Your guinea pig is going to spend a lot of time in its cage. It should be an enriching experience for them instead of a boring one. Animal enrichment is a vital part of keeping your guinea pig happy and healthy in its environment. How can you make your guinea pig cage fun while also enriching them?
It does not have to be a complex process. In fact, you probably have a lot of what you need already to transform your guinea pig’s cage into an environmentally enriching area. Read on to discover 8 enrichment ideas you can implement now to make your guinea pig cage more fun.
Offer Lots of Chew Toys in Your Guinea Pig’s Cage
If you have not done so already, using chew toys in their cage is a great way to make their cage fun for them. Guinea pigs love to chew things. It is one of their natural instincts and they need to chew constantly to keep their teeth under control as they never stop growing.
However, there are a few things to look at when choosing what suitable toys to include. You can buy toys from the store, or you can make some yourself.
- Make a cardboard chew toy. You can make your own chew toy by using heavy-duty cardboard like the kind used in mail packages. You can take the cardboard and form little boxes that they can play with and chew.
- Use twigs for them to play with. Using natural wood, like apple or pear twigs, are perfect for your guinea pig to play with. In the wild, guinea pigs are usually chewing on wood, so it is a good way to stimulate that part of their instinct.
- Choose wood blocks. For another easy to make option, use wooden blocks of various sizes for them to chew on. It can help keep their teeth healthy and it helps with their mental stimulation.
- Rotate the toys in the cage. You need to vary what toys the guinea pig has access to. It is not enough to provide them with a chew toy and then forget about it. Every so often, you should switch them out for different ones. This will keep them engaged with the toys.
When a guinea pig cannot chew, they are likely to get stressed. A stressed guinea pig can chew on the bars of the cage, which is not good for their mouths as it is made of metal.
Additionally, chewing helps file the teeth of a guinea pig. So, by using a variety of chew toys, you are ensuring that their teeth stay filed and safe. Otherwise, they may develop dental issues if they have not been chewing.
Strategically Place Food Within the Cage
Animal enrichment is all about recreating the natural habitat of the animal to bring about their natural instincts that are normally stifled from being captive. Animal enrichment is used for all kinds of animals and is utilized in most zoos. Your guinea pig also needs animal enrichment.
Your guinea pig has a lot of behaviors that they use in the wild that can get lost when they are a pet. When they cannot satisfy their natural instincts they can get stressed and can begin to act up. Among the behaviors that they use frequently in the wild include:
You can use these behaviours to your advantage when making your guinea pig’s cage more fun for them. Using their food is one of the ways you can do this. By strategically placing food around their cage, you can satisfy a lot of their natural behaviors. In the wild, guinea pigs are used to having to find and work for their food. You can simulate that in their cage.
One way you can do this is by hiding the food in the cage. For example, you can use a small paper towel or toilet paper cardboard roll and hide the food within it. They will have to work to get the food, and they will have to try and find it.
Moreover, you can also hide the food under bits of grass or other stringy substances such as shredded paper. They will have to use their noses to nudge away the coverings to get the food. Additionally, you can also put the food up on small ledges that the guinea pig will have to climb to get the food.
In the wild, guinea pigs are always in groups. They are social animals and can get lonely easily. This can be a challenge when you have a guinea pig as a pet. If they are alone in their cage, you should monitor them for signs that they are lonely. Signs include:
- They are not eating: If they have lost their appetite and are more content staying curled up in the corner of the cage, they may be suffering from being lonely.
- Aggressiveness: Sometimes when a guinea pig is lonely they can exhibit aggressive behavior.
- Excessive sleep: Another sign that your guinea pig may be lonely is if they are sleeping all the time. They are usually active animals, so if you find that they have grown lethargic then there is probably an issue.
To help them with their loneliness, you can use mirrors positioned both inside the cage and outside the cage. They will see their reflection and it will mimic having another guinea pig in the cage with them. This is a classic enrichment method that is used for other animals, too.
Be sure to move the mirrors occasionally so that it is not always in the same spot. This will give a variety for the guinea pig.
Of course, you can also get a second guinea pig. Having a companion guinea pig can be beneficial because you do not have to worry about the guinea pig “catching on” about the mirrors. The mirrors are a good element to use, but should not be the only enriching element you use to make your cage fun and engaging for your guinea pig.
Add Climbing Areas
As mentioned, one of the natural behaviours of a guinea pig in the wild is their desire to climb. If your guinea pig cage has nothing to climb, then they are likely to become bored.
Climbing is very important for a guinea pig. Although they can’t climb trees or walls, having areas in their cage where they can climb is important to keep them mentally stimulated throughout the day. There are a few ways you can do this.
- Use boxes or wooden shelves: You can construct little platforms that your guinea pig can then climb. This is not difficult. For example, if you take two small pieces of wood and nail a large piece on top of it, you have created a small shelf that they can climb atop and sit. Moreover, you can place toys on top of the shelf.
- Cat tree: You can also repurpose a cat tree inside your guinea pig cage. It is safe for them to use, and they can climb it. The material a cat tree is made from will help file their nails.
- Ladders: There are guinea pig ladders you can buy. These can be placed around the cage in different areas. The guinea pigs will love to climb them.
- Small cross-sections of logs: A great DIY method you can use to implement climbing into the guinea pig’s cage is to use small cross-sections of logs. Simply cut circular pieces of a log. You can sand them down if you want, and then place them in the cage. The guinea pig will be able to climb these and sit on them.
Part of the reason they like climbing is that in the wild they can get a better view of the surrounding area, which also means they can spot predators easier. While they will not have predators in their cage, they still will have that instinct to climb.
You can also encourage them to climb by hiding the food they eat or placing the toys they chew on top of items they can climb. For example, placing their food on top of one of the platforms. Moreover, if you can get a cage that has multiple levels, this will also help them satisfy their urge to climb.
Offer Paper for Your Guinea Pig to Shred
Using paper for them to shred is a perfect way to keep your guinea pig occupied. It is also a great way to make your guinea pig’s cage more fun for them to live in.
Why does paper work so well for guinea pigs? It comes down to their love of chewing and working. In the wild, guinea pigs are always doing something, but in a cage they can become restless. Paper, however, can take up quite a bit of time as they chew through it.
- Paper gives them something to chew. As with the toys, paper can be chewed, but unlike a lot of toys, the paper can be shredded.
- Paper makes a sound. Guinea pigs also like the sound that the paper makes when it is shredded, so they stay chewing it for a longer time than they might spend on a chew toy.
- Use an old telephone book or scrap paper. These are safe ways to provide your guinea pig with paper to shred. You can place these items in different places in the cage for the guinea pig to find.
Varying where you place the paper is also very important. You do not want them to get bored, so moving it around can help. While guinea pigs like routines, it is best not to take chances by getting lazy.
Create Hiding Places for Your Guinea Pigs
Animal enrichment has several benefits, which include improving brain function and reducing the fear response of the guinea pig. In the wild, guinea pigs like to hide in small spaces. The same is true in its cage.
Hiding helps guinea pigs alleviate stress. They need a multitude of places to hide away, so it is important to create hiding places in their cage. This is easily done.
- Use two pieces of wood: You can create a hiding place by securing two pieces of wood to form a tent-like frame. The guinea pig can then hide beneath it.
- Build tunnels: Tunnels are a great feature of any guinea pig cage. They can be used to play in and to hide in.
- Use a cardboard box: You can also place a simple cardboard box into the cage. The guinea pig, when they feel afraid, will use the inside of the box to hide.
- Make a fabric hidey corner. Use an old fleece banket to make a curtain across the corner of their cage to hide behind.
Providing a space for your guinea pig to hide throughout the day will help them reduce stress levels, which will help them stay active. If you see your guinea pig hiding it does not mean anything is necessarily wrong. It just means they are satisfying their body’s natural instinct to hide from danger, even if there is not any.
Tunnels are also a vital part of an enriching guinea pig cage. Tunnels are easy to create and can provide the guinea pig with a safe hiding place and a way to have fun.
Why do tunnels work so well? Guinea pigs in the wild burrow and live in underground tunnels. Historically, they are used to crawling in underground tunnels. By incorporating tunnels, you are recreating this major part of their instinct.
- Use rolled-up paper: The simplest way to implement tunnels into the cage of your guinea pig is to roll up some paper and tape it with scotch tape. This will create a simple tunnel for them to travel through. Additionally, the paper will make a sound the guinea pigs like and they may dry to dig through the paper, which is good.
- Use PVC piping: PVC is also a great option to create tunnels in the cage. You can cut different lengths of tubing, and you can use different sizes. This will create a varied environment for the guinea pig to explore.
- Use cardboard concrete tubes: This is another common way to create tunnels in the guinea pig’s cage. Cardboard concrete tubes are made of tough material, so you do not have to worry about them breaking, and it will provide a good tunnel for the guinea pig to move through.
These tunnels can be positioned around the interior of the cage. You can choose to keep it to one part of the cage, or you can have it traverse the entire perimeter of the cage. The bigger the cage the more options you will have. Additionally, the tubes you use for the tunnels can also be used for them to climb and jump over.
At first, you may have to use treats to get the guinea pig to enter the tunnels, but once they begin using them they will not want to stop using them. This is because this form of enrichment is directly correlated with how they would live in the wild, thereby lowering their stress and giving them something that can mentally stimulate their brains.
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Use Wicker Baskets Inside the Cage
Wicker baskets are a great addition to the inside of your guinea pig’s cage because it is a very versatile element to use. It can satisfy several forms of enrichment that guinea pigs need to stay stimulated and healthy.
- Use as a hiding place: You can use a wicker basket upside down and propped up on a small piece of wood to serve as a hiding place for your guinea pig. It is a very convenient way to implement a hiding place inside the cage.
- Use to hide food: Wicker baskets can also be used to hide food. Put a small treat underneath a wicker basket and the guinea pig will work hard to retrieve it, which will help stimulate its foraging skills.
- Use as a chew toy: Wicker baskets can be used as chew toys, too. Guinea pigs are known to chew on wicker baskets and for a long time. The material is safe for them to chew, and they seldom grow tired of it.
- Use as a bed: You can also use a wicker basket with some fabric inside it for the guinea pig to use as a bed. They like the way it feels and will feel comfortable inside of it.
- Use for them to climb: A wicker basket can also be used as a platform for them to climb on top of. When it is turned upside down, it forms the perfect spot for them to climb. Make sure to use a smaller wicker basket so that it is not too difficult for them to climb.
You can use a variety of wicker baskets inside the cage. Different sizes can be utilized for different purposes. You can also use several wicker baskets at once. It is one of the most important, simple, and highly effective objects to use for a guinea pig cage.
I hope you found these ideas for enriching your guinea pig cage helpful, and that your new enrichment will help your guinea pig live a happier life.