When you think “guinea pig house”, do you think “traditional hutch in a garden”? Think again. With a bit of imagination, guinea pigs can be kept in all sorts of locations.
A fireplace in the lounge is a standard feature of most modern homes, yet central heating is now so common that many fireplaces are rarely, if ever, used for open fires. Recently, I heard about an innovative use for an unused fireplace: a home for guinea pigs.
When two young boys, Simon and Paul, asked their pets for a pet of some kind, their parents realised they did not have the time and space for a dog in their lives and they did not want a cat. They decided to try guinea pigs. When they considered the best place for a guinea pig dwelling place, their attention fell onto an unlikely location: the fireplace.
Only simple DIY skills were required
The conversion was completed in an afternoon. The chimney flue was sealed with a wooden board to prevent a draught. The base of the fire hearth was lined with a large flat sheet of MDF wood. A child-safety fire-guard was used as the front of the cage, with hooks at either side ensuring that it was securely attached to the wall. A four-inch wooden ledge, like a skirting board, ran along the base of the fire-guard to stop bedding spilling onto the lounge carpet.
Wood shavings where then spread on the base of the cage. A few handfuls of hay in a corner provided additional bedding. A water bottle was hung from the inside of the fire-guard. A food bowl and a few toys were installed. The guinea pig cage was ready for its inhabitants. Simon and Paul chose a pair of young female guinea pigs, and they were immediately settled into their new home.
For some people, this concept may seem strange. What about the odours? The dust? The invasion on the human family living space? The truth is that well-looked after guinea pigs are smell-free and dust-free, as long as twice weekly clean-outs are carried out to prevent waste accumulation.
Skilled husbandry is the key to successful guinea pig care
Guinea pigs are fed a standard guinea pig pelleted food, with extra hay, supplemented with plenty of fresh food. When vegetables are chopped for the human family meal, the remnants are gratefully enjoyed by the guinea pigs. Greenery from the garden is also offered, with the guinea pigs particularly enjoying dandelion leaves.
Guinea pigs have a particular need for a plentiful supply of vitamin C. Simon and Paul’s pets have a Vitamin C tablet added to their drink bottle every day, so there is no needed for any pill-giving challenges. For entertainment, they are offered pieces of wood to chew on, as well as cardboard tubes to play in. Guinea pigs have no routine need for vaccinations or worming, and as long as their basic husbandry is correct, they tend to be strong, healthy creatures. They live for five to seven years, which often suits children well.
The two guinea pigs enjoy being handled by the children. They are more likely to lick theirs hands affectionately than to bite them. They are vocal animals, talking to each other in chirrups, and calling out loudly when they want food or attention. Their squeaks a are the only potentially intrusive part of the set up. Sometimes the family find that they need to turn up the volume of the television to hear it above the noisy chattering guinea pigs in their fireplace. It’s quite a contrast to the normal fireplace sound of a crackling, sparking open fire!