We all want happy guinea pigs. They’re wheeking, popcorning, balls of joy! They deserve to have the best life so how do we go about making our guinea pigs happy? Guinea pig enrichment is the way to go.
What Is Enrichment?
All animals have needs and wants that need to be fulfilled for them to be happy.
Enrichment is how we try to fulfil these. It also gives them an outlet for their natural behaviours such as gnawing, chewing and foraging.
Enrichment can include different things including the animal’s environment, things to stimulate their senses, companions, and food.
First Things First...
We need to make sure that we’ve covered the basics of guinea pig care before worrying about adding enrichment.
There are a few things to think about.
We need to make sure that our piggies have a good size home with the correct bedding which is cleaned regularly.
They need to have constant access to fresh water and hay as well as a suitable diet.
Their nails should be trimmed regularly.
Also, guinea pigs are social animals and prefer to live with other guinea pigs so you should always try to keep them with at least one other guinea pig.
Enrichment For Guinea Pigs
Once we’ve got the basics sorted, we can start to add enrichment and brighten up our guinea pigs’ lives. There are several different categories of things that can be changed to improve your piggies life.
As well as a large cage, guinea pigs should have regular access to a run or floor time.
This is so they can stretch their legs a bit more and explore their surroundings. You’ll quite often find that they make a guinea pig train while they explore an area together!
For indoor floor time, make sure you set up a safe area where they can safely explore without finding any cables or other things they shouldn’t get to. You could use a large indoor run that can be put away between use if necessary.
For outdoor exercise, it’s recommended to put your guinea pigs in a run to keep them secure and safe from predators. It’s a good idea to make sure they’ll have shade if it’s sunny.
Beds & Hideys
Guinea pigs are prey animals and love to have lots of places not only to hide but also to snooze safely.
You should always try to have one more hidey place than guinea pigs so for example if you have 2 pigs you should have at least 3 hideys.
There are many types of hideys available such as tunnels and houses and curtains. My guinea pigs also love hiding under their hammock as well as using it for a comfy sleeping spot.
A big pile of hay is also a great hidey spot and fun game for piggies. They will love burrowing in it and I’ll often find one of mine hidden right in the middle having a snooze!
Guinea pigs will also use cosy fleece beds such as cuddle cups to maximise comfort for their afternoon nap.
It’s a good idea to have extra beds & hideys in the cupboard so you can rotate them to add some variety to your piggies home. It’s also helpful for when you need to remove them for washing!
Guinea pigs love to forage and it’s one of their natural behaviours. You can easily give them the opportunity to forage by simply removing their food bowl and scattering their food around the cage for them to find. Not only does this make them move around for exercise, but they will need to use their senses and brains to find the food.
Similarly, you can sprinkle some herbs or similar into their hay pile so they have to search for the super tasty bits! My pigs love these luscious leaves.
There are lots of treats available to buy for guinea pigs. However, many of them are unsuitable. Lots have extra ingredients that they shouldn’t have. There are a few commercial products that are okay to give your guinea pigs such as Selective Naturals but the best thing to give them is a small tasty treat of fruit.
As social animals, guinea pigs not only enjoy the company of other pigs but can enjoy the company of their human friends too.
They are prey animals and may be nervous of you to begin with but they can become very friendly and love the time they get to snuggle up with you.
If you’ve just got your guinea pig and they’re really scared, get them used to the sound of your voice first. Talk to them in their cage and try hand feeding some delicious veg.
Take your time and build it up gradually to make the experience good for them and soon they’ll be excited for their cuddle time!
Keep cuddle sessions short to avoid any toilet accidents in your lap. You could always consider using a pee pad or snuggle sack to protect your clothes.
Just like us and other pets, guinea pigs need fun things to do.
They love to gnaw on things so suitable wooden toys can be great for them. I love wooden bridges as they double up as a toy and a hidey place.
Quite a lot of guinea pigs also love going through tunnels and will go round and round. You can get fleece ones that are washable as well as others such as plastic or cardboard. Try to avoid plastic if your guinea pig likes to chew on it and make sure any cardboard-type ones are made from suitable materials with non-toxic dyes.
Guinea pigs sometimes play with balls. They can push them round the cage or lift them up in their mouths if they’re light enough. My guinea pigs love these wooden balls that they can gnaw on as well as push around.
Guinea pigs are able to learn some basic skills and tricks.
I taught one of my previous guinea pigs to respond to her name.
Some guinea pigs can learn to target touch things.
Some are even able to learn how to spin and do other tricks!
Remember to keep training sessions short and fun.
You’ll need some tasty snacks to use as rewards for completing the correct behaviour.
There are plenty of ways to enrich your guinea pigs’ lives and have happy guinea pigs. Try to rotate the activities and items you use to keep things interesting for them.
I love using a weekly planner to plan what enrichment I’ll be giving my guinea pigs. You can get your own planner, plus a list of 17 enrichment ideas for free below.