Indoor Runs

There’s no reason why you shouldn’t buy or make an indoor run for you guinea pig. In guinea pig care, this is known as Floor Time and they need it every day, especially if their house is at the minimum size recommended by experts (7.5 square feet per guinea pig). Even if their house is bigger, include Floor Time as part of their daily routine for enrichment and exercise. You may reap the rewards with delightful displays of ‘popcorning’ where guinea pigs make crazy-looking little flips and turns – this is a sign of a happy ‘piggie’.

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How big should it be?

They key to it all is space. Guinea pigs need to be able to really run about to properly exercise and stay healthy – imagine housing a mini-athlete. You theoretically could construct an indoor run using modular Cubes and Coroplast (C&C) caging. C&C cages are made from modular grids, which you need to connect together to make the enclosure using cable ties rather than connectors. The grids are sold in many standard outlets in the US but be aware that the square spaces on the inner grids must not be more than 1.5 inches. This is vitally important as one expert author warns guinea pigs have died after becoming trapped in grids with larger spaces (1). We think you’d need a fair amount of grids to make it ‘worthwhile’ – bigger than the house so they can really zoom about. One guinea pig rescue organisation has an entire site devoted to guinea pig housing and recommends Sue’s C&C cages (2), with some of the profits from the sale going to support the rescue work.

Make sure the square spaces are less than 1.5 inches across

Make sure the square spaces are less than 1.5 inches across

One of Sue's C&C coroplast enclosure bottoms

One of Sue's C&C coroplast enclosure bottoms

One of Sue's C&C Cages assembled

One of Sue's C&C Cages assembled

Some tips

If you construct a large modular space for them to run in, be aware of potential hazards. The floor should not be wire. For other types of run, whether you buy one from a pet store or build on yourself, check for:

Sharp edges (cut wires, splinters, etc)

Treated wood – chemicals could be harmful if ingested

Small enough wire or mesh ‘spaces’ – could feet, or noses etc become caught? Could the guinea pig become trapped in anyway?

Some of the runs we’ve seen in pet stores are simply not big enough – the idea is to have the freedom to exercise outside the house and if the run isn’t big enough, in essence you just wasted your money. Buy the biggest size possible – experts seem to recommend a minimum living space of 7.5 square feet, for which they will need a bigger space to have floor time to exercise in.

Never place the run over or near to electrical wires or sockets or appliance wires, there is a real risk of electrocution. Guinea pigs are chewers and they will literally chew through electrical cables. Check the area under the run for anything that could cause injury, and don’t place it over freshly shampooed carpets as chemicals may cause harm. You may want to invest in a dedicated cheap rug to place underneath it, which you can keep clean just by popping in the washing machine. Droppings are not a huge issue with guinea pigs but they may leave some from time to time plus a little urine, so you may want to pop plastic bin liners under the rug – but make sure they can’t get to it to chew it as plastic can be harmful.

Some household substances and houseplants are poisons for pets (3,4). Easiest policy =  no houseplants plants at all in, on or touching the run, or anywhere a piggie could get to!

Think about who is around in the home. Pet dogs and cats do live peacefully alongside guinea pigs but should always be supervised, for the following reasons:

Pet dogs – no matter how well behaved, they may have an uncontrollable instinct to chase! Even if your dog seems ‘normally ok’ with your guinea pig, never leave them alone together. Should some canine instinct overtake your well-mannered dog, a hyped-up, excited dog will break into an indoor run, even if only ‘playing’. Could they poke an inquisitive nose or paw through a grid, mesh or wire space?

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Pet cats – again, no matter how normally well they seem to get along with your guinea pig, ultimately, both are animals. Pet cats may just want to ‘play’ but this can still seriously hurt a defenceless guinea pig. Do not leave them alone together and again, be careful that their  paws could not swipe into the run through the grid, mesh or wire spaces.

And of course, we’re sure we don’t need to tell more exotic pet owners about the dangers of leaving snakes, ferrets, rats, etc unsupervised.

If you have other pets, the bottom line is the run needs a roof and to be both escape proof to keep the guinea pig in and ‘predator proof’ to keep the other guys out.

Be aware especially of children, well, just being children. Younger children quite naturally express affection for their teddies, toys, mummies and daddies by hugging and cuddling. And they will not be able to realise that their enthusiastic ‘cuddles’ can hurt the guinea pig. They may also want to ‘feed the nice piggie’ inappropriate items (5), or attract its attention by banging on the run, or making other loud and unfortunately traumatic, scary noises for their new found friends in the run. Always supervise children and gradually teach them good careful handling skills.

Hidey Places

Guinea pigs like to be able to hide to make them feel secure, so placing something they can safely hide in into the run is going to make them a whole lot happier. Pet stores do sell hidey ‘toys’ and some owners have simply opted for durable plastic ‘stools’ – the low-level type you might use to stand on to reach a high shelf. The space between the stools legs is great for hiding out in.

Jules Hanson

IMPORTANT:

None of this information is intended to replace the advice of a knowledgeable professional vet on guinea pig care. These articles are intended as a general introduction to the topics only. Every single animal has different needs – so whilst efforts have been made to provide helpful information, we respectfully advise you to check with your vet to accommodate your individual pet’s needs. Thank you.

Useful resources

1. Guinea Lynx [online] Housing for Health and Happiness.

http://www.guinealynx.info/housing.html

2. Guinea Pig Cages [online] – site provided by  Cavy Spirit guinea pig rescue [online].

Your Guinea Pig’s Home.

http://www.guineapigcages.com

3. Guinea Lynx [online] Poisonous Plants.

http://www.guinealynx.info/forages_poisonous.html

4. ASPCA [online] Animal  Poison Control Centre

http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/

5. ASPCA [online] A Poison Safe Home

http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/a-poison-safe-home.html

6. ASPCA [online] People Foods To Avoid Feeding Your Pets

http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/people-foods.html

General indoor run information:

Guinea Pig Cages [online] – site provided by  Cavy Spirit guinea pig rescue [online] Floor Time

http://www.guineapigcages.com/floortime.htm

Photo Credits – meet the artist at:

1. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/lieke 2. http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=profile&l=sue_r_b

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