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Housing

The hutch

  • The minimum size for a hutch for two guinea pigs is 100 centimetres × 50 centimetres × 40 centimetres high.
  • One-third of the hutch should be enclosed to provide a warm, draught-free sleeping area. The remaining two-thirds should be a light and airy run, covered in strong mesh. The floor should be impervious to urine and moisture.
  • As you will need access to both the sleeping quarters and the run, especially for cleaning, many hutches have a hinged roof for this purpose. Catches on these should be strong and secure enough to prevent dogs from breaking in.
  • Guinea pigs prefer a temperature range of 18–23°C with a light cycle of twelve hours light and twelve hours dark. They prefer subdued lighting.

The outdoor hutch

  • The dimensions for an outdoor hutch are the same as for an indoor hutch, but an outdoor hutch should also have a sloping, waterproof roof that overhangs the sides. The cladding of the sleeping quarters should also be waterproof.
  • To protect guinea pigs from predators (dogs and cats), the hutch should be strongly constructed using welded mesh and/or be elevated on stilts.
  • The door to the sleeping quarters should be protected from the wind and rain so that both the guinea pig and its bedding stay warm and dry.
  • Guinea pigs are susceptible to cold temperatures and to changes in temperature. During winter, they should be housed indoors for warmth.

Sleep and play

  • There are two components of bedding – lining and litter material and overlay materials.
  • Lining material, such as newspaper or plain newsprint, absorbs urine and spilt water. Litter material absorbs urine and other moisture and also covers faeces. Use untreated sawdust or kitty litter.
  • Overlay materials are used mainly in the sleeping quarters, and they include shredded paper, straw, and good-quality hay.
  • Use lining materials in the sleeping quarters and add a generous amount of overlay.
  • In the run area, use lining material, litter, and some overlay, depending on the space available.
  • The run should be large enough for guinea pigs to run around and should include hiding places, such as pipes and logs. Like all rodents, guinea pigs need visual security. In the wild, they spend the day sheltering in burrows and feed at nightfall. They enjoy having straw and hay to burrow in and to chew on.

Cleaning

  • Good hygiene reduces unpleasant smells and the risk of disease. Cleaning materials include rubber gloves, a scrubbing brush, a cloth, dishwashing detergent, and water.
  • The sleeping quarters and run should be cleaned twice a week. If cages are left dirty, irritants such as ammonia, moisture, and bacteria may rise to harmful levels, causing illness.
  • Disinfect the furniture in the run twice a month with a weak bleach solution (10–20 millilitres per litre of water). Leave it to stand for a minimum of fifteen minutes and then rinse it well and dry it.
  • Each month, wipe all the hutch surfaces with a bleach solution. Rinse them well and dry them.
  • Every day, wash the water bottles and tubes with detergent and water. Rinse them well. Once a week, disinfect the bottles and tubes with the bleach solution, soaking them for at least fifteen minutes. Rinse them well and dry them.

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