Tuesday, February 17, 2009

7 weeks - switch to fleece bedding

I spent much of the first week reading everything I could about how to care for these two little sweeties.

I knew we had not chosen the right setup because in the first few days I would find Harmony in the pigloo and Kazula balled up in a corner of the cage with no where to go. I felt terrible. My searches led me to guineapigcages.com, where I discovered a lot of valuable information.

1. You can use fabric such as fleece in guinea pig cages. I had assumed they would chew it. Mine do not. This means you can line the cage with washable fleece instead of using commercial, disposable bedding. Our piggies were scaring themselves in the cage because when they would try and run and play, their feet would slip on the bedding and make a noise that frightened them. The day we switched to fleece, their level of contentment and playfulness transformed. They haven't had a day without popcorning (jumping for joy) since.

2. You can sew hidey houses and other accessories your piggies. This is my territory! I've always loved to sew (never with instructions, just intuitively) and I have a lot of leftover fabric from my hand-dyed fabric business, so this opened up a whole new world. Piggies can use hidey houses, piggie beds like cats use, hammocks suspended slightly off the cage bottom, and stuffed toys to drag around.

3. Each piggie needs their own hidey house. This doesn't mean one always uses the same hidey, but there always has to be at least one available for each pig. I felt terrible in our first week when I found Kazula balled up in a corner of the cage because Harmony had taken over the hidey house. And it wasn't Harmony's fault: she is definitely much more skittish and really needed to hide. But Kazula needed a warm safe place to hide too.

I set to work immediately and transformed the cage. I found fleece blankets at the thrift store and I had a supply of old towels.

Fleece Bedding
-bottom layer is newspaper
-middle layer is towels
-top layer is fleece blanket, cut to the floor size of the cage

I noticed that some cavy slaves (piggie owners) choose to have a bathroom area at one end of the cage with disposable bedding and then a fleece area. I suspected that our two girls might cling to a familiar area and avoid the fleece so I decided to go all-fleece. I also would rather wash fleece than buy and throw out Carefresh.

Our piggies p&p (pee and poop) where they eat, so I put extra towel and newspaper under the fleece in that area. We designated one end of the cage as the kitchen/bathroom and that has worked out really well. The hay determines where they p & p. They always go in the same areas so clean up is predictable and simple.

Diet and Nutrition
There is a very helpful list here [http://www.guineapigcages.com/forum/diet-nutrition/22156-everything-you-need-know-about-guinea-pigs-diet-read-me-nutrition-charts-info.html] of what guinea pigs can eat and how often. People sometimes think they can have the same diet as hamsters and rabbits and this is not the case at all. Think of the food chain: if any one type of animal had the identical needs of another, the chain would not work. We stick to the recommendations on the list, and wish that we all treated our own bodies with the same care!

This week (week 7) I introduced parsley. They had been having the usual hay and pellets, as well as romaine, carrot, and celery. Kazula came and sniffed the parsley and then ran for her life! I've noticed that whenever I change something in the cage or offer a new food, one piggie will check it out and then go tell the other about it. You can actually hear them chatting about it. Then the second pig will come have a look. They're really curious animals. It reminds me of my (dearly departed) cats who would also investigate anything new we would bring into the house, and usually end up sleeping in whatever box or shopping bag was associated with it. Piggies are so sweet.

On this day, Kazula had a funny response to the acute scent of the parsley, ran and told Harmony. Harmony was still extremely skittish at this point but she still came and had a nibble. And then gobbled up the whole thing. Parsely is still Harmony's favourite food, though each day seems to have different tastes. Kazula is a romaine girl. Though I feed both of them a variety of veggies.

I notice they gobble up the easy-to-chew foods first (romaine and parsley) and then come back to the 'working foods' like carrot, celery, red and green peppers, cucumber, and so on. Zucchini is a least favourite and often doesn't get fully eaten.

Introduction to the new fleece bedding
The day we switched them to fleece bedding was really memorable. They ran around completely uninhibited and popcorned (guiena pig talk for jumping for joy) like we had never seen before. I also sewed a couple of fleece tunnels, lined with a synthetic fabric meant to be like sheepskin (they are about 12" long and the openings are approximately 6" in diameter). They loved their tunnels immediately. That night they each slept in a relaxed position for the first time since we had them. I glanced in to see Harmony with her arms (are they called arms?) and legs spread wide, head relaxed on a fold of the tunnel. Bliss!

The piggies never chew the tunnels but they do monkey around on them: sometimes they jump over them or climb on top of them, squishing them down. But then they run inside and plump them back up with the tops of their heads! So cute. I think it's a fun game for them. I'm going to post some videos showing their hidey tunnel monkey business.

Between the fleece bedding and the comfy hidey tunnels, I felt like we were finally on the right track. Next came the loft and ramp....


  1. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  2. Read your blog and loved it, but how did you keep the fleece lining covering the bottom of the cage without the guineas 'ruckling'it up with their feet and pushing it about the cage? I have got 6 cages and this idea sounds cheaper and more comfortable for the guineas than the weekly change of sawdust, which is expensive. Do you hold the fleece down to the bottom of the cage with anything to stop the guineas doing this.


  3. Hi Wendy

    The fleece is wider than the bottom of the cage and folded it up around the plastic cardboard liner that runs the whole way around the perimeter (it's about 8" high around the sides). I keep the fleece in place with bulldog clips from an office supply store.

    Also, the fleece kind of naturally sticks to the towels underneath it, which further holds it in place. I use towel and fleece for our rabbit as well.


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