Challenges in Guinea Pig Cage Design

Veranda MagazineImage courtesy of Veranda Magazine

The January-February 2011 edition of Veranda Magazine.

Veranda is a magazine about home design and interior decorating and while they might know a lot about style, we would like offer some assistance when it comes to guinea pigs. In a note posted on their Facebook page in January, Dara Caponigro, Editor in Chief of Veranda magazine revealed she had seven guinea pigs. Caponigro says, “Our two females miraculously had babies. Since then, Ariella has been renamed Chris, and Chris has been neutered.” While guinea pig pups can often happen when cavies are wrongly sexed, we’re happy to see she addressed the problem by having Chris neutered and keeping the whole brood.

She goes on to say, “My friend… turned me onto Martin’s Cages. Though these guinea pig cages aren’t beautiful, per se, their design is clean and simple — certainly not an eyesore.” The photograph included with her note is “The Guinea Pig Condo (G-350)” which is a 36 inch by 30 inch cage. The cage includes a ramp to a landing and another ramp to a second floor made of wire mesh.

We don’t know if the cage pictured with the Facebook note was the one Caponigro chose for her seven guinea pigs but we were not impressed with Martin’s Cages in general. Let’s do some math. As social animals, guinea pigs need to be housed in pairs. At just over 2 square feet, the smallest cage available for guinea pigs from Martin’s Cages can not meet the minimum requirements for two guinea pigs. It’s not even close to the 7.5 square feet required for one guinea pig. This cage is only a few inches shy of our cavy carrier which we use for trips to the vet.

Using the Guinea Pig Cages estimation of cage standards and taking into account that ramp area and second floor area is usually not included in a measurement of cage size (cage size is an approximation of running room), to properly house her seven guinea pigs Caponigro would need approximately 22 square feet of cage space. She would need to own three of the largest cages Martin’s Cages sells on their website and her guinea pig herd would need to be separated. Not an ideal solution.

While Caponigro might be drawn to the simplicity of Martin’s Cages because the wire isn’t coated with a bright color and the base is not made of plastic like many pet store bought cages, the fact that Martin’s Cages have a wire mesh needing to be covered means something additional must be added to the design as an afterthought. Exactly what these cages were designed and intended for is not known. They appear to be guinea pig cages designed 30 years ago which continue to be produced with a added suggestion to alter the wire mesh floor to accomodate modern standards of guinea pig care. Martin’s Cages website states, “This floor must be covered with a material of your choice before use. Guinea Pigs should not walk directly on wire.” While we appreciate Martin’s Cages placing a warning on their website, requiring the consumer to alter a product in order for it to be safe shows a disregard for the health for the pets. To those of us in the cavy community who promote guinea pig welfare, this attitude by manufacturers is weak and disappointing.

Is Caponigro happy with separating her herd into three wire mesh cages with a makeshift second floor? We’re guessing she made do with the best options she found available because so many of us in the cavy community are forced to do the same. If Caponigro found a more stylish solution to the guinea pig housing challenge, those of us here at Guinea Pig Today would absolutely love to see it.

In the meantime, we would like to suggest to her and anyone else who has purchased one of Martin’s Cages to consider building a C&C cage. While this might not offer a perfect option as a fashionable addition to your home, it’s certainly a flexible and safe solution for the life of your guinea pigs. Perhaps Caponigro could use her clout to develop an ideal solution which is both functional and stylish.

While we absolutely agree with Caponigro that commercial guinea pig cages can be an eyesore, the products offered by Martin’s Cages are not without their problems. Unfortunately, we’re not all graced with the skills required to build an elegant C&C cage either. That’s why we challenge a furniture designer to develop a guinea pig cage system that is attractive and interesting, but without sacrificing any of the fundamental requirements for a healthy guinea pig environment. We would love to see the future of cavy cages with beautiful solutions and a selection of themes able to blend into the decor of any home.

If you have a great idea for an article about guinea pigs, please let us know. Guinea Pig Today is a network of guinea pig lovers and we’re always looking for the next great story. View our submissions page for more information on how to submit your idea.

Angela, Editor-in-Chief, GPT

Angela founded Guinea Pig Today and guest writes for CavyMadness. She volunteers with Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue and supports the ROUS Foundation. Her guinea pig, Papua, is the star of WHEK-TV/DT.

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4 Responses to “Challenges in Guinea Pig Cage Design”
  1. Claire says:

    I’m so lucky to have gorgeous landlords who let us have the girls running free in their own area of the house. No cages required unless they are outside in the summer palace in the yard. They can wander around when the mood takes them. You should have seen the stink eye I got when I started to restrict them to the three uncarpeted rooms when they got runny beans.

    I realise that they’ll have to use a cage if we move out of here but it’s going to have to be pretty spectacular (and BIG) to satisfy me.

  2. Thanks for an excellent article. It is really sad seeing such small cages on sale. C&C cages get my vote every time as they are cheap and easy to construct. You really don’t need to be a DIY expert to put one together as the instructions on are very good.

    One thing people don’t seem to take into consideration is that overcrowding can cause animals to become stressed, and stress is a big underlying cause of many illnesses – skin problems in particular. So, it is really important that Humans do their homework before buying or making homes for their guinea.

  3. Carla says:

    Thanks for the article. Interesting topic for sharing a love of guinea pigs and a love of good design. I have seen two beautiful guinea pig homes in about 8 years. One was on display at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, the other somewhere on the internet. Wish I had photos to share! Seems like a $custom build$ can get you there. Those design people on HGTV could meet the challenge, right!?

    Meanwhile I have my large C&C pen for my little guy on top of a plastic & metal buffet table. It wouldn’t be so difficult or expensive to surround the table on three sides with a wood apron painted to complement the other furniture in the room…could add doors to get to storage bins below…went to a party in a home where owners built three dog crates into the wall, you know, like built-in cabinets. It would be nice to see something like that for g-pigs, where its integrated into the architecture. Thanks again for addressing this!

  4. Victoria says:

    If you REALLY want to go high style, I have a 3×3 acrylic home that exactly fits on a cube table, but that was a custom job I had made many years ago when plastic fabrication was much cheaper.

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