Guinea pigs are special pets, for sure. This is because they are considered rodents, even if they aren’t exactly. This is the reason people think guinea pigs and rodents (like hamsters for example) have the same needs.
Let’s get straight to the point, do guinea pigs need a wheel in their cage? Well, the answer is no. In contradiction with the general opinion people have, they do not need a wheel. More than that, if you buy them a wheel, they will not even use it. They don’t need a wheel because a wheel as a toy might put their lives in danger. We always need to keep an eye on everything that our pets use. Especially if we are talking about guinea pigs: they are really sensitive to anything.
Even if there are many similarities between their needs, they are certainly not the same. Even if something is labelled to be for guinea pigs (or any pet, especially a sensitive one), it is always better for you to do research beforehand. This can save you a lot of money, and it can certainly prevent you from doing some basic mistakes.
Why Can a Wheel put Their Lives in Danger?
When you think about hamsters, probably the first thing that comes to your mind is an image of a hamster in a wheel. Yes, it’s an appropriate toy for the little breeds of rodents such as hamsters, rats, mice, gerbils and others. It is very beneficial to keep them in good shape and also to have some fun. However, this should never be the image you see when you think about guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs have different anatomy from the little rodents and running in a wheel can cause terrible injury to their backs.
These spinal injuries always happen when you put your guinea pig in a wheel.
You know how arched are hamsters’ backs when they run on a wheel. This is their adaptation. Guinea pigs are not designed to have an arched back as hamsters do. They don’t develop this special characteristic, and if they are forced to bend their back, injuries will occur.
To make you understand this fact a little better, I need to talk about hamsters. A good rule of thumb is that the diameter of the wheel should be at least twice the length of your stretched out hamster. If the wheel is smaller, the hamster’s back will be too arched, and it will cause back pain.
This is also why guinea pigs don’t need wheels. They can’t arch their backs as much as a hamster does, so the diameter of the wheel would have to be much longer than twice your friend’s length to be comfortable for your guinea pig to run in a wheel.
On the other hand, it would need to have solid flooring, because guinea pigs’ legs are too sensitive to run on the mesh flooring seen in a lot of metal wheels. There are no such big wheels specially designed for guinea pigs anywhere, so this is the problem. If you want to build this kind of wheel, feel free to do it. It is just not convenient for you.
Guinea pigs do not feel the same need to run as hamsters. Hamsters can get depressed if they are not running and they feel the urge to run most of the times.
Even if you buy your little friend an exercise wheel, it will probably be just to make the cage look nicer. Guinea pigs won’t even use it. They might stare at it occasionally and sometimes use it as a butt-scratching device.
With this in mind, here are some ideas to help you make your little guinea pig happy.
Ways to keep your pet entertained and in good shape without harming him
The most important and obvious thing to do is to buy the largest cage you can find and afford. It is known that guinea pigs need a lot of floor space to be active. A big cage will make all the difference and, this way, you won’t be stressed whether you need to get it a wheel or not.
Guinea pigs have different preferences from other pets. They love burrowing, nibbling and sometimes tossing things.
They don’t like running and climbing.
This is why it is actually easier to entertain a guinea pig without spending too much time of your time. It is especially useful to know these alternatives for the times you are busy, and you don’t have time and energy to cuddle with your guinea pig.
I have discovered a lot of ways they can have a good time, and I will share as much as I can!
Carefully Pick a Toy for Them
You also need to keep in mind that guinea pigs are like babies. They will lick or even chew what you give them. The point is that the toy you give them will certainly go into their mouths. So be careful when you choose a toy for them. Never give them something made out of metals or something with sharp edges. Also, think about toxic glue and dyes. To cut it short, just buy or give them things that are approved for children.
Just as important as a big cage is the fact that you need to play with him. Spend some lap time with your little friend. This will make him happier feeling a connection between the two of you. Also, if you don’t just cuddle with him and you play with him, this will help even more by keeping him active and full of life.
Guinea pigs love cardboard boxes
Another excellent and money-saving alternative is cardboard boxes. Guinea pigs are prey animals, they are used to, and they enjoy playing hide and seek, especially if they are not really in danger. They love to run in and out of the boxes. You can give your friends some of your old cereal boxes or any kind of cardboard box you don’t need anymore. It’s a very cheap idea to entertain your pet, and it is working surprisingly well. When the boxes get dirty or wet, you can easily replace them with new ones.
Following the same idea, they can also play with clothes and blankets. You can hang some pieces of clothing or fleece in their cage to let them play. They will hide between the clothes so if you have old clothes you’re not using anymore, think about your little friend before you throw them away.
Sock or a paper bag
Another alternative for them to play is kind of foolish, but it is a lot of fun for them, and also for you to watch. You can take a sock or a brown paper bag and fill it up with hay. They will love to take the hay out and eat it. It might seem pointless to you, but I assure you they will love you more for this toy!
Any type of ball
Even if it’s not safe for them to run in an exercise ball or wheel, you can always give them a ball (a tennis ball or a ping-pong ball are appropriate for them). They will enjoy pushing it around, and it is a very safe way of letting them play on their own or playing together.
Recently, in the last few years or so, bird or cat toys have been given to guinea pigs, especially the bells that can be hung in their cage. You can leave your guinea pig without supervision if the bell is too big to fit into his mouth. Otherwise, remove the bell when you are not around; it’s much safer this way.
Another thing you can do is let them play with plastic spoons. However, it’s better to give them the plastic spoons when you are playing with him in your floor time. Even if theoretically, plastic can pass through their digestive system, I don’t think you want to risk an accident.
Be careful though!
There are a lot of boring things for humans that guinea pigs love. However, they get bored very quickly, and this is why to need to change their toys as soon as possible. This will help your guinea pig to exercise often and will help you to keep your little friend entertained and excited.
Guinea pigs don’t like cage wheels. They will not even use them because they are causing the little guinea pigs to have back injuries.
Fortunately, there are a lot of ways you can keep your friend in good shape physically while keeping him healthy and happy. There is a probably an infinite number of things you can do to get your guinea pig out of a bad mood.
So, don’t be scared, there is always something you can do!