Skip to main content

How to set up your guinea pig cage – here’s everything you need

This is what you need to know before buying a guinea pig cage

We don't believe in starter pets, but some families (and individuals) will do well to focus on small pets, rather than keeping dogs or cats, at some point in their lives at least. It might be because your apartment is too small or you're traveling too much or you don't want to commit to 120 minutes of exercise per day (we feel you).

Guinea pigs make a solid and popular option because they're funny, cute, and generally live a lot longer than hamsters or fish — up to eight years. But that's only if you take good care of them and it starts with the cage.




1 hour

What You Need

  • Guinea pig cage

  • Substrate

  • Food and water bowls

  • Litter

  • Bed

  • Toys

Two guinea pigs sit on a branch in their cage in front of a small wooden house

How much space does a guinea pig need?

First, we want to mention that you can't keep a solitary piggy. They need to stick together for companionship and stimulation (note this is the opposite of many hamsters who love their alone time). To be honest, the bigger the better for their cage (but we realize that isn't really helpful). The minimum, according to The Humane Society, is 10.5 square feet for a pair of pigs.

However, you will need to increase that substantially if you add another little guy to the mix and you do want to have a backup plan in case your pets don't get along. Some owners opt for a couple of midsize (10-12 square feet) cages, each of which houses a pair of besties.

Guinea pig sits next to a tree branch

What type of cage should you get?

Don't just reuse an old aquarium — that won't give your new animal enough air and can lead to respiratory problems. While wire guinea pig cages certainly work, you can't have those bars on the floor because it will hurt their little paws. Some experts like C&C housings, which are made of a special plastic. Research different models in your price range at the right size and pick the one that's best for your space (and budget).

Guinea pigs pile up in a hay nest

Where should you keep your guinea pig?

The number one rule: Beware of drafts. Of course, you also don't want them to be directly in the sun all day or next to a particularly loud TV. However, it's great to have them in the thick of things so they get stimulation from you. Most people elect the family room as the cavy home, perhaps tucked in a corner where they can ignore you, if they please, but also get enough human attention.

Guinea pig stands next to a toy stove in the "kitchen"

How should you set up the cage?

Just like you, they need a bathroom, a kitchen, a play area, and a good spot to sleep. Follow these steps to get all those things in so your guinea pig cage is functional and fashionable.

Step 1: Find and measure the space.

Once you've selected the portion of your house that you will cede to the rodents, you need to measure it and plan out the arrangement. This will help you determine your cage configuration and let you know if there's a limit on the number of pets you can keep.

Step 2: Shop for your pets.

OK, this is the best part. The cage takes a bit of research and you need to get all the necessary items for moving into a new house, just as you would do for yourself, but you also get to buy funny piggy toys, such as tunnels, chews, games, and hammocks!

Step 3: Add substrate and feeding bowls.

It's simple, you need something on the floor to catch their mess and even give them a soft place to lie down or something to chew on. You can buy specialty liners or just use paper (no ink though). They also need food and water in an accessible location.

Step 4: Set up the litter.

We absolutely recommend a litter for guinea pigs if they take to it. That will improve both your life and theirs because all the potty stuff happens in one location. Keep in mind, some animals just never figure it out and you'll likely find "accidents" from time to time outside their "bathroom."

Step 5: Arrange their toys.

We talked about all the fun toys you can buy above. You should try out a few to start and see what your little pack enjoys most. In general, opt for a bed of some kind, a chew, and a place to explore. Then let your piggies decide.

Step 6: Introduce your piggies to their new home.

Honestly, you'll be a lot less stressed if you set all this up before even bringing them home. As soon as you put the final touches on your masterpiece mansion, you'll want to add the most important part: your guineas. Let them explore the whole area and watch them carefully to see which things they love and which might need redecorating.

One other thing we want to mention — while these guys will live most of their lives in their cages (similar to living in a burrow in the wild) they do need exercise. Make sure you have a plan for bringing them out to play safely. Try guinea-proofing a specific room and setting up a pen for them to run around, with human supervision of course. In time, they'll grow used to the family and will become more excited to explore and interact with the world around them.

Editors' Recommendations

Rebekkah Adams
Rebekkah’s been a writer and editor for more than 10 years, both in print and digital. In addition to writing about pets…
How to tell if your guinea pig loves you – some ways may surprise you
These are the signs your guinea pig loves you as much as you love him
A happy guinea pig hangs out in the grass

We know how much we love our pets. The question is if they love us, too. It can be tricky to tell how animals feel since they can't tell us about their moods. But that doesn't mean we can't ever figure out what's in the minds of our furry friends.

Guinea pigs in particular make a lot of interesting noises and show postures that help us decipher their thoughts and feelings. By paying close attention to your little guy and learning a bit about how he thinks, you can get a pretty good sense of his inner goings-on. And you won't have to watch very long to confirm that your guinea pig loves you.

Read more
Wondering how to take care of a hamster? Here are 8 pet hamster care tips that all beginners need to follow
Tips for taking care of your hamster to guide a first-time pet owner
Woman holding a hamster eating a treat

There's a reason hamsters make such a good first pet — actually a few. They're funny, cute, good with kids, and relatively easy to care for. But that doesn't mean you won't put in a bit of work. Between cage cleaning, feeding, exercise, and hand training, you may find yourself overwhelmed those first few weeks. Don't look for the refund button. Instead, go through these easy steps to tackle your new endeavor. Here's how to take care of a hamster. 

Read more
Can snakes swim? Here’s what you need to know about how these legless creatures move through water
Yes, all snakes can swim — here's how they do it
Water snake swimming through seaweed

Love snakes or hate them, they're fascinating creatures. Unlike other reptiles, snakes don't have arms or legs. Yet, even without appendages, these slitherers can move across many different types of terrain, often very quickly. They can make their way up mountainsides and climb to the tops of trees. Some even leap and glide from branch to branch!

But have you ever wondered, "Can snakes swim?" -- and which snakes can swim? Well, the answer, interestingly, is all of them.

Read more