As pet owners we love spoiling our piggies, but are there any supplies you shouldn't buy? Read on to find out more..
As pet owners, there is nothing more we love than treating our guinea pigs to new toys, supplies and the occasional treat. But have you ever wondered if there are any unsafe supplies? If a product is labelled for guinea pigs, it should be safe, right? Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
As a consumer you may feel that pet stores have your pets best interests in mind but sadly, some items stocked may not be suitable despite their labelling. Guinea pigs are often still confused with other small pets, such as hamsters or rabbits, by some suppliers, and as a result, can wrongly advertise for piggies. Guinea pigs are intelligent and inquisitive creatures so it is important any supplies are safe to ingest and easy to manoeuvre in.
Here at Kavee, our number one priority is spreading awareness around the safety of your guinea pigs. We rounded up a step-by-step guide that details what to look out for when buying guinea pig supplies and a list of items to avoid.
What to look out for when buying guinea pig toys:Sharp edges
Be careful with items that have sharp edges as guinea pigs love to run around and can become injured if they brush or knock into them. Guinea pigs also love to explore with their mouths, as it is one of the ways they understand the world best, thus, sharp edging such as rough plastics or metal pieces can cause injury to your guinea pig’s delicate mouth.
Gaps or unsuitable openings
In feeding supplies such as hayracks, they often have evenly spaced bars to allow guinea pigs to conveniently eat hay and forage from. Products with wrongly sized gaps pose the risk of a guinea pig's head getting stuck. This is particularly relevant if you have young guinea pigs who are much smaller and much more active. It is recommended that you opt for an item with openings of 1.5’’ or smaller, to prevent injury.
Constrictive items are a definite no no for guinea pigs. Guinea pigs are flexible and lean animals that have the ability to twist and turn. Constrictive items such as clothing pose a risk of injuring a guinea pig's limbs and restricting their movement. Additionally, as a guinea pig's digestive system needs to move continuously, it is important not to restrict or put pressure on this organ.
As guinea pigs love to chew and experience the world through their teeth, it is critical that all materials should be non-toxic. This is crucial in case of ingestion which may be fatal to your pet.
7 Unsafe Items for Guinea Pigs
From unsafe toys to sugar laden treats, the world of guinea pig supplies can be confusing. That’s why we’ve put together 7 items that are dangerous for guinea pigs so that you can make informed purchases for your pet.
Harness and Leash
There are many benefits to taking your guinea pigs outside. It helps keep your guinea pigs mentally and physically active, which are both important to help keep your piggies happy and healthy. A harness and leash can often be found in many pet stores, targeted towards guinea pigs as the idea is to take your guinea pig on a walk, much like a dog. As this may be tempting for many new or unsuspecting piggy parents, unfortunately, these items are not safe for guinea pigs.
With guinea pigs being agile and flexible creatures, the harness will create restriction around their neck, spine, and tummy. The tugging sensation of the leash can harm a guinea pig's delicate spine and may cause injury. Guinea pigs cannot be trained to walk alongside you unlike dogs, therefore walking your guinea pig on a leash also leaves them very vulnerable to predators.
Instead of trying to take your guinea pig for a walk, allow your guinea pig to have outdoor time in a secure playpen or run.Your guinea pigs will still benefit from outdoor play without the need for an uncomfortable collar or harness around them. Check out our ultimate guide to taking your guinea pigs outside on a sunny day.
Exercise balls are commonly marketed towards small rodents as a ‘fun’ way for them to explore and roam around the house. As cute as it may look, having your guinea pig rolling around in an exercise ball is more harmful than you may think.
Guinea pigs have a delicate anatomy where their spine is prone to injury if positioned in an unnatural way. Their spine can easily become injured when placed in a ball, as the unflat surface causes their spine to arch back, and bend in an uncomfortable U-like shape.
In addition to the risk of spinal injury, guinea pig exercise balls provide little ventilation, which can result in heat stroke. Heat stroke can be fatal and can happen to anyone including small rodents. Unlike us, guinea pigs are unable to sweat, so they are not able to cool themselves down as easily after exerting themselves. The tiny ventilation slots in the plastic ball can restrict the much needed airflow to help cool themselves down. Thus, it is another crucial reason to avoid this unsafe item!
Floortime is essential to a guinea pig's health and wellbeing. Instead of purchasing an exercise ball, allow your guinea pig to roam around in a safe supervised space in your home. It will no doubt bring on a pop-corning episode! For tips, check out our definitive guide to floortime for guinea pigs.
Like exercise balls, small pet exercise wheels also pose a risk of injuring your guinea pig’s spine. Wheels available for guinea pigs are often too small which results in moving and shaping their spines in an unnatural way.
Exercise wheels often have wire meshing and gaps, which can also pose the risk of foot injuries. If your guinea pig’s foot were to slip into the meshing gap, or got their nail stuck, it can sprain or even break their tiny feet, when the wheel is in motion.
As mentioned above, both exercise wheels and exercise balls are not safe or necessary for guinea pigs. In fact, your guinea pigs will get a lot more exercise from exploring on a flat surface as they will have the ability to run around until their heart’s content.
Salt licks for guinea pigs can easily be found in many pet stores. The question is, do guinea pigs need them? The answer is no. Unlimited hay, fresh vegetables and a small amount of pellets is all guinea pigs need for a healthy balanced diet. Guinea pigs need no more than 0.5kg of sodium a day which is easily accessed with a balanced diet and through pellets alone. Salt licks can cause harm due to guinea pigs being unable to sweat therefore they cannot expel excess sodium. Additionally extra minerals, coupled with the potential for dehydration from too much salt, puts your guinea pig at risk for bladder sludge or stones. Read more in our article, ‘Calcium in Guinea Pigs: Everything you Need to Know’.
Just like costumes for guinea pigs, guinea pig nappies or diapers should NOT be used!
Marketed to use for when your guinea pig has floor time, pet diapers prevent your guinea pig from using the floor as a toilet. As appealing as this may sound, these products are extremely harmful to your pet. For instance, urine scald is a common issue with these small pet diapers. By wearing a diaper your guinea pig will be sitting in their own urine. As we all know, Guinea pigs sure can pee and poop a lot!
Another reason why pet diapers are a big no is because it prevents the healthy function of a guinea pig's digestive system. Guinea pigs create green poop, called cecal pellets, which is often re-consumed back into their digestive system to further expel nutrients. By wearing a diaper your guinea pig is unable to carry out this very important task.
Guinea pigs generally defecate in corners of a cage and normally in places they sleep or eat. Instead of considering a diaper, place a pee pad or a towel in a corner of the room which will encourage your guinea pig to use if needed. This will keep a tidier room during floortime and will allow your guinea pig to enjoy floortime that is crucial to their health and wellbeing.
We absolutely adore our guinea pigs and think they are as cute as can be! However dressing your guinea pigs up in little outfits and accessories can be quite stressful for them. Here at Kavee our mission is to advocate for the safety and wellbeing of guinea pigs and are against dressing up guinea pigs.
Costumes can be very harmful for a variety of reasons. We tackle this very hotly debated topic in our article, ‘Can I dress up my guinea pig? Our Opinion on Small Pet Costumes’.
Unsuitable treats for guinea pigs
When you walk into a shop’s small pet section, you will quickly find yourself overwhelmed with choices of colourful treats and snacks. Many of these treats, although tempting, with their fun and cute packaging are often not suitable for guinea pigs. Here are 3 of the most common treats available:
Guinea Pig treats with seeds or nuts - seeds and nuts are both ingredients found in many small pet treats. Not only are nuts and seeds high in fat, which can lead to obesity, but also pose a choking hazard due to their small size.
Guinea Pig Yoghourt drops - colourful yoghourt treats are notorious for being marketed towards guinea pigs. These treats are not suitable as they contain dairy which is not suitable for piggies. Guinea pigs are lactose intolerant which means that their digestive tract is sensitive to any dairy the enters it. Eating yoghourt drops can result in tummy upset such as diarrhoea and even bloat, which can be fatal.
Hidden Sugar in Guinea pig treats - Many small pet treats are packed with sugar which is not essential to their diet and puts your guinea pig at risk for heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Ingredients are listed in order of highest to lowest quantity, so if sugar is written as one of the first few ingredients, it is easy to tell that the treat is not healthy.
If you have guinea pigs, you will know that guinea pigs get extremely excited when they hear you preparing their fresh daily veggies. Instead of sugary and unsuitable treats, treat your guinea pigs to the occasional serving of fruit, or sprinkle in some tasty forage mixtures into their hay. Why not print out our free guinea pig care sheet? We include both safe and unsafe foods for guinea pigs which makes an excellent checklist for when you go out shopping.
At Kavee, we offer a variety of safe guinea pig accessories for your piggies to enjoy. Our soft toys and hideys are made from the same material as our beloved fleece liners that piggies LOVE to popcorn, zoomie and sleep on. Mix and match with our exciting range of fleece tunnels, corner curtains, cuddle cups, hammocks, hideys, pillows and more.
Are you a fan of DIY? Here are some quick and easy crafts ideas for your piggies to enjoy.
DIY Toys for guinea pigs
You may be asking yourself, what are the alternatives? Well, allow yourself to be creative with your guinea pig toys and use materials you already have at home! Cardboard is a perfect example of a safe material for DIY toys. You can create fun and edible toys using a wide variety of cardboard objects at home. One great suggestion is to reuse the inner cardboard tube of toilet rolls for guinea pigs to chew on or stuff with hay for a fun treat!
Another example is by using leftover cardboard boxes and creating a cardboard maze for your guinea pigs during floor time. By cutting holes in overturned boxes and using boxes of different shapes and sizes this allows your guinea pigs to run and hide and investigate their new environment!
Make treat time more interesting by using string and carrots as a food washing line.
Simply tie the string to each end of your guinea pigs cage, making sure it is not too high and then tie pieces of food for your guinea pigs to chew and nibble on!
Top Tip: Remember when making your own DIY toys to avoid any materials that contain staples, super glue and tape. These are harmful if ingested by your guinea pigs and may be fatal. Make sure to check all materials before using them in your projects.
Safety and spreading guinea pig awareness is our number one priority at Kavee. With this helpful advice you will be more informed when making purchases for your piggies.