Pet owners know that, like humans, their animals need exercise to remain healthy and prevent boredom. For small pets, most people invest in running wheels since these are the favorites of mice, rats and hamsters.
However, though guinea pigs are rodents, they do not need exercise wheels, and these wheels can be dangerous for them. Too much exercise on the exercise wheel can lead to spinal issues in your guinea pig because its spine, unlike that of most rodents, is inflexible.
Furthermore, a guinea pig’s feet might get snagged in the mesh wiring on the wheel’s floor and cause extensive injuries.
Though you do not need an exercise wheel for the guinea pig, this does not mean that you should negate exercise altogether. Below are some guidelines on exercising your pet.
Do Guinea Pigs Need Exercise?
Yes, guinea pigs need exercise. The animals are intelligent and sociable, so they will easily get bored when left with nothing to do. Moreover, the lack of activities can lead to grave health issues in your pet because it leads to obesity.
As such, it is best to pack as many activities as possible into your guinea pig’s day to keep it healthy and entertained. One of the best ways to do this is by investing in suitable pet toys.
Guinea Pig Exercise Toys
When shopping for toys for your guinea pigs, you will often come across several alternatives in toy stores. Rather than settle for the cheapest options that will not do much for your pet, here are the essential toys you should pick.
- Balls: The balls designed for guinea pigs are meant to meet two vital needs. The animals can use them for exercise or chew on them to promote their dental health. The longest-lasting guinea pig balls are plastic ones since these do not easily break down when chewed. Opt for balls that are hand-knit or natural to avoid exposing your pet to harmful chemicals. To maximize the safety of your guinea pig, encourage it to roll inside the ball or play with a hanging ball.
- Tunnels: Tunnels are essentials in your guinea pig’s cage because your pet will love running over, through and under them. It is so much fun to watch a guinea pig using tunnels. Other than playing, the tunnels provide a confined space where the animal can get some time away from its cagemates or sleep. You can even leave some snacks in the tunnel for your guinea pig to snack on when playing.
- Hideouts: One of the favorite options for guinea pig hideouts is a plastic igloo, sometimes called ”pigloos”. This is easy to clean, sturdy and available in several colors. Even so, your pet will often chew on it hence you should plan for a replacement. There are also wooden houses on sale that can be used as hideouts for your guinea pig.
- Ramps and stairs: When you have a multi-story guinea pig cage, you need a way for the animal to access the upper floor. Wire ladders are bad ideas because they can trap a guinea pig’s small feet, and most of them are too steep. Solid stairs and ramps are good alternatives for your pet’s cage. Stairs are the preferred options in small cages.
- Wooden toys: Your guinea pig also needs a few chew toys to keep its teeth healthy. For these, you can invest in a few wooden chew toys. Though there are several wooden toy options for you, opt for those made of natural non-toxic, untreated wood like these ones so that you do not harm your guinea pig’s health.
Guinea Pig Exercise Tips
Though you might have the best toys available, this does not always mean that your guinea pig will want to use them or even exercise. As such, you can take a few steps to get your pet interested in exercise and play to keep it from getting stressed or sick. Here are a few exercise tips for your guinea pig.
- Provide enough space: Guinea pigs cannot exercise in cramped cages. As such, you should get a cage that is not only large enough for your pet but also accommodates its accessories while leaving enough space to move around. Experts recommend a minimum usable floor space of 2500cm square for two guinea pigs weighing over 450g and an extra 900cm square for animals above 700g. The cage should be at least 25-30 cm high to provide enough vertical space.
- Have foraging opportunities: Guinea pigs forage in the wild, so you should provide the same in your cage to make the animal comfortable. You can have tiny wicker baskets that are filled with food or hay in several spots in the cage. This way, your pet can enjoy finding them, something that reflects its natural environment and makes it exercise.
- Switch toys: Having the same toys over a long time can leave your guinea pig bored and cause it to become disinterested in the toys. Periodically switch the toys to pique your pet’s interest. To save cash, consider getting the toys in bulk at a go, then interchange them periodically. You can also consider rearranging the toys once in a while instead of taking them out of the cage.
The environmental enrichment of your guinea pig’s space is essential for the enhancement of its psychological and physiological wellbeing. The right toys will go a long way in ensuring the highest levels of enrichment.
From the guidelines above, you now know the best toys to invest in and how best to encourage your guinea pig to use them. Unlike other pets, ownership of a guinea pig is not expensive. As such, most of the toys your pet will need are affordable.
Other than the right toys, have a safe outdoor area where the guinea pig can roam and nibble on grass. This space should be sheltered from predators and harsh weather to keep your pet safe. Ensure it is also escape-proof so that you do not lose your beloved rodent.