The Importance of Exercise for Guinea Pigs
Exercise is important to the health of your guinea pig. Without exercise, your guinea pig can grow to be very docile and timid. Guinea pigs are also prone to boredom, so it’s important to create new ways to keep them active and occupied.
Reportedly domesticated some 10,000 years ago, guinea pigs have a lovable charm and it’s no wonder that these critters have become a popular pet for children. What many people don’t know is that guinea pigs are not far removed from their wild cousins, the cavy. To truly understand a guinea pig, you must first examine their natural behavior and basic instincts:
- Pack Animals
Like dogs, guinea pigs are pack animals that are highly social. They rely on each other for companionship, and in the wild, they live in herds with continuous interaction. Naturally, a lack of companionship can make them stressed and grouchy. Guinea pigs love to play with each other and are best suited being raised in same-sex pairs from the time they are very young. Playing and interacting with your guinea pigs on a daily basis will help make up for their lack of companionship. Guinea pigs also enjoy routine, so playing with them and feeding them at the same time each day will lessen their stress.
- Bundles of Energy
Young guinea pigs are particularly energetic, and if you leave them enclosed in a habitat all day, they will become frustrated and depressed. Make sure you have a playpen, or a guinea pig-proofed room with no other animals present where your little buddy can stretch out while being supervised.
While some may write these creatures off as mindless, they are quite intelligent. For instance, guinea pigs speak their own coded language, and love the spotlight. Notions that guinea pigs are untrainable are pure myth. With a little patience and persistence, you can teach your guinea pig a few new tricks. Plus, time spent training provides your sensitive little one with the attention and companionship he needs.
- Behavior in the Home
Your guinea pig innately loves to burrow and explore, and to an extent, it’s important that you let him do so freely. Before bringing a guinea pig into your home, decide where he can and cannot go before letting him roam. A guinea pig-proofed room or a playpen are essential for daily exercise. Teach your children about your pet’s sensitive hearing and the importance of gentle handling. Community-like living is crucial for guinea pigs, and once spirited children are involved in your pet’s life, there’s a very real possibility that they will develop a pack of their own.
Tips for Raising a Health, Happy Guinea Pig
- Always approach your guinea pig in a quiet, non-intimidating manner.
- Clean your guinea pig’s habitat and environment daily. They are obsessively clean and will become distressed when neglected.
- Train your guinea pig to do tricks for treats. They love to be center stage, and are fantastic performers.
- Provide chew toys to satisfy your guinea pig’s urge to chew and to help maintain healthy teeth.
- Lap time is also important bonding time for you and your guinea pig, but does not replace the mental stimulation and exercise he gets from running around during playtime.
- When your guinea pig is very excited or happy, you may witness an entertaining feat called “popcorning,” where he jumps up and down or runs around quickly, oftentimes accompanied by cute squealing noises. This behavior resembles a mini bucking bronco and is fun to watch, but know that not all guinea pigs will do this.
Fun Activities to Try
- Set up an obstacle course made of tubes and switch it up every week or so.
- Provide your guinea pig with cardboard boxes, paper towel rolls or toilet paper rolls (maybe filled with hay or healthy treats) to play with.
- Offer a variety of appropriate and safe cat toys. Try sitting on the floor with your guinea pig and rolling balls to him.
- Use high-quality healthy guinea pig treats to teach your friend how to come when called. You can even try teaching your pet to sit up before treating.
- PVC pipes come in several configurations and can be a lot of fun for your guinea pig. Make sure they are appropriately sized for your pet.
- Soft sounds are great tools for training your guinea pig. Use a bell to signal feeding time, and soon your guinea pig will react to the sound.
- Clothes, leashes and soft small animal brushes are also available for guinea pigs to encourage more grooming, attention and interaction.
Safety is important when it comes to guinea pig playtime. Carefully check for any loose pieces, sharp edges or anything else that could harm your guinea pig or be a choking hazard. Supervise your guinea pig during playtime, and explore new ideas to keep his interest. Plenty of exercise, a high quality diet and lots of love and attention will help keep your guinea pig happy and healthy.