Guinea pigs make wonderful pets, but you must make sure you provide them with the right environment and ensure you clean it regularly. But how regularly? Thankfully, you have come to the right place!
So, how often should you clean a guinea pig cage? As a general rule, you should aim to do a full cleanout of the cage every four days or so, paired with a daily spot clean. Although, the size of the enclosure, type of bedding, and how many guinea pigs you have may require more regular cleaning than this.
Dirty and unhygienic living environments can cause a host of health issues for guinea pigs.
Respiratory issues, bacterial infections; just two potential conditions that can develop and even prove fatal if left untreated or left for too long.
And beyond just your cavy, there is your home environment to consider too.
Who wants to live in a smelly home?!
So, the more you clean – the better.
And while it certainly takes some time and effort on your part – it is very much a prerequisite of owning one of these pets.
It needs to be taken seriously. And it needs to be done consistently.
Jokes aside, let us now take a closer look at all that is involved with cleaning the enclosure of a guinea pig.
How Often Should You Change The Bedding In A Guinea Pig Cage?
Bedding is an essential consideration when setting up an enclosure for guinea pigs. The type you choose will determine how easy the cage will be to clean and how often it should be done. Generally, daily to every 3-4 days is advised.
Let us now take a closer look at the different options and recommendations for changing each one:
Fleece bedding for guinea pigs has grown in popularity in recent years, especially with environmentally conscious owners, because it can be re-used.
However, it can get dirty quite quickly, so it will need to be replaced every 3-4 days at least.
It can also be expensive initially as you will need to buy several pieces to swap them over when one needs to be washed.
In addition to the bedding itself, you should invest in a pet-safe detergent as standard ones can be harmful to your guinea pig.
Aspen bedding is much simpler to replace and looks more natural, but you will need to spot clean daily to ensure you keep on top of the mess.
Spot cleaning is easy to do; you just have to take out the soiled areas of bedding and leave the clean stuff.
However, do make sure that you check the whole enclosure thoroughly, as guinea pigs have a habit of chucking clean bedding over the top of soiled areas when scurrying about!
Paper is perhaps the most cost-effective bedding choice but will probably need to be changed daily as it soaks up moisture quickly and remains damp.
Try to use plain paper and not a newspaper because the ink can be toxic if ingested.
With all this in mind, it is important to note that there are a number of substrates you should never use for guinea pigs.
Perhaps the main ones to note are pine or cedar shavings and cat litter.
These all of these contain chemicals that are toxic to guinea pigs.
Straw should also be avoided as it is not particularly absorbent, and the sharp points can injure your guinea pigs’ ears or eyes.
So, in general, there are at least five things you should look for when deciding on which bedding from the above you choose:
Your guinea pig will spend the majority of its time in the cage, so you should ensure the substrate is comfortable to walk on and lay down in.
Fleece bedding, paper, and aspen shavings are all good choices for increased comfort.
If you have ever owned a guinea pig, you will know that they have a tendency to poop and pee a lot!
So, you must make sure the bedding is capable of soaking up moisture.
Wet or damp bedding can lead to bumblefoot, which is a bacterial disease that affects guinea pigs’ footpads.
As mentioned above, a number of substrates contain substances that are toxic to guinea pigs, so these must be avoided at all costs.
This goes hand in hand with absorbency.
You will want to ensure you get a substrate that keeps the enclosure dry, which will help will keep foul odors at bay.
However, you should avoid scented bedding types as these can contain harmful chemicals.
Don’t go for the most expensive bedding, thinking that it will be the most effective.
There are a number of cheap substrate options on the market that work brilliantly, so ensure you do your research.
What Do You Clean A Guinea Pig Cage With?
In general, you will need a dustpan and brush (or scoop), some old towels or cloths, and your cleaning product of choice (which can be diluted in a bucket of water when needed) to clean out your guinea pigs cage. You may also want to wear a pair of disposable gloves and have a binbag nearby to put the waste into.
In reality, there are a variety of products and tools that you can use to clean out your guinea pigs cage; it’s just a case of finding out which works best for you.
The only thing you need to be careful of is ensuring that you avoid any harmful chemicals, which are generally present in all of our human cleaning sprays, detergents, and soaps.
So, to be on the safe side, you should opt for ‘pet safe’ cleaning products which can be purchased from most pet shops or even more easily on Amazon.
Alternatively, you can use a mix of water and vinegar; vinegar is naturally acidic, so it can neutralize traces of urine smells in your guinea pigs’ cage.
Some people also like to use hand-held vacuums; however, do bear in mind that these will not get rid of any urine stains.
Food bowls can be cleaned after each use but should be rinsed with water for the majority of the time.
I should mention that you will only need to use these cleaners when doing a full clean.
Spot cleaning will only require the removal of soiled bedding from the cage, and perhaps the odd pieces of food, so sprays will not be necessary.
You must ensure your guinea pigs are in a separate area when any sprays are used, and make sure you remove any bedding before spraying, as the chemicals can be absorbed into the substrate.
If you are using fleece blankets as bedding, you will just need to brush off any excess waste or hay and then pop it in the washing machine.
It is important to not use any fabric softeners with these fabrics as it can leave a harmful residue on the material and may also reduce its effectiveness at soaking up urine and water.
Ensure you use a pet-safe detergent too.
There are a number of different cages suitable for guinea pigs on the market, which are made from different materials that may affect which cleaning implements you choose.
For example, wooden hutches offer plenty of room for your fluffy companion, but you need to bear in mind that wood can soak up any chemicals you use.
Even if they are ‘pet safe,’ they can still affect your pet if the chemicals are inhaled over a long period of time.
In addition, you may want to invest in a scrubbing brush to ensure you get deep into all the hard-to-reach corners of the hutch, especially as fecal matter has a nasty habit of sticking to wooden surfaces.
Plastic cages can be simpler to clean, but you will still need to ensure that you reach into all the nooks and crannies of the enclosure.
An old toothbrush may come in handy for smaller areas and is especially useful for cleaning smaller items like ladders and toys.
How Do You Clean A Guinea Pig Cage?
Whether you are doing a full clean or a spot clean, you will need to ensure your guinea pig is safe.
Generally, it should be ok for your pet to remain in the enclosure if you are just doing a quick sweep out of soiled bedding, but they must be removed if you are doing a full clean due to the chemicals used.
Cleaning out can be a good time to bond with your pet or give them a different environment to explore; guinea pigs love munching on grass if the weather is nice and warm but do check that the grass has not been recently fertilized.
Once your guinea pigs are out of the cage and in a separate secure environment, you can remove the rest of the items in the cage; this includes all toys, bedding, hay, and hides if you are doing a full clean.
Any bedding areas should also be shaken off to remove any debris and washed or replaced if necessary.
You can use the same cleaning sprays and tools for your cage and all the accessories, but do make sure they are rinsed with plain water to remove any chemical odors.
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All of these items should be dried off thoroughly before your guinea pigs are put back in the enclosure.
Air drying is the best method but feel free to use an old tea towel, cloth, or paper towel sheets to help the process move along a bit quicker!
Once the enclosure is completely dry, you can put a layer of clean substrate in and start putting back toys and equipment.
Don’t be afraid to move things around a bit to give your guinea pigs new things to explore; maybe you could put toys in different places, add new ones, or scatter treats around for them to find.
This will help keep their minds busy and prevent boredom which can lead to a number of health issues if not resolved quickly.
Also, make sure you add fresh hay (preferably Timothy hay), as this should make up the majority of your guinea pig’s diet.
Check daily to ensure hay is clean and fresh, and replace where necessary.
Water bottles and food bowls should be rinsed out with hot water, dried, and refilled.
At this point, you can return your guinea pigs to their home and watch them enjoy their new, clean environment!
Can Guinea Pigs Die From A Dirty Cage?
Guinea pigs can die, or at the least have a reduced life expectancy, from complications that can arise from a dirty cage. These complications can develop quickly or overtime, depending on the conditions of the enclosure and how long it is left.
Like most animals, guinea pigs can suffer if they are forced to live in an unclean environment.
A dirty cage that has accumulated dust, dirt, urine, and poop over time can be the perfect breeding ground for fungi and mold.
Mould can produce toxins called mycotoxins which your guinea pig can breathe in and consume.
If they breathe in enough of it, guinea pigs can suffer from respiratory failure, which can damage the internal organs.
Guinea pigs are also known to be obsessive about cleaning themselves, so they can become distressed if they cannot do this effectively.
Poop or urine can stick to their fur and make them very uncomfortable.
Bumblefoot is another common problem in pet guinea pigs that can arise from damp bedding or unsuitable substrates.
This bacterial infection usually appears as red, swollen areas on their foot pads and can become very painful if left untreated.
If you suspect your guinea pig has a case of bumblefoot, you should consult your vet for advice.
Aside from respiratory issues and foot problems, an unhygienic environment can also cause bad odors, fungal infections like ringworm and may even attract vermin-like rats.
So, if you are considering a guinea pig as a pet, you must ensure you have the time to care for it properly.
As a final note, it is worth mentioning a bit about temperature. Guinea pigs are at their most comfortable when their environment sits between the 16 – 24 Celsius range (60 – 75 Fahrenheit).
Lower temperatures may cause chills and colds, whereas temperatures higher than 24 Celsius may cause heatstroke.
So always make sure your guinea pigs’ cage is situated in an area with a constant temperature that sits in their comfort range.
Cleaning the cage is something you’ll need to do pretty regularly if you own a guinea pig.
It’s just part and parcel of ownership.
The truth is, guinea pigs require many of the same comforts as we do – a clean, cozy environment, suitable food, water to drink, and the company of others.
But it’s also important to note their own unique requirements and account for those at the same time.
For instance, guinea pigs are surprisingly active, so they need plenty of room to run around, play and explore.
So, purchase the largest cage you can, introduce a range of toys, and make it the best living environment you can.
Oh, and be sure to keep on top of cleaning it!
- What Size Cage Does A Guinea Pig Need? [& Cage Considerations]
- Best Cages for 2 Guinea Pigs [Best Options & Buyers Guide]
- How To Keep A Guinea Pig Cage From Smelling [Incredible Tips]
- Why Do Guinea Pigs Chew On Their Cage? [& How To Prevent It]
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.