How often should you clean the guinea pig’s cage? What is the fastest, easiest way to do it? Let’s look at some cage maintenance tips & tricks.
How Often Should I Clean My Guinea Pig’s Cage?
How often you clean the cage will depend on how many guinea pigs you have in one cage, and what type of bedding you are using. With one or two guinea pigs and wood shavings or recycled paper shavings as bedding, you should be able to just thoroughly clean the cage once or twice a week. With three or more piggies, you should probably clean the cage every three days or so. If you use fleece bedding, you will, at a minimum, need to clean the feces up every day or every other day. Some owners do a spot-check every day to remove soiled bedding. Some just do a thorough cleaning once or twice a week. The important thing to remember is that the cage should never reek. If your cage starts to smell, you need to clean more frequently.
What’s the Easiest and the Best Way to Clean the Cage?
- Make a Schedule
Some people find it is easier if they set a regular schedule. Life is busy, and it’s easy to forget to clean the cage until one day, you notice the smell and the mess and think, “Oh crap! I’ve been so busy, and now look at the mess!”. If you set a schedule, pick a time and enter it into your calendar, and set an alert to remind you when the time comes. If you have a smartphone, this is convenient. If you use Google calendar or an online calendar, just set up a recurring email alert to remind yourself. Pick a time when you’re usually at home, like in the morning before you start your daily routine, or in the evening after work. I pick 10 am every Saturday. Once you have a routine set, you can snap through the task quickly and easily.
- Don’t forget the dishes!
It’s easy to remember to clean the bedding, but remember to wash the food dishes and water bottles, too. Some people recommend washing the water bottles with hot, soapy water daily, but I do it once a week during the thorough cage cleaning routine. When you wash the food dish and water bottles, try not to use heavily-scented dish soap. If the scent remains on the dish after the cleaning, it might offend your guinea pig and he might not want to eat or drink out of it. Wash other items that sit on the bedding, as well. If you have a plastic hideaway, it’s a good idea to wash it with the rest of the cage items.
- Vinegar is a Better Option than Bleach
Some people recommend using diluted bleach to disinfect the cage during the thorough cleaning. However, bleach has such a strong smell, and the smell is hard to get rid of, so use vinegar instead. Also, vinegar can be ingested, whereas bleach cannot (well, yes, it can in very small doses, but still…). If a residue remains, would you rather have your guinea pig chewing on a cage that has bleach residue on it or one with vinegar residue? A 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water added to a spray bottle makes a good cleaner. If you have a heavily-soiled area that needs more attention, you could apply straight vinegar to it and clean it with a small brush. It’s a good idea to rinse it after you’ve finished washing it to remove traces of vinegar odor. You may not smell, it but your guinea pig probably will.
- Thoroughly Replace All Bedding
Throughout the week, you can do spot-cleanings and remove soiled areas, but during the weekly thorough cleaning, you should throw out all bedding and replace it with fresh, clean bedding. That way, you’re not giving bacteria or viruses a chance to hide and proliferate. Of course, if you’re using fleece, this doesn’t apply to you. You will be washing the fleece liners more often than just once a week, most likely.
- Check for Wear and Tear
The thorough cleaning time is a great time to make sure you inspect the items in the cage for wear and tear, and replace those that are chewed or worn. Check toys, hay racks, hideaways, etc. If it’s washable, give it a washing.
How Can I Make the Bedding Last Longer?
The bedding you choose to use will determine how soon your bedding needs changed. Different beddings absorb urine and odors and “hide” feces better than others. Cost does matter when choosing a bedding, however (at least for some people). Some people are on a tight budget and don’t have a lot to spend every month on guinea pig maintenance. The cheapest option would be fleece bedding, because you don’t have to replace it very often. Spend $10 or so (or make your own for free), and then just throw it in the laundry and re-use. However, fleece requires more frequent cleaning and needs an absorbent layer underneath it (which could just be some towels). I’m not going to include newspaper as an option, because it’s not a good choice for bedding. The next cheapest option would be wood shavings, like aspen shavings or kiln-dried pine (which some people are against). They aren’t the most absorbent choice, however, so you won’t need to clean it as frequently as fleece, but you will still need to clean it frequently. Carefresh is absorbent, as is hemp bedding, and they mask odors well. However, they cost more. A good option is to mix Carefresh (or recycled paper beddings like Yesterday’s News, or hemp bedding if you can find it) with aspen shavings. That way, you’re increasing the amount of absorbency and odor masking, prolonging the amount of time needed between cleanings, but saving money on the cost. A good ratio is 3 parts Aspen shavings to 1 part Carefresh, or a simple 50/50 mixture.
Another option you could try to make cage cleaning a lot easier and quicker is to try to litter-train your guinea pig. Figure out which area he poops in most, then choose that area to place a litter box. A litter box could be a store-bought box or some kind of plastic container. Fill the litter box with litter (wood shavings/hemp bedding/Carefresh, etc). Sweep up some feces and put in the the box. Show your guinea pig the box with the poop in it. Whenever he does actually go in the box to defecate, reward him with a treat or special attention. It takes a while and quite a bit of attention on your part, but if you can train your guinea pig to use the box, it really makes cage-cleaning quick and easy, plus you’ll be using less bedding, so you can save some money on supplies.
To keep the bedding cleaner longer, try to keep food products in separated areas and off the ground. Of course, when you put food pellets in a dish, some will inevitably get dragged around the cage and end up scattered around. But providing a deeper dish might prevent some of that. Instead of just laying treats, or a piece of fruit or vegetable, on the floor of the cage, put them in a separate container inside the cage. Put hay in a hay rack. Keep the food items contained and off the ground (if you can) to limit mess.
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