The Downside of Keeping Caged PetsLet's face it. Cage cleaning is the hard part of keeping guinea pigs. This is also the #1 reason why people give up and rehome their guinea pigs. It is monumentally important to make this as painless and easy as possible for your situation.
It depends on what kind of Cage and BeddingOne of the nice things about the Cubes and Coroplast cage is the ease of cleaning. You should experiment to find the method that works best for you. Below are some recommended methods, in order by popularity.
What to do with the pigs during cage cleaning? In a good-sized C&C cage (usually 2x4 grids or bigger), you can scoot the pigs down to one end of the cage while you clean the other end. Or, you could give them floor time during cage cleaning time. Or, you could remove them to a temporary bin during cage cleaning time. Or you could give them to another household member for lap-time during cage cleaning time.
Disposable BeddingWood shavings or paper-based disposable bedding:
Method 1: Straight Bedding with Dust Pan
- Scoop out the bedding with a dust pan into a garbage can or waste bin lined with a large plastic bag. You may want to use a whisk broom to get the finer stuff out before spraying.
- Spray the sides and bottom of the cage with a spray bottle filled with 1/2 plain, white vinegar and 1/2 water. Wipe dry.
- Replace the bedding (and pigs).
That's it! No moving of the cage. No lifting of the grids creating a mess. No harsh, toxic cleaners are necessary. 10 minutes, providing you don't take extra time to play with the piggies.
Toss the bedding in the garbage, or your compost heap if you are using appropriate bedding, or spread on your garden, or put in your green recycle bin. Be aware that in many places, it is officially illegal to discard or recycle animal waste in the bins your waste company picks up.
Note: Vinegar -- not only is it a powerful antibacterial agent, it is also an acid. Urine is a base (alkaline). The neutralizing effect of the acid/base combination helps vinegar cut right through urine and urine buildup. If you have particularly stubborn areas, apply some vinegar full strength (which is still only a 5% solution). Rinse well.
Some people prefer to use a bleach solution. It should NOT be necessary. But, if you use bleach, use only a maximum of 10% bleach and 90% water and rinse VERY WELL.
If you are using the proper amount of bedding in your cage (1 to 1.5 inches) and changing it often enough, you should rarely have even damp spots on the bottom of your cage. If you do, you need to clean or spot clean more frequently or add more bedding or change the type of bedding you are using. Heavy urine at the bottom means too much urine on the top as well. Generally, the dirtiest part of the cage should be on the sides.
Ideally, you should give the pigs floor time while you are cleaning their cage.
How often should you clean the cage? There is no one, correct answer. Your cage should NEVER smell. On average, cages are completely cleaned once a week (bedding replaced, cage sides and bottom wiped clean). You will need to spot clean particularly wet spots an additional 1 to 2 times during the week. Some people spot clean every day. Some change the cage as often as every 3 to 4 days. It all depends on your particular setup, how many pigs you have, their urine and poop output and location, the age of the guinea pigs, etc.
Method 2: Add Newspaper Lining under Bedding
bullet Line the cage with Newspaper. Same technique as Method 1, but some people like to be able to ""roll up"" the newspaper with the bedding in it. DO NOT USE any kind of plastic liner. Even if you think the pigs can't get to it.
Method 3: Cleaning Flaps Option
- Make cleaning flaps in the cage. This might save you time depending on how your cage is set up. Using the grids, you create a door that can be swung open instead of securing it as a permanent part of the cage wall. Then you can push the bedding out of the cleaning door/flap into a waiting garbage can underneath.
This technique just replaces the dustpan approach above. We found that in reality, it takes as long to undo the grids as it does to scoop out the bedding in the first place. In other words, we don't take the time to do it; we just grab the dust pan instead.
Method 4: Cleaning with Allergies
- Take the cage outdoors to clean. IF you have severe allergy problems, cleaning the cage outdoors is a good idea. In that case, people have used the grids to also make a base for the Coroplast to sit on. That way they can lift the whole thing to take outdoors. That kind of setup also requires the grids to be firmly secured with cable ties at every connection.
Need a Bedding Recommendation?
We have experimented with just about every kind of bedding possible. Our current solution for bedding is working great. We use about a 3 to 1 ratio of Aspen shavings if available (or kiln-dried pine when Aspen is unavailable) to CareFresh. We put a generous layer of shavings down first. We cover that with a layer of CareFresh. We always tamp it down lightly with a dust pan to get a more compact surface for the guinea pigs to run and walk around on. Because the shavings are covered with CareFresh, this eliminates any possible health risk from the phenols of the wood, especially if pine is used (even kiln-dried). But, more importantly, we believe it is important to cover pine as a quality of life issue for guinea pigs. Their sense of smell is much more sensitive than ours -- about 100 times more sensitive. The occasional whiff of pine may smell refreshing to us, but having one's nose in it constantly, kiln-dried or otherwise, would not be a choice one would make, guinea pig or human. Even with so-called ""low or no-odor"" pine that is kiln-dried, there is no mistaking that it is pine, even with our insensitive noses.
This combination of Aspen (or pine) and CareFresh, makes the bedding much more affordable than just CareFresh alone. Although, just CareFresh is still an excellent bedding choice if cost is not an issue.
Hay over the shavings would be an alternative to CareFresh over the shavings, but the hay would need to be replaced more often than CareFresh because it is not absorbent and should not be used as a bedding, per se. It would need to be changed almost daily, which makes it not a great solution from a time (and mess) point of view.
Some people use towels in a portion of a large Cubes and Coroplast cage and regular bedding on one end. If you are okay with frequently changing towels and laundering, that makes a good compromise on bedding cost as well.
Please see the Bedding page for more bedding ideas and suggestions.
Rabbits and some rodents, such as guinea pigs and hamsters, produce urine with high concentrations of proteins and minerals. These compounds often adhere to cage surfaces and necessitate treatment with acid solutions before and/or during washing.