Before purchasing guinea pigs, you must decide on a species-appropriate enclosure. You have the choice between different cage constructions, floor enclosures, and outdoor enclosures. We have summarized the most important information for you.
Properly cared for, guinea pigs need enough space to move around. Not all commercially available guinea pig cages meet the necessary criteria.
Minimum size of the guinea pig enclosure
Of course, a guinea pig home can never be too big, but it can be too small. The guinea pig enclosure should have a floor area of at least 2m² for keeping two to four animals. The enclosure must be enlarged by at least 0.5m² for each additional animal.
Keeping guinea pigs individually is not species-appropriate and must be avoided at all costs. Even a rabbit cannot replace a conspecific.
The cages in pet shops usually consist of a plastic floor pan and a removable mesh top. In the lattice, there is usually a door that can be opened at the front and at the top. Unfortunately, the cages often only have one floor. To give the animals more space, two (or more) cages can be placed on top of each other and connected by ramps. In the pet trade, there are also cages that consist of several floors. These cages offer more space and more varied life for guinea pigs.
In addition to a large and species-appropriate enclosure, guinea pigs need daily freedom to roam in a secure room or outdoors.
Build your own wooden guinea pig enclosure
Homemade enclosures are much nicer and more animal-friendly than plastic cages with bars. You can design such a guinea pig home individually and adapt it to the space available in your apartment.
You can build your own, e.g. from solid wood or coated chipboard (as rear and side walls). Wooden shelves and cabinets can also be converted. A glass/plexiglass strip at least 15 cm high can be attached to each floor as the front. Guinea pigs are afraid of heights and usually do not jump over such barriers. In the case of young animals or new group members, the enclosure edge should be (temporarily) about 25 cm high for safety reasons.
Since such an enclosure is largely open at the front, there is plenty of light and fresh air. In the case of smaller but taller custom builds, it makes sense to build at least one side wall out of aviary wire to ensure good ventilation. Part of the front was to be provided with a door. If the self-construction consists of several floors, the floors are connected to each other by flat ramps.
The ramps have a maximum gradient of 20% and have a rough tread or small wooden slats so that the guinea pigs can walk up and down safely. Incidentally, enclosures that are uncovered above or on the top floor are very good for observing the animals. Plexiglas is used as a demarcation at the front and wood on the rear and sidewalls.
Keeping guinea pigs in the floor enclosure
You can best observe the interesting social behavior of a group of guinea pigs in large floor enclosures. Such an enclosure consists of wooden panels covered with PVC or pond liner and is open at the top. The four sides are e.g. made of 40 cm high wooden frames. Ideally, Plexiglas is used at least for the front, so that the animals have a better overview of their surroundings.
Such a form of keeping is of course only possible if you have enough space in the apartment and do not have to build up. Since guinea pigs are bottom dwellers and not “climbing animals” (e.g. rats and chinchillas), keeping them on the floor best meets their needs. Sufficient hiding places and a varied facility should of course not be missing here.
Keeping guinea pigs outdoors
Healthy guinea pigs can also be kept in an outdoor enclosure. The same rules apply here with regard to the size of the enclosure for keeping them indoors. If guinea pigs are to be moved to an outdoor enclosure, they must be outside day and night in May and September at the latest. This is the only way for the guinea pigs to get used to the fluctuating temperatures and develop the necessary winter fur.
The guinea pigs also have to get used to the grass outside. The grass must not be freshly fertilized!
The shelter for guinea pigs in the outdoor enclosure must be well insulated and weatherproof so that the inside does not get damp. At least half of the enclosure must also be in the shade at all times.
Guinea pigs that are kept in the outdoor stall all year round should not be taken into the warm house during the cold season and should then be put back in the outdoor stall. The rapid change in temperature can lead to serious illnesses.