Have you noticed that your guinea pig has taken to chewing its hutch? As a responsible cavy owner, you are probably wondering why it is happening and whether it is normal behaviour or signs of an underlying issue. You may also be concerned about your piggy’s health chewing wood with potentially harmful toxins.
Well, you aren’t alone. We have had loads of emails from other readers asking the exact same thing. So we thought it would be a good idea to answer all your questions about piggies and their penchant for chewing wooden hutches.
Before we get to that, though, we need to understand why a guinea pig chews as much as it does. The reason is simple. Unlike humans, guinea pigs have elodont teeth, which is a fancy way of saying they don’t stop growing.
The most effective way for a cavy to keep its teeth trimmed is to chew on pellets and hay. If they are unable to do this, they can develop a severe dental issue known as malocclusion and painful ulcers inside the mouth and on the tongue.
Makes sense, right? But why do guinea pigs turn their attention to their hutches? Especially if there is an abundance of fibre-rich pellets and hay right in front of them?
6 Reasons Why Your Guinea Pig Might Be Chewing Its Hutch And What You Can Do About It
While it is fairly common for guinea pigs to chew their hutch, it can also be a sign of an underlying problem. We have identified 6 possible reasons your piggy could be chewing its cage.
1. Your Guinea Pig Needs More Attention
One of the main reasons your piggy will take to chewing its hutch is because it needs more of your attention. When you notice chewing going on, there is a good chance you walk over to the hutch and talk to your pet. You may even pick it up for a cuddle and some reassuring. Without you even realising it, your guinea pig’s got you figured out. And in future, to get your attention, your cavy will chew its cage.
Spend More Time With Your Guinea Pig
If your guinea pig is doing this to get you to take notice, you need to up the ante and spend more time with your pet. Remember, piggies need lots of floor time, which allows them to forage, explore and most importantly, chew. A run provides a safe play area where your cavy can exercise and be stimulated. One hour a day is adequate, but the more time you spend with your cuddly cavies, the better!
2. Your Guinea Pig May Be Feeling Stressed
Chewing its cage could be a sign that your guinea pig is stressed or nervous. Just like we chew our nails, this is your piggy’s go-to coping mechanism. But pinpointing what might be stressing your pet out will take some time and effort on your part. Excessive noise, the family dog or a dominant hutch-mate are just a few examples of potential stressors. Observing your guinea pig’s behaviour, such as its day-to-day routine, its interaction with other guinea pigs, and its environment, are just a few of the things you need to keep an eye on.
Keep Your Guinea Pig Stress-Free And Happy
Simple things could be stressing your guinea pig. Observing it in its cage and the run area should give you insight into what these stressors might be. If, for example, the hutch is near a busy road or noisy neighbours, you should consider moving it to a quieter spot. Provide plenty of hide-out spots and tunnels inside the cage so that whenever it feels threatened, your piggy has a place where it can retreat. This will make it feel more secure and reduce unnecessary stress.
Unfortunately, if guinea pigs are housed in too small a space, they will inevitably chew the cage. When shopping for a hutch, always go for the largest one you can afford. The more space your pets have to run and explore, the happier and less stressed they are. If space is a problem, go for a hutch and run combo.
3. Your Guinea Pig Is Bored
Boredom can lead to various behavioural issues in guinea pigs, including chewing its hutch. Have you checked (and checked again) to make sure your cavy has plenty of things to do? When last did you get something new for your piggy to explore and discover?
Get Your Guinea Pig New Toys
From chubes that double up as a tunnel and chew toy to corn rattles, adding new toys to get your piggies is a sure-fire way to get them excited and keep them stimulated. A combination of new toys, spending time with your cavies and a large cage will keep boredom at bay and stop them chewing through their hutch.
Swap the toys every now and then to keep your piggy interested. Don’t place all the new goodies in the hutch at once. Too much choice can often be as bad as no choice at all, and your bored guinea pig will be back chewing at the hutch.
5. Your Guinea Pig Is Lonely
A guinea pig on its own will not only crave your attention, but it is also more prone to boredom and stress. In its natural habitat, a guinea pig lives in a herd or ‘muddle’, so we recommend never having just one.
Get Your Guinea Pig A Hutch Mate
Instead, keep two or more guinea pigs together so that they keep each other company. This will stop unwanted behaviour, like the chewing of cages.
6. Your Guinea Pig Is Trimming Its Teeth
Remember, we mentioned that a guinea pig’s teeth continue to grow throughout its life, which is why it needs to chew and gnaw? Well, if your piggy is sinking its teeth into its hutch, it could quite simply be because there aren’t enough chewy things available.
Make Sure Your Guinea Pig Has Plenty Of Things To Chew
Chewing is your guinea pig’s way of keeping its teeth trimmed. Without adequate hay and pellets, your guinea pig will turn to the next best thing… its hutch. Make sure your cavy has access to good quality hay products, fibre-rich pellets as well as vegetables and fruit. You can also give your pet tasty hanging woodrolls, willow sticks and puffed rice and hay treats.
Frequently Asked Questions
This section answers the most frequently asked questions about guinea pigs and chewing wood that we receive from our readers. It is a great way to get the answers you need at a glance.
How do you stop your guinea pig from chewing its cage?
Understanding why your guinea pig is chewing its hutch will help you figure out how to stop it. Boredom, nervousness, lack of attention and loneliness are just a few of the reasons. Make sure your guinea pig is getting plenty of exercise, has toys and activities to keep it stimulated and that you are spending at least an hour a day playing with it.
If all else fails, you can take some preventative measures to stop this behaviour. Anti-chewing sprays are available, or you can train your guinea pig to stop the bad habit.
Is It okay For Guinea Pigs To Chew On Wood?
It is absolutely fine for your guinea pigs to chew on wood. After all, in the wild, its exactly how they wear their teeth down. But what you need to remember is not all woods are suitable for guinea pigs. Cedar, redwood, pine and eucalyptus are just a few aromatic kinds of wood that aren’t safe for cavies.
When choosing a hutch, always go for one that isn’t made from processed or treated wood. Dyes and glues, for example, contain ingredients that are toxic for guinea pigs.
What wood do guinea pigs like to chew?
To be honest, guinea pigs like chewing on all kinds of wood, but they especially like twigs from fruit trees. Just make sure that any branches or twigs you give your piggies haven’t been sprayed with any type of chemical. Insecticides and pesticides contain ingredients that are poisonous to pets.
Is It Okay For My Guinea Pig To Chew Toilet Rolls?
Yes, it is okay for guinea pigs to chew on toilet rolls and cardboard boxes. However, make sure you don’t give them too much as they could end up swallowing it and this could lead to issues with their digestion. Avoid giving your pets cardboard with glue or that has been chemically treated.
Should I Be Worried About My Guinea Pig Chewing Its Hutch?
As long as the hutch is made using high-quality wood that is safe for guinea pigs, there is no need to worry about it being chewed. Of course, if their constant gnawing causes structural damage to the hutch, you will need to make repairs as soon as possible. This will stop your pets from getting out, and more importantly, prevent predators from getting in.
When it comes to chewing things, guinea pigs don’t only like doing it, they need to in order to keep their teeth trimmed down. Sometimes, however there is more to it. Observing your cavies and paying attention to how and when they chew their cage will give you a good idea as to the reasons they are doing it.
It could be because they are bored, anxious or just desperate for your attention. If you are able to pinpoint the reasons, it will be easier for you to solve the problem. Always make sure your piggies have enough stimulation as well as a large cage with room to exercise, play, eat and sleep. Chew treats are a great way to break the hutch-chewing habit, as is spending quality time with your precious pets.
Have you experienced this with your guinea pigs? How did you handle it? Let us know in the comments below. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletters for helpful articles, discounts and members-only rewards.