Do guinea pigs smell? In general no, guinea pigs are clean little critters that regularly groom themselves. And while they may have a slight odour, they should never be overpowering or unpleasant. However, like other pets (and even people), cavies will start to give off a smell if they’re kept in dirty conditions and are fed the wrong foods.
In this article, we’re looking at the reasons why piggies may smell and help you understand what you can do to stop it from happening.
Why Guinea Pigs Smell and What You Can Do To Reduce Odours
As already mentioned, cavies are clean little critters and don’t usually give off an unpleasant smell. But when a guinea pig’s environment isn’t maintained correctly, or they are fed the wrong foods, these pocket pets can quickly stink up the room.
Other reasons why guinea pigs may smell include illness and poor grooming. This section discusses these reasons in more detail and looks at what you can do to keep your piggy smelling the way nature intended.e
Maintaining your guinea pig’s cage
More often than not, it’s not piggies giving off the bad smell. After all, they regularly groom and clean themselves. However, what you are smelling is soiled or wet bedding, poop and wee and uneaten food.
If you’re getting a strong whiff from your guinea pig, chances are it’s time to give the cage a good clean.
Here are our top tips on how to keep your cavy’s cage clean and smelling fresh.
Choose the right bedding
When choosing bedding for your guinea pig cage, you must get a good quality product that is super-absorbent, comfortable, odour-resistant and non-toxic.
Our top picks are:
Other suitable options include fleece, cloth, paper and aspen bedding. If you choose paper or aspen, make sure it is of good quality and dust-free. Whatever you do, avoid straw, cedar and pine shavings, as well as newspaper at all costs as these can all cause significant health problems for your cavy.
Want to know how to set your guinea pigs cage up using fleece bedding? This article tells you everything you need to know.
Change the bedding regularly
It’s one thing having the best bedding in your cavy’s cage, but it doesn’t stop there. To keep the yucky odours at bay, you will need to change it (or clean it if you’re using fleece) regularly. Of course, how regularly depends on how many piggies you have.
An enclosure with multiple guinea pigs will need to have the bedding replaced more often than a cage with just one or two. On average, however, we recommend changing it every two to three days.
Spot clean your guinea pig’s cage daily
As a guinea pig parent, you’ve probably noticed that your pocket pets poop and pee a lot. To reduce odours, you must do a spot clean every day to get rid of piggy poop, soiled bedding, and any leftover food.
Staying on top of daily mess will keep your cavy’s cage smelling fresher for longer.
Do a deep clean once a week
Another way to get rid of odours in your guinea pig’s cage is to do a deep clean once a week. This involves removing all the bedding, food bowls, water bottles, tunnels, tents, hideouts and toys. Once you’ve done this, spray the hutch, accessories and toys with an animal-friendly disinfectant. Rinse toys and accessories with warm water and dry well.
Our top recommendation to kill bacteria and remove odours is:
When you’re done, place fresh new bedding in the cage, along with the clean food bowls, water bottles and other hutch essentials.
A Healthy and Balanced Diet is a Must
When your guinea pig is getting a healthy, balanced diet that includes fibre, vegetables, (limited) fruits and water, its poop should be oval-shaped, not too hard or too soft, with little to no odour. But when your cavy is getting too many of the wrong foods, the shape, consistency and smell of its poop changes.
And it’s not just their poo that will smell. An unbalanced diet can also cause urinary tract infections (UTIs), which will make a guinea pig’s wee smell.
Take a look at our list of foods to feed your cavy and what to avoid to reduce bad smells.
What To Feed Your Guinea Pig
Cavies are herbivores, which means they only eat plants. The best way to ensure they’re getting the right food is to think about what they would eat in their natural habitat.
- Grass or hay – your piggy’s diet should consist mainly of feeding hay or grass. In fact, at least 80% of its diet should be made up of this. Not only is it good for their digestion, but it also helps keep their teeth short.
- Nuggets – your cavy’s diet should also include specially formulated guinea pig nuggets. We recommend keeping this to around 10%. Make sure the product you choose is fortified with vitamin C and other essential vitamins and minerals. This will keep your guinea pig looking and feeling healthy.
Our top choice is:
- Fresh vegetables – the other 10% should be made up of fresh veggies. A small teacup serving of delicious vegetables will add variety to your piggy’s diet while providing it with essential vitamins and minerals.
- Fruit – guinea pigs LOVE fruit, but because most are high in sugar, we suggest limiting it to a small portion once a week as a treat.
What Not To Feed Your Guinea Pig
Feeding guinea pigs human food or foods meant for other animals will wreak havoc with their digestive system and overall health. Take a look at our list of foods that you should avoid giving your cavies.
- Meat – as mentioned, guinea pigs are herbivores and should never be given meat of any kind. Their digestive systems are unable to process it.
- Cooked or processed food – a big no-no for guinea pigs is cooked or processed food.
- Avocado – there are two reasons avocado isn’t suitable for guinea pigs. Firstly, the skin contains toxins that can be harmful to your piggy. And secondly, while the flesh of an avocado isn’t toxic, it’s high in fat.
- Dairy – milk, yoghurt and cheese can wreak havoc with a piggy’s sensitive tummy.
- Juice – the only thing your cavy should drink is water. Avoid fruit juices.
- Garlic – another big no-no for your piggy.
For more information on what to feed your guinea pig and what to avoid, take a look at this article.
Help Groom Your Guinea Pigs
Yes, guinea pigs are fastidious little groomers and do a pretty good job keeping themselves clean. However, there may be times you will need to step in.
For example, long haired guinea pigs may find it challenging to clean themselves properly and will need your help with regular brushing. Likewise, elderly or sickly cavies will have trouble keeping themselves groomed, so you’ll need to assist.
If you need advice on how to wash your guinea pig, this article is handy.
An Unwell Guinea Pig May Smell
Guinea pigs are prone to many health issues, including:
- Respiratory infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Dental problems
Some of these, such as diarrhoea, abscesses, dental problems and flystrike, may cause your piggy to give off a foul smell. Suppose you notice your piggy is smelling more than usual and has accompanying symptoms including lethargy, little to no appetite and no interest in socialising. In that case, we recommend getting it to the vet as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, being so small, a cavy’s health can deteriorate rapidly.
Train Your Guinea Pig To Use A Litter Box
While this technique may seem a little unconventional, training your guinea pig to use a litter box can go a long way in reducing unpleasant odours in the cage.
Our top pick for a litter box is:
We’ve put together an easy to follow guide on how best to toilet train your cavies. Take a look here.
Frequently Asked Questions About Guinea Pigs and Bad Smells
Take a look at our most frequently asked questions about guinea pigs and foul odours.
Why do male guinea pigs smell more than female guinea pigs?
Male guinea pigs, or boars, may smell more than female guinea pigs (sows). This is because they secrete a scent from their grease gland when they want to show dominance or mark their territory. The area around the gland, located under a guinea pig’s tail, can become greasy and start to smell if not cleaned regularly. It can also lead to infections.
To keep your male guinea pig smelling clean and fresh, we suggest cleaning it with coconut oil or a mild soap and water mixture.
What are the simplest ways to stop my guinea pigs from smelling?
Remember, more often than not, it’s the cage that smells and NOT your guinea pigs. If your cavies have an unusually pongy enclosure, we suggest the following:
- Daily spot cleaning – this involves removing soiled or wet bedding, poop and uneaten food.
- Deep cleaning once a week – your guinea pig’s hutch needs to be deep cleaned at least once a week. This means removing all the bedding, food bowls, water bottles, toys and other hutch essentials. Everything needs to be cleaned with a pet-friendly disinfectant and left to dry. Once done, place clean bedding in the cage, along with everything else.
- Train your guinea pigs to use a litter box – guinea pigs poop A LOT! To reduce bad smells, you might want to train your piggies to use a litter box. While it will take some patience and a lot of perseverance, it will be worth it in the end.
Is it normal for my guinea pig’s wee to smell ‘fishy’?
No, it’s definitely not normal for guinea pigs’ wee to smell fishy. If you pick up this smell, there are three possible causes:
- The anal sack needs to be cleaned
- Your male guinea pig has a sperm rod
- Your guinea pig has a urinary tract infection or cystitis
You will need to give your guinea pig a clean in the infected areas in the first two instances. Coconut oil and an earbud will clean the anal sack. As far as the sperm rod goes, this simply needs to be removed and thrown away.
If it is a UTI or cystitis, you need to get your piggy to the vet immediately.
To Finish Off
In a nutshell, guinea pigs shouldn’t smell. If they are giving off an unpleasant odour, it’s usually a sign that the cage isn’t clean, their diet is wrong, they’re sick, or they’re struggling to groom themselves. Also, boars may smell more than sows because of an oily buildup around the grease gland.
If your piggies are smelling, it’s vital that you get to the root of the problem first. Once you’ve figured that out, the solution is pretty straightforward.
Have you got any tips on how you keep your piggies smelling fresh? Feel free to share them in the comments section below.