Can Guinea Pigs Live Outside?

Whether you own a guinea pig or are thinking of getting one, you might ask “Can guinea pigs live outside?” Some people might think that it might be a good option for several reasons, but guinea pigs are really indoor pets, and here’s why:

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Lots of people have cats or dogs who spend their whole lives outside as outdoor pets. In South America, wild guinea pigs live outside, so you might think that it would be feasible to just get an outdoor hutch and let your guinea pig(s) live outside.

If you have a small living area, for example, you might not want a large guinea pig cage taking up a bunch of your limited indoor living space. An outdoor arrangement might also be more convenient when it comes to matters of cleanliness. But guinea pigs should stay indoors. Here are several things you need to know.

Guinea Pigs Are Sensitive to Ambient Temperatures

Guinea pigs are quite sensitive to ambient temperature changes. A guinea pig needs to be in an environment that is consistently around 64-78 degrees Fahrenheit. Guinea pigs are unable to sweat (except on the soles of their feet) because they don’t have eccrine sweat glands on their body.

To regulate their body temperature, they have their internal homeostasis, of course. The body’s homeostatic responses are the same in guinea pigs as in humans – when they get cold, blood flow to the skin decreases to conserve heat and protect the vital organs like the heart and lungs. The opposite is true when they become hot – the blood vessels lead to the skin dilating which increases blood flow to the skin. This enables the body to cool itself off by losing heat to the environment through radiation and convection. The hair will lay close to the body so that it doesn’t trap air and create an insulating layer.

frostbite in guinea pigs

This is Bugzy. He was left outside, and his ears got frostbitten. He was rescued and now lives inside. Pinterest

One neighbor grabbed a plastic picnic table she had for her little boy and brought it over. I climbed on it and poked the broom into the tree, but still couldn’t reach the raccoon. After ten minutes, the raccoon finally dropped Cookie from the very top of the tree.

My oldest daughter ran and scooped Cookie up and then ran inside with him. I ran in after her. As soon as I entered the house, I saw my daughter just completely covered with blood – Cookie’s blood. We examined him and found that the raccoon had completely chewed off one of his hind legs. There was just a bit of bone sticking out of a massive hole at his hip. He also had deep holes the diameter of a pencil all down his back. We cleaned him up and cleaned my daughter up, and then we got him nestled into his cage upstairs. We thought he would die. He was really mangled.

He was terrified of everything and everyone, so we checked on him regularly and cared for him, but tried not to disturb him. It took three months before his demeanor calmed down again. It took a couple of months for his massive wounds to heal. He did heal, however, and he got used to having three legs.

The raccoon had torn down the fence I had built in order to get to Cookie. It wasn’t a flimsy fence – I built it pretty well. But raccoons are smart and strong. I thought he was safe and protected, but I was wrong. So if you plan to house your guinea pig outside, you need to understand how clever all those animals out there are and how committed they are to getting at your little guinea pig.

Guinea Pigs Need Attention

Guinea pigs need attention and social interaction. When the guinea pig is housed outside, it’s too easy to not provide him the social interaction he needs. How many times a day will you actually go out there, take him out, interact with him, cuddle him, or play with him? When an animal is housed outside, it’s too easy to forget about him. It’s an “out of sight, out of mind” kind of thing. A big part of being a guinea pig owner is the day-to-day interaction he provides for you and that you provide for him.

My neighbor has a German Shepherd that he keeps tied to a tree, all day, every day, 365 days a year. The dog never gets any exercise, he has never been off his 6-foot chain, He never goes out to interact with the dog in any way, other than to provide him a dish full of food once a day. It angers me, and I can’t understand why he even HAS a dog. What’s the point of having a smart, lovable pet when you don’t interact with it or provide for its emotional needs?

In my opinion, it’s the same for a guinea pig that gets housed outside. How can you give it the social interaction it needs if it’s living outside? Life pulls us in all different directions, and if the guinea pig is outside, it’s just too easy to be too busy with other things. Will you really go outside and spend plenty of quality time with him every day?

Guinea Pigs Need To be Closely Monitored

Guinea pigs are masters at hiding symptoms of illness. By the time you notice that something is definitely wrong, the illness is probably advanced. So as a guinea pig owner, it’s important to look at them daily. Watch their behavior. Take note of how much they’re eating and drinking and pooping. If you’re constantly looking at him and interacting with him on a daily basis, you will notice as soon as something just “isn’t quite right”, and you can get help quickly – when it’s not too late.

If you house your guinea pig outside, you will not be observing his behavior that closely, so the chance of you detecting a problem early on is going to be quite difficult. By the time you figure out something is wrong, it could very well be too late to do anything about it.

What Do You Think?

I, personally, think guinea pigs should be house pets – housed inside. But there are guinea pig owners who do keep their guinea pigs housed outside, especially those who live in warmer climates. However, at the end of the day, if you think you can provide a higher quality of life for your guinea pig outside rather than inside, I would wholeheartedly encourage you to create a suitable outdoor environment for you guinea pig. What do you think?

6 thoughts on “Can Guinea Pigs Live Outside?”

  1. There is a guinea pig living in the woods by my house, which I’m guessing some family must have abandoned when they moved out of the housing development we live in. I see him come out to eat grass once in a while, but what I can’t understand is how is he still surviving? It gets very cold in Martinsburg WV, (60 miles NW of Washington DC) but yet there he is alive. Is it possible he’s using the large piles of brush, leaves, and grass trimmings from mower bags that people dump on the edge of the woods to stay warm with? I know a compost pile can build up heat, perhaps it’s keeping him alive? We’ve been putting out carrots for him, but I’m not really sure of what they eat. He won’t let us get very close, should I try to trap him to take him to the humane society? What should I use to entice him into the trap?

    • I would try to trap him to take to the humane society. Get a live animal trap and put fresh veggies in it. That is a sad situation. I hope you can be successful and get him some help. Keep me updated.

      • I’m so glad you answered, unfortunately there’s this huge ice & snow storm due today and I’m afraid we may not capture him until after. I do have a live animal trap that I use to capture feral cats which we get spayed or neutered and then release them back into the woods. It’s crazy that they haven’t gotten him, but he is a good sized guinea, maybe that’s why they leave him alone. I’ll let you know what happens

      • The humane society will not be very safe for a now ferral guinea pig. It would be more humane to leave him where he is. Wild Peruvian guinea pigs thrive in similar temps. Google it and let it live.

  2. My guinea pigs spend 3 seasons outdoors, right next to the rabbit hutches. I bring them all indoors in vicious weather, but I know they look healthier and are more active outdoors. We give them all our weeds and household veggie bits, carry them into the house for lap time, and have provided a snake/raccoon/fox/dog/cat/bird proof ginormous and activity filled hutch complete with a wooden hidey hole box to hide from any monsters on the prowl. It beats a small stinky cage on a shelf any day of the week. Use stainless steel wire mesh and build your own. No gaps greater than 1/2″.

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