Rabbits have been domesticated for centuries, but the transition from farm to family member has been a more recent development. As more people learn that these intelligent, sensitive, charismatic little animals can make exceptional free roaming companions, pet parents around the world are ditching their outdoor (and indoor) hutches and cramped wire cages, opting instead to provide their bunnies with a free roaming existence. Allowing your rabbit to roam freely certainly has some substantial benefits, but before taking the leap, it’s important to consider all aspects of your home environment as well as the natural inclinations of your furry little friend to make sure the free roam lifestyle is pleasant and safe for everyone.
What Does “Free Roam” Mean?
Instead of spending most of their time in an enclosure, free roam rabbits are allowed to wander freely in the home or apartment, even when their pet parents aren’t present. Similar to the way many people share their homes with cats and dogs, free roam rabbits can explore, nap, and play wherever they please. While some folks allow their bunnies run of the entire home, others will restrict access by blocking off areas that are too dangerous or contain plants or furniture that would be best kept away from curious little mouths.
How Will a Free Roam Lifestyle Benefit My Bunny?
Maintaining a Healthy Weight
As with many animals, including humans, rabbits have a tendency to gain weight easily and can quickly become obese. Because life as a free roaming bunny naturally encourages frequent, daily exercise, the risk of obesity is mitigated.
Joint and Bone Health
In addition to maintaining their svelte figure, an active lifestyle helps encourage healthy joints and strong bones and will help your kiddo maintain muscle mass as they age.
Bladder Sludge and Stones – Shake it Up!
Additionally, as animals who excrete excess calcium through their kidneys, rabbits naturally have an increased risk of developing bladder sludge/stones. The movement and activity encouraged by a free roaming lifestyle shakes up the contents of their bladder and moves the calcium sediment around, thereby helping prevent sludge and stone formation.
Mental and Social Stimulation
A free roam lifestyle also tends to be more mentally and socially stimulating and all the extra one-on-one time together can help strengthen the special human-animal bond you share with your bunny while reducing the occurrence of boredom-based behaviors.
Keeping Your Free Roam Bunny Safe
Due to their naturally inquisitive dispositions, rabbits can easily get themselves into compromising situations. As a result, it’s imperative to take the appropriate steps to make sure you, your home, and your rabbit are properly prepared before allowing free roaming. This way you don’t have to worry about your fur baby every time you’re out for the day. The following considerations will make the free roam experience as safe as possible.
Get to Know Your Rabbit
Taking the time to view the world through the eyes of your rabbit will help you make the transition to a free roam lifestyle much smoother and less stressful for all involved. Familiarize yourself with your rabbit’s preferences, eccentricities, and mannerisms. Where do they like to hide? What do they prefer to chew on? What makes them happy? Listening to your rabbit in this way will help you determine which area(s) of the home would be best suited for your little one and which areas might be best kept off limits. Beyond gathering intel, this exercise will also establish the mutual trust and bonding that is essential for a successful free roam lifestyle and happy life together.
Get Your Rabbit Spayed or Neutered
Spayed or neutered rabbits tend to be more demonstrative and affectionate toward their pet parents and are typically easier to litter box train, both of which are significant benefits when considering free roaming. Because spaying and neutering changes their hormonal response and eliminates their deeply engrained desire to propagate, altered rabbits are less likely to exhibit unwanted behaviors (such as spraying, humping, and circling). Additionally, without the desire to constantly procreate, altered bunnies are also less inclined to become aggressive or develop territorial behavior challenges.
Litter Box Training Is a Must
Rabbits are naturally fastidious creatures and tend to have very particular bathroom habits. This combination, coupled with their intelligence, make rabbits the perfect candidates for litter training. As small, hind-gut fermenters, in order to keep their digestive tract running smoothly, rabbits must take in a high volume of fiber every day. This near constant intake naturally leads to a rather surprising daily volume of fecal production which, if your kiddo isn’t litter box trained, will be sprinkled throughout your home upon your return at the end of the day. For tips on the litter training process, read: How to Litter Train Your Rabbit.
Bunny Proof Your Home
Why is Bunny Proofing Important?
Just as baby proofing is essential to keeping young human children safe and healthy, similar precautions must be taken to keep your bunny safe. Before letting your fur baby “run wild,” you must take the time to properly and thoroughly bunny proof your home.
Keep Chewing in Check
As rabbit parents worldwide will attest, rabbits will instinctually chew on any hard or fibrous materials and can be quite destructive if their chewing habits are not redirected. For the safety of your beloved bunny (not to mention your baseboards), it is important to make sure anything you do not want your rabbit to chew on is properly protected. This can be achieved by blocking off access to certain rooms with metal play pens or baby gates, keeping loose wires and cords picked up and safely tucked away, or placing a sturdy rug or woven grass mat in the corners of the room to discourage digging.
Any wires that must remain plugged in should be protected by a durable cover to prevent chewing and the risk of electrocution. Play pens or wire fencing can be used to protect furniture legs and baseboard, while remaining sleek and low profile.
Fencing Considerations & More Tips
When choosing a fencing option, either to restrict room access or prevent your little one from sampling your new microfiber couch, make sure it is tall enough your rabbit cannot jump over it and put themselves in harm’s way. For more tips on bunny proofing your home, watch the following video presented by Lennon the Bunny.
As prey species, rabbits are incredibly sensitive to changes in their environment. Significant or abrupt adjustments in your little one’s home life and daily routine can be incredibly stressful, even if the changes are being made with your bunny’s best interest at heart. To limit stress, make small, gradual, thoughtful changes and closely observe your little one at every step.
Expand the Habitat with an X-Pen
Instead of abruptly discarding of your rabbit’s enclosure and allowing them access to the entire home in one fell swoop, leave the enclosure door open and surround the habitat with a play pen. This will allow your bunny the necessary time to get used to having more space to explore while still having the comfort of their familiar enclosure nearby for napping or hiding.
Add a Room for Roaming
Once they’ve proven they’re ready for more room, expand the area again by making the play pen bigger or allowing access to just one room of the home. Wait and observe after every change, gradually increasing the areas of the home to which your rabbit is allowed access room-by-room.
Start with Short Increments
Once your rabbit has gotten the hang of their new free roam lifestyle, you can start leaving them unattended. Begin with short increments and slowly increase their alone time. A full, eight-hour workday is not a safe option for your kiddo’s first time home alone. Instead, start with shorter trips away. If your bunny remains well-behaved after several hour-long absences, lengthen their next several times alone to 2 or 3 hours.
Each time you get home, explore the environment closely, looking for anything your bunny may have nibbled on or gotten into while you were away. If anything is found, make the appropriate environmental adjustments and forge on until you know you can trust your bunny to stay out of trouble for an entire workday.
Throughout this process, remember to be patient, not only with your bunny, but also yourself. Mistakes will be made. Accidents will happen. Free roaming is a learning experience for you both and will take some time to master.
A Bored Bunny is a Destructive Bunny
As you can likely imagine, living in an environment with the same things to do day-in-and-day-out, with very little change in scenery would get very boring rather quickly. The same is true for your rabbit.
Just Add Enrichment!
To best support your kiddo’s natural instincts, provide plenty of safe, species appropriate chews and activity centers throughout the rabbit accessible areas of your home. Not only will these items assist in redirecting your rabbit’s natural chewing behavior, they will also stimulate their mind and keep them sharp and mentally active. It is important to rotate these items frequently to help hold your rabbit’s interest and limit boredom-based behaviors.
Don’t Forget to Offer Hay All Day
Along the same lines, it is absolutely essential that your bunny has access to an unlimited quantity of grass hay daily. Beyond being your rabbit’s primary source of essential fiber, rabbits also use hay for playing and nesting, making it an incredibly versatile enrichment option. To keep your rabbit interested, offer a variety of hays in various forms.
Feeding Hay Can Be Enriching Too!
Instead of just offering hay in a hay manger every day, try switching things up. Put some hay in a bowl or alternate shallow, chew-resistant container. Try stuffing small handfuls of hay into empty toilet paper rolls or natural chews to make a fun, challenging game, or try your hand at one of the following fun, all-natural DIY projects: DIY Snack Wreath for Small Pets or DIY May Day Pet Basket.
What If I Can’t Allow My Pet to Free Roam?
The decision to free roam needs to be made on a case-by-case basis as it may not be appropriate or possible for all pets or pet parents. While many rabbits are perfectly content entertaining themselves for several hours out of the day, they are incredibly social creatures by nature and crave companionship.
Consider a Companion
If free roaming is not a good fit for your family, considering getting your bunny a friend as a companion to help meet their social needs and stimulate their need for interaction. It is also essential to consider other household pets before turning your bunny loose in the house. Rabbits should typically not be left to roam the home unsupervised with cats or dogs. Even if your kitty or pooch is typically a sweet-natured goofball, the instinctual desire to chase small, furry, fast-moving creatures is strong in many cats and dogs and could lead to an unsafe or life-threatening scenario for your bunny. Similarly, it is important to never let unbonded rabbits roam freely together as territorial squabbles or general disagreements can lead to altercations.
Bunny Safety First
If you live in an environment that would pose a risk to the safety of your bunny, it is best to keep your kiddo in an enclosure while you are out of the home. It is imperative that the enclosure you choose is appropriately sized for your rabbit (bigger is always better), and that your rabbit still has ample time every day to get out of their enclosure for supervised play time. Just because your bunny doesn’t always have access to the entire home, doesn’t mean they don’t need room to roam.
Living with a free roam bunny can be unbelievably rewarding for both you and your rabbit, but before you ditch your rabbit’s old habitat, make sure you’ve taken the necessary safety precautions and have allowed your bunny time to adapt to life outside an enclosure. It is also important to give yourself and your rabbit some grace as you settle into the new routine. Ultimately, the joy of being greeted at the door by your bunny after a long day or snuggling on the couch with your furry friend to watch your favorite show, is worth the learning curve.
Home, sweet home! Just like us, small pets always appreciate having a home that is a safe and engaging place to relax and play. Here are a few guidelines to follow when creating a cozy home for your pet.
The More Space, the Better
While we can leave our home and go to work or school, keep in mind that our small pets do not have that luxury. The habitat you provide them is their entire living space. Adequate space to rest, run, eat, play, and use the restroom is necessary for small pets to thrive. In addition to having a large living space, your pet will greatly benefit from regular access to a pet-proofed area outside of their enclosure so they can safely explore.
@finnleythepig has two rooms for their guinea pigs in their enclosure! Their living space also includes many soft materials for ultimate comfort.
Add Engaging Wall "Art"
While we tend to make our homes cozier by hanging wall art, your pet’s enclosure can be made cozier by adding enriching accessories to the walls. Your small pet may especially love items such as our Forage Pot, which can act as the ultimate boredom-buster for playing hide-and-seek with treats. If your pet is more the exploring type, our Small Play Wall features multiple textures and materials for your pet to experience. Be sure to rotate enrichment regularly in order to keep your pet entertained!
If your pet appears to be bored with how their hay is currently being offered, try changing the feeding method. Our Apple Stick Hay Feeder and Hay Forager combine fun and functional by keeping hay fresh and contained while also acting as a natural chew.
If your pet is considered a senior, you will need to factor in any medical conditions they have when creating a cozy home. For instance, some older pets have arthritis and cannot get around easily. This means making sure their enclosure is not too cluttered, thinking about what type of bedding will be the most comfortable, and possibly changing the way you feed hay or pellets. If your older pet seems reluctant to leave their hiding spot, even to eat or drink, it’s important to book an appointment with your exotics veterinarian for an exam to find and treat any underlying conditions.
@elliebellybun has plenty of space to roam while not being encumbered by enrichment. The pathway to enter their enclosure is not a high jump, so it would be easier for older individuals to navigate. The mat at the foot of the entrance would also be helpful for older individuals to prevent sliding!
No small animal home is complete until it has at least one hideout per animal. Hiding is a natural behavior of all small companion mammals. They often hide so they can feel safe and rested. There are many different types of hides available, depending on your pet’s preferences and needs. Oxbow’s Enriched Life has three different sizes of washable woven hideouts, while our Timothy Club tunnels and bungalows are 100% timothy hay and double up as a tasty snack while your pet relaxes!
@cookieandgizmoli has a large living space complete with at least one hiding spot per animal. They utilize both our Timothy Tunnel and Woven Hideout (M)!
Consider Environmental Factors
No one likes to be in a room that is too hot or cold. Throughout the seasons, always consider both your pet’s immediate living space as well as the room of the house your pet lives in. What projects may need to happen in order to keep your pet comfortable? Think about sealing drafts, adding curtains to limit direct sunlight, or other projects that may happen seasonally. Might your pet benefit from being in a warmer place of the house during the winter months all together? Learn more about Ideal Temperatures for Pets and How to Keep Pets Cool in the Summer.
There are an infinite number of ways to customize your pet’s living space and make it a home that meets all their needs. Want to get started but aren’t sure where to begin?
Choosing a quality food for your guinea pig is one of the most important nutritional decisions you will make as a pet parent. A species-appropriate fortified food is an essential part of your guinea pig’s daily diet. If you’ve ever found yourself overwhelmed by the number of food options for your guinea pig, you’re not alone. With so many options available in the food aisle, choosing one that’s best for your piggie can be a confusing and even stressful process for new pet parents and longtime pet caretakers alike. In this article, we’ll walk through all the basic information necessary to help you choose a food that meets the specific nutritional needs of your beloved guinea pig.
This article will cover the following important topics:
Why do guinea pigs need fortified food?
How much food should my guinea pig eat each day?
Which type of food is best for guinea pigs?
Uniform food vs. Mixes: which is better for guinea pigs?
Young vs. Adult: the importance of choosing a life stage-specific food
A closer look at key ingredients
Quality guinea pig food checklist
Why Do Guinea Pigs Need Fortified Food?
Fortified foods are an essential part of the daily diet of guinea pigs, providing key vitamins and minerals small pets such as guinea pigs need to thrive. In the wild, your pet would consume fresh plant material each day, receiving ample amounts of micronutrients (i.e. vitamins and minerals) in the process. In captivity, it becomes your responsibility as pet parent to provide these important components of nutrition.
How Much Food Should My Guinea Pig Eat Each Day?
Daily food requirements will vary depending on age, species, and possible additional factors specific to your individual pet(s). Young, growing, and pregnant/nursing pets have higher nutritional requirements and will generally require a larger quantity of food (or more free access to food) than mature pets. Always follow the feeding guidelines on your pet’s specific food package. Consult your veterinarian if you have specific questions about how much food your animal should eat.
A balanced, uniform fortified food should make up approximately 20% of your guinea pig’s daily diet. The majority of the daily diet (70%) should come from unlimited amounts of fresh grass hay. The remainder of the diet should be rounded out with fresh greens (8%) and healthy, all-natural treats (up to 2%).
Which Type of Food is Best for My Guinea Pig?
One of the biggest differences you will notice when comparing options in the food aisle is the visual contrast between uniform and mix-based foods. What are the primary differences between these food types, and which is the best choice for your pet? Let’s take a closer look.
Mixes typically include multiple shapes, colors, and types of food pieces. Many of these diets contain seeds, nuts, yogurt drops, and miscellaneous other pieces. It is not uncommon for these diets to include added sugars and artificial colors and flavors. As “concentrate selectors,” guinea pigs are wired to choose to most calorically-dense pieces first, leaving the beneficial pellets behind.
Contain a variety of seeds, nuts, fruits & miscellaneous pieces which are often high in carbohydrates and simple sugars
Typically lower in fiber than uniform pellets
Come in various bright colors to appear “fun” and appeal to young customers
Can lead to obesity, selective eating, and GI illness
As the name implies, these pellets are “uniform” in appearance. While uniform pellets may be less likely to catch your eye on the shelf, feeding them is the best way to guarantee that your pet receives complete nutrition in every serving. Uniform pellets are less likely to contain the added sugars and artificial colors and flavors that are common in mix-based diets. However, it’s important to examine the nutrient panel closely to ensure that the ingredients are high quality in nature and appropriate for your pet’s species and life stage.
Prevent selective eating common amongst small pets
Provide complete nutrition in every bite
Typically higher in fiber than mixes
Less “fun” visually
Less likely to contain added sugars, artificial colors, or flavors
Guinea Pigs as Concentrate Selectors
When it comes to eating habits, guinea pigs and other small animals are classified as “concentrate selectors.” As prey species in the wild, these animals are wired to select and eat the most energy-dense plant material available, as quickly as possible. For domesticated pets, these instincts are no longer tied to survival, but they are still likely to lead to selective eating. Choosing a uniform food helps prevent this potentially unhealthy behavior.
Young vs. Adult – The Importance of Choosing a Lifestage Specific Food
Like other species, guinea pigs have specific nutritional needs at various stages in life. For example, young, growing, and pregnant/lactating guinea pigs have higher energy requirements and should be offered a food that is specifically designed to meets these needs. An alfalfa-based uniform pellet provides higher protein and calcium necessary to support guinea pigs during these stages of life. For adult guinea pigs, a grass hay-based food that provides appropriate levels of protein and fat to meet maintenance needs while preventing obesity.
Taking a Closer Look at the Label
Refined vs. Unrefined Sugars
Not all sugars are created equal. Unlike unrefined sugars (which are absorbed slowly over time), refined sugars are rapidly absorbed and can lead to obesity and other health issues. Avoid foods that contain refined sugars such as glucose, dextrose, or corn syrup. Some Oxbow foods contain a small amount of unrefined sugar (e.g. cane molasses) to assist with pellet integrity. Cane molasses is an unrefined sugar that is absorbed slowly over time.
Chelated Minerals – A More Absorbable Source
In the wild, guinea pigs and other herbivore species receive all the minerals they need from the fresh plant material they consume. As pets, it’s important that your guinea pig has access to high quality minerals via their daily food. Some minerals can be more difficult than others for small pets to absorb. Through the process of “chelation,” minerals are bound to amino acids to form an easily absorbable mineral complex. Chelated minerals are designed to survive digestion and are more readily absorbed than their non-chelated counterparts.
Label Watcher Tip:
Chelated minerals can typically be identified by the suffix following a mineral’s chemical name (e.g. copper chelate, zinc proteinate, etc).
Prebiotics are non-digestible ingredients that provide food for the good bacteria in your pet’s GI tract. Fermentation of prebiotics within the GI tract produces beneficial fatty acids which aid in the digestion process. Examples of beneficial prebiotics to look for in a high-quality food include inulin (chicory root), yeast culture, and hydrolyzed yeast.
Probiotics are live bacteria intended to maintain healthy levels of good bacteria in the GI tract. While probiotic supplements are popular in humans and certain pet species, these bacteria have not been proven to survive the manufacturing process in conventional foods, nor the acidic environment of the stomach. Furthermore, additional research is necessary to understand which specific strains of good bacteria exist in the GI tract of different small animals. Avoid foods making health claims relating to probiotics.
Quality Guinea Pig Food Checklist
Use the following checklist to help you make the all-important decision of choosing a food for your guinea pig. If the food you select checks all of the below boxes, you can feel confident you’re selecting a food that will support the health and wellbeing of your pet:
Uniform pellets = complete nutrition in every serving
Species & Lifestage Specific (Timothy hay-based for adult, Alfalfa-based for young, growing, pregnant & lactating)
Chelated minerals (e.g. “proteinates”) for most efficient absorption
No refined sugars (e.g. glucose, dextrose sucrose, corn syrup)
All Oxbow foods are formulated with the guidance of leading exotics veterinarians and nutritionists. Oxbow foods are uniform, complete, and species & lifestage specific to meet the specific needs of pets.
Which Pet is Better for You: Rabbits or Guinea Pigs?
by Dianne Cook, LVT
Rabbits and guinea pigs continue to gain in popularity as more people realize what wonderful companions these amazing little herbivores can truly be. While the day-to-day caring of both species is somewhat similar, each animal has their own unique attributes and considerations. Before you bring home a new bunny or piggy pal, it is important you consider which species best fits your preferences and lifestyle. Let’s read through some of the things that make rabbits and guinea pigs so special, as well as some considerations for both species.
What Is It About Rabbits?
A Hare for Every Style
With those long ears, big eyes, and sweet faces, it’s no wonder rabbits have won the hearts of pet parents around the world. Rabbits come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and textures. From 2.5 lb Netherland Dwarves to 18 lb Flemish Giants, there’s bound to be a rabbit whose size appeals to you. Beyond size, however, it is important to consider general coat care and upkeep. Long-haired breeds like Angoras and Lionheads require daily grooming, as their coats can easily become tangled and unhealthy. Short-haired breeds like Holland Lops and Californians don’t require the same level of grooming as their longhaired counterparts, but it is still recommended to brush their thick coats at least a couple of times a week. Molting, or the seasonal shedding of old hair to make way for new growth, is something all rabbits experience (some more frequently than others), and the volume of hair lost during this time can be alarming. Daily brushing is required during molting, regardless of your rabbit’s breed.
Building the Bond
Rabbits are sensitive, social animals and make wonderful companions for folks who take the time to understand, accept, and support their natural instincts and behaviors. Because rabbits are a prey species, it requires a patient, deliberate investment on the pet parent’s part to learn their rabbit’s unique language and work to build their trust. A rabbit may start out as shy, aloof, or hesitant, but consistent gentle, positive interactions will soon bring them out of their shells. This short, educational video describes ways to strengthen that special human-animal bond with your small herbivore.
There are as many rabbit personalities as there are rabbits. Some rabbits are easygoing and relaxed, while others are demanding and constantly on-the-go. Some actively seek affection and constant attention from their caretakers, while others tend to be more independent, territorial, and haughty. Even the friendliest and most engaging bunny has a tendency to be willful and picky from time-to-time. It’s part of their charm. Taking time to learn your rabbit’s unique quirks and temperament will ensure you are able to happily coexist with such a complex, demanding companion.
Long Live the Lagomorphs
Like other exotic companion mammal species, there is a misconception that rabbits don’t require a long-term commitment because they only live a short while. Though lifespan is largely determined by factors outside of the pet parents’ control (like breed, gender, and genetics) the average life span of a well-cared-for rabbit is eight to ten years. With appropriate nutrition, husbandry, and quality veterinary care, many rabbits can even live to see twelve years of age or older! To learn how to best support your rabbit through all of their life stages, read: Rabbit Life Stages.
Rabbits Can Make Excellent House Pets
Wicked smart and naturally fastidious creatures, rabbits are relatively easy to litter train. Adding a litterbox to your rabbit’s enclosure or in their living area makes daily maintenance easier as your pet’s waste will be contained to one area. Rabbits’ ability to be litterbox trained also means many pet parents choose to allow their bunnies to roam freely around the home or in designated rooms. If you opt to give your rabbit free roam, it is imperative to properly “bunny proof” any areas of the home in which your rabbit is allowed access. Additionally, because rabbits favor body language as their primary source of communication (though they certainly have their own unique language), these quiet companions tend to be considerate neighbors.
What Makes Guinea Pigs So Special?
Variety is the Spice of Life
Guinea pigs come in a multitude of breeds, each boasting its own variations in coat texture and length. From solid-colored, smooth-coated piggies, to multi-colored cavies with long, flowing hair, or even hairless kiddos with spotted skin, there’s a guinea pig out there for novice and experienced piggy parents alike. It is important to take your lifestyle, home environment, and time-commitment into consideration before deciding what breed of guinea pig to add to your home. While some breeds like American Shorthairs and Abyssinians are relatively low-maintenance, long-haired breeds like Silkies and Texels require quite a bit of grooming and additional upkeep. Similarly, if you like to keep your home on the cool side, no matter how cute Skinny Pigs are, it may be best to choose a breed with fur.
Guinea Pigs Make Excellent Companions
As herd animals, guinea pigs naturally seek companionship. While it is true guinea pigs generally prefer having a friend (or two) of the same species to hang out with, these highly social animals also form strong bonds with their humans. As prey species, it may take a bit of patience and gentle persistence (not to mention a few yummy treats) before you earn your piggy’s trust, but the reward is certainly worth the effort. Guinea pigs recognize and respond to trusted humans and are often interactive and affectionate, though in their own unique ways. Once you’ve found favor in the eyes of your guinea pig, you will find those little bodies often harbor big personalities.
They’re Gentle, Unique, and Intelligent
Inquisitive by nature and inherently gentle, guinea pigs make delightfully entertaining companions for folks of all ages. Known for “popcorning” and “zoomies,” day-to-day guinea pig antics are sure to bring a smile to your face. Though they aren’t likely to be awarded any advanced academic accolades, with the right motivation, guinea pigs can learn an impressive repertoire of simple tricks. Time and consistency are key to teaching your charming little friend a new skill (not to mention treats. Lots and lots of treats).
One of the most common misconceptions about guinea pigs is that they don’t live very long. While they do not share the same life expectancy as other common companion species, like dogs or cats, guinea pigs live an average of five to seven years, with some piggies even reaching double digits. Species appropriate nutrition, suitable husbandry, and routine medical care are essential to ensure your little friend lives the longest, healthiest, happiest life possible. To learn how to best support your guinea pig through all of their life stages, read the following article: Guinea Pig Life Stages.
Good for Small Spaces
Guinea pigs can make excellent pets for people who live in small spaces, but it is important they are provided with an appropriately sized enclosure. After all, just because they’re small animals doesn’t mean they don’t need adequate room to move. While many companion rodents (like rats and chinchillas) rely on vertical space to encourage climbing, guinea pigs need room to run, forage, and explore, and thereby require floor space. An appropriately sized guinea pig enclosure and space for a large, safely enclosed play yard (for daily floor time) will likely take up less than 20 sq. ft, depending on the number of guinea pigs you have. Guinea pigs also make polite neighbors. Though piggies can get quite vocal when they have something to say (or they think you might give them another piece of cilantro), they won’t wake the entire neighborhood with an impromptu midnight chorus.
Additional Considerations for Both Species
They’re Prey Species
This cannot be stated enough; both rabbits and guinea pigs are sensitive prey species, so it will take time, patience, and understanding to earn your little ones’ trust. Speak softly, engage in daily play, and take the time to figure out your pet’s unique likes and dislikes. When at all possible, don’t force interactions with your rabbit or guinea pig when they aren’t feeling up to it and make sure to have a healthy, nutritionally appropriate treat nearby to help encourage happy, positive interactions. Though these may seem like simple steps from a human perspective, your time and patience will establish you as a welcome, positive source of affection and socialization (not to mention treats).
They Have a Very Specific Diet
As hindgut fermenters, both rabbits and guinea pigs have incredibly specific diet requirements. At least 70% of a rabbit’s or guinea pig’s diet should consist of a variety of high-quality grass hays coupled with 20% of a species and age-specific, fortified, pelleted diet. It is also encouraged to ensure 8% - 10% of your pet’s diet consists of fresh produce. Dark leafy greens should make up the majority of the latter category and fruits should be offered infrequently in very small amounts. No more than 2% of your little one’s diet should consist of treats.
They Require Specialized Medical Care
As prey animals, rabbits and guinea pigs are both experts at hiding signs of illness or discomfort. Unfortunately, this inherently stoic disposition means even the most well-meaning pet parent can miss the subtle signs of a brewing health issue. Before bringing a new pet home, it is important to find a veterinarian who is well-versed in small herbivore care and common medical concerns and answers all your questions to your satisfaction. To find an exotics savvy vet near you, check out the following resources: https://rabbit.org/vet-listings/ or https://aemv.org/.
At the end of the day, both rabbits and guinea pigs make wonderful companions, but each species has their own unique traits and considerations. Some folks may prefer the compact size and quirky antics of guinea pigs, while others may be drawn to rabbits’ tidy litterbox habits and complex personalities. As long as you are able to provide your chosen species with the appropriate companionship, diet, husbandry, and medical care, the best pet for you is whichever species best aligns with your personality, lifestyle, and preferences.