Exercise is important for humans and every animal out there. Obesity is not exclusive to mankind and frequent exercise is a must for any species. Guinea pigs are not exempt from this and responsible owners should make sure that they get the proper workout required. That said, how much exercise do guinea pigs need?
Guinea Pig Health
Since their domestication thousands of years ago, we’ve learned much about what guinea pigs (also known as cavies) need to live long, healthy, and happy lives.
A guinea pig in good health will have bright and clear eyes with no cloudiness and a full and shiny coat of fur. Their noses should also be clear and the cavies themselves should have a very active disposition. Finally, another sign of health that many guinea pig owners don’t take into consideration is their weight. A guinea pig should be plump but not pudgy.
To be healthy, part of their needs are constant companionship, lots of room to roam around, a good diet, and the right exercise. These are only a handful of things but they make a huge difference with such small creatures.
It’s easy to find advice on great guinea pig pair-ups, it’s simple to learn how much room cavies need, and it’s trouble-free to give them a proper diet. That said, there’s much less information on achieving their perfect weight.
Guinea pigs, at a healthy weight and length, will weigh between 1.5 – 2.5 lbs and should measure from tip to toe between 10” and 14”. Anything more or less for adult guinea pigs is a flashing sign to owners that something needs to change if you want to keep them in top condition. To achieve the right size, they need lots of exercise.
Importance of Guinea Pig Exercise
If a guinea pig is too thin or too fat, it can be disastrous for their health and could lead to many complications.
Although chubby guinea pigs do look adorable, it’s not good for them at all, and being overweight is the first step to serious health concerns. Guinea pigs have very fragile bodies and their bones easily break and fracture under too much pressure. It takes less than dropping from a height to break their back, so carrying excess fat could be enough to take a toll on their skeletal system.
Being too thin is just as dangerous, since guinea pigs need some fat and muscle to feed their energy. This could be caused by a diet that lacks nutrients, particularly with owners who only feed cavies treats and pellets without enough hay and leafy vegetables. This could make them weak against common guinea pig health conditions. Additionally, if a guinea pig is suddenly underweight, it could be a sign of something more serious.
Making sure that your guinea pig receives proper exercise helps maintain their weight and develop muscles to keep them strong. Furthermore, the exercise burns off their energy and helps them get out of their usual environment, making it good for both their physical and emotional health. It also deepens their connection with you, helping them feel more comfortable at home and around you and your family.
They need at least 3–4 hours of exercise time outside of their cage every day to positively affect their health. There are several ways to ensure your guinea pig gets its necessary exercise. If regular exercise and a proper diet do not affect their weight and disposition, it’s best to consult your veterinarian.
Fun Guinea Pig Exercises
Letting your guinea pig out of its cage and allowing it to explore other parts of the house is an easy way to get them moving and adjusted to their surroundings. It’s an extremely adorable sight to see your guinea pig try it’s best to smell everything and try to wiggle it’s way into every nook and cranny it sees.
They need to be let out of the cage since being cooped up in one space could agitate them and isn’t enough to burn off their energy. However, they should be under constant supervision while you let them explore, to make sure they don’t do anything that can hurt themselves. Allowing them to play with you on your lap is also important.
Additionally, making sure their environment in the cage is likewise full of areas and stimulants to explore is equally important. It keeps them happy and will lessen chances of them falling ill due to depression or anxiety. It also keeps them occupied when you can’t let them out and could slightly alleviate their desire to escape their cage if both the inside and outside of their habitat are equally exciting.
Using toys is another popular way to get them to exercise in and out of their cage.
Assuming they have the advised 8 sq. ft. space required per guinea pig for optimum comfort, fun toys will help them burn their energy when you can’t let them out of the cage and keep them occupied.
Toy balls are particularly popular with guinea pigs since they love chasing it around. It also enables them to entertain themselves by chasing it (and each other) around with the ball.
Many also recommend stuffing their toys with food that they can get without breaking the toy. Their nose will be able to detect the food and excite the cavy. The adventure of finding and acquiring the food also helps satisfy their foraging instinct.
It’s also good to give them safe chew toys, especially since it helps with their dental health too. Even a stuffed animal can help comfort them while you’re gone and can’t play.
Guinea Pig Run
If you’re unfamiliar with a guinea pig run, it’s basically a playpen that keeps them safe as they run around outdoors. This not only provides them with soil and grass to make them happy but also gives them a natural dose of Vitamin C.
It’s best to let them enjoy this at dawn, which is when they would have gone out to forage food had they been in the wild. Letting them stay there when the sun is fully out and the day has grown hot could be dangerous since their bodies are used to specific temperatures and climates. It’s also not advised to use in bad weather since the rain or strong wind could stress them out or make them sick.
You can buy a guinea pig run from a store or make your own. Often, guinea pig runs are built with walls resembling an obstacle course or maze to make it exciting for them. This is typically enclosed on all sides to make sure they don’t get out and that nothing gets in.
As a bonus, hideouts are also a great way to help your guinea pig receive fun exercise. Since a guinea pig’s instinct is to burrow underground, giving them a hideout is a great way to safely indulge this desire without risk of them running away or endangering themselves.
This provides them a safe space to stay in the dark, regardless of the time and helps them feel secure and protected against potential predators. Even if everyone around your cavy loves it, their instinct is difficult to quell if they’re not well-adjusted to the environment yet.
Having a hideout indoors is another way to stimulate their instincts without letting them outside. This is perfect during the cold and rainy season since it keeps them excited and active in a controlled environment. Like with the guinea pig run, you can make this yourself or you can buy one online.
All these exercise ideas are fun and easy to do, not requiring much effort. These are also great DIY projects that can help you feel secure in knowing exactly what your guinea pigs will be interacting with regularly.
Making sure that your guinea pig receives these exercise aids is a low-cost investment with high returns for your cavy’s health and life.
Making sure that your guinea pig burns off its energy with different stimulants is never optional. This is required of every responsible guinea pig owner. Remember, when your guinea pig is happy, you’ll be even happier!