The best guinea pig cage
Guinea pigs, also known as cavies, have long been popular household pets, largely because of their docile nature, compatibility with children, and relatively low-maintenance requirements. However, a completely "free range" guinea pig is rarely a good idea, since they are also very curious about their outside environment and can easily get lost behind furniture or inside cabinets. Investing in a quality guinea pig cage is one of the first steps a new owner should take in order to keep his or her pet safe and secure.
Many pet stores offer a comprehensive starter kit for guinea pigs and other small rodents, but the dimensions of the cage may not meet recommended minimums for an animal the size of a typical cavy. A single guinea pig requires at least 7.5 square feet of open space to feel comfortable, and the cage itself needs to protect its inhabitants from other animals or potential hazards. A good guinea pig cage should also allow for additional accessories, such as hay baskets, water bottles, salt licks, and exercise wheels.
If you are considering adding a guinea pig or two to your family, read our helpful shopping guide for advice on finding the ideal cage. At the top of our list is the Midwest Deluxe Critter Nation, a large enclosure that provides multiple levels for a community of guinea pigs. It is easy to assemble and easy to maintain.
Considerations when choosing guinea pig cages
Guinea pigs are noticeably larger than other small rodents, such as hamsters or gerbils. They require at least 7.5 square feet of personal space -- and that should be considered a bare minimum. Guinea pigs also like to sit on their haunches from time to time, so vertical height is as important as width. When shopping for a starter cage for guinea pigs, look for models that open from the top, allowing owners to extract and return cavies without forcing them through a restrictive opening. For housing multiple guinea pigs, the minimal living space dimensions are even higher.
Security and ventilation
Guinea pigs are sensitive to their outside environments, and they prefer to feel safe and secure while in their homes. Cages should be constructed from thick wiring, which may or not be coated with a vinyl material. The lid should be securely fastened to the rest of the cage, and be strong enough to resist any outside forces. Accessories such as exercise wheels and hay boxes should also fit securely in the cage, allowing free access to all users.
Because guinea pigs defecate and urinate in their cages, proper ventilation is essential. As long as the bedding is replaced or refreshed regularly, the odor from waste should be minimal. Guinea pigs cannot regulate their body heat through sweating, so their cages need enough natural ventilation to keep them cool.
Ease of use
A quality guinea pig cage needs to be sturdy enough to be a proper habitat, but also accessible enough for regular cleanings and other maintenance. The bottom tray should be smooth, with enough depth to hold several inches of bedding. The sides of the cage should fit securely with clips, but also be easy to remove for cleaning. The lid should open easily for pet extractions and food refills, but also latch securely to discourage escapes. Platforms, ladders and perches are not always a good idea for guinea pigs, because a fall from such a height can cause serious injury. If the cage does have multiple levels, owners should make sure their pets cannot fall off an open ledge.
A guinea pig starter kit may include a basic cage and feeding supplies, but owners often choose to supplement these essentials with a few upgrades. A salt wheel provides guinea pigs with the additional sodium they often crave. Hay holders help keep alfalfa and other dried greens off the cage floor and away from body waste. Exercise wheels provide mental and physical stimulation, but not all guinea pigs will show interest.
Many guinea pigs respond well to small toys or other entertaining pieces they discover in their cages. Very few starter cages include these items, however, so owners will probably want to add a few things gradually as the guinea pig becomes more acclimated to the home.
First-time guinea pig owners should understand that bedding suitable for other small pets, such as hamsters, mice or gerbils, may not be ideal for cavies. Oily wood shavings, for example, can be toxic if ingested, and the shavings do not absorb urine as well as other types of bedding. Although bedding is rarely included in starter kits, it should be readily available at pet stores. The best bedding is paper-based, derived from toilet paper or paper towel stock.
The least-expensive guinea pig cages are considered do-it-yourself projects, using corrugated plastic panels and rolls of wire to construct rudimentary cages. A basic starter kit from a pet store can cost around $45, while higher-end models with multiple levels and numerous accessories retail between $45 and $75.
Q. The pet store had a good sale on cedar shavings. Can I use them in my guinea pig's cage?
A. Cedar shavings contain chemicals that can be toxic to guinea pigs, so you should consider using paper-based bedding instead. A minimal depth of two to three inches is ideal.
Q. Can I put two guinea pigs in the starter cage I bought at the pet store? I don't want them to feel crowded.
A. It depends on the dimensions of the cage. A single guinea pig should have at least 7.5 square feet of personal space, which works out to a 30" x 36" cage. Socially, two or more guinea pigs can share the same cage, but it should provide a minimum of 10.5 square feet of personal space per animal, which translates to at least 30" x 50". More is definitely better.
Guinea pig cages we recommend
Best of the best: Midwest's Deluxe Critter Nation
Our take: This multilevel cage is an excellent choice for multiple guinea pigs, although owners may want to consider investing in deeper flooring and reducing the height of each level.
What we like: Solid, smooth flooring is easy on guinea pig paws. Easy to add accessories such as salt licks, water bottles and exercise wheels. Generous square footage for multiple cavies.
What we dislike: Assembly can be challenging. Original bottom tray is shallower than expected, limited litter capacity.
Best bang for your buck: Living World's Deluxe Habitat
Our take: While not quite large enough for two guinea pigs, this entry-level cage is designed better than many starter cages at the same retail price point.
What we like: Good amount of living space for a single guinea pig. Large top lid provides easy access for pet extraction. Easy to clean.
What we dislike: Original water bottle may need to be upgraded. Hay holder is placed outside of the living area.
Choice 3: Ferplast's Cavie Guinea Pig Cage
Our take: The Ferplast cage is a perfect example of what an affordable "starter" cage should look like, with easy access to a single guinea pig or several smaller rodents.
What we like: Very easy to assemble. Generous amount of room for single guinea pig. Lid provides easy access to all sections of cage.
What we dislike: Not suitable for two or more guinea pigs. Entire top lid opens, allowing some cavies an opportunity to escape.
Michael Pollick is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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