored liner, bedding or litter. As mentioned before, I prefer to use Yesterday’s News, which is a litter made entirely out of recycled newspaper. Aside from being ink-free, it’s an excellent sponge-like material, absorbing both liquids and odors. However, there are plenty of other cage lining materials and types of bedding on the market, and I think that guinea pig owners should try different ones to see which types they prefer to use.
Once the bedding is in, spend some time arranging your pet’s items in the cage. Feel free to change the placement of their hiding, feeding, and play areas, as this new set-up gives curious piglets an exciting adventure.
Before placing Prince and Princess Petunia back in their piggy condo, add the water, food, and hay holders, and also hide a few treats around their new digs to liven up their return. After popping your pets back inside, securely attach the lid of the cage.
All that’s left now is to enjoy watching them scurry around and wheek in delight with their lovely, new living area.
How about cleaning your guinea pigs too, while you’re at it?
Cage cleaning time is the perfect opportunity to clean your piggies, not just their enclosure! And in the end, it doesn’t need to take that long. Depending on how often you groom your pet, you could take a few minutes to brush their hair.
Some types of guinea pigs have long hair which requires more frequent care, such as the Abyssinian and Peruvian. Should you have a pet with long hair, you’ll need to brush them daily to avoid tangles. Tangled hair, if not properly cared for, can lead to matting and, further down the road, can accumulate debris and humidity, causing lesions and skin infections.
Do your little fluffballs smell a bit stinky? Then, you may want to wash them, but you’ll need to be very careful. When I say wash, I don’t actually mean a bubble bath. Guineas aren’t very comfortable in the water. Instead, take a damp washcloth and clean them as best as you can, making sure not to rub them too vigorously. Afterward, towel-dry them to ensure there are no wet spots left behind.