The decision on where to place your guinea pig should be made before you choose a cage so you’ll know exactly how much space you will be working with, particularly if you will be keeping your guinea pig indoors. Ideally, your guinea pig’s cage should be at least 2 square feet per guinea pig, but the more area you provide for your pet, the happier he or she will be. The height of the cage is not as important. Guinea pigs don’t really climb much because of their size so 18 inch walls should be high enough to keep them safely inside a cage.
Many guinea pig owners prefer to have multi-level cages for their pets. While the addition of ramps and other levels may be fun and interesting for the guinea pig, it isn’t necessary.
When most people purchase their guinea pig cages, they usually go through a pet store. This can be a mistake for several reasons:
1. You will pay too much! A decent-size guinea pig cage in any pet store will run you around $75 to $100 minimum, which is way too much to spend for what you are getting.
2. You will have to do additional modifications on the cage to make it livable for your guinea pig. Your cage should never have an exposed wood interior (it soaks up the smell of their urine) or an exposed wire bottom (it can hurt their sensitive feet). Many of the cages you purchase in pet stores have these features.
3. You usually won’t be able to find a large enough cage. Remember that for one guinea pig, you need at least 2 square feet of cage space. Each additional guinea pig requires between 2 to 4 extra square feet of space. Also, you need to figure in the room for toys, hiding places, and food dishes. Many cage manufactureres will try to fool you by quoting only the exterior size on the box but, because of how it is measured, that can be a foot or more different from the actual amount of room your guinea pig would have inside the cage.
If you do decide to buy a pet store cage for the sake of convenience, be sure to also figure on giving them lots of time to run around on the floor.
The best option regarding guinea pig cages, particularly if you want to keep several together, is to build your own. This may sound difficult, but it truly isn’t, especially if you find some helpful instructions to work with. http://Cavycages.com, for example, includes detailed instructions on how to create a safe, roomy cage for your guinea pigs relatively easily and inexpensively. All of the pieces can be purchased in local stores and would cost anywhere from $60 to $90 to create, including the table to sit the cage on. While that may not seem like much of a savings over the pet store variety, you won’t have to do any further modifications and you will be giving your guinea pig more than 10 square feet of room to enjoy.
For those guinea pigs who will be staying outside, you will probably want to construct your own hutch as well. Most of the ones currently sold are either not of good quality, have interior exposed wood, or both. Another option is to purchase a metal commerical cage, remove the wire bottom, and place it on a table that is high enough off the ground to prevent other animals from having easy access to the guinea pigs. If you do choose to build your own, avoid using chicken wire and instead opt for welded wire because chicken wire can cause injuries to the animal’s mouth if he or she chews on it. However, you do not need to worry about the guinea pig chewing its way through either type of wire.
One final word of caution on choosing a cage: Many pet stores sell aquariums and fish tanks as ideal homes for guinea pigs and other small pets, but this is a definite no-no. Guinea pigs need a well-ventilated cage because the ammonia fumes from their urine can cause them to become ill. Obviously, an aquarium is not well-ventilated and, therefore, should never be used as a home for your guinea pig.
Regardless of the type of cage you buy or make, you’ll want to be sure that it is fairly easy to clean. At least once every two weeks, you need to remove everything from the cage and give it a thorough cleaning so be sure you can do that as conveniently as possible. People, even loving pet owners, tend not to do necessary things when they are too much of an inconvenience.