Whatever you do, DO NOT USE A CAGE WITH A WIRE BOTTOM AND NEVER PUT A GUINEA PIG IN AN AQUARIUM. There is not enough air circulation in an aquarium, and living in an aquarium causes retinal atrophy (the guinea pig will go blind!!). As for wire bottom cages, a guinea pig has very delicate legs, feet and toes. Wire bottom floors are the single most reason for piggies getting a broken leg, which most often will result in amputation, or a leg that doesn’t heal properly. While guinea pigs can live on 3 legs, the operation is very painful and expensive, and if proper housing procedures would have been followed, it would be unnecessary.
The second reason for not using wire-bottomed floors on cavies is because it causes bumble foot. Bumble foot is a very painful inflammation of the foot and foot joint that can lead to an infection and even amputation. This inflammation can and often does extend up the guinea pig’s leg into the body, and can cause death. Bumble foot can also be caused by a couple of other factors, but we’ll get into those later.
The best cage for your guinea pigs is also the least expensive and the easiest to clean. Coroplast and storage cubes. Cages sold in pet stores are only recommended as a temporary cage for your piggie. The more room a guinea pig has, the better. Guinea pig rescue groups are now recommending cages made of coroplast and wire grids. For ideas on how to build your cages, visit the web site www.cavycages.com. The coroplast can be purchased at most sign shops and framing shops. I can also get coroplast in 13 different colors: black, grey, white, cream, clear (which isn’t), green, light blue, medium blue, dark blue, purple, orange, yellow and red. The storage cubes are found only at Target. Construction of this type of cage is better for the guinea pig, and makes a great family project. A little imagination and the piggies will have a castle to be proud of instead of a small, cramped cage. And the cost of the coroplast and grids is less than $40.
BEDDING: DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES USE CEDAR BEDDING! It causes upper respiratory infections in your cavy, which can be fatal. In fact, don’t use any wood bedding chips that may have an odor of wood (called phenols). If you decide to use wood chips, which is considerably less expensive than the preferred methods of bedding, make sure it says “Kiln Dried” and “No Phenols”.
Carefresh (or products similar to Carefresh) is the best store bought bedding to use for your piggie. It is recycled paper, and very absorbent. This absorbency reduces cage cleaning to about once per week, depending on how many piggies are in that area. Two to three inches of bedding is perfect.
Depending on the coat type of your guinea pig, you may want to experiment with different types of bedding. For short haired guinea pigs, shredded newspaper (no glossy ink paper) is fine in the winter when the weather is cold, but in warm weather, the ammonia from the urine has a tendency to get strong after just a couple of days. You may want to try mixing Carefresh in with the paper or even wood chips.
Other products that can be used are Yesterday’s News (a paper pellet that powders when wet), shredded newspaper, newspaper sheets, towels, fleece (make sure the guinea pig doesn’t chew or ingest the material, which can happen occasionally), or a mixture of any of the above.
If you decide to use fleece for bedding, make sure it is no-pilling fleece, folded to achieve 4 layers or use 1” of quilt batting between 2 layers of fleece, sewn like a quilt. Personally, I’ve found just folding the fleece to 4 layers works great. Brush it to clean on the off days, and wash it every other day. It washes nicely (I use hot water to make as sterile as possible on the wash and rinse with warm water); and dries in 15 minutes. And the only cost is the initial purchase of the fleece. I recommend having 2 sets available per cage, so that a clean set up is always ready. If a towel is put under the fleece, the urine soaks into the towel, leaving the fleece dry. By changing the towels daily, the cage stays clean and fresh much longer, and the fleece is much softer on sensitive guinea pig feet.