Having a proper enclosure for your guinea pigs is perhaps one of the essential parts of their care.
You won’t be able to simply allow them to free roam constantly, but you also don’t want to stress your pigs out with a too-small or otherwise uncomfortable enclosure.
What kind of cage is ideal for guinea pigs, anyway?
Some pet owners consider using a hamster cage to save money and space, but there’s a lot to know before you rush out to pick up one of those colorful tiny plastic cages.
Hamster cages are too small for even a single guinea pig or baby guinea pig. Hamster and gerbil cages are designed for much smaller animals, and a guinea pig would be highly stressed and uncomfortable in such an enclosure.
Read on to learn about guinea pig cages and hamster cages, if there’s much difference between them, and why it’s so important to have a spacious, comfortable home for your piggies.
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What Size Cage Does a Guinea Pig Need?
Most pet experts agree the ideal size enclosure for a single guinea pig is at least 7.5′ square feet.
However, guinea pigs are highly social and curious animals that strongly benefit from being housed in pairs or groups, so you ideally have at least two to keep each other company.
When housed alone, guinea pigs become very lonely, bored, and sometimes even destructive.
A 10.5′ square feet enclosure is sufficient for a pair of guinea pigs.
For every additional pig you add to the enclosure, add at least 3-4′ square feet of living space.
Bigger is always better for guinea pig enclosures, though, so feel free to expand your pigs’ floor space even further!
If you’re working with limited space, adding vertical layers and ramps to the enclosure is easy to add space via height without having an enormous cage that takes up an entire room.
Just avoid building too tall so your pigs don’t hurt themselves if they fall.
Enclosure size is one of the most critical aspects of your guinea pigs’ care. In general, guinea pigs are extremely sensitive animals, and they are very easily stressed out and upset by being housed in improper enclosures.
Having enough space to roam, socialize, and rest is essential to their health.
Crowding them in a cramped enclosure will only encourage fights and stress and cause your pigs to generally be unhappy (and unhealthy!).
Can a Guinea Pig Use a Hamster Cage?
Now, we’ve covered the ideal enclosure size for a guinea pig and why housing them in a spacious cage is crucial to their health and well-being.
However, you likely still have questions about guinea pig cages versus hamster cages and if it’s possible to house your pigs in such an enclosure.
Unfortunately, hamster cages are built for much smaller animals.
To put things in perspective, a typical hamster is less than half the size of the average guinea pig!
Guinea pigs are among the largest rodents in the world.
Additionally, hamsters are burrowing animals who benefit from small, cozy enclosures with lots of substrate and small spaces like tubes and caves for digging.
On the other hand, guinea pigs don’t tend to burrow and prefer having a solid floor and much roomier enclosures to run, jump, and play with one another.
They don’t need the kinds of supplies hamster cages often have, like an exercise wheel or piles of wood shavings to dig around in.
Finally, another vital thing to note here is that hamsters are more solitary animals generally housed alone.
At the same time, guinea pigs are far more social animals and should typically live in pairs or groups.
With this in mind, most manufacturers build hamster cages intended for just a single hamster.
This is far too small for one guinea pig, let alone a pair or a group!
Overall, guinea pigs should be housed in guinea pig cages, and hamsters should be housed in hamster cages.
They are two very different animals with different needs, both in the wild and in captivity.
Have a dog cage?
Check out our article on if dog cages are OK for guinea pigs.
Can Baby Guinea Pigs Be Kept in a Hamster Cage?
We’ve now established a hamster enclosure is too small for an adult guinea pig, but what about a baby?
Baby guinea pigs are roughly hamster-sized, right? Not quite.
While baby guinea pigs and hamsters are a lot closer in size, again, hamster enclosures simply aren’t designed with guinea pigs in mind.
As we touched on in the previous section, hamster cages are built to have tiny, compact spaces which hold lots of substrate to encourage hamsters’ natural behaviors and tendency to burrow.
Guinea pigs, including baby and juvenile guinea pigs, don’t benefit from living in these enclosures.
Hamster cages lack adequate space and are just not designed to be comfortable for guinea pigs to live in.
What is the Best Kind of Guinea Pig Cage?
While there are a wide variety of different types of guinea pig cages on the market, and many of them are suitable housing options, one particular type tends to be far more popular than most.
The best guinea pig enclosure for your furry friend (or friends!) is a C&C enclosure, which stands for Coroplast, or corrugated plastic and cubes!
C&C enclosures are made of two main components: a corrugated plastic base and wire mesh slats.
These enclosures are lightweight, flexible, and easy to move and clean.
The plastic base should be lined with a soft, solid, comfortable bedding like fleece lining to be easier on your guinea pigs’ delicate feet.
C&C cages are also available in various sizes and styles, so it’s easy to accommodate one, two, or multiple guinea pigs with a single C&C enclosure.
We highly recommend something like this C&C guinea pig habitat on Amazon.
It already provides 8′ square feet of space, but it’s possible to expand it to provide up to 16′ square feet!
This way, you’ll be able to add extra space easily if you adopt an additional guinea pig or two.
Another useful feature of the above enclosure is the size and construction of its wire mesh sides, which are 14″ inches tall, so your guinea pigs won’t be able to scale them and make an escape.
Ideally, these wire slats should be at least 10 to 12″ inches tall to prevent escapes and make the cage feel more secure to your pigs.
The bar spacing on the slats is also essential to prevent potential escapes, but most manufacturers build C&C enclosures with guinea pigs in mind, so this usually isn’t an issue.
The spacing should be small enough to prevent escape but wide enough to allow your pigs to see out of their enclosure.
Check out more information in our article on if it’s OK to keep 3 guinea pigs in a single cage.