If you keep a guinea pig or think about getting one, you know one of the essentials is play time. The guinea pigs are prone to socializing and show off emotions and affection, so for them play time is very important. They can bond with you through the toys and games you have with them on the floor. So, do you think of wheels and running balls when you think of guinea pigs? Probably yes, so you need to further know more about the good and not so good toys.
Can guinea pigs run in a ball? Technically, guinea pigs can run in a ball, or a wheel too, but they shouldn’t. The spines of the guinea pigs have a bad design for moving and bending backward. Being in the ball will cause them serious pain or even irreversible damage. This is why you shouldn’t put the guinea pigs in a ball or a running wheel.
This raises the question and a big dilemma: Why do owners still buy running balls and wheels for their guinea pigs? Their spine is quite fragile and not well developed for these toys. Still, owners think because the cavy is active and running inside the ball, this toy must be good for the cavy – but, wrong! Many things can harm your beloved g pet – from beddings to foods, and yes, even toys. It’s always a good idea to know which things are good or bad for the pet.
Two Types of Balls; Skip the Exercise Ones, and Choose Toy Balls Instead
Basically, there are 2 types of balls for guinea pigs – play balls and exercise balls. One of these is for simply running inside, and the others are for playing and pushing it around the house or on the floor. The exercise balls were very famous as pet toys in the past, and everyone had them for their cavy. However, recent studies have shown that the exercise balls for running are extremely harmful to the guinea pig. The other type, the play ball, is generally safe.
The exercise balls are recommended by people to every owner of a cavy; they always say it’s best to buy the biggest ball, made of plastic. It is true, they look very good for the hamsters and guinea pigs, and inside they have lots of space to move around and freely walk or run. This is why on first glance owners instantly buy these balls and do not think if it’s a safe choice.
Researchers claimed that the spine of guinea pigs is designed to move normally to fit their natural physical movements, but is not designed naturally to bend backward. This is very dangerous since cavies bend their back backward when they are placed in such exercise balls. This bending causes permanent damages and severe chronic pains. The running ball is a big hazard and must be avoided – the same as the running wheel.
Luckily, many stores for pets and pet equipment, have seen the dangers of these toys and stopped selling them. If in a certain shop this is still available, simply do not buy it and browse for other appropriate toys. Never listen to the advice of the sellers who promotes running balls; sometimes these people recommend hamster wheels which are even worse because they are much smaller for the cavy’s body. If you put the cavy in a hamster wheel, its back will bend even more and cause the worst pain ever. If you want your cavy to get a good exercise, just let it roam freely on the floor and run around.
The play balls are the safer option – these are just balls to be rolled or pushed around and knocked around too. They are not designed for the cavy to be placed inside. Generally, these balls are a safe and very good and fun exercise for the cavy.
What’s great about these toy balls is that they are made of various materials, even natural and organic materials. You can purchase a few and see which one is the cavy’s favorite. It’s always nice to give your pet some choice in toys among other things, right? When you browse for these toy balls, you will notice some of them are made of gorgeous natural materials like seagrass, wicker, wooden blocks conjoined together. They are superb and not toxic, which means the cavy might munch them if it feels like it (good for their teeth, remember?).
Remember, these toy balls last just a few weeks and after that, they are worn down or similar. Don’t worry, these are quite cheap and come packed in 2 or 3 at once, so if you get such a pack it will last 2 months tops.
An adorable option is certain balls that have a bell or food inside, in the middle. However, be cautious with these! The treats inside are bad for the cavy, equivalent to ‘junk food’ for humans, and the bells inside can be so small, they might be swallowed if the ball opens. Instead of this type, choose the balls that can be filled up with grass or hay. You will recognize them easily – made of wire mesh with gaps in between.
If Wheels and Running Balls Are Bad for the Cavy, What Are the Alternatives for Fun Activities?
We have said so far why some types of balls are harmful to the guinea pig and its back. So, what else can be a good toy?
Guinea pigs love cardboard and anything made of cardboard. You can get cardboard boxes and your cavy will be thrilled. If it’s a small and light cardboard box, the cavy will run around and inside them all day long. Also, there is some prey instinct in the cavies, so expect them to hide in corners or enclosed spaces. This is when the cardboard box comes in handy.
If you cannot find a big enough box, use the empty cereal boxes or similar ones you no longer use. Just remember, unfold the box to make an A-shape and it’s ready for playing!
Plus, this is an economical toy, because we all have cardboard boxes at home from everyday products we use.
Anything might work for some fun and games; paper bags, flower pots (non-plastic), scrunched up paper, PVC pipes, paper towel rolled, old clothes or old socks you can fill up with hay, shoeboxes with a hole-circle (the cavy would peep through it), or even DIY igloos from safe materials.
How Much Activity Do Guinea Pigs Need and What Is the Best Activity for Them?
The guinea pigs are like any other pet – likes to have at least some sort of activity. Whether with you or with the other cavy, playtime is a must. Try to play with them at least once a day, or if you can even few times daily in brief intervals. This is a good exercise for them; both mental and physical.
Use the time when the cavy is not anxious or sleeping. This is the perfect moment to reach inside and take it out, on the floor, with its toys.
Sometimes the cavy would be restless and play for hours, and sometimes it will play just half an hour more or less, still, it’s good to have at least one exercise out of the cage every day.
The best and most useful activities are the basic ones – running and walking on the floor, chasing healthy snacks inside play balls, going into tunnels or hiding places. All these make the cavy move and it works up their appetite as well!
Remember, no running balls or wheels that damage the spine.
What Interesting Toys Are a Good Choice?
There are way too many toys available on the market and it can be a hard thing to choose which one is the best, healthiest, most interesting, etc.
In general, the default options are always safe balls to be pushed around or filled with veggies, hay or grass. Also, regular tennis or ping pong balls to be rolled on the floor are fine as well. Cardboard boxes, regular ones or cereal box, or whatever suits this and you have it at home.
The variety is rich, many produce toys made of wood, shaped with cute molds and they are chewable.
You will also see calcium stones made of lava rocks, for teeth grinding; cute, colorful, interesting shapes like fruits for example.
If you still search for the ball alternative, there are the eco-friendly vine chewing balls. The cavy will love these, will roll them, chew them – but they don’t last very long.
Cavies love tubes so you can either buy one or make one.