The Problem with SmellThe fact that many of these cages will start to smell after a while may seem like a minor point, but it can lead to serious consequences later.
Here is a typical newbie guinea pig story.
Picture if you will, a young adult who must have a guinea pig. The parents finally decide their son or daughter is mature enough to take on the responsibility of caring for a guinea pig or two. Some parents know it will become their responsibility, most think it will be their child's primary job with them overseeing it. Even if the teen has done great research and presents a case to their parents about everything needed, some parents veto a proper C&C cage for the smaller Midwest cage. It will fit in the bedroom and they think it's easier. This is symptomatic of the parents not leading the ""guinea pigs will be a part of the family"" process.
Now, it's off to the pet store, rescue or shelter to obtain a guinea pig. The cool kids do their research first and find a way to adopt. Hopefully, your rescue or shelter steers you into a C&C Cage. Why are Midwest cages fairly prevalent? They are the biggest of the too-small cages, so people feel good about the ""best they could find; bigger than other pet store cages"" decision. Assuming this was a typical pet store trip, now the family heads home with their pet store guinea pigs, pet store cage (or Amazon, same difference), pet store bedding, pet store food and pet store accessories.
Of course, not only is the guinea pig purchase (rather than adopting) adding to the pet overpopulation problem and fueling the small pet mills, but the supply products purchased are typically subpar or inappropriate. The vast majority of guinea pig food sold at the stores is unhealthy for them, including most of the 'treats.' Most hay is subpar. Oxbow is one of the few national brands available in some pet stores that is of a reliable quality for hay, pellets and treats. Bedding is expensive and sold in small bags, so people tend to skimp on it. Hideys and accessories are hard to get right (see our Cage Feng Shui article). But, we all start out with great intentions and buy the biggest and best of everything that we can afford -- because we want a guinea pig and we want one now. We get it.
The cage is usually set up in the son's or daughter's bedroom. It's small enough to fit on top of a dresser or small table. (Oh how we don't like hearing ""It's the only place it would fit."") The cage setup starts out nice and beautiful. Everything is great. They probably got some fleece stuff, too, because how could you not with so many cute images and videos out there.
Fast forward six months...
Cleaning the cage is a now a chore. It's no longer the shiny new project or pet. The dreamy fantasies of life with guinea pigs have settled into a daily grind of reality. Keep in mind this cage is too small and must be kept very clean all the time. Any stretching of cleaning times will end up in too much urine buildup leading to stains. The more you try to clean the stains, the worse they get. What emotion does this naturally inspire? A sense of futility. And futility leads to discouragement when facing cleaning the cage multiple times a week. It's never going to get really clean, so you eventually stop trying so hard. Of course, that continues to make it worse. A downward spiral ensues. Over time, the stains lead to permanent smells.
The effort of cage cleaning becomes more work, less fun and continues to take its toll. The cage is still in the kid's bedroom. The room is smelling ""not so great"" most of the time. This becomes a sore point with the parents. Ultimatums set in. The guinea pigs end up in the rehoming cycle because nobody is happy anymore. Of course, that's the happy version. Then there is the version where you come home with a pregnant guinea pig (this happens a lot) -- and you're starting from a position of a too small cage.
Our experience with the MidWest Home For Pets company goes back many years -- to the inception of their Guinea Pig Habitat cage (late 2008). They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Healthy competition is fine, but why aren't we flattered? C&C Cages were growing in popularity for years prior -- we created them back in 2000. Over time, our messages about cage size requirements took hold, and for good reason. This took years of grass-roots marketing and investment into the guinea pig community. The new standards have been validated for years by hundreds of thousands of guinea pig caretakers from all walks of life around the world and adopted by pet welfare authoritative bodies as well. MidWest saw an opportunity and came up with their own version, suitable for the mass market -- mass-manufactured, collapsible to a small, lightweight box for shipping and shelving, using cheap materials. They loved our original content and marketing messages so much, that they copied them for their product to compete against the C&C Cages phenomenon. They took our key message on our home page: ""Bigger is Better"" and use it right along with the rest of our copy (all verifiable in the internet archives). Were our long-published cage-size standards followed or improved upon? No. They copied our cage-size chart graphic then reduced the standards to suit their product. Are we okay with that? Absolutely not. We've worked tirelessly at great cost for many years to promote and promulgate proper cage environments for guinea pigs. They've intentionally rounded down our standards while rounding up their cage dimensions. When a cage is that small, the difference matters.