You’d be surprised to know that guinea pigs can be trained to use a litter box, quite like your cat or dog.
This makes life easier for you because you don’t have to clean their mess from all over the cage or house in case your guinea pigs wander around outside their cage.
However, since they take longer to adjust to their environment, you’ll have to put in more effort, while also remembering that they might not pick up signals as fast as other animals.
Here are a few simple steps you can take to potty train your tiny companion:
Getting the Litter Box Ready for Guinea Pigs
Purchase a litter box for small mammals or make one at home by yourself. Make sure that the box is easily accessible for the guinea pig.
Make the sides lower so that they can walk into the box easily and ensure that the box is large enough for the entire guinea pig to comfortably fit inside.
Setting Up Inside the Box
Another important factor to keep in mind is how often you plan on cleaning out the box.
If you use bedding, it can become much harder to clean.
While bedding it might make the litter box more comfortable for your guinea pig to use and quicken the training process, cleaning the cloth will take more time.
If you do decide on bedding, add one that smells like the cage and the environment the guinea pig is used to, because this makes the space familiar to them.
They’re more likely to use a box that they don’t have to take the time to become accustomed to.
You can also place newspaper or old magazines under the cloth.
This way, whenever you decide to change the cloth, you just have to pick up the newspaper and throw it out.
If you’re looking for litter options, organic and paper-based litters are a good option.
Using wood litter can tamper with your guinea pig’s breathing.
Deciding a Place for the Litter Box
First and foremost, keep a careful watch on where your guinea pig goes to use the bathroom.
Chances are, he goes to the same area each time and it has become a designated area for him to go to.
If you place the box there, there are more chances for him to use the box as his potty.
Another important factor to keep in mind is that whatever material you use, make sure that it is not the same as what you’ve used for the guinea pig’s bed.
He needs to be able to tell the difference between where he sleeps and where he uses the bathroom.
Choose a Dark Spot
Guinea pigs prefer places that are dark for where they go to do their business because they feel safer.
The reason why guinea pigs usually only poop in dark places is because of a survival instinct from the wild.
Predators can use their scents to track them down and eat them, so they only go to the bathroom in places that are sheltered and secure.
When deciding a spot to place the box, go for one that is covered from all sides so it creates a dark area within.
Another tactic you can use is to place a lamp on the other side of the cage, away from the litter box, so that your guinea pig sees the litter box as a safe, dark area for it to use.
Make it a Safe Space
One factor in encouraging your guinea pig to use the litter box is whether it is near his food.
Since guinea pigs have no issues eating and pooping in the same place, they see the same area as safe for both eating and pooping.
So, if you place the litter box where your guinea pig is most likely to go to eat and use the bathroom, there are more chances that they’ll have an easier time adjusting to the box.
You can also install his tunnel nearby, so he knows that this area is a safe space for him.
Place Multiple Boxes
Guinea pigs have small bladders and need to poop almost every 15-20 minutes.
If you only keep one box that can be accessed from outside the cage, he might not be able to make it back to the box in time to use it.
This is why you should place more boxes throughout your house and train him for each one.
In instances where you have a very large cage, you can even have two boxes in one cage.
Start the Training
One thing that is extremely important to keep in mind is that guinea pigs are rodents and do not adjust as easily to change as other domesticated pets you have.
Your dog knows how to signal to you that he needs to be let out to use the loo, while your cat may purr or show that she is bothered by something, letting you know that they need to be allowed to do their business.
Guinea pigs belong to a family of animals that prefer to use the bathroom at any place they are.
For them, it doesn’t even matter if they eat and sleep at the same place that they are pooping at.
This is where you need to draw the line. With a guinea pig, it will take a lot more time and investment on your part, with the risk that it still won’t be 100% successful all the time.
Understand Their Behavior
The first step to teaching your guinea pig about using the litter box is learning about his pooping habits yourself.
If he starts to fidget or get irritated every time before he uses the bathroom, this is a signal to you to take him near the litter box before he has already relieved himself.
Whenever you notice these behaviors, take the guinea pig to the litter box and let him use it.
Since they don’t know how to express themselves the way cats and dogs do, they’re only going to get the hang of using the box if you know exactly when to take them there.
Teach Them How to Use the Box
If possible, set up more than one litter box, so that your guinea pig has more options if he’s not near the box.
In order to help the guinea pig understand what the box is for, carry him to the box when he’s outside of the cage as well, so that he knows he has to go to the box no matter where he is.
It’s also important to teach your guinea pig how to jump inside the box and not attempt to climb inside it.
All you’ll need is a treat for them to get a hang of jumping inside. If they climb in, it makes a mess for you because the box can tip over and you will have to clean it up.
One trick to get your guinea pig to stay inside the litter box while it does its business is to place stacks of hay beside the box, at a distance that he can easily munch on it.
This way, you increase your chances of getting your guinea pig to stay inside the box for longer durations and not run away from the unfamiliar surroundings.
Give Them Rewards
One similarity that guinea pigs and other pets have is that they learn better through rewards.
Don’t lose hope if you feel like your guinea pig isn’t picking up the idea as fast as you’d like and, instead, encourage them regularly by giving them treats.
It’s also possible that your guinea pig does not catch on as fast as other guinea pigs, in which case you might have to think of a reward that’s specific to your pet only.
Whenever you sense that your guinea pig is about to use the bathroom, pick him up and place him inside the litter box. Once he has used the bathroom inside the box, give him a reward.
Although your guinea pig will initially not understand what the treats are for, if you do this consistently, they will, like most animals, understand that this reinforcement only comes after they’ve successfully pooped in the litter box.
Don’t Be Harsh
Guinea pigs are very scared and timid creatures.
They have a hard time adjusting to change and barely have any response when something or someone frightens them.
They can even forget all their training just because you moved the location of the box from one place to another and this can become frustrating.
However, if you get angry at your guinea pig or scold him for not pooping in the box every once in a while, you’re only creating anxiety within the animal, because he cannot understand what you’re yelling about.
An essential part of creating trust with the animal is by showing that you are loving and gentle.
Give Them Time
Many guinea pig owners don’t train their guinea pigs because it’s difficult and takes too much time.
It’s easier to just clean out the cage every day than put in the effort to teach the guinea pig to use a certain box.
However, if you’ve set your mind to teaching your furry friend the ways of the litter box, you have to be willing to put in the time it will take.
They are tiny creatures with small hearts and are easily intimidated by change.
Even changing their cage around can make them forget whatever training you’ve given them.
If you’ve recently gotten your pet, it is possible that he needs time just to adjust to you and the surroundings.
Over time, he will learn to use the box, but he can’t do so without your patience and guidance.
Precautions to Take While Potty Training Your Guinea Pig
Pet parents who want to train their guinea pigs outside their cage need to make sure that there are no open vents.
Since guinea pigs like to poop in dark corners, they can easily venture off. It’s better to cover any dark corners in the area except for the one with the litter tray.
It’s also important that you keep wires off the floor. Place them where your guinea pig can’t get to them, so they can remain safe.
Guinea pigs make a great pet when you have a small living area but still want to have a friend around.
They’re not very high maintenance and spend most of their time playing inside their cage.
If you can manage to keep the cage clean by installing a litter box, guinea pig maintenance becomes a lot easier.
With a little time, energy, and dedication, you can teach your guinea pig to use the litter box too.
Just like any other animal that needs to understand new environments, he will take time and there will still be accidents, but you have to remember to keep a positive attitude.
Happy potty training your guinea pig!
Other articles you may also like: