How Much Exercise Do My Guinea Pigs Need?
Guinea pigs are not built for marathons, but they still love to exercise those little legs. Given enough space, they will not need any extra exercise equipment, so hamster-style wheels and balls are not required (and can, in fact, be very dangerous for guinea pigs). What they do need, though, is a combination of hutch and run – and, ideally, extra tunnels, too – to give them plenty of exercise space.
Guinea pig exercise is all about exploring and interacting. They are very sociable animals, moving around their enclosure in groups or dashing away on little adventures of their own. Being instinctively nervous and alert animals has the side effect of making them very active. If there is a strange noise or sudden movement, they are likely to dash for the safety of a familiar corner.
How Much Space Do Guinea Pigs Need To Exercise In?
The floor area for a hutch containing two guinea pigs should be a minimum of 0.75 square meters. The hutch is where they will spend much of their time, so the bigger the living quarters, the better. The indoor part of a hutch is only half the story, though, and guinea pigs need some outdoor space, too. It is recommended that they should have at least three hours free-ranging time each day. This is easy to arrange if you combine a hutch and run, and an all-in-one living space such as The Eglu Go Hutch for Guinea Pigs is the ideal option.
Guinea pig enclosures can also be linked to outdoor playpens using an arrangement such as the Zippi Guinea Pig Tunnel System. This kind of flexible system allows you to construct anything from a simple A to B tunnel, to a full-blown maze. You can also accommodate fun features in your tunnel set up, such as lookout posts and feeding stations.
For a pair of Guinea pigs, a one- to two-meter-square run provides plenty of space. If you are able to give the pets more space than this, they will only really use it fully if it has plenty of tunnels and bolt holes to head for – guinea pigs do not like to be too far away from somewhere safe and cozy, and will not usually roam in a large backyard. What you can do in a large space, though, is construct an obstacle course or maze of tunnels, giving your pets endless fun and exercise.
Encouraging Guinea Pigs To Exercise
Guinea pigs are more inclined to run around and have fun if they have companions to play with on a daily basis. So, rule number one for ensuring that your pets get enough exercise is to provide them with at least one playmate. In the wild, extended family groups tend to number at least 10, but you should always keep the numbers to a level dictated by the size of the hutch and run. You need to get the mix right, as a male and a female will inevitably mate, which has obvious consequences in terms of space and mouths to feed.
Groups of males or groups of females are the best option. A castrated male will mix very happily and placidly with females, and any small disagreement and scuffles among your guinea pigs is unlikely to result in injury, and is all part of their exercise routine.
Incorporating hiding places in your run/hutch/tunnel set up is an important detail. Guinea pigs instinctively have one eye on a safe bolt-hole when they are out and about, and scurrying back to safety is probably their most strenuous form of exercise.
You can encourage your pets to scurry around and stretch their legs by putting interesting objects in their run, such as hay balls, wicker toys stuffed with treats, chews, tunnels and simple hideaways in the form of terra-cotta caves and igloos. They will also play happily with the cardboard tubes from the inside of toilet paper rolls and paper towels, or a simple cardboard box, especially if these items are stuffed with hay and fresh veggie treats.
One of the things that gives guinea pigs such a unique character is their lovable combination of endless inquisitiveness and nervousness. They follow their noses, explore everything, and then dash back to safety, making those wonderful wheep wheep sounds as they do so. With this mixture of playing and bolting, their exercise needs are easily met – all you need to do is provide the right hardware.
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