You need to leave the house. Whether it is briefly or for an extended period, chances are you will want to know how long your Guinea Pig can be left alone. It’s a fair question. Besides, things come up in life and its not always possible to be in at all hours of the day. Being in such a predicament, I spent some time researching the possibilities and how best to approach this particular arrangement.
So, how long can a Guinea Pig be left alone? You should never leave your Guinea Pig alone and unattended for longer than 24 hours. 12 hours at most is generally considered to be more ideal. Even if you leave them with plenty of food and water, Guinea Pigs are reliant on your care and will likely require your attention within that time.
Reasons for these time-frames are because Guinea Pigs are also prone to illness and tend to eat and drink through food and water very fast.
In other words, they are heavily reliant on your care.
Besides, they are your pet that you decided to keep after all – its only fair!
Let us now take a closer look at everything you need to consider when leaving your Guinea Pig, and how to ensure they remain safe and healthy if you do decide to ever venture of.
How Long Can You Leave A Guinea Pig Alone?
So if you are wondering if it is at all possible, and how long it is possible for, let us take a look at the time-frame recommended and some of the factors that go into it.
24 hours is often recommended by experts as the maximum time you should leave your Guinea Pig alone.
Firstly, Guinea Pigs are social creatures in nature, and do not do well in isolation and when alone for extended periods of time. They need human interaction, and room to explore and move around outside of a cage setting. This is obviously something that will not be provided when you are nowhere to be seen.
Secondly, it is imperative that as a Guinea Pig owner, you are providing them with plenty of hay and food. Guinea Pigs are pets that require access to hay 24 hours a day – they need a continuous and constant supply.
In fact, their teeth never stop growing and hay is ideal because it gives them something to regularly chew. The fiber and nutrients also support their overall health and promote optimal digestion and bodily functions.
Hay should make up around 80% of a Guinea Pigs diet, along with around 1/2 cup of fresh vegetables each and every day (this includes but is not limited to: Spinach, Lettuce, Celery etc and some small chunks of fruit each week (like Pineapple).
Highly nutritious pellets (this is the brand I order on Amazon) are also recommended. Of course, if you are away you cannot keep up with this supply.
Moreover, ensuring there is plenty of water is a huge concern. Even with multiple water bottles, consider that your Guinea Pig could easily drink through them, or they could become clogged or leak.
If you have dishes opposed to bottles, it is not uncommon for Guinea Pigs to accidentally tip them over and lose their supply.
Other reasons to consider is the internal climate of your home or where your Guinea Pigs live. Guinea Pigs require protection from temperatures swings which are likely within the home environment, especially as the nights draw in or as the heating comes on and goes off.
Lastly, Guinea Pigs are prone to illnesses and can become sick very quickly. You need to catch ailments quickly and one of the only ways you can do this is by visually observing signs and symptoms.
In the more extreme cases, if a condition worsens, there will be limited time that you have to respond and get them to a Vet.
Although you shouldn’t really leave your Guinea Pig alone for any extended length of time, if you are planning to leave them for up to 24 hours, here are the things that you should ensure are in place:
- There is plenty of Hay (will not run out)
- There is plenty of Water (various bottles that will not run out) )
- If you have several Guinea Pigs living alongside one another, they are an established herd (not likely to fight)
- There is plenty of space in the cage
- There are places to hide, take shelter and sleep.
- Nothing in the enclosure can cause danger, or risk of injury
- Their enclosure is in a quiet, calm and stable climate area (with no winds or causes of extreme swings in cold/heat)
- The cage and bedding is clean and fresh.
Look for Somebody to Look After Your Guinea Pig While You’re Away
While leaving your Guinea Pig alone for a few hours may not cause any problems now and again, it isn’t generally a great idea. You know what they say – better safe than sorry!
The best thing that you can do if you need to leave the house for a period of time is to get somebody to visit your house, check up on them and to give them some care.
Its ideal if this person has looked after your Guinea Pigs before, but at the least they should know how to top up their water/feed.
Alternately, you can hire a pet sitter to look after your Guinea Pig(s). To keep the costs down, you can always get your pet sitter to visit a couple of times over the course of the day. This prevents the need for full-time care.
Additionally, some vets offer a boarding service whereby you can drop your Guinea Pig(s) off. They will look after them while you are away. This tends to cost around $7 per Guinea Pig per day on average.
The major benefit of leaving with the vet is that you do not need to worry about their health, inexperience or failed showings while you are away.
Make Sure It Doesn’t Get Too Cold While You Are Away!
Guinea Pigs do best in a warm temperature. This is because they originate from South America where climates are warm and dry.
Regarding specificity, ideally, temperatures should be within the 65 – 75°F (18-24°C) range (during the day), and this should not drop much below 60°F at night. It has been reported that anything less than 50°F (10°C) can result in death.
At first, as temperatures start to fall Guinea Pigs will become less active and resort to sleeping as a method to keep them warm and retain heat.
However, if it falls any further or the Guinea Pig struggles to overcome the stress of the cold, it can develop Hypothermia which is a medical emergency and requires medical attention.
This is obviously a lot more harder to control and you cannot mitigate any sudden changes in temperature if you are away.
It is therefore very important to keep your internal house climate (where you house your Guinea Pigs) within a specific range.
And as you can see, towards a warmer temperature. It should also be away from any drafts, and should also be away from any areas where temperatures can fall suddenly.
Leave your Guinea Pigs in a warm part of the house so that they stay awake and are fully comfortable. Moreover, if you live in a particularly cold area or it is within the winter months, you should leave the central heating system on.
While you may have already considered central heating and some other heating contingencies, consider that these systems can fail and heating systems for us humans generally do not suffice for our pets.
It is therefore advised to invest in some heating pads that you can place in your Guinea Pigs cage. This is an excellent option from Amazon.
The main benefit of these pads is that your Guinea Pigs will only get on them when they need to and they can control their temperatures on their own accord.
Just make sure you have enough if you are housing multiple Guinea Pigs (otherwise this could result in fighting or less confident Guinea Pigs not getting the heat they need).
Heating pads are a good option if you are away during the winter for a couple of hours, but even then you should/a pet-sitter should be returning home to check up on them.
Don’t Leave Your Guinea Pig Alone For Too Long
This point just cannot be reiterated enough. Guinea Pigs are social animals, with needs and requirements. You cannot just leave them to themselves and return when it suits you.
While these small creatures may appear independent, and do so freely in the wild, when they have been domesticated it becomes another story.
Hay, Food, Water, Ideal Temperatures and Entertainment is all required. You cannot just leave your Guinea Pigs alone with a huge stockpile of hay and food, thinking all will be ok.
One of the other factors that we have yet touched on is hygiene and cleaning. A Guinea Pigs cage needs to be regularly cleaned. Unfortunately, a lot of Pet-Sitters will not include this in their fees or may not even have the know-how.
Keeping the cage clean is crucial to ensure that your Guinea Pig is happy, content and not susceptible to illness.
Lots of fresh bedding is also essential so that your Guinea Pig remains comfortable and can sleep freely.
Typical Guinea Pig bedding lasts for a couple of days before it needs cleaning so consider this before you decide to leave them for any period of time.
In addition, Guinea Pigs can become bored and feel trapped if kept in their cage for extended periods of time. You should always ensure they have toys available to play with when they are not sleeping or eating.
Remember, Getting a Pet Sitter Is Always the Best Option
When you’re leaving your Guinea Pig(s) alone for a few hours, there’s only so much you can do in advance.
You can clean their cage, provide extra hay, food, water and even set up fresh bedding. But how long can you expect your Guinea Pigs to remain happy, content and safe without you by their side?
Instead of hoping, gambling or even seeing what other Guinea Pig Owners do, it is best to avoid leaving your Guinea Pig(s) alone at all.
There is a reason why there is an entire industry around pet supervision and looking after pets while owners are away.
You’ll want to make sure you get a recommended and attentive pet-sitter who will show on time and be there for your Guinea Pig in time of need.
They need to know how to feed them and ensure they are consuming enough water and getting time out of the cage to play.
As long as you hire appropriately, do not cut any corners and can be sure to trust your pet sitter they will make sure your Guinea Pigs) is safe and protected from any potential hazards that could occur with nobody around.
If you struggle to find a good pet-sitter in your area, or their fees are top high, a good alternative is to ask a neighbor, a friend or member of the family.
The good thing with this approach is that you can train them in advance, have more confidence in their capabilities and trust them in your home.
Health and Safety Precautions for Guinea Pigs Left Alone
When leaving your Guinea Pig alone, even for a couple of hours, there are certain things you can do to ensure they remain safe, comfortable and healthy:
- Ensure temperature remains warm and stable – without extreme swings across the day/night.
- Keep your Guinea Pigs secure, and away from any other animals or pets.
- Ensure you leave your Guinea Pig cage clean, with plenty of Hay, Food, Water and Toys.
- Do not leave new Guinea Pigs together. Ensure that your Guinea Pigs are friendly with one another and familiar in each others company.
- Refrain from leaving a lot of fruit or high-sugared foods in the cage; this can lead to excessive consumption which can cause diarrhea.
- Never leave for longer than 24 hours; a pet-sitter, friend, family member or neighbor should also check up on them during this time.
- Ensure you have multiple bottles of water, so that if any clog or break your Guinea Pigs can drink.
- Ensure everything is completely secure, cannot break or injure your Guinea Pigs.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.