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Guinea pigs are very amusing little creatures that have been popular pets for donkeys years. At one time, it was thought they made great companions for rabbits, but it is now known these little guys get on a whole lot better with others of their own kind in same sex pairs.
Apart from making sure guinea pigs live in a clean and spacious cage environment, it's also really important for them to get to explore their surroundings which means lots of time out of their cages so they can have some “floor” time. Not only does this enrich their lives, but it ensures they stay fit and healthy which can actually help them live longer.
Guinea pigs are clever little characters and they need to have as much mental stimulation as possible. As a rule of thumb, the smaller the cage a cavy lives in, the more floor time they need to be given for them to be truly happy. However, even if your pet lives in a fantastic large cage, they still enjoy and need to be taken out of it so they can run around in a safe place and explore things.
With this said taking your cavy out of their cages and spending time with them on your lap having a bit of a cuddle, does not really count because they are not getting to run around having fun and stretching their legs as they play with any toys you may have set up for them in their play area.
The main reason for allowing your cavy to run around on the floor in a safe environment, is for them to get lots of exercise. You may find your cavy is a little confused the very first time you let them out into their run. They may just sit there looking a bit lost or they may even head for a corner and just stay there because they feel it's the safest place to be.
This is perfectly normal behaviour because the chances are they have never been allowed into an open space in their lives before which is why they may find it all a little frightening. This is when you need to start calmly and gently interacting with your pet so you form a strong bond with them as they start to trust you. If you only have one pet guinea pig this is particularly important because they don't have a buddy to play with!
It's important that you set up a safe place for your pet to run around in and the easier it is to clean the better because it means you'll be more likely to let your pet out on a daily basis. You may opt to set up a semi-permanent place for your cavy to run around in, or you may think it best to set up something more permanent, it's just a matter of personal choice what you decide to do.
The thing to bear in mind is that guinea pigs seem to love corners so it's a good idea to set up a run for them in a corner of a room and to use bath mats or some waterproof material as flooring. Bath mats are easy to pick up once your pet is back in their cage which makes them easy to thoroughly wash ready for use again the next day.
Like most animals, cavies like to be around things they find familiar, which means placing a few of their cage toys in the run adding a few others to make things more interesting. Small wooden boxes are great because your pet can hide in them. There are heaps of guinea pigs toys available from pigloos to brilliant tunnels for your pet to run through to their heart's delight which are all great toys to put in their “playground”.
It's also important to set up an area for food which includes a little hay rack and a couple of food dishes. The most important thing is to set up a place to put your pet's water bottle. By placing some Timothy hay either on the floor or in a rack, this should keep your pet munching away on it rather than anything else they might come across as they explore the area.
If you place any paper down on the floor, make sure you don't use newspaper because the ink is toxic to most small animals. It's far better to use bath mats or some other waterproof material before placing specially shredded paper for use with small animals on them. You can buy good quality shredded paper from most pet stores.
Naturally, you want to choose a really safe area for you pet to run around in, but you also need for it to be somewhere that's ultra easy to clean. Below are a couple of suggestions with the good and the bad points of setting up a piggy play area in them.
Most kitchen floors have pretty slippery surfaces which are not really suitable for guinea pigs to run around on. However, you could always place some old carpet down in a corner which you can then “fence” off. The other trouble with kitchens is they tend to be high traffic areas which your pet might find a little frightening.
By far the best place to set up a “piggy playground” is to do so in a corner of your living room making sure you place some sort of waterproof matting down to protect the carpet first. If you have wooden floors you still need to put the mats down to prevent your cavy from slipping and hurting themselves.
You could set up a permanent play area in the corner of the room and the great thing about doing so in the lounge is that people generally tend to relax in there which makes it a nicer place for your pet to spend some floor time around you and other members of your family.
Wherever you decide to set up your piggy's playground, you need to make sure your pet will be totally safe when they are in it remembering they could be in there unsupervised at some point in time. The two greatest dangers guinea pigs face when they are allowed floor time include electric wires and the fact cavies have a great habit and are very good at getting themselves stuck in tight places.
These adorable creatures will chew on a wire with no problem at all which means that if it's live, they run the risk of being electrocuted. Although phone lines are not quite as dangerous, if your pet swallows any bits of wire it could cause serious internal complications which might prove fatal.
Tight spaces are the other thing that cavies seem to be drawn to and they will get stuck in them. You'd be amazed at the sort of tiny spaces a cavy can squeeze into. Getting them free can be quite traumatic not only for your pet, but for you too!
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