Whichever guinea pig site you visit, I am certain that you will find the sentence of “guinea pigs are social”. So it is speculated whether they like to play outdoors. Unlike other pet animals, there are certain precautions to take before you take your furry little playmate out. If you aren’t careful in adopting these measures, then you can kiss your guinea pig a goodbye because there are hawks waiting over the clouds!
When you ask if you can keep your guinea pigs outside, I would say yes, you can TAKE them out. But to KEEP them out is not advised. Take them just before sunrise or just after sunset, as they love darkness over light. Regarding “where”, anywhere that resembles their natural habitat – such as a backyard, garden or small park. When it comes to “how”, in a nutshell, “Carefully”!
I understand that the above answer is all in a “nutshell”. Read the upcoming sections where I explain the whole tree from the top, down till the root! In the following sections, I shall explain the different exceptions, as well as reasons, for my above answers. Read with the eyes of a hawk to make sure your guinea pigs don’t fall prey to real hawks!
Can You Keep Guinea Pigs Outside?
As said above, yes you can take them outside, but keeping them outside all the time should never be on your to-do list!
Imagine you are taken to the forest, and I leave you there forever. You sure won’t love it, unless you are Bear Grylls! We did live in the forests before civilizations, but now we are practiced to our current lifestyle through generations. So, going back to the old habitat may sound adventurous, but not practical for a long time. The same way, guinea pigs did live outdoors. But now, they are domesticized as our pets. And your garden or backyard is never the same as their natural habitat that is filled with burrows and a network of underground channels.
Invariably every pet animal loves the outdoor times. Especially in the case of guinea pigs, each time you take them out, you can feel the happiness encircling you and the whole area! Watching them jump up and down, playing with each other, taking a comfortable nap on the grass, wow I can do this all day. Cages are never supposed to be the forever destiny of any animal, and everyone can agree with that.
So to sum up, yes you can take them out, but follow the precautions I describe in the upcoming sections.
When Can You Take Your Guinea Pigs Outside?
When During the Day?
In another post that I wrote, I covered why guinea pigs love to be in the dark. While you need to cater to their needs by taking them out only in the dark, you also should remember that you should not lose them. So you have to choose a time that is neither too bright nor too dark. What are the times of the day that suits that description? The time a little before sunrise, and the time that is a little after sunset. These two are great timeslots that help your furry playmates run around and play happily. At the same time, they also help you in keeping an eye on those cute little munchkins.
This conclusion is a derivative of the fact that guinea pigs should not be exposed to extreme temperatures. While the nights are way too cold for them, the day is way too hot. While nights make them prone to predators, day time makes them prone to a sunstroke.
Other facts that support this suggestion include their ability to dig tunnels. If you leave them alone without your monitoring, they can easily dig a tunnel under the fence of your garden to get out of your reach! So in the dark, leaving them alone, cannot be good for them. It is observed that they are able to see quite well in the dark. By leaving them alone in the dark outdoors, you would have blinded yourself from taking proper care of your pet. And we all know that is not what you want to do with those little pets!
I would recommend that you take them out as many times as possible in a day. But make sure you follow the above recommendations.
What Time of Year?
The question of “When can you take your guinea pigs outside?” also needs the answer based on seasons. As in, which time of year it is okay to take guinea pigs outside. Well, that is obvious from the above discussion. Definitely not to take them out in the peaks of summer, and definitely not in the peaks of winter. Although, rainy seasons might not be good for their hygiene either.
So to sum up, not in any extreme weather conditions. But we also have to remember that such weather conditions will prevail all through the year. So as an alternative to outdoors during such conditions, you can let them roam around indoors with you instead of caging them.
At Which Age?
Another perspective of answering the question of “when”, is with “when in the lifetime of guinea pigs can we take them outside?”. Well, the recommendation of experts is not to take young guinea pigs outside. When they are over 6-8 weeks of age, or a minimum of 400g in weight, whichever occurs earlier, you can take them outdoors.
Justifying this recommendation is not that big a task. Because babies, babies of all animals, are prone to heatstrokes more than the elder ones. Parents need to protect their babies from dying out of a heatstroke. Since you are like a parent to your pet, you should take responsibility. So, make sure you do keep your baby guinea pigs in temperatures between 15-25 degrees.
I know what you are thinking. “Why should taking a rodent outside be such a big deal?”. If you are, the answer to that is, it is not just any rodent. It is a pet which you should consider to be a part of your family. You should be as cautious as you will be when you take your newborn baby out. If you are not ready to take such responsibility for your pet’s life, then getting a pet should be taken off your to-do list!
Where Can You Take Your Guinea Pigs Outside?
The answer to the question lies in the question itself! OUT! Almost anywhere out is a happier place for a guinea pig when compared to a cage. But we have to cover all the different landscapes that guinea pig owners might be living.
If you live in a city and have no way of taking your guinea pig to an enclosed outdoor landscape, these are your options. Some cities have play areas dedicated to pets, which make a great platform for guinea pigs to socialize. If you have a balcony on your apartment, that might not be enough for a guinea pig to consider it an “outdoor time”. You may not be able to imitate their natural environment in that case. But it may be possible in some cases. Spreading some hay on the floor, giving toys to play with, spreading out all their foods, might get you the closest to imitating their ideal environment.
If you have a garden or a backyard, your guinea pig is blessed to be your pet. If the space you take them out is open for hawks (or foxes) to approach your guinea pigs, then make sure you too are monitoring your pets with the eyes of a hawk!
Read this post next to find the perfect outdoor hutch for your guinea pigs.
Keep in Mind:
- An agricultural field might be a great place for your guinea pigs to feel like home. But a huge land like that would make it difficult for you to catch your pets when they run. Unless you want them to vanish forever on their own, a field like that may not be a good choice. On top of that, your pets will be more prone to predators in such a field.
- Roads with active traffic must be the last thing on your mind when you are thinking of taking your guinea pigs outside. Drivers these days do not seem to be able to see humans on the road well. Let alone the little guinea pigs.
While we are on the subject of outdoors, I guess it is time to define what it means. Guinea pigs, when kept in a cage in a room, technically, the room is outdoor too. If you have no way of taking your guinea pigs outside of your home, then at least let them free inside your home. If even that is not possible, the leeeaaasst you can do for that little creature is to build the biggest possible playpen within a room. Resort to that choice only if you have exhausted yourself in trying to implement the better choices.
How to Take Your Guinea Pigs Outside?
There is no single way to take your guinea pigs outside. You open the gates to the cage or playpen, they run out like birds fly out of their cage! Just like how we handled other questions, let us approach this question also in different perspectives one by one.
The first perspective is, of course, answered when I said they run out without you having to take them. You just need to open the gates!
The second perspective, of course, is taking “how” as “with what tools”. To take dogs out, we have leashes and collar belts and what not! But for guinea pigs, you cannot practically leash them the way you leash dogs. There is not as much a market for pet products in case of guinea pigs when compared to other animals. That is the very beauty of these munchkins! They do not require any of those. They are not high-maintenance.
The third way to approach the question would be answered with the precautions to take when taking a guinea pig outdoors. Learn the signs that are bad. As in, if your guinea pigs show these signs after coming in from an outdoor session, then you need to take action, and RIGHT AWAY!
If your guinea pigs have any scratched on their body, any bites, pale gums, panting, or unresponsiveness, are all signs of an attempt of attack by a predator. By predator, we do not mean just a hawk or a fox. Even some other rodents, dogs, cats, or any animal that could cause harm! Even within guinea pigs, there could be violence for many reasons. The most probable reason is their territorial nature.
Things to Note if You are Keeping Your Guinea Pigs Outside
Yes, not taking, but actually keeping your guinea pigs outside all the time. Sounds great right? They are happy with the little time they get outdoors. So why not keep them that happy all the time? Right? Well, you are wrong. Believe me, I’ve been there. I thought the same and asked my veterinarian for suggestions on what to add to my guinea pig’s outdoor playpen. I never felt more embarrassed than that moment when he started and never stopped about how it is a terrible idea.
General Notes About Keeing Your Guinea Pigs Outside:
- Do not keep them in a predator-prone cage.
- Do not keep them out when the temperature is less than 15 degrees or more than 26 degrees.
- Do not keep them on plain sand. Having the ground covered by grass is preferable, timothy hay is an even better choice for the bedding.
Notes on Keeping Your Guinea Pigs Outside During Winter:
- The hutch needs to be insulated properly.
- The hutch needs to be kept away from the direction of high-speed winds.
- Blankets, carpets, and tarpaulin are good choices for insulation.
- While insulating, also remember that ventilation is important too. The ventilators can be in the side of the hutch where there is no wind coming from.
- Make sure you nail down the hutch to the floor to avoid its flying away due to heavy winds.
- It is better to have the hutch under a shed. This helps both with winters and rains.
- Do not have the hutch in a car garage or any shed under which there is a car, in short never near a motor vehicle. The fumes from motor vehicles are toxic to your furry playmates.
- The most IMPORTANT point is: the hutch should never run out of hay!
- If the temperature is very low that it could freeze water, do NOT put your guinea pigs outdoors. The freezing of water will make your guinea pigs lack water, get dehydrated, and even die in just one freezing night.
- Snuggle pads are sold in most pet stores and online too. These pads can be tossed into the microwave ovens to make them warm. Your guinea pigs can snuggle into these pads to make themselves warm.
- Short haired or hairless breeds of guinea pigs do not belong in cold temperatures at all.
- Fungal and bacterial infections spread only when there is moisture in the hutch. So make sure the hutch is as dry as possible.
- The grass directly growing out of the ground is not where your guinea pigs should live on. Such natural grass gets damp in cold, and it could lead to infections. So, have a hutch, have an insulating material over the floor. Over that insulation, you can add as much grass you can.
- No predators should be able to access the hutch. Making the hutch’s location predator-proof is unique to your home and amenities.
Notes on Keeping Your Guinea Pigs Outside During Summer:
- Do not let them out in direct sunlight
- When it is summer time, you have to provide many places to play around for your guinea pigs. Summers keep guinea pigs active and playful. So give them as many tunnels, boxes, and houses as possible for your guinea pigs.
- Water, water, water everywhere! Keep that in mind, guinea pigs need enough fresh water to drink. Make sure you refresh the water in their habitat as and when needed.
- Add ice cubes to the water to keep it cool.
- The hutch should not be kept under metal sheets as the area under such sheets gets extra-hot during summers.
- Just in case your piggy’s body temperature goes high, you may need backup. For this purpose, have some ice packs covered by thin cotton kept in the hutches. Your piggy would enjoy sitting on such cool packs when they get hot.
- Feed your guinea pigs with excess cucumber and other fruits that are rich in water to help with hydration.
- If the temperature is very high, take your guinea pigs immediately to a room with air conditioning or at least a fan.
WEEHOO, WEEHOO, WARNING, WARNING:
Even though the above-described steps could help with easing the temperature problems during extreme weather, nothing is guaranteed. It is always better to keep your guinea pigs indoors under optimum conditions.