A History of Guinea Pig Cages: A Learning Curve

Cage CollageImage courtesy of Sally Hurley

The evolution of the guinea pig cage

Like many misinformed guinea pig owners, I let my first pair of guinea pigs live in an aquarium. I was told that drafts were bad for guinea pigs and the aquarium kept them from getting a chill. It was tiny and I had to clean it often. What a cramped, boring life for those pigs!

Years later, when I got guinea pigs as an adult, I bought a plastic bottomed cage with a wire top. It was still unbelievably tiny. I am embarrassed to even post the dimensions of that cage and two pigs lived in it for a few years.

I eventually realized that guinea pigs required more space to be happy and active and splurged on the biggest guinea pig/rabbit cage I could find. It cost me nearly $100 and it was (as I discovered later) still too small for a pair of guinea pigs.

At this point the internet was becoming a common resource and a wealth of information. I learned about C&C (cubes and coroplast) cages at Guinea Pig Cages. I discovered I could build a cage twice the size of my big one, for half the price. It took me a year of looking at C&C cages and reading testimonials before deciding I really needed to build one for myself. I had invested so much in the current cage, I couldn’t see just replacing it with this home-made one. And really, how much difference could there be in only a slightly bigger cage?

New Cage Pigsimage courtesy of Sally Hurley

Tri-level cage with Willow's divided cage next door

I kicked myself for weeks after I made my 2×3 C&C cage for not having built one sooner. Truly amazing. It was much easier to clean. It went longer without requiring a change in bedding. Eclair and Teddi loved doing laps in it.  They were calmer and friendlier because I wasn’t hovering over little cage opening to put food in or take them out. I was sold.

I’ve had a lot of fun with that cage over the years and all of my pigs have enjoyed it. C&C cages are modular. You can add to them, rearrange them, modify them to whatever the current situation requires. I still have that original 2×3 base. It has had a number of levels added to it, removed from it and it was briefly part of a divided 2×5 cage. It is now the base of a triple-decker and half of a divided L-shaped cage for my three pigs.

Guinea pigs are not climbers and generally speaking you want to build a cage out, not up. I had space constraints for the overall footprint, but I wanted to give my guinea pigs more room to run around and hang out. The additional levels took a little time for all of us to adjust to it. But now? Bertie particularly enjoys running up and down the levels. I think she popcorns on the third level and the ramp just because it has more bounce than the ground floor! I believe all of us, both human and guinea pig, really like this cage design. What a contrast from the humble, misinformed, aquarium beginnings. We have all benefited from my extensive education in guinea pig habitats.


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Sally

Sally has owned guinea pigs for over 20 years and has organized the Boston Pignics since 2003. She is the CavyMadness "guinea guru" and assists guinea pig beginners on other cavy forums. Sally currently cares for a pair of sows.

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11 Responses to “A History of Guinea Pig Cages: A Learning Curve”
  1. Alena Loiselle says:

    I have learned so much since I have met the guinea pig on line community. I had my beloved cavies in tiny situations too, and feel very bad I did. I relied on books that were supposed to be the most up to date information on G.P. care. Wow, was I wrong! Thanks for the article, Sally. Long live your piglets!

  2. liz says:

    Bertie particularly enjoys running up and down the levels. I think she popcorns on the third level and the ramp just because it has more bounce than the ground floor!

    lmao!! Too cute!!!
    I too got a 2 storey hutch from a pet store, and I did the c&c cage thing, but had to put them in the hutch for a few days, and they didnt like going back to that. I have a 2×3 c&c at the moment, and the only annoying thing is the fact that for extra stability you need cable ties to secure it which makes it more time consuming when modifying it.

  3. dino says:

    I only recently rediscovered the joy of owning cavies when my two sons asked me to adopt. I was surprised to find out that most of the stuff I knew then had gotten an upgrade in recent years. Like these C&C cages. Back in the days, all you needed was either an aquarium or a wooden hutch and you’re set.

  4. suebee says:

    I purchased what I thought was a really big cage – the Welcome Home Hutch on wheels that was 32L by 18.5W by 20H. Took out the metal grill below their feet and lowered the shelf and ramp. Then went online to Cavy sites and saw the C&C ideas. I went to a local department store and bought the grids and some ties and made a nice 2 by 5 portable run. I can set it up and put it away easily and it keeps the dog from getting in and the cavies from getting out and under furniture. I always put a couple of tubes and a box and some lettuce and they race around and amuse the kids. One kid at a time can climb in and say hello too. Because I have cats, I really like the Welcome Home cage for its security and portability (easily moves on wheels for cleaning or just out of the way for company), but I did take some extra grids and purchased some Coroplast and set up a third level using ties within the cage. We call the third level the kitchen because it has the lettuce, carrots, bowls, water bottle and a straw hidey house (14″ by 18.5″). Because it has sides, I have Carefresh on that level too. For a ramp, we actually took one of the bendable log houses and wired it to the grid down to the second level. The second level has a hidey house filled with hay (it’s the built-in shelf and is quite narrow, 11″ by 18.5″). The base level, we call the playroom. It is empty and the ramp is in the middle so they can race around and around. A couple of push toys in there, that’s it. They also love hiding down there and I think they sleep there, so I might put a cuddle bed at one end. They now race up and down the ramps all day. More exercise! It was a fun project to do and gives them so much more square feet. Because the cage is so high, we could fit a third level in.

  5. Lorena says:

    Yes, I have a Cage (no coroplast yet) with 1 mt and a half for my babies, with a meter long second floor. They have fleece and hay bedding and couches to lean over (they love to jump from second floor to couch!) Although they exercise plenty, I’m not allowed to get more space as the house is not mine :( I asked for permission to enlarge it when my baby hits 3rd month and I’m confident I’ll get it. I feel sorry for them, I’d love giving them more room, but they dont seem to mind the space, they sing and popcorn around, they have 2 houses, couches and comfort and the surroundings are peaceful. It has a lot to do with stress, I reckon, having small cages, but even if I feel mine is small, it’s keeping my babies happy.

  6. Abby says:

    I heard guinea pigs like these cages, but what about cats and dogs? If a piggie owner owns other animals that could eat the guinea pigs. I think that making a top on t em would be hard, so you can also make a large wooden cage if you have the tools and skills, though I admit, this seems much easier. Also to Lorena, if you don’t feel ,ike you have enough space, make sure you take them out and let them run around once a day. This encourages spending time and popcorning, which is super cute. They love to explore but first you must make sure your room is piggie proof.

    • Sally says:

      Making tops for these is very easy for a single level cage (it can be trickier with multiple levels, if they’re staggered like the one in this article). I’ve seen some lids made from more grids, but I think the best lids are made from wire closet shelving. Two lengths of 16″ closet shelving cut to the length of the cage will cover any 2-grid deep cage, can be built to easily hinge in the middle and would be incredibly strong (no sagging in the middle). I’ve seen some with no latches, other lids latch with binder clips, and even one person that kept the pig lid locked down with a padlock!

      There is a photo album of contained cages on the GuineaPigCages website (although a lot of photos don’t have lids… photos in the wrong place?) . I found a couple of good examples on page five of the album: http://www.guineapigcages.com/photos/showgallery.php?cat=504&page=5

  7. JAMES R. says:

    I want a cavi so bad it’s not funny…however…there is much I wish to learn BEFORE I adopt one, and yes I would like to have an older one or 3…and yes, making a forever home for a cavi begins BEFORE you bring him/her/them home.
    Ms.Sally, I can not thank you enough for all you have shared, there are no words to express my thanks & gratitude.

    Thank you again Ma’am. 8 )

  8. Stephanie says:

    We are new to guinea pigs. We got two from pet stores. One is about three mos old and she is very energetic and also very skittish. If we can catch her she loves to snuggle and purrs when we pet her. But she is really hard to catch. She doesn’t come to us willingly. The other is a little older, maybe 4 or 5 mos I’d guess. She is calmer, the submissive, and loves to snuggle. But she is also very skittish and hard to catch. She won’t come willingly even though she is very happy once she is being held and snuggled. When we got them home we put them in a 55 gal aquarium and started doing research. At first we put litter everywhere and the used the entire thing as a potty. When we did some looking online we noticed most people have fleece in their cages and some have just one litter area and I had heard they could be litter trained. So we covered the majority the the bottom with an old fleece baby blanket and we put a pan of litter in one end and the food and water there and they started pooping mostly there and always peeing there in the litter. The only two other things in the cage were a SnackShack log and a plastic “barn” enclosure similar to the igloo our hamsters sleep in. They spent most of their time hiding in the barn or log and would go to either as soon as we tried to pet them or pick them up. They also pooped in the barn and seemed to want to push as far to the back of it as they could and it just seemed too big to make them feel secure. We tried putting in a few soft things to see if they would sleep on them but the would just huddle in the back of the barn. I was hoping they would only poop/pee in the designated litter area.

    We finally decided to get them a C&C cage. They LOVE it. Since we noticed they only seem to poop and pee where they were eating so we decided to make the loft the area with food and water and put littler on the bottom. We ended up getting the 2×4 with the 2×1 loft. They do poop and pee in the loft and do very well with that, but I am at a loss for what to do about bedding. I tried putting the barn on the bottom under the loft and they still went in it to hide and poop. I now have hung a piece of fleece across behind the ramp to the back to make a private area and put some loose fleece in there to see if they will sleep in it.

    Do they just poop on the fleece no matter what? What kind of bed should we get or make for them?

    Also, the younger piggy loves her greens. She loves romaine and spinach leaves and eats carrots out of my hand. She eats a few red or orange peppers and some cucumber too. But the other piggy will not eat any fresh food when I try to give it to her. She sometimes eats the romaine but doesn’t seem interested in much else. The pet store sold us Vit C drops to put in their water and we keep reading not to. What about a piggy who doesn’t like to east her veggies?

    One more question. We have not found any treat that they like enough to motivate them for training. We have tried yogurt drops and a few other things from the pet store but they couldn’t care less. How do you encourage and reward behaviors without a treat to reward the behavior? We are having the same problem with our Robo hamsters. We bought a bag of treats when we first got them and they were crazy for the pumpkin seeds in it. We used those to train them to come to us and sit in our hands and let us pet them. Once those ran out we could never find them again. We have bought tons of other pumpkin seeds and they don’t like any of them. Now they don’t have any motivation to come to up. We really want to take advantage of all of these little pets’ youth to train them well but need something that works.

    Any advice would be appreciated!

    • Sally says:

      For lots of answers to questions like these, you should check out http://www.guinealynx.info. I’d start with the care pages at http://www.guinealynx.info/healthycavy.html, and when you have lots of time, I’d just spend time searching through and reading through the forum.

      Second – poo happens. Any guinea pig will tell you this. You will eventually find poo in your house in the weirdest places and wonder how the heck it got there.

      Next – young pigs are a lot like little kids – they don’t always like their veggies and are suspicious of what you’re feeding them. Keep trying foods that they turned their nose up before – chances are, some day they’ll decide it tastes delicious and they’ll give you dirty looks for holding out on them. (and you’re right – skip the vitamin C drops – they’re not worth it).

      Pumpkin seeds are not good for guinea pigs. I’d skip that. If you look up “clicker training” on that forum link I gave you, you can find information about other people who have trained their guinea pigs. You may need to wait until they settle in a bit more and adjust to you before they can be trained (although in my experience, they train me much more than I train them).

      Good luck with them!

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