Senior Guinea Pig
- Nov 4, 2008
- Cambs, UK
Guinea Pig Toys
Guinea pigs get bored too!
Guinea pigs get bored too!
Guinea pigs can be affected by boredom, which can be easily prevented by providing just a few interesting and stimulating accessories. Signs that a guinea may be bored include:-
- Reduced activity
- Little interest in surroundings
- Overeating and excess weight gain
- Barbering (chewing the hair of themselves or another guinea pig)
- Cage bar biting
Such behaviours can be destructive, particularly barbering and biting the cage bars, and could prove stressful for the guinea pig and any cage-mates.
There are things other than toys that can prevent boredom. The most important ones are:-
- A friend of the same species. Guinea pigs should only live with other guinea pigs. Try to find a pair whose personalities match, and ensure the grouping situation is appropriate i.e. 1 neutered male and one or more females, 1 male and one or more spayed females, two or more males, or two or more females.
- Hay, and lots of it! Ensuring the hay supply is consistent and â€œunlimitedâ€ can significantly reduce the chances of boredom.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables, at least once daily. Providing a good variety, ideally offering something different at least twice a week, can stimulate and interest guineas.
- A large cage, at least 2x4ft for two guinea pigs. Younger piggies especially need this space to run off some of their energy! A larger cage will also stay cleaner for longer, automatically brightening the area and naturally sparking a little interest in their environment.
- Regular floor time. This may be in a run in the garden, or in a piggie-proofed room in the house. Make this exercise time regular, aim for at least an hour a day â€“ guineas can get bored sitting in the same cage or hutch day in, day out! The smaller their housing, the longer they should be allowed out of it.
- Regular handling. While some guinea pigs will do anything to avoid having a cuddle with their owner, there are also many who show enjoyment from being snuggled up in their owners lap, being talked or even sang to. Routinely sharing that closeness with an owner can also stimulate an interest in their surroundings.
Even with all of the above catered for, some guinea pigs may find enjoyment from some additional accessories â€“ toys â€“ in their housing or in their exercise/playtime space.
Many people say that guinea pigs don't play. Some guineas show no interest. Some guineas totally ignore anything put into their cage that is not food! Some guineas are simply happy with their roomy cage, regular exercise time and cuddles, and perfectly content with their good friend and good diet â€“ the introduction of toys makes no difference to their behaviour.
However there are plenty of guinea pigs that do play. They do show a happiness towards toys, they do become more active and exhibit more happy behaviours. The toy is always simple â€“ guineas aren't as intelligent as dogs, some of whom need extreme mental stimulation to prevent boredom. Piggies may be overjoyed with something like a brown paper bag, a toilet roll tube, or even just a mirror! Guinea pig toys need not be expensive, but they are enjoyed by many piggies so it is always worth testing the reaction to a variety of toys.
Another short note on the topic, before I move on to recommended toys: the way a guinea pig 'plays' with the toys is something to understand and learn to recognise. A piggie is unlikely to pick up a toy and throw it around â€“ although it does happen! - and they are probably not going to run after a ball. Depending on the type of toy, the signs that suggest the guineas life is enriched by that toy may include:-
- Cuddling up to it
- Relaxing in or under it
- Nudging it around
- Delicately nibbling/nuzzling it â€“ see note on toy safety for further information!
- Returning to the toy repeatedly
- Vocalising when close to/'interacting with' the toy
Some toys are just not for guinea pigs. Some toys are fine to give exactly as they are, and some need a little modification before they can be safely given to a piggie. This section highlights any possible dangers that guinea pigs may come across with any one of their toys, and also lists toys to avoid completely.
Exercise Wheels and Balls
These are designed for hamsters and other small rodents, not guinea pigs! A larger version of the ball just doesn't cut it - piggies are significantly chunkier than any of the smaller rodents, and their bodies are not nearly as flexible. Arching their back to fit the curve of a wheel or ball is not going to do them any favours at all, and it is not going to stimulate them nearly as much as being allowed to roam freely in a safe enclosure. They cannot interact freely with owners and their surroundings if they are cooped up inside a ball, and running on a wheel in the cage just isn't guinea pig style. If you know guinea pigs, you will know that wheels and balls are simply not suitable for this species.
Harnesses & Leashes
There are a number of harnesses and leashes (leads) on the market aimed at guinea pigs. It may be appropriate to harness or put a leash on a dog, and you often see ferrets being allowed a controlled walk in this manner, but it's not suitable for guinea pigs. Piggies have a flighty nature, and it could be seen as disrespecting or disallowing their natural behaviour to limit their movement so severely. If they get scared, they are going to want to run; it will terrify them if they cannot move freely to do this and the risk of injury is higher the more frightened and stressed they get. Even an observant owner walking their guinea on a leash, claiming that the piggie loves it, is not fully respecting the needs and natural instincts of the species. It is best to avoid them altogether. After all, you're not going to see a guinea pig harnessed on a leash popcorning away!
Things to Look Out For â€“ Guidelines on Maintaining Toy Safety
It is only natural for toys to get a little wear and tear on them over time. There may be some slight risks with particular toys that get worn, so stick to the following guidelines to ensure your piggies are not put at risk by their toys:-
- Dispose of any wooden toys and wooden hideys/logs if they splinter, or if your guineas get a very infectious medical problem such as ringworm.
- Remove all labels, ribbons, buttons, tassels and unnecessary â€œfluffâ€ (e.g. small patches of artificial 'hair' on a soft toys head) before giving to your guineas.
- Ensure all seams on soft toys are very secure. If you are unsure, replace all stuffing with a safe alternative e.g. white vegetable parchment bedding or your normal bedding.
- Ensure there are no frayed edges on any toys, especially blankets or towels.
- Try to stick with toys manufactured specifically for animals or babies â€“ these are less likely to contain anything dangerous, and will have been made with safety in mind.
- Wash all soft toys regularly, at least once per month.
- Wash all plastic toys (e.g. â€œpigloosâ€) regularly, at least once every 3-6 months.
- Replace all wooden toys regularly, at least once every 3-6 months.
- If the guinea pig is a gnawer and is determined to chew on any toys you offer, then stick with toys that can be safely chewed e.g. wooden toys, cardboard, toilet roll tubes, newspaper, brown paper bags.
Now that the important information is out of the way, here's the bit you have really been waiting for â€“ what toys to try offering! Do try a variety of different toys â€“ most piggies enjoy something to snuggle in and something to chew on, for example. The most playful piggies will build quite a collection of exciting, interesting and stimulating toys!