Everything You Need To Know About Climbing Guinea Pigs

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Guinea pigs don’t look like that can climb. With their potato-shaped body, and feeble, short legs, guinea pigs don’t scream “I love to climb.” But, can guinea pigs climb?

It’s not well known, but yes, guinea pigs can climb. Guinea pigs can climb small ramps, tubes, stairs, steps, and even cage walls – but not trees. It’s less likely for guinea pigs to climb steep inclines. Unlike other rodents, their bodies don’t have that ability.

a guinea pig wondering if he can climb

But, how well can guinea pigs climb? How high? How steep? Why on earth do they climb, anyway?

No worries. I gotcha covered. Let’s get those questions answered in detail. And because you’re awesome, I’m gonna give you some tips on how to stop your guinea pigs from climbing so much.

Can Guinea Pigs Climb?

a tip that answers the question can guinea pigs climb
I don’t care what those posts on other blogs say. I’m telling you that guinea pigs can climb.

Yes, guinea pigs can climb. And they can do it without hurting themselves, too. They can climb tiny stairs, ramps, and tubes. But, it’s not the norm. Typically, you’ll see younger, motivated guinea pigs trying to climb anything and everything.

If a surface is too steep to climb (say the incline is higher than 30° or so), then your little friends might get hurt trying to climb it.

Actually, the sight of something that steep would probably scare them. And piggies aren’t climbing up (or on) anything that make them nervous. So good job on not building something that high in the first place (or at least I hope you haven’t).

Here’s a list of things that guinea pigs can’t climb:

  • Ladders
  • Trees
  • Fences (they’re much more likely to burrow underneath them)
  • Cages that are too tall (if you don’t want them running for the hills)
  • Any other surface that’s too high or steep (you name it)

However, they can scale up SOME vertical surfaces, like the wall of a C&C cage. If the cage is that is 10 – 18 inches high or less, that is.

So the best option is to make their cages high, at least 24 inches. This’ll *hopefully* stop them from climbing over C&C cage walls and escaping. Or you can invest in a cage with a top.

Now, you know the nitty gritty about what guinea pigs can climb, let’s dive into…

Are Guinea Pigs Good Climbers?

Yes, most guinea pigs can be good climbers if provided with tubes, tunnels, steps, or ramps – and enough encouragement to practice. Typically, they also need an incline of no more than 30°, otherwise, most they won’t even try to climb it. A particularly motivated piggie might still give it a go.

And it helps if your piggies have something to grip onto – like wire mesh or a textured ramp. The way to see if guinea pigs are good climbers is to look at the surface they are climbing and how steep it is.

But, why aren’t guinea pigs as good at climbing as other rodents (like hamsters, rats, and mice)?

Let’s take a peek:

  • Body shape: Guinea pigs have a “potato-shaped” body. This makes them short, stocky, and top-heavy. So they’re not very agile like other rodents.
  • No tails: Also, guinea pigs don’t have long tails that help them balance (unlike other rodents). So they’re a bit more unbalanced and less graceful when they move.
  • Short legs: Guinea pigs have shorter legs than other rodents (and mammals in general). In particular, their front legs are weak. This makes it harder for them to generate the power needed to jump and climb.
  • Natural instincts: In the wild, guinea pigs live in burrows underground. So, they’re natural diggers. But because of this, they have lost their ability to climb trees like other rodents can.

Now that we know WHY guinea pigs aren’t the BEST climbers, let’s move on to…

How High Can Guinea Pigs Climb?

As a general rule: guinea pigs can climb vertical surfaces as high as 10 inches – as long as there’s something for them to grip with their legs and feet. But, social proof (and Youtube) shows that some motivated guinea pigs can climb (or jump) higher than that.

So, if you want to know the exact answer to “how high can guinea pigs climb?” The answer is: it depends on the guinea pig.

Some guinea pigs are better climbers than others. Age, health, and motivation all play a part in how high they can climb.

This video below shows a piggie scaling some sort of divider wall that’s only about 10 inches high:

Just look at this piggie climb!

As you can see, the little guy had no problem at all scaling the wall and jumping down on the other side – once he gets his momentum. And he did it without any help from his human.

But, there is one other factor that’s important to consider…

The surface they’re trying to climb.

Guinea pigs have short, stubby legs and small paws. So, they need a smooth, textured surface to grip onto when climbing. Otherwise, they’ll just slip and slide right back down.

Do Guinea Pigs Like To Climb?

a circle graph that explains that how many guinea pigs like climbing

Many guinea pigs like to climb. But, not all of them do. It depends on the guinea pig’s personality and health. Some guinea pigs are naturally curious and adventurous. Other guinea pigs are more timid and prefer to stay close to the ground.

To get a little bit of social proof, I did a manual survey to see how popular climbing was among guinea pigs. I went into a few different forums and noted how many pet parents that had piggies that liked to climb versus how many didn’t.

Out of the 169 examples that I looked at, about 89 of them showed no interest in climbing whatsoever. The other 80 guinea pigs all enjoyed scaling something at some point – whether it was a cage, a ramp, a piece of furniture, or even their human.

Other highlights included:

  • Most of the pets parents mentioned that their piggies like to escape their C&C cage regularly (all of them invested in a cage cover or a new cage with a lid)
  • In a herd (or a pair) some piggies liked climbing while others didn’t
  • The desire to visit females or to get food were the biggest motivators for climbing
  • Males seemed to be more likely to want to escape their cages than girls (probably because of the whole ‘wanting to mate’ thing)

So, it seems that most guinea pigs like to climb to some degree. If your guinea pig is one of the 89 that doesn’t like to climb, don’t worry. There are plenty of other activities they can do to stay active and healthy.

Can Guinea Pigs Climb Out Of Their Cages? 

Yes, guinea pigs can climb out of their cages. Your guinea pigs cage needs to be at least 24 inches tall to stop them from escaping. But, it’s not just the height of the cage that you need to worry about. The type of cage is also important.

For example, if you have a C&C cage with grids that are too wide, baby guinea pigs guinea pigs will be able to squeeze through the holes and escape. The same goes for any other cage that has bars that are more than 2 inches apart.

That said, – as long as it’s at least 24 inches high (yep, that magic number again). Cavies’ pens with lids usually keep them safe from other animals and from being harmed externally.

Reasons Why Guinea Pigs Would Climb Out Of Their Cage

a funny meme about guinea pigs climbing

I know, what you’re thinking. You’ve spent so much time making your piggies’ cage a palace of guinea pig luxury. Why on earth would they want to leave it?

Well, there’s a few reasons:

1. Scared

If something scares your guinea pig, their first instinct is to run away and hide. This includes other animals, loud noises, and even humans if they’re not used to being around them. If your guinea pig feels unsafe, they might try to escape their cage to find a safer place to hide.

And if a rat or other small animal somehow gets into their cage, your guinea pig will definitely try to escape.

2. For Fun

Several pet parents say that their friends are like little Houdinis. They enjoy climbing out of their cages (or their pens) just for the sake of it. It’s something new and exciting for them to do.

Guinea pigs are actually curious creatures when you think about it. After they adjust to a new home, they’re always exploring their surroundings and trying new things. So, it’s not surprising that some of them would want to see what’s on the other side of the cage.

3. Wants Food 

Yummy treats are big motivator to piggies. If your fur babies hear the delectable sound of a crinkly bag (veggies, anyone?), they might try to escape their cage to get at whatever tasty snack you have. Keep in mind the average piggie will do other things to let you know that they want some food like:

  • biting the bars of the cage
  • wheeking
  • or other things that don’t involve climbing

But, if you have a climbing piggie…

Well, then expect that they’ll want to investigate any and all food related activity.

Using food as a motivator is a training technique that you can use to get your guinea pig to do tricks – including climbing if you want them to.

4. Trying To Mate

If you have a male guinea pig, he might try to escape his cage if he smells a female in heat. Female guinea pigs (sows) go into heat every 16 to 21 days.

If you have more than one sow, then this could EASILY become a regular occurrence. Because female piggies will often go into heat at different times. And each time one of them is in heat, your male guinea pig will likely want to escape to find her.

You might want to consider housing your male and female guinea pigs in different rooms if this is an issue.

5. Bored 

Guinea pigs need a lot of mental stimulation. They’re awake most of the day. It’s easy to get bored if you don’t have new things to do. So, they might start looking for ways to entertain themselves – like climbing out of their cage.

Don’t think that just because your guinea pig is bored that they’ll automatically want to climb out of their cage. Some will (the escape artist piggies) , but others will find other ways to pass the time like:

  • chewing on the bars of their cage
  • digging in their hay
  • or playing with each other (if they have a friendly cage mate)

How To Stop Guinea Pigs From Climbing Out Of Their Cages

So, there’s the problem. Now, what do you do about it? Well, here’s some ideas:

1. Use A Cage With High Walls

The best way to prevent cavies from climbing is to make sure their cages have high walls. Typically, adult guinea pigs can’t climb more than 18 inches high.

So, any standard guinea pig cage that you use should be 24 inches tall. That’s a requirement if you have climbers. If you don’t, then you can easily get away with an 18 inch high grid if you’re using a C&S cage.

2. Add A Top To The Cage

Another tactic to keep your little friends is to get a top for your cage. If you have a C and C cage, snag a few extra grids. You can zip-tie them together to make a roof for the cage.

It can be a little tricky getting the grids to stay together, but it’s doable. Just make sure the zip-ties are tight and secure.

3. Buy A Cage That Already Has A Top

If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of making a top for a C&C cage, then you can purchase an enclosed guinea pig cage. The Midwest brand is the standard go-to for lots of piggie parents. It comes ready-to-assemble and already has a top.

You can always DIY an enclosed cage if you’re feeling creative and have some extra time on your hands. (But, that’s a project for another day).

Can Guinea Pigs Climb Stairs?

Yes, guinea pigs can climb stairs as long as they’re not too steep. And yes, I’m talking about regular stairs that you find in the average home.

Typically, cavies can climb a stair with an average height of 7.5 inches and an incline of 30°. Anything higher or steeper could be dangerous to them. 

Climbing up is one thing. But, climbing down is a whole different story. It’s a bit trickier. And some guinea pigs can’t do it.

So, if you have stairs in your home and your piggie gets loose, then there’s a good chance they’ll get stuck on the way down. (Uhhhh, please don’t let that happen.)

Here’s a video of a guinea pig climbing up stairs:

Can Guinea Pigs Climb Ramps? 

Guinea pigs can climb ramps. Plus, they can do it safely as long as the incline isn’t too steep. Some Guinea pigs are more agile (like those youngsters) and excited to climb ramps than others.

The ramp must be set up in a way that makes it easy for cavies to climb. It needs to be short with a gradual incline. If it’s too long or too steep, then your guinea pig might have trouble getting to the top.

Here are some helpful tips when setting up a ramp for your cavy:

1. Ramps Should Be Short

A good rule of thumb is that the ramp shouldn’t be longer than about a foot (12 inches long).

If you go longer, there’s a chance your piggie may get too scared to make it to the top. Never underestimate the power of a ramp’s length in the minds of these tiny creatures.

2. Ramps Should Have A Gradual Incline

You don’t want the incline to be too steep – somewhere around 30° to 40% should do the trick. If it’s any steeper than that, then your guinea pig might have some trouble getting to the top. You want to give your piggie a little boost, not make it impossible for them to get up the ramp.

3. Make Sure The Ramp Is Sturdy

You don’t want your cavy to take a tumble while climbing the ramp. (Seriously, it wouldn’t be pretty).

So, make sure the ramp is sturdy and won’t collapse while they’re on it. You can use the following materials as ramps:

  • Wood
  • Sturdy Cardboard
  • PVC pipe (at least 5 to 6 inches in diameter)

4.Use A Non-Slip Surface

The surface of the ramp should be non-slip. That way, your guinea pig can get a good grip and won’t slip and fall.

Some pet parents line ramps with pajama sleeves, fleece, or light, cotton towels. Others use non-slip shelf liner or scraps of carpeting. Whatever you put in the tube, make sure that your piggies aren’t nibbling at it.

5. Enclose the Ramp

If you use a tubes, a sturdy tunnel, or a PVC pipe with air holes in it, you don’t have to worry about your guinea pig falling off the sides. This will help keep your piggie safe as they’re climbing.

And it’ll also make them a lot more likely to try climbing the ramp. Some of your little friends might feel a little anxious about being so high off the ground (poor, little things!).

Remember that what seems like a short distance to you is a lot farther for your guinea pig. So, it’s important that the sides of the ramp are enclosed.

Here’s a video of a guinea pig using a ramp:

Can Guinea Pigs Climb Walls?

The answer to this question is a resounding no, climb walls.

Their stubby, little, potato bodies aren’t made for it and they don’t have the strength to pull themselves up. So, if you’re looking for a pet that can climb walls, then you’re better off getting a lizard or a gecko.

But that doesn’t mean that guinea pigs can’t have some fun climbing things.

They might not be able to scale the walls, but they can climb ramps, tubes, and other low obstacles. Just make sure that whatever you put in their cage is safe for them to use.

Anything higher than 18 inches is a challenging task for them. Their body anatomy doesn’t allow them to climb high walls. 

Can Guinea Pigs Climb Trees?

As a rule of thumb, guinea pigs can’t climb trees. Like with walls, their stubby little bodies and short legs just aren’t made for it.

Even though piggies have claws, they’re only good for burrowing – which is a natural behavior for them.

So, if you’re looking for a pet that can climb trees, then you might want to get a squirrel or a bird instead.

Can Guinea Pigs Climb Ladders?

Guinea pigs can’t climb ladders. In fact, it’s dangerous for guinea pigs to climb them. Their weak front legs and short back legs just can’t support their weight on the rungs, so they could easily fall and hurt themselves.

If you want your guinea pig to get some exercise, then you might want to consider getting them a ramp or a tube. Just be sure to get the right size and make sure it’s sturdy enough to support their weight, and that the incline is around 30 to 40 degrees.

Is It Bad For Guinea Pigs to Climb?

It’s bad for guinea pigs to climb if, they’re climbing something:

  • with an incline of over 40° 
  • A vertical height that is taller than 18 inches
  • Heights with sharp edges that can hurt them.
  • Heights with a rough or wire texture that can harm their feet
  • Heights with smoother surfaces that they can slip on

To see if climbing is bad for your cavies, you need to look at the surface they will be climbing, how dangerous it could be, how high it is, and how agile your cavies are.

How Can I Help My Guinea Pig to Enjoy Climbing More?

Each guinea pig is different. Some are able to climb easily, while others avoid heights. If your guinea pigs are afraid of heights, there are a few things you can do to help them become better climbers.

You can help your pet climb better by making sure the inclines and height are ideal for them. You can do this by building their confidence so they don’t feel scared when climbing. Here’s some suggestions:

  • Provide them climbing ramps: These ramps in their cages give them something to explore and try out their hidden climbing powers (hey, there might a few star climbers in your herd).
  • Bribe them with treats: yes, guinea pigs love food, and a great way to help them climb is to give them some treats. For instance, if you want to lure them to climbing stairs, you can put some apple cutting at each step. After eating an apple, your cavy would try to climb heights upon seeing other cuttings above. 

But, don’t expect them to be climbing lovers from the first day of climbing. That’s unlikely. It’s all about confidence, and it may take some time to build.

And if your guinea pig doesn’t enjoy climbing, that’s okay too. Just let them be and don’t force them to do something they’re not comfortable with.

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Final Thoughts

Are piggies the most graceful or the best climbers? No, but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy a good climb every now and then. Just be sure to provide them with the right equipment and surfaces to make it safe and fun for everyone.

Do your piggies like to climb? If so, what’s their favorite thing to climb on? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy cavy climbing!

Animal Well-Being Questions: Guinea Pigs. (n.d.). College of Agriculture & Natural Resources. https://www.canr.msu.edu/uploads/236/67842/cavy_bookmarks_web_3up-6-21-16-AA.pdf

Do Guinea pigs like to climb? We investigate • 2022 ruffle snuffle. (2021, November 4). Ruffle Snuffle – Life with Pets. https://www.rufflesnuffle.co.uk/do-guinea-pigs-like-to-climb/

Guidelines for Housing Of Guinea Pigs. (n.d.). CiteSeerX. https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.674.3852&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Guinea pigs. (n.d.). PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7151879/

How to care for your pet Guinea pig » small animal hospital » college of veterinary medicine » University of Florida. (n.d.). Small Animal Hospital » College of Veterinary Medicine » University of Florida. https://smallanimal.vethospital.ufl.edu/clinical-services/zoological-medicine/how-to-care-for-your-pet-guinea-pig/

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