How much exercise does a guinea pig need? Thanks to their cuddlesome appearance, affectionate personality and animated ways, guinea pigs are fast becoming a popular choice of pet for families all across the UK. But these cuddly little critters need a lot of care, and that includes plenty of exercise. You see, in the wild, cavies spend a large part of their day running around while foraging for food. As pets, however, they are more often than not kept in a hutch or indoor cage, with limited space to roam freely.
Unfortunately, this less active lifestyle and a piggy’s penchant for eating means that guinea pigs are susceptible to weight gain, obesity, and other related health issues without adequate exercise.
But how exactly do you exercise a guinea pig, and what constitutes enough physical activity for your pet?
Carry on reading to find out the answers to these questions, as well as everything else related to your piggy’s health and fitness.
How Much Exercise Does A Guinea Pig Need
Some websites suggest one hour of running around and playing, while others recommend at least 3 to 4 hours when it comes to how much exercise guinea pigs need. But what they all agree on is that no matter how big or small your guinea pig’s enclosure is, it’s crucial that your pet gets daily exercise outside its cage or hutch.
The general rule of thumb is the smaller the enclosure, the more exercise or free-roaming is needed!
How Do Guinea Pigs Exercise?
It’s essential to understand what constitutes exercise for a guinea pig. Unlike humans that need all the latest gadgets and gizmos to work out, guinea pigs prefer keeping things natural. In other words, rather than rushing out to buy your pet its very own Pig-o-ton, think more along the lines of ‘pigates’.
Guinea pigs are happiest when they can run, tunnel, forage, jump, explore and play with their hutch-mates.
Tip: Guinea pigs can exercise indoors or outside, as long as the area is safe and 100% guinea-pig proof!
What Are The Benefits of Exercise for Guinea Pigs?
Guinea pigs, no matter how well balanced and nutritional their diets are, need daily exercise. Besides keeping them in shape, it also has other benefits. These include ensuring your cavy stays fit, relieves boredom and provides your pet with the mental stimulation it needs.
Without exercise, a guinea pig can become overweight, which will affect its health and overall well-being.
What Is The Best Way To Exercise A Guinea Pig?
Getting your guinea pig active isn’t complicated. In fact, it’s actually straightforward and is the perfect opportunity for you to bond with your furry friend.
Let’s take a look at the best (and most effective) ways for you to exercise your piggy.
1. Give them plenty of room to exercise inside their hutch
One of the most effective ways to ensure your guinea pig is getting all the exercise it needs is to get it a large hutch with plenty of space.
A large hutch gives your guinea pigs the room they need to run around and exercise even when you can’t give them their scheduled playtime.
2. Make sure they have enough toys for mental stimulation
Making sure your guinea pigs are mentally stimulated is as vital as physical activity. Balls, tunnels, tubes, and chew toys are all essential guinea pig toys to keep your cavy healthy and happy.
With such a wide and fun choice of toys available, it’s a common mistake to place too many in the hutch at once. Rather than overcrowding your piggies’ living space, we suggest rotating toys and boredom busters to keep your pets interested. Remember to also remove any broken toys immediately.
3. Floortime is important
If your guinea pigs live indoors, they must have sufficient floortime outside of their cage. Before letting them roam freely, the room must be piggy proofed. This means making sure there are no other pets around, all potential escape routes have been blocked off, and any electric cables are out of the way.
It’s a good idea to include toys during playtime to help with mental stimulation. And remember to supervise your guinea pigs’ floortime to keep them safe.
4. Let them ‘run’ around outdoors
No matter how big your hutch is, guinea pigs should also have an outdoor area or run where they can explore, play and forage. You can choose runs that attach to the hutch, or if space is limited, we recommend a folding run that can be stored out of the way when not in use.
Nothing beats outside playtime, but before you let your guinea pigs roam freely, you need to make sure the conditions are suitable and that the area is safe.
Checklist for outdoor exercise time
- Make sure that it’s not too hot for your guinea pigs to be outside in direct sunlight. Invest in a shade for their run, and always make sure there are plenty of tunnels and hideouts where they are protected from the elements.
- Cold and wet weather also isn’t the best time for your guinea pigs to be outside without any shelter. Cavies are prone to upper respiratory infections, which, if left untreated, can be life-threatening.
- For your piggy’s safety and your peace of mind, it’s best to set up their run away from any hazardous items. Pesticides, weed killers and even fertilizer for the lawn can be toxic to guinea pigs.
- Check that there are no poisonous plants or flowers. Unfortunately, some plants and flowers, if eaten, can be fatal for a guinea pig. These include geraniums, snapdragons, marigolds and catnip. Before letting your cavies loose in the garden, make sure the area is 100% safe for your pet.
- Predators also pose a threat to guinea pigs outside. Ensure the run is enclosed with a roof and that there are no hidden entry (or exit) points where unwanted visitors can gain access.
5. Keep two or more guinea pigs together
Guinea pigs are social animals and need the company of other guinea pigs. Keeping two guinea pigs or more together doesn’t only help keep loneliness at bay, but it also encourages physical activity. Foraging, exploring, playing and even cuddling up together is what keeps guinea pigs happy and healthy.
Exercises To Avoid For Guinea Pigs
Some activities should be avoided when it comes to your guinea pig, including hamster wheels, metal hay balls and leashes. While these may be suitable for other pets, they are not ideal for cavies and can result in serious injury and even death.
1. Hamster or exercise wheels
Unlike hamsters, mice and rats, guinea pigs have extremely fragile spines and delicate bone structures. Hamster or exercise wheels force a guinea pig into an unnatural position, leading to severe, often fatal, back injuries.
2. Metal hay balls
Another toy that should be avoided when it comes to your guinea pig is a metal hay ball. Cavies can easily get caught in the frame, resulting in nasty injuries. A better option is a guinea pig-friendly treat ball or hay rack that can be attached to the hutch.
3. Leashes and harnesses
As tempting as it may be to take your piggy for a walk with a leash or harness, it’s not something we recommend. The main reason for this is because of a guinea pig’s fragile bone structure and its natural tendency to run and hide when it feels threatened. On a leash, in its struggle to escape perceived or real danger, there’s a very good chance it will sustain a back or spinal injury.
Another reason to avoid putting your guinea pig in a harness or on a leash is its skittish nature. As a prey animal, your piggy needs to be able to run and hide whenever it feels threatened. When it is unable to do this, your cavy will become stressed out and anxious.
How To Get Your Lazy Guinea Pig To Exercise
By their very nature, Guinea pigs are busy little critters, by nature most guinea pigs aren’t lazy. So don’t assume your pet’s inability or disinterest in moving is simply because it’s lazy. An underlying health issue, obesity, boredom and even depression could be stopping your piggy from getting the exercise it needs.
1. Start at the vet
Before you try to get your cavy exercising, we suggest starting with a checkup at the vet. As already mentioned, your pet’s lethargy could be due to an underlying health issue, loneliness, boredom or slow metabolism.
After a thorough examination, your vet will be able to recommend the best way forward. This may include a change in diet or even adding a hutch mate.
2. Give your guinea pig time outside its cage
Often, the most effective way to get a lazy guinea pig healthy exercise is to give it free-roaming time outside its cage. Being in a new environment with different sights and smells will encourage your piggy to move more as it explores and discovers.
Tasty treats are also an excellent way to encourage your cavy to move. However, be sure to check with your vet which snacks are the healthiest choice, especially if your guinea pig is overweight and more ‘spud’ than bud.
3. Use toys to encourage your guinea pig to play
A bored guinea pig can quickly become lethargic and lazy. Placing toys inside the hutch and run is a simple and effective way to encourage your guinea pig to get active. Creating a stimulating environment will allow your guinea pig to explore and get the exercise it needs.
4. Make sure your guinea pig is getting enough vitamin C
A guinea pig’s diet should include fibre-rich pellets, hay and fresh vegetables. Fruit, while tasty, contains sugar and needs to be limited to one serving a week. And don’t forget to add a vitamin C supplement. Your guinea pig is unable to make this essential vitamin and can become ill without it.
5. Get your piggy a pal
It isn’t uncommon for single guinea pigs to experience loneliness, boredom and depression, which can all lead to lethargy, weight gain and diabetes. Getting your piggy a pal will reduce its stress levels, encourage physical activity and improve its overall health.
To Finish Off
There are no two ways about it. Daily exercise is an absolute must for your guinea pig’s physical and mental well-being. Running around, exploring, foraging and playing is an excellent way for your piggies to maintain their weight, stay for and keep their organs healthy without injuring themselves.
How do you keep your guinea pig? Perhaps, there is an activity that you love doing together? Let us know in the comments below.