There are a lot of things that aspiring and brand-new guinea pig pet owners need to know about raising a guinea pig. When I was about to buy my guinea pig, one of my most pressing concerns was: Do guinea pigs stink? So, I did a little bit of studying and this was what I discovered.
Guinea pigs can stink, but it’s mostly due to the following issues: poor cage upkeep, irregular or improper grooming, and underlying illnesses. When simple maintenance is performed to keep guinea pigs and their environment clean and fresh, then your guinea pig’s aroma is barely noticeable-unless your sense of smell is very sensitive.
Whether you need tips on how to keep your home from being stinky or wondering what the root causes of why guinea pigs become smelly, you’ll find it all here with the information I picked up from my research.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Stink Up Your Room and House?
It’s important to know that typically guinea pigs like to keep themselves clean.
Although male guinea pigs (boars) are reportedly a little messier than females, most healthy guinea pigs groom themselves regularly.
However, they can’t clean their own environments. And soiled bedding is very harmful to the health of your guinea pig.
And even the most meticulous cavy will start to smell under the following conditions:
Environmental Reasons Why Guinea Pigs Can Smell
- Enclosure size is too small. Guinea pigs are going to poop and pee wherever. The less space they have, the likelier they are to drag their fur and feet through their own waste.
- Wrong bedding is being used. Certain types of bedding remain odor free a lot easier and longer than others. Other types of bedding work well, but are dangerous for guinea pigs. It’s important to find the right bedding that works for you.
- Infrequent cage cleanings. There are a number of things that need to be done daily and weekly to keep a guinea pig’s cage tidy, such as spot cleaning, washing or replacing the bedding, and cleaning your guinea pigs toys.
- Cage isn’t cleaned thoroughly. If you want your home to be as odor free as possible, routine deep cleaning a guinea pig’s cage is a must. That means removing all the bedding, wiping and washing all cozies and pigloos etc.
Physical & Health Reasons Why Guinea Pigs Can Smell
- Your guinea pig’s diet is off. Every guinea pig’s primary food should be hay. If guinea pigs eat too many vegetables it can cause digestive issues. It can also cause the smell of your cavy’s urine to become much stronger-it can really smell bad
- The Grease Gland. All guinea pigs have a grease gland. It oozes a greasy substance that is used for marking territory and attracting mates. And it can smell horrible-particularly if it isn’t cleaned regularly. Male guinea pigs (especially dominant ones) usually have a much more active grease gland, so they tend to smell more strongly than females.
- Not drinking enough water. Guinea pigs should have access to fresh water all the time. Without it, your fur baby’s urine will start to smell. Water helps them digest all of the fiber in their diet that comes from all the hay that they eat. Make sure that you have one hanging water bottle per guinea pig.
- Another illness. A strong urine smell (accompanied by squeaks when peeing) from a guinea pig could indicate a urinary tract infection (UTI). A simple test from a veterinarian can make that determination. If you suspect that your cavy has one, get in contact with a vet quickly.
- Piggie isn’t being groomed regularly. Guinea pigs can’t help but walk in their own waste-especially if their enclosure is too small. Cavies, in particular long-haired ones, need to have their hair brushed and trimmed regularly. Their hair absorbs urine when they urinate. If the situation isn’t attended to, guinea pigs can really begin to reek after a while.
If your cavy’s urine reeks, and your vet has ruled out a urinary tract infection or other health issue, try adjusting the type of vegetables and fruits you give your cavy. An excessive amount of Brussel sprouts, cabbage, and some sugary fruits, will give cavy urine a bad smell.
How to Avoid (or Get Rid of) the Cage Stench
If you want an odor free house, it’s important that leftover food, dirty bedding, poop, and urine are dealt with regularly.
1. Use Safe, Effective, Odor Free Bedding
Not all bedding is created equal.
You want a bedding that’s soft and comfortable for your guinea pigs. But, you also need one that repels odors.
It’s generally thought that aspen shavings and Carefresh are the best options available, because they do both. But there are many other bedding options.
Never use cedar or straw for bedding. Cedar is infused with oils so strong that they can give piggies an upper respiratory infection. Straw is sharp enough to cause injuries to your little friends.
2.Have a Large and Conveniently Placed Cage
Your cavies have enough room to spread out. That way they’re not traipsing through their droppings and urine-getting it on their feet and fur. This produces an awful stench quickly.
Make sure you have a big enough cage for your guinea pigs. Use the table below as a frame of reference.
|Number of Guinea Pigs||Cage Size|
|1 Guinea Pig||7.5 ft2 (minimum) but more is better|
|2 Guinea Pigs||7.5 ft2 (minimum), but more is better|
|3 Guinea Pigs||10.5 ft2 (minimum), but more is better|
|4 Guinea Pigs||13 ft2 (minimum), but more is better|
The easier it is to access your guinea pigs’ cage, the likelier you are to keep up with a proper cage cleaning routine. Make sure that your cage is placed table-height or at least coffee table-height. Preferably somewhere you can get to it without a huge struggle.
Once you have the appropriate bedding and a proper cage for your guinea pigs, you have to develop a routine that will allow you to properly clean your guinea pig’s habitat when you’re supposed to.
3. Spot Clean Daily
Spot cleaning is a must. This is when you take a hard look at the cage and take note of what needs freshening up. You really want to take care of small messes as soon as possible before they build up and become problematic.
This takes place at least every other day, but some owners will do this once a day-depending on each individual situation (e.g. number of guinea pigs,the guinea pigs’ health, degree of messiness)
Overall, spot cleaning shouldn’t take more than 5 to 10 minutes to complete, once you’ve had some practice and you’re familiar with the routine. Keep in mind you can keep your cavies in their cage while you spot clean. Just follow the steps below.
- Toss out leftover or spoiled food.
- If using fleece bedding, pick up droppings with a stiff brush and dustpan or vacuum it up with a handheld vacuum cleaner (NOTE: The vacuum cleaner is much faster)
- If using Carefresh, aspen, or kiln-dried pine bedding, remove wet or soiled bedding spots and replace with fresh bedding. Pay particular attention to the corners of the cage, the eating area, and wherever your cavy likes to go to the bathroom.
- Vacuum or sweep up any bedding, waste or food that has been kicked out of the cage.
- Add more hay to the hay racks.
- Empty, rinse, and refill the water bottles.
And you’re done! Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
Don’t use fabric softeners when washing fleece. It takes away the blanket’s wicking properties, which allow urine to pass through it and into the absorbent layer underneath it. If it doesn’t wick, the majority of your guinea pigs’ urine will pool on top of the fabric. Stink city if that happens!
4. Clean the Cage Weekly
It can take anywhere between 15 to 30 minutes to do a deep clean of a guinea pig’s cage.
This time largely depends on the size of the cage and how many cages you have. It also depends on whether you’ve found a good system or rhythm to cleaning your guinea pig’s cage.
Some people will do a deep clean every 3 to 4 days.
Be sure to do it during a time when you can take your time. If you want a clean, odor-free cage, then you want to do a thorough job – no rushing.
- Move your guinea pigs into a safe, secure location. This can be in a pet-proofed exercise pen or you can put your cavies in a run. Make sure they’re protected from other household pets and predators.
- Take everything out of the cage. Like everything. Water bottles, fleece squares, food dishes, toys need to be removed and toss soiled bedding into the trash. Vacuum up droppings.
- Wash all fleece and fabric-based items. Wash them with a hypoallergenic and unscented detergent. You should also add a cup of vinegar to help with the odor.
- Wipe out the enclosure and non-fabric items. Use a pet-friendly cleaner or make your own vinegar mixture. Then wipe again with regular water.Wipe down all non-fabric hideouts and items with the vinegar solution. Use a scrubbing brush to remove droppings they may have gotten stuck on the bottom of items. Rinse them with water and let them air dry or wipe them dry.
- Make sure the cage is dry. Give it some help by wiping up the dampness with a paper towel or rag.
- Start with the foundation. Add a layer of newspaper (or puppy pads). Then add your pine (or aspen) shaving or your fleece squares. Try to have 1.5 to 2 inches of bedding.
- Now add the rest. Arrange hidey holes and toys in the cage- new rearrangements excite guinea pigs. Replace food dishes and refilled, thoroughly washed water bottles.
- Welcome home! Place your guinea pigs back into their new sweet-smelling enclosure.
Want to see a cage cleaning in action? Play the video below.
Keep at least two sets of fleece bedding. When it’s cage cleaning day, you can use one set to reassemble your cavy’s cage while the other one is tossed into the washing machine.
Using a vinegar solution to clean your guinea pig’s cage is recommended because of its characteristics and benefits to your little friend.
Acidic vinegar is a mild acid, which means that it’s very effective at eliminating dirt and those pesky crystallized urine stains on coroplast guinea pig enclosures.
Take a peek at the table below.
|Characteristic||Benefit / Purpose|
|Deodorizer||It has a strong smell, which quickly fades. But, it’s very good at getting rid of other smells…like guinea pig urine.|
|Disinfectant||Simply put. Using it helps get rid of germs.|
|Can Use With Laundry||To keep fur baby fabrics smelling sweet, was with a cup of vinegar and a lot of hot water|
|Make a Fruit & Veggie Soak||Your little friends deserve clean fruits & veggies. So, clean yours with a produce soak of 1 cup of vinegar and 4 cups of water. Soak most produce for 10 minutes (berries for 5), then rinse thoroughly.|
5. Groom Your Guinea Pig When Necessary
Guinea pigs are self grooming. Typically, most do a good job of keeping themselves clean.
But, there are certain circumstances where your furry potato might need a little help staying clean and fresh.
Some people bathe their guinea pigs ( or skinny pigs) once every 3 months or so. Other people twice a year. Guinea pigs have sensitive skin and too many baths will dry out their skin and make it itch painfully.
Long haired breeds usually require more grooming than short-haired breeds. Here are some high-impact grooming tips that will help keep your guinea pigs smelling fresh:
- Try brushing. Notice knots and clumps of hair in your cavy’s fur? Give it a brush. Odors can be trapped in your guinea pig’s extra hair.
- Give their hair a trim. Have a long-haired guinea pig? When it gets too long, it’s dragging in poop dropping and pee.
- Clean that grease gland. Especially if you have males. You’ll find it where a guinea pig’s tail would be…if it had a tail. A lot of people have success with coconut oil and a
- Don’t neglect those nails. Poop and urine get stuck in them. Keep them trimmed to reduce the chance of poop and urine getting stuck in them.
If you’re in between bath times or your piggie pal isn’t a big fan of the suds-based approach to bathing, try one of the following tips:
- Wipe your piggie down with a piece of flannel and warm water.
- Clean him up with an unscented, hypoallergenic baby wipe.
Some pet parents use unscented, dry shampoos to freshen up their piggies when they get a little stinky. But, read the label (and the reviews) carefully. Some dry shampoos can cause upper respirator infections (URIs) in guinea pigs.
Let’s Wrap Up
By tackling the issues of keeping your guinea pig’s environment clean and fresh as well as assisting your little friend with grooming when necessary, you’re well on your way to banishing guinea pig stink from your life.
Doing these things will keep your guinea pig healthy and happy.
Let’s recap what we’ve covered:
- Use safe, effective, odor-free bedding
- Have a large and conveniently placed enclosure
- Spot clean daily
- Clean the enclosure weekly
- Groom your guinea pig when necessary
So, follow the steps and use the resources above. And your fur baby will thank you for a healthier, better-smelling room (or home) that you’ll both love.