Guinea Pig PlayHow to keep life interesting for your guinea pig!
A number of toys require a cage size big enough for the toys and the guinea pig -- another reason to make sure you have a big enough cage for your cavy! The following items are more important than toys. Once you have these items covered to the best of your ability or situation, then be creative with simple and safe toys.
IMPORTANT ENRICHMENT for your Guinea Pig
- ANOTHER GUINEA PIG (of the same sex) Guinea pigs are social, herd animals and are generally happier and healthier with another guinea pig. You see new behavior and a higher level of activity with two or more guinea pigs. If you get a friend for your guinea pig, MAKE SURE it is of the same sex or one in the pair is neutered or spayed. DO NOT rely on a pet store to determine the sex of a guinea pig. For sexing information, see this Sexing page.
- A BIGGER CAGE Guinea pigs love to run around, chase each other and play little games between themselves. If your cage is not big enough, then a larger cage should be your top priority! Read through all the testimonials if you don't think your guinea pig will be happier and have more fun in a bigger, roomier cage. Most of us start out making the same mistake of getting our first guinea pig at a pet store and usually buying the biggest pet store cage we can find thinking we are doing the best for our new pet. Now that you have found this site, hopefully you realize that even the biggest commercially available cages are just too small. Upgrading a too small cage should be a top priority.
- FLOOR TIME (see Floor Time) Even if you have a big cage, and especially if you don't, it is very important to the health and happiness of your guinea pig to get daily exercise. Floor time is more than lap time. It is providing a safe environment large enough for your guinea pig in which to run around and explore. Safe means protecting areas that your guinea may get into that he can't get out of, like behind refrigerators, inside chairs or sofas, behind immovable shelving, in walls, etc. It also means making sure wires are inaccessible, not just unplugged. Guinea pigs have been known to eat telephone cords and cause themselves major internal damage. Electrocution and fires from biting plugged in wires have also been known to happen.
- HIDEY HOUSES See the Accessories page for ideas and sources of hidey houses and tunnels for your guinea pig. They need to feel safe. The cavy cozies are a huge hit with piggies. Every guinea pig should have at least one wooden structure in their cage, either a wooden hidey house or a wooden tunnel. These are used for chewing (good for the incisors -- the molars need lots of hay) much more often than most "chew" toys. With more than one pig and a large enough cage, you should have one extra hidey house for the number of pigs in a cage. For example, 3 pigs should have 4 hidey houses. That allows for a neutral 'place' and more peace in the group. Once you have at least one wooden house, you can get more creative with additional places to hide, like towel tents.
- FRESH HAY and LOTS of it! If you just keep your hay in a hay manger or hay rack, try putting a big clump of hay in the cage, especially if it is fresh, green, great smelling hay! Nothing perks up a piggie more than a lot of fresh hay to run and play through and munch. It never fails to get them excited. Make sure it is high quality soft hay as straw-like hay can cause eye injuries. Make sure to remove any soiled hay daily and replace with fresh as it can stay damp and cause health problems. Don't forget hay is THE MOST IMPORTANT element in their diet. For more info on hay and great sources, be sure to visit the HAY page.
Guinea Pig ToysHave you most definitely provided your guinea pigs with the items listed above? If so, then consider adding a little toy variety to their life. Just be aware that most guinea pigs will pretty much ignore most 'toys.' That's why the above list is so important. Those are the items they REALLY care about! Now, on to toys . . .
Safety first! Many commercial toys (cat balls with bells inside, for example) can come apart leaving dangerous small pieces in the cage. Some have caused serious damage with vet care required. Be creative, but think safety first. Some pigs love one type of toy, others will ignore them. Some guinea pigs get bored or frustrated after a while. It's good to experiment and give them variety. Keep in mind that most guinea pigs will ignore most 'toys' -- usually the simpler the better. Regardless, change out the toys, houses, and locations of toys and houses frequently. Keep toys, and especially houses and food dishes if possible, AWAY from the walls and corners of the cage. Always make sure the perimeter of the cage is free and clear for maximum run and exercise space. Cage accessories and houses should be arranged in the middle of the cage with adequate room to run around the items.
FREE (or almost) = guaranteed hit with the piggers!
Towel TentsCut up or fold larger bath size towels. Be sure to cut off any hanging threads. Towel tents in the corner make a great hidey hole that can be washed and don't take up too much room. You can just loop the towel through cage wires on the corner and secure with a safety pin or two. We use binder clips to secure the towels. 3 work great securing the tent in a triangular fashion to the grids.
Paper BagsEasy, inexpensive, fold and toss when dirty. Try folding them down, or cutting them down to fit better in the cage. Lay them on their side--cave style. Be sure to cut off any handles. Or try stuffing a paper bag with hay. A toy and a hay rack in one! Cut some entrance/exit holes on the side for more fun.
Cardboard BoxesShoe boxes, tissue boxes, empty soda carton boxes . . . Turn boxes upside down or sideways for a cave. If sideways with a bottom, throw in some bedding or hay for a soft hide-away. If upside down, cut out one or two entrance and escape holes. Escape holes are good if you have more than one piggie. If you have a box with a top on it, you can put them on their side and have the top like a door that swings open from the top. That is a huge hit with the pigs!
Cozies or Cuddle CupsThese are HUGE hits with the guinea pigs. Please see the Accessories page for details. They LOVE snuggling in their cozies. With a little ingenuity and craft skills, you can make your own versions of these items as well. We consider a tunnel and cozy a must have for every cage!
TunnelsThese are HUGE hits with the guinea pigs. Please see the Accessories page for details. They LOVE running through and sleeping under their tunnels. With a little ingenuity and craft skills, you can make your own versions of these items as well. You can even make a cube tunnel for play time or as an accessory in a large cage. Use two extra grids and attach them together to form a corner (90 degree angle) or make a U-shape from one or two grids. Put it down as tent and put an old towel or blanket over it. You may want to secure the corner connections with cable ties. We consider a tunnel and cozy a must have for every cage!
Crumpled-Up Pieces of PaperVery simple, but the piggies love them. Plain paper is better. They will probably chew on it and eat it. Occasional paper eating is okay.
Sheet of NewspaperAlso very simple, but a big hit. Good to chew on, crawl under, play tug-of-war with. Make sure there are no staples. Most newspaper is made with soy-based dyes which are safe for the pigs. Check with your newspaper company if you are not sure.
Toilet Paper and Paper Towel Cardboard SpoolsStuff some Timothy Hay in them and they make great treats. Be sure to cut a slit down the length of any tube so that a playful, curious piggie won't get stuck, like the piggie in the photo to the right.
Oatmeal ContainersToss when dirty or chewed down. Slice lengthwise to make sure they can't get stuck as shown. (photo: Copyright © 2001 Lynx, used with permission)
Bricks, Cinder Blocks, or Rough StonesMay help in wearing down nails. Make a pad of bricks available in the summer time. They can lay on the cooler bricks. Also, you can put the bricks under the water bottle to help absorb drips and ensure they get their little claws on them. Or, make a little low pyramid with bricks (assuming you have a large cage) and put the food on the top platform. With bricks, cinder blocks, and stones, make sure there is NO danger of any item falling or dislodging in such a way that could hurt a piggie or piggie paw. Try putting the stones or bricks under or next to the hay racks, especially if you hang the hay racks from an upper deck in a cube cage. A cinder block with holes in it can make an interesting gym for them.
Old SocksYou can leave them alone or stuff them with bedding. These can become a favorite pillow that gets dragged around the cage. Tie off or sew the top closed. You can also stuff the toe with a tennis ball.
Tennis BallsMay be better than cat toys as they will roll around easier on bedding.
Ping Pong BallsTo push around.
Small, Lightweight BowlsItems that they can toss or get inside, like an empty cottage cheese container.
Pine ConesPine cones don't have the pine bedding risk, but they should be sterilized first. Bake first to sterilize at approximately 200° for 20-30 minutes on foil to catch any sap drippings. These might be a favorite.
MirrorsOn the outside of the cage. If they are on the inside, make sure they are pet-safe.
Fruit Tree BranchGood chew treat, free if they come from your UNSPRAYED backyard. Untreated wood, twigs and logs that have been aged for at least 3 months. Apple tree branches can be eaten fresh off the tree. Stay away from: cherry, peach, apricot, plum (fruit trees with pits) and redwood branches, which are all poisonous.
Children's Wooden BlocksFor chewing and pushing around. Please make sure any children's blocks are not coated with any sealants (shiny or smooth looking) and are basically just plain wood.
Plumbing PipeIf you already have some 4" wide plumbing pipe, the different joint combinations (T's and elbows and +'s) can make interesting tunnels for the piggies to run through and hide in. Please be aware that while PVC pipe is not toxic to your guinea pigs, it is one of the most environmentally damaging plastics on the planet.
Small Stuffed AnimalsThese can be used in the same way as stuffed socks. Some piggies use them as pillows or something else to cuddle up with. IF your guinea pig chews on the stuffed toy, the stuffing inside may be harmful. In that case, you should switch to a sock stuffed with bedding, or if your guinea pig really likes a particular stuffed toy, but chews enough to get to the stuffing inside, you could replace the stuffing with bedding and sew it back up.
DO NOT USE
Large Exercise BallsThese are very bad for guinea pigs and can cause crippling injuries to their back, feet, and toes.
Exercise WheelsThese are also very bad for guinea pigs and can cause crippling injuries to their back, feet, and toes.