In order to keep your guinea pigs healthy, it’s important to keep them entertained and their brain stimulated! And in some cases, depending on the breeds and personalities of your guinea pigs, there’s a chance they’ll start either chewing their own hair, or even chewing their companions’ hair!
A stimulated piggy means an active piggy that has a healthier and happier life, and by extension, a longer life.
It’s pretty easy to entertain your piggy, and it doesn’t require a whole lot of expensive toys that you need to constantly buy, and some of our ideas are even DIY options, keeping this wallet-friendly.
It’s important to note that even though guinea pigs are a type of rodent, that doesn’t mean they should be using the same toys as their rodent relatives. Guinea pigs have different body structures that don’t allow them to be able to play or exercise the same way as, say, a rat or hamster.
All of this leads to some very important questions! You may be wondering things like what kinds of toys do guinea pigs need, or what kinds of toys can a guinea pig play with. We’ve got you covered.
What kinds of toys are not good for guinea pigs?
There are a few types of toys that aren’t good for guinea pigs, and in some cases, they can be pretty dangerous too. It’s important that you’re giving your guinea pig toys that are safe for them to use. There are too many toys out there that are marketed as being good for all rodents, and especially guinea pigs, but it’s just not the case.
We’ve done an entire blog post on why exercise wheels are bad for guinea pigs, but we think that we should emphasize how bad these are for piggies. Guinea pigs are rodents, but their skeletal structures aren’t as flexible as their other fellow rodents. You may see videos and photos of hamsters and rats running on wheels, but that doesn’t mean your guinea pig should.
You might be wondering what their skeletal structure has to do with their ability to run on a wheel. If you look at the content of rodents running on wheels, you’ll see that their spines are curved.
While these animals are built in a way that allows for that without harming their spines, the same cannot be said for guinea pigs. Their spines aren’t able to curve the same way without inflicting damage and pain, so it’s important that guinea pigs don’t use wheels.
Unfortunately, guinea pigs also can’t use these. It’s the same reason that they can’t use the exercise wheels—their spines simply were not meant to curve in that way.
Even though the popular Disney movie G-Force shows secret agent guinea pigs riding around in turbo-boosted exercise balls as part of their spy gear, this can’t be the case in real life.
If we want to preserve the health and functionality of the guinea pig spine and prevent any injuries or pain, then our best bet would be to avoid things like exercise wheels and balls.
Toys with holes
You might be scratching your head about this one, but let us explain. Of course you can give your guinea pigs toys like tunnels and hideys that have holes for them to come in and out. However, there are other toys that have holes that might be big enough for a guinea pig to squeeze their heads into or even part of their body in general, but then they might get stuck.
Have you ever seen a silly human stick their head through some bars and then get stuck and are unable to come out? The same thing can happen to guinea pigs, but it’s more dangerous and harmful for them.
Guinea pigs have a tendency to panic—this means they’re likely to jostle themselves around and try to get out, which can cause harm to their delicate necks and spines. This can cause serious injury, and in some cases, even death.
With that being said, we’d avoid toys that are ring shaped, even if they’re meant to just be chewed on. Guinea pigs will see the hole and try to get through, and we want to prevent that as much as possible.
Another thing that you might want to avoid are toilet paper rolls without anything stuffed inside. Further down in our recommended toys section, we mentioned stuffed toilet paper rolls.
However, when it comes to ones that don’t have anything in them and you’re just giving them to our piggies to chew on, we’d recommend cutting them lengthwise. They’ll still hold their roll shape like this, but your guinea pig’s head won’t get stuck because it can split apart to accommodate the size of their head.
Ideas for toys for guinea pigs
Guinea Pig Hidey
If you’re a piggy parent, you know what guinea pigs seem to enjoy the most is hiding and staying in darker areas of their cages. By providing them with a multitude of hideys, you can encourage that hiding tendency in a cost effective way.
It’s important that you allow for hiding and other behaviors that are self-soothing behaviors. Guinea pigs are very anxious animals, and it’s because they’re prey animals. This fact is what continues to influence their mannerisms and the way they carry themselves even though they’re domesticated now and living in your home with you.
In particular, hiding is done because it’s what makes them feel safe. Guinea pigs, as prey animals, are always on high alert in order to keep themselves and their herd safe. This is why it’s important for guinea pigs to live in groups—it fosters that feeling of safety and comfort amongst each other, and in turn it can lead them to being more comfortable around you and your home.
While you want to encourage hiding, you also want to encourage them to be active at the same time. There are a few ways that you can do this. You can have each guinea pig hidey in different spots to encourage them to move from one to another, which will keep them moving and active.
On top of that, you can keep different food sources nearby too, which will encourage them to move from one hidey to the next. Guinea pigs love to eat, as you probably know, so it can be a good idea to incorporate that in some way with everything that they do, even if it’s just scampering around in their cage.
Another good thing about hideys is that if they’re edible, they can help maintain guinea pig teeth and keep their chompers from getting too long, preventing impaction!
You can make your own hideys out of cardboard boxes you’ve already got and cut out entrance points for them. The downside is that if there is ink or glue on the box that you use, you don’t know if it’ll be bad for your piggy!
Whenever you’re giving your guinea pigs anything that they might chew or gnaw on, it’s important to know whether or not it’s safe for them. There’s a chance they’ll be ingesting at least a little bit of it since they’ll be biting at it, and we don’t want even that little bit to do any harm.
GuineaDad Crunchy Condos are our premade hideys for your piggy using non-toxic glue, food touch-safe ink, and water activated paper tape that is all perfectly edible. It's also made of virgin paper, which makes it even safer for your piggies because that means they’ve never been processed before this!
Since they’re super easy to put together when you receive them, it means you spend less time making the things to bond with your piggy and spend more time actually playing with them!
These Crunchy Condos come in packs of 3, so you won’t have to worry about constantly replacing or having to take the time to make them out of your own package boxes. We want to save you time, while also ensuring that by taking less time, you’re still giving your guinea pigs something safe that you can feel good about.
Or, if you’d like something even more durable and even longer lasting, we have the GuineaDad Queen’s Castle, which is made out of solid, untreated and natural wood. Because it’s natural and untreated, you know that there isn’t anything harmful to your piggies.
When we make the Queen’s Castle, we make sure to only use hardwoods. If you didn’t already know, softwoods like cedar are extremely dangerous for your guinea pigs because of the fumes they give off. These same fumes can destroy the linings of your guinea pig’s lungs and make them sick.
If you’re using a wooden hidey from somewhere else, make sure that the materials it’s made out of are safe for your guinea pig. We’ve had piggy parents come to us saying that they’ve used hideys from other companies that were also made from wood, but their guinea pigs had become unwell while they used them.
This tells us that the castles they had been using were made of a softwood that was giving off fumes and causing their guinea pigs to sneeze a lot and become sick. The castle also comes in packaging that can also be used as a hidey too, which makes it a twofer! Less time worrying, and more time playing and bonding with guinea pigs.
Hay-stuffed paper tubes
This is a cost-effective and wallet-friendly toy that you can make out of the things you already have on hand! There’s no need to buy anything new, because you can use either toilet paper tubes or paper towel ones cut into smaller pieces.
You can then stuff them with some of the hay that your piggies usually eat already, and this can give them a little bit of a challenge pulling the hay out. You can even hide a few treats in the middle for them once they’ve pulled out the main hay bits.
Our GuineaDad Herbal Treats are the perfect herbal treats for guinea pigs to include in these stuffed tubes, and they have a plethora of health benefits too!
This doesn’t have to be a super crafty course like a maze for mice would be! Since guinea pigs are bigger, they can just run and crawl through a maze that you create with objects you have lying around in your home already!
You can utilize hideys and tunnels you already have, and other objects that you think they’ll have fun running through and exploring.
Just make sure everything is big enough for them to comfortably get through safely! And since it’s just objects from around the house, you can always switch it up to make sure they never get bored. (And to keep them on their piggy toes.)
Enacting small-scale changes like a change in obstacle courses that they do often is super beneficial to guinea pigs without the change being too overwhelming or stressful for them. Since they’re running around and being active anyway, it can be good to provide some variety for their enrichment.
Since this is a toy that you can get involved with directly and often, you can use it as a time to bond with your guinea pig!
Changing up your cage set up
Another way you can keep your guinea pig curious and stimulated, which then leads to them being more active, is by changing up their cage layout.
You can even make your cage multiple stories and create ramps to help them get from one level to another. Just imagine the zoomies up and down the ramp! If you’re worried about whether your guinea pigs will want to use the ramp or even know how to use the ramp, you can encourage them with a few treats.
When you first set up the ramps, you can lure them up, down, and around with some pea flakes and that’ll help them learn to use the ramp. If you’ve ever seen a puppy, or a dog in general, learn how to go up and down stairs, you’ll notice that they just need some encouragement and assurance that nothing bad will happen if they go up and down the stairs.
It’s the same case with guinea pigs and ramps! This isn’t to say that guinea pigs should be going up some stairs—guinea pigs’ bodies definitely are not built for that. Using ramps is going to be the extent of any “climbing” that they do.
Another way to encourage the guinea pigs to actually go up and down from level to level is by placing hideys, some tunnels, and their hay on each level—it can encourage them to explore and keep moving so they don’t sit in one spot for too long.
If you find that having food on all levels doesn’t encourage them to move around, you can try keeping food only on one level at first, then moving it again to the next level, and then once they’re used to that, you can split the food up again and see if that helps!
GuineaDad made his cage two stories and created a ramp from a folded-up coroplast cage bottom and lined it with our GuineaDad Liners so the piggies can run up and down it comfortably with!
Utilize cage liners that have pockets!
As we’ve mentioned before, you should tailor your piggies’ play and toys to their natural behavior, which means encouraging their affinity for hiding and going into the darker corners of their cages.
You can also try out the Guineadad Liner, which includes a pocket that we designed specifically since we know that guinea pigs like hiding and want to encourage it. The GuineaDad Liner is safe and super-soft to the touch, and is gentle on guinea pigs’ feet and bodies!
The pocket is great for tucking hideys into, which helps the guinea pigs learn how to use the pocket if they don’t know how to at first! Our piggies like the pocket with and without hideys, so you just need to try it out on your own in order to see which your guinea pig prefers. We’ve had the pleasure of watching our piggies, Ru and Mi, run around and zoom in and out of the liner pockets, even without a hidey tucked inside.
Time to play!
We’re proponents of keeping our piggies occupied and active, because we want them to stay as happy and healthy as possible, while also making sure they live for as long as possible! It’s important that guinea pigs are stimulated and provided with sources of enrichment throughout their lives to ensure their best condition throughout their entire lives, regardless of age. Guinea pigs can live happier, more comfortable lives this way!