For years, we have lamented the fact that despite how popular small animals like guinea pigs and rats are for pets, the majority of pet retailers could literally care less about their actual needs. Take this “Guinea Pig Starter Kit” for example, which is made by “All Living Things”.
The cage itself measures 24″x14″. We have had several of these donated, so I can tell you from experience that that measurement is at the top lip of the cage, which then tapers in slightly towards the bottom. At the bottom, the cage is more realistically around 22″x12″. That is barely over 2 square feet. An adult guinea pig is typically around 10″ long. They barely have room to turn around, much less to run or express energy.
We frequently see health problem from substandard cages like these. Males, especially, suffer from impaction problems due to lack of exercise. These pigs also tend to be obese, having a mostly pellet based diet (you’ll notice that the “kit” doesn’t include any hay). And more nebulously, the pigs living in these sized cages seem to have a neurosis about them. They can’t live with a friend, they can’t run or exercise properly, and they really have nothing to do except for sit there, all day, eating, and watching the world go by. Sometimes they’ll entertain themselves by eating their own hair, sometimes by chewing the cage bars just for something to do, sometimes by draining the water bottle over and over again. These behaviors cause their own problems… broken teeth, fungal infections, bumblefoot, etc.
And most pet store cages run a gamut of sizes, but overall, we in guinea pig rescue have been forced to simply say “it’s better to build your own cage” because of these extreme size differences. Even those that were nearly the correct size (such as some of the “Ultra” or “Deluxe” sized pet cages, were misleading as to their measurements, and were particularly narrow, which we often found caused fighting amongst pigs who couldn’t get away from each other with much ease, and which left the entire cage nearly impassible once you added accessories.
When I purchased my first two guinea pigs (before I had any idea there was such a thing as a guinea pig “rescue”), I bought the largest cage they had, which was 41″x18″. Again, that was the top measurement, and the pan tapered down, so probably more like 39″x16″. Once I added in two pigloos (which are 10″ wide), I had a cage that my pigs couldn’t even run around in!
So I upgraded to building my own cage, with the information at Guinea Pig Cages. I’ve been extremely happy with my C&C cage, but there have been others that were not keen on them for various reasons. They’re difficult to transport, for one, since the coroplast is rigid. They can be a little difficult to get together (I’ve had my share of frankencages since — I’m terrible at measuring things like that). Sometimes the supplies can be difficult to obtain (Target, for example, recently changed their grid sizes, rendering them dangerous to guinea pigs.)
Surprisingly, one company stepped up to the plate, and has released a guinea pig cage that is 7.5 square feet! Midwest (who also makes the famous Ferret Nation and Critter Nation cages) has produced the Guinea Habitat. (Pictured to the right).
What I love about the cage:
- 7.8 square feet of space!
- Expandable — you can hook as many together as you want.
- Canvas bottom (waterproof) folds up for transport (this would be a lifesaver at adopt-a-thons)
- Can buy a separate top for people who have children or other pets
What I don’t like so much:
- The “PLUS” has a kitchen area which I feel takes away a lot of running room, and I’m not particularly fond of.
- Not able to be stacked without an external shelving system (but most people are also not fostering animals and probably don’t have a need for this!)
Overall, the pros far outweigh the cons, and it’s a good feeling to know that a company is listening to what pet owners are asking for, and are trying to provide affordable ways to keep those pets happy! Overall, the Midwest line has shown exceptional quality and care for pets. The one product of theirs I would NOT recommend is the “Wabbitat”, which is smaller than this guinea pig cage, even though rabbits are easily 3-4 times the size of a guinea pig! However, this year has shown the launch of several new products, so I suspect they’re also gearing up to relaunch their rabbit line.
So kudos to Midwest, who are doing their best to provide stellar homes to our beloved pets!