Burrowing is an entirely natural behavior for guinea pigs. In fact, burrowing should be encouraged because of the surprising benefits it offers the animal. Burrowing reduces stress in guinea pigs, keeps them active, and helps trim their nails. You can encourage burrowing by hiding treats in their cage.
What You'll Learn
Burrowing is a natural behavior for that guinea pig of yours, and it should be encouraged at all times.
Guinea pigs belong to the rodent family and are commonly domesticated, much like hamsters and gerbils.
They are one of the largest rodents that are kept as pets. This doesn’t make them the largest rodent in the wild. This honor belongs to the Capybara, but how many people do you know that own a domesticated Capybara?
Owning a guinea pig is quite different from having a cat or dog, so naturally, there are a lot of questions. One common question that people have after purchasing a guinea pig is if guinea pigs burrow and if you (as the owner) can encourage it.
Answering these questions is simple: yes, they burrow, and yes, there are ways to encourage them to do so.
Typical Burrowing Behaviors
Burrowing is a behavior that is quite common for guinea pigs. In fact, it’s in their very nature to burrow!
As prey animals, it’s innate. Since they are small, defenseless animals, they have few options out there in the wild. Burrowing keeps them away from their predators and allows them to live another day.
This is something you certainly see in wild guinea pigs, but don’t think that domesticated ones don’t display the same behavior as their wild brethren.
This is an innate behavior, and chances are you’ll be able to see some burrowing first hand since you’ll be seen as a predator until they can fully trust you. They can’t help it, and you shouldn’t prevent your pet guinea pig from being able to give in to this urge either.
One interesting thing about these animals is that they don’t dig their own burrows. It doesn’t mean they don’t burrow. They just… borrow their burrows, and really, that’s the way to do it. Saves yourself the work!
Making a Comfortable Burrowing Environment
Despite your well-intentioned actions to encourage burrowing in your guinea pigs, you might be unintentionally doing the opposite for a variety of reasons. The biggest one is quite simple and one you may overlook; the cage could be too small.
Did you know that the average type of cage guinea pigs use is practically the same size smaller rodents such as hamsters and gerbils use? This will not encourage burrowing behavior, let alone be comfortable enough for these larger domestic rodents to live in.
Average Cage Size
The average cage size for a guinea pig should be at least 7.5 square feet, or 30 x 36, which is the minimum size recommended by experts. A larger cage is definitely required if you have more than one guinea pig at home.
When in doubt, always get the bigger cage because the bigger the cage, the more comfortable your guinea pig(s) will be. As pet owners, we should always ensure the ultimate level of comfort for our pets, no matter the cost.
Types of Bedding
Okay, so at this point you’ve bought the proper cage size for your guinea pig, but is that it? Not a chance. There is still one other thing to consider, and that is the type of bedding you are using for the bottom of your guinea pig’s cage.
Bedding is a must for rodents as it will encourage your pet to engage in their burrowing behavior.
There are many types of bedding available for your guinea pig, but there are two that stand out the most and will give you the most desirable results.
One is paper-based bedding, and the other is fleece. These two types of bedding are both very natural.
Paper has the added benefit of being absorbent and odor-resistant. Fleece is excellent for the environment, which may be something want to keep in mind.
Obviously, neither are flawless (for example, fleece beddings don’t always have the most effective odor control), but for all the different bedding out there, they will do the best in making your guinea pig feel comfortable in their home.
Consequences of a Small Cage
If you end up getting too small of a cage for your guinea pig, know that there are big consequences for not giving your pet a comfortable place to live and sleep.
One simple reason is that it won’t let your guinea pigs express their burrowing behavior since we have established that they love to burrow. However, know that it can have negative consequences on their physical health as well.
If a guinea pig is living in a small cage, it is common for them to develop obesity, general unhappiness (they have feelings too), and respiratory issues because of the anomia building up from their waste.
Think about it like this: how would you like a clogged toilet every time you had to use the restroom?
These reasons should deter you from buying a small cage. However, we all make mistakes, and if you do, it’s crucial to seek the help of a professional. This is to ensure that your guinea pig can get its health back on track.
Now, I am more than aware that the average lifespan of a guinea pig is only about five years. However, just because it is not that long doesn’t mean they shouldn’t live it to the fullest. You are a pet owner. Therefore, it’s your job to make sure that those five years are the best of their life by spoiling them rotten and keeping them healthy.
Burrowing is Natural Behavior for Guinea Pigs
By this point, I think we’ve clarified that burrowing is a natural behavior for that guinea pig of yours and should be encouraged at all times. There are definite ways to do this and things to avoid so it doesn’t discourage guinea pigs from doing what all guinea pigs do: burrow to their little heart’s content.
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