Guinea Pig Essentials

These things are the essentials for owning a guinea pig. Here, I have shown what products I use for my little herd. Feel free to borrow or take hints from anything you see here. Or to share with me your own experiences. Note that there is a companion page devoted to non-essential-but-fun pig stuff.

Cages

First, there's the cage. My first guinea pig, Tribble, lived in the smaller cage below. However, most cavy experts recommend more room to play than what this provides. For my current herd of cavies, I got the Marchioro cage. It is the "Tommy 120" model, and the biggest cage I've found. It is roomy, around two feet by four feet, and offers lots of space for the little ones to play. The difference in behavior is striking: Tea became much more playful and generally happier when I got the bigger cage for the herd. (Note that at least some of that is due to the introduction of Metis, as well.)

Since buying the big cage, I came to sort of wish that I had made my own cage. Since moving in to a larger apartment, I've done exactly that. The new cage is about 25 square feet on the lower leve and another 7 or 8 on the top. The pigs have loads of room to run and play, as well as avoid each other (and me). I designed the cage with a full-sized peice of coroplast (eight feet by four feet, sadly as large as it gets) so it's 3 grids by six grids on the main level. The top level is 2x3, with a wooden ramp to get the pigs up. The pigs like to hide out under the balcony and it is sometimes slightly difficult to get them when I need to. But otherwise, it's a great cage.

If you want to get the Marchioro cage, I got mine at Mayer's Pets. The shipping is kind of expensive, but it's a nice, big cage.

Big Cage Small Cage
Big cage, made by Marchioro. Around 2 feet x 4 feet. Small cage, standard pet store issue
Cubes'n'Coroplast Cage Cubes'n'Coroplast Cage
Bigger cubes'n'coroplast cage that I made myself, end-view Bigger cubes'n'coroplast cage that I made myself, side-view

Food

I started by feeding the cavies KayTee guinea pig food, but there are healthier options so I explored those. I've largely settled for Oxbow Hay's Cavy Care feed. (It's Timothy hay-based and doesn't contain lots of sugariness.)

I have several food dishes for them. Tribble managed on a small, plastic dish (weighted below), but the sows quickly found that they could tip that over. Also, it was too small. The two larger plastic dishes are too easy for the herd to tip over, especially Tea who seems to delight in doing so. So I finally purchased a large, ceramic dish. Tea tried to chew on it for a while, but she eventually gave up on that. (Mercifully. It's a really horrible noise.) It's heavy enough that Tea can stand on the side and not tip it over, but rather big. The usual daily amount of food seems tiny in it, but that's something that we can live with.

A plastic food dish A ceramic food dish
Plastic food dish. Doesn't work well, as the pigs can tip it over. Used mainly for treats, now. Ceramic food dish. Works wonders, although it's rather large.

Water

Not a whole lot to say: water is good. I have the 32-oz. water bottles that Oasis makes. When I first moved to the Marchioro cage, I had a problem of how to mount bottles intended for outside-mounting on the inside of the cage. My first solution involved pliers and turning the hooks around. The better solution, however, was to use some quarter-inch chain to hang the bottles in a corner of the cage.

Green water bottle, with holder bend around Blue water bottle, hung off of chains
The green water bottle. I had to bend the hooks that hold it around so I could mount it inside the cage. (The usual arrangement has it outside the cage with the sipper tube poking inside. That doesn't work with the Tommy 120 cage, though, because the plastic tray extends up 6 inches, higher than the piggies can reach.) Blue water bottle. This one, I got smart and hung from chains. The quarter-inch chain is good stuff: sturdy enough to hold but not too bulky. I used some simple clips to hook it to the cage, thus I can detach and re-arrange things at will. Also, notice the second chain further down. That keeps the bottle from swinging away from the wall, as it wants to do.

Hay

Hay is also really important, and the cavies need it in essentially unlimited quantities. You'll find that they like to play with the hay as well as munch it constantly. I used to get my hay from American Pet Diner, which ships their hay to you. Even with shipping, a 25-lb bale is cheaper than store-bought hay at around $1.25/lb. (At least the smaller bags you get in the stores.) And it's fresh, green, and smells nice. The herd liked their hay before, but when I got this stuff, they went wild for it. I highly recommend this product. Recently, I've switched to Oxbow Hay's stuff. The prices are about the same. The chief difference is that I also get the pellets from Oxbow Hay, so it's just easier to get everything there. (Also, I get them Vitamin C tablets. They're fed a few a week to make sure that they're up to snuff.)

Another concern is how to deliver the hay to the pigs. I didn't like most of the store-bought hay racks, as they were small and they didn't allow very easy access to the hay. The guinea pigs couldn't get at the hay a lot of the time, and they also could knock the rack off the cage wall with their rough handling. So I made my own hay rack out of a grid from the cubes (see Cavy Cages for more on these), some quarter-inch chain, and some simple clips. I used four lengths of chain (and eight clips): two chains are attached near the top-sides of the grid and extend to the cage wall, holding the rack out a ways from the wall. The other two lengths of chain are harder to see, but they're attached to the grid's bottom about a third of the way in from the sides. They hold the bottom of the rack off of the ground. The rack is fixed a few inches above the cage floor and the grids are generally too close together for the animals to get hay our of the middle. The sides are basically totally open, however, so that they can slip hay out that way. Also, the grid can swing away from the cage wall (it'll swing back under gravity) if the animals tug on it, dropping some hay from the rack onto the ground where they can eat it. So it's a good arrangement.

Hayrack, from face on Hay rack from in front
The hay rack from straight ahead. Another shot of the hay rack from straight ahead.
Hay rack, from the side A 25-pound bale of Timothy hay
The hay rack from straight ahead. A 25-pound bale of Timothy hay, under the cage.
Rubbermaid hay bin
These large Rubbermaid storage units make a great place for a bale of hay.

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Weiss John
Last modified: Thu Nov 24 13:01:19 MST 2005