A Guide to Keeping Your Guinea Pig Stimulated
If you have recently welcomed a guinea pig into your home, you are in for a delightful time. With their intelligence and active nature, these charming creatures make wonderful companions.
Like any other pet parent, you want to do everything necessary to care for your guinea pig’s wellbeing. To ensure your pet is getting the exercise and socialization they need to stay happy and healthy, it can be helpful to understand who these creatures are and how they typically behave. Keep reading for more information and tips on how to keep your guinea pig adequately stimulated.
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Why guinea pigs need extra stimulation
Just like people and other pets, guinea pigs benefit greatly from regular exercise. Exercise not only contributes to their physical wellbeing by keeping them at a healthy weight, but it also helps keep them mentally engaged. In addition, playtime with your guinea pig helps them create a lasting bond with you and provides them with the social fulfillment they need.
To truly understand a guinea pig and their activity needs, it helps to learn about their natural behavior and basic instincts.
Like dogs, guinea pigs are naturally social. They rely on each other for companionship in nature, living in herds that engage in continuous interaction. For this reason, a lack of companionship can make a pet guinea pig stressed and unhappy. Guinea pigs love to play with each other and are best raised in same-sex pairs from the time they are very young. While most guinea pigs like to hang out with one another, playing and interacting with your guinea pigs daily can also help provide them with a sense of companionship.
Young guinea pigs are particularly energetic, but guinea pigs of any age will become frustrated and depressed if you leave them enclosed in a habitat all day. It’s important to have a playpen or a guinea pig-proofed room where your little buddy can run around and explore. Always make sure your guinea pig is supervised and there are no other animals present when outside of their enclosure.
Guinea pigs are highly intelligent creatures. They love being in the spotlight and even speak their own coded language. They make a series of different sounds—including wheeking, rumbling, chirping and chutting—all of which have different meanings that other guinea pigs understand. Guinea pigs are also trainable. With a little patience and persistence, you can teach your guinea pig multiple tricks, such as coming when called. As a bonus, time spent training your guinea pig provides them with the attention and companionship they need.
Your guinea pig innately loves to burrow and explore, and it’s important to let them expend this energy. Before bringing your guinea pig home, make sure you have an area where they can roam. Their enclosure also needs to have ample space and enrichment materials for burrowing and tunneling.
How to stimulate your guinea pig
Make sure to take time each day to spend some time playing with your guinea pig to help keep them both physically active and mentally stimulated. The following are examples of fun activities you can try with your guinea pig to help ensure that they are getting adequate enrichment.
- Set up an obstacle course made of tubes, and switch the layout every week to challenge your guinea pig mentally. There are several commercially available guinea pig obstacle courses available, or you can get creative and make your own.
- Give your guinea pig cardboard boxes, paper towel rolls or toilet paper rolls filled with hay or healthy treats to snack on and play with.
- Use high-quality, healthy guinea pig treats to train your friend how to come when called. You can even try teaching your guinea pig to sit up by holding the treat above their head and rewarding them when they sit up to reach for it. If you add a verbal cue, such as “sit,” your guinea pig will eventually learn to sit up for the treat on command.
- Set up a course built with PVC pipes for your guinea pig to crawl through and explore. Make sure the pipes are appropriately sized for your pet so that they cannot get stuck inside.
- Soft sounds are great tools for training your guinea pig. For example, use a bell to signal feeding time. Over time, your guinea pig will associate the bell with dinnertime and will learn to come for food.
- Toys and soft, small animal brushes are also available for guinea pigs to encourage more grooming, attention and interaction.
Extra tips for safe and healthy activity
While providing your guinea pig with opportunities to play and exercise is important, ensuring that they are always kept safe is equally important. As you implement more activity into your pet’s daily routine, keep the following tips in mind:
- Safety is critical when it comes to guinea pig playtime. Carefully check your guinea pig’s play space for any loose objects that could be ingested or sharp edges that could cause injury
- Spot-clean your guinea pig’s habitat daily and thoroughly clean it once a week. Guinea pigs need a clean space to be healthy and happy.
- Provide your guinea pig with nontoxic, wooden toys to satisfy their urge to chew and to wear down their continuously growing teeth. Rotate their toys to keep them stimulated and entertained.
- Lap time is important bonding time for you and your guinea pig, but it does not replace the mental stimulation and exercise they get from running around during playtime. Be sure to handle and pet your guinea pig daily to help socialize them and build that bond of trust.
- Because guinea pigs are sensitive to loud noises, remind children and visitors to use soft voices around your guinea pig. Also teach them how to handle guinea pigs gently but firmly so that your guinea pig doesn’t get dropped or injured.
- To keep your guinea pig healthy, offer them a vitamin C supplement daily, as their bodies do not produce this vitamin on their own. Consult your veterinarian about what dose of vitamin C is right for your guinea pig.
Despite their small size, guinea pigs are packed with a large amount of personality and charm. Enjoy bonding with these delightful creatures and discover all the characteristics that make your guinea pig unique. The moment you bring your guinea pig home, the fun begins!