Part of your responsibility as a guinea pig owner is to keep them fit and healthy. As they love to overeat, strategic and carefully planned exercise is recommended. Being overweight generally leads to a lower quality of life, places a lot of additional stress on the body, leads to higher risk of health issues and will result in higher veterinary costs.
While the best way to prevent obesity in your guinea pig is to provide a high quality, nutritious diet, exercise is also an effective preventative measure. Here are the best three ways to exercise a guinea pig:
- Exercise them in a large cage with toys
- Let them roam and play in a safe area in your home,
- Provide a playpen and let them play outside.
Before we begin, and look at some effective strategies to help you exercise your guinea pig, let us look at their activity requirements and how much exercise you should promote.
- 1 How Much Exercise Does A Guinea Pig Need?
- 2 Why Exercise Is Important To Keep Your Guinea Pig Healthy
- 3 How To Exercise A Guinea Pig
- 4 Finally
- 5 In Summary
How Much Exercise Does A Guinea Pig Need?
Guinea pigs should have at least 1 hour of exercise per day. This does not have to be, nor should be strenuous. It instead needs to be a chance for your guinea pig(s) to stretch their legs, have a little run and a play.
You may have noticed the header image for this article, and this purely for humor! Guinea pigs do not need to get on a bike; even if this is what us humans would consider exercise!
For a guinea pig, this 1 hour should simply be a time where your guinea pig can actively free roam and let off excess energy.
Despite their build and tendency to overeat, guinea pigs are naturally very active and energetic animals.
As an owner, you are not limited in your options for how you can exercise your guinea pig so long as they remain safe at all times.
It is important to note that the smaller the cage, typically, the more ‘free roaming time’ they will need. Here, exercise may need to surpass the 1 hour we previously mentioned.
Exercising a guinea pig is not complicated; you just need to ensure they have ample space to move freely. This can be inside the cage, inside the house or even outside.
We will run through the various options and how you can provide this form of exercise shortly. If you want to jump straight to it, just click here.
But first, why would you want to exercise your guinea pig in the first place?
Why Exercise Is Important To Keep Your Guinea Pig Healthy
Exercise and movement is crucial for your guinea pig. It helps to ensure that stay fit, they remain healthy, and that their bodies and organs work so they should.
Without adequate exercise, a guinea pig is more likely to gain weight. In turn, this increases the risk of illness and disease.
Beyond just the physical benefits, exercise also provides mental stimulation which is essential for their well-being and happiness.
This prevents boredom and self-sabotaging behaviors, which include but are not limited to the biting of the cage, other guinea pigs, and being outwardly aggressive.
Boredom is one of the key contributors to fighting; so you’re going to want to ensure that they have plenty to do. Exercise is ideal here.
Moreover, exercise gives an opportunity to take your guinea pigs outside of their confined space, and give them a sense of freedom.
How To Exercise A Guinea Pig
Exercising a guinea pig needn’t be hard. Here are the three most effective ways to keep your guinea pigs active.
#1 Exercising Within the Cage
One of the most effective ways to ensure that your guinea pig remains active is to give them plenty of space to begin with. Invest in a large, spacious cage (like the brilliant cost-effective Habitat Plus cage from on Amazon).
Ensuring that you have a sufficiently large cage (which is even more important if you own multiple cavies) will enable them to move around freely and run about.
Guinea pigs should not be kept in confined spaces, and giving them ample space within their home environment will enable them to let off some energy even when you are not around for scheduled fun.
Once you have a large cage, the next step is to add some mentally stimulating toys to the cage.
All-natural wooden balls (like this) are excellent because they encourage your guinea pig(s) to play. Once they realize that a nudge of the ball makes it roll, they’ll be more inclined and motivated to do so.
Another excellent option is to get a play tunnel. This is the best one available on Amazon according to a large number guinea pig owners. These types of toys promote exploration and due to the nature of the tunnel will ensure that they have to move to get through it! These are excellent at promoting movement.
With toys, always remember that guinea pigs will exercise at a time that suits them. Leaving toys within the cage is therefore the best thing you can do.
Be selective with the toys you purchase, and ensure that you opt for natural and safe ones. You need to be careful that toys have not been treated with any chemicals or have any small or potential loose parts that could harm your guinea pig(s).
One toy to watch out for are exercise balls. These are not designed for guinea pigs and their fragile spines are not cut out for the motion; which can result in painful spinal injuries.
When it comes to adding the toys to the cage; be sure to spread them out. This will give your guinea pigs new areas to explore will motivate them to hunt around for new experiences.
However, you’ll want to make sure that you do not overcrowd the cage. Too many toys, tunnels, hiding houses etc is not good either. Less is more!
You need your guinea pigs to have plenty of space to run around and not feel like items are on top of them.
Also be sure to move things around every now and again. This will keep things interesting and ensure toys remain used and fun. While some guinea pig owners will do this daily you could do it weekly following cage cleaning.
A regularly changed environment is more mentally stimulating for your cavy and will encourage exploration and play.
#2 Let Your Guinea Pig Roam and Play Safely Indoors
Its also a good idea to get your guinea pigs out of the cage every once in a while. You can use this time to exercise them too!
When you do this, you need to be careful however. You will only ever want to let your guinea pigs roam in a completely safe area. So, make sure that there are no chances of escape, other pets (like cats) and no loose cables or electrics that your guinea pig could attempt to chew on.
Also be sure to close any open doors and cover any potential hiding places or areas where your guinea pig could get under. It is always a real pain to try and get them out so its best avoided – generally, if there is a small space to get inside, they will attempt it!
Guinea pigs are known to poop and urinate a lot and at any time of the day, so you may want to consider putting down some blankets or washable pee pads (these are great). This will save your carpet and help you to quickly clean up any mess that they may make.
To help contain your guinea pigs, or if your house is not particularly guinea pig friendly, an indoor playpen can be a great solution. I personally bought this one from Amazon following a lot of research. This will also help you to contain unwanted bathroom issues as you can line the playpen with sheets.
Again, be sure to provide toys and introduce these into the indoor area/playpen. This will help them to relax and be aware that it is time that they should use to play.
Additionally, this can also be a good time to provide some healthy treats; like vegetables (carrots work particularly well for this). Your guinea pig can then have a small bite to eat whilst they play, and will help to boost their happiness during this time.
Lastly, remain present and within the room with your guinea pig during this playing session. Monitor your guinea pig(s) and make sure they are comfortable and safe at all times.
#3 Provide A Playpen And Let Your Guinea Pig Play Outside
The final option is a little bit more daring, and requires extra consideration. However, this being said letting your guinea pigs roam in an area outside can be a great way to provide natural sunlight and let them play in a more natural environment.
Before you do so, you should always check the weather and the upcoming forecast in advance. Make sure that it is not too hot, too cold, or if there is a high chance of rain and wind. Equally, conditions should be dry without too much heat exposure.
A good time to do this is early in the morning, soon after sunrise and before the full temperature of the day transcends. Temperatures between 60-80 degrees are ideal.
You’ll also want to ensure that your guinea pigs will not be coming into contact with any harmful chemicals, say from a weed killer or lawn fertilizer. Even running on chemicals is enough to burn the feet of your guinea pigs and cause skin issues, but if your guinea pig was to ingest them it could be fatal.
When it comes to letting your guinea pig be outside, you will want to definitely get a playpen. Even if your garden was closed off, your guinea pig could attempt to escape. You’d be surprised at how quickly they can move and how agile they can be when they see an opportunity. Moreover, there are potential predators outside that you may not even realize are in the vicinity.
Your playpen should be completely escape-proof. Getting one with a roof is not a bad idea either.
When outside, you’ll notice that your guinea pig will enjoy running around and being active; they may consume some grass and spend some time in the sun.
With the sun, you do need to be careful. While some exposure is okay and even beneficial, too much sun can cause heatstroke. If its a particularly warm day, ensure that your guinea pig can access shade or be sure to take them inside soon after they have had a chance to play. Be sure to provide plenty of water bowls for them too.
Remain vigilant during your time outside and always be nearby just in case anything was to occur.
For the most part, taking your guinea pig outside is a fun experience for both your guinea pig and yourself alike. Enjoy it for what it is!
If you currently own just own guinea pig, another recommendation is to get another one (or two!). Having more guinea pigs will promote exercise between them.
This is because in the wild, guinea pigs are herd animals and are very social. Having several guinea pigs providing the opportunity of a playmate. It will also help them to socialize and have fun even when you are not there with them.
If you do decide to adopt another, or more guinea pigs, just be sure to have a sufficiently large cage. You will require more space; this guide explains more.
Just be sure to only house guinea pigs of the same gender together, unless of course, you get them spayed or neutered to prevent pregnancy.
Guinea pigs need exercise and do best with regular one hour sessions. Giving them a chance to run around, explore and roam will go a long way to promoting good health and well-being.
Thankfully, you have a lot of options when it comes to exercise. The best and main ones are within the cage itself, inside a safe place in your home, or through a calculated and planned outdoor session.
Whatever option you choose, be sure to mix it up regularly, purchase the appropriate and highest quality products to keep them safe, and always be around during the time you exercise them.
Beyond this, a bountiful supply of fresh 2nd cut timothy hay and good quality nutrition will set your guinea pig up for a long and happy life!