Saturday, December 31, 2011

History of Cages

Like many misinformed guinea pig owners, I let my first pair of guinea pigs live in an aquarium.  I was told that drafts were bad for guinea pigs and the aquarium kept them from getting a chill.  It was tiny and I had to clean it often.  What a cramped, boring life for those pigs!

Years later, when I got guinea pigs as an adult, I bought a plastic bottomed cage with a wire top.  It was still unbelievably tiny.  I am embarrassed to even post the dimensions of that cage and two pigs lived in it for a few years.
The evolution of the guinea pig cage
I eventually realized that guinea pigs required more space to be happy and active and splurged on the biggest guinea pig/rabbit cage I could find.  It cost me nearly $100 and it was (as I discovered later) still too small for a pair of guinea pigs.


The Original C&C Cage (2x3)

Sunshine snoozing
At this point the internet was becoming a common resource and a wealth of information.  I learned about C&C (cubes and coroplast) cages at www.guineapigcages.com.  I discovered I could build a cage twice the size of my big one, for half the price.  It took me a year of looking at C&C cages and reading testimonials before deciding I really needed to build one for myself.  I had invested so much in the current cage, I couldn't see just replacing it with this home-made one.  And really, how much difference could there be in only a slightly bigger cage?

I kicked myself for weeks after I made my 2x3 C&C cage for not having done it sooner.  Truly amazing.  It was much easier to clean.  It went longer without requiring a change in bedding.  Eclair and Teddi loved doing laps in it.  They were calmer and friendlier because I wasn't hovering over little cage opening to put food in or take them out.  I was sold.

Eclair and Teddi lived in this new cage for several months.  Athena and Victoria inherited the cage and were very happy with it.


The Floating Extension (2x3.5)

Pippin and Willow check out the new level
After Athena died, and I was considering getting a pair of pigs to keep Vicky company, I looked into expanding the cage.  According to GuineaPigCages.com, the minimum sized cage for three pigs is a 2x4 grids.  I didn't really have the room in my apartment to add length to the cage.  So I cheated.

I added a 1x2 grid extension to the existing 2x3 cage as a half-level addition that hung over the main floor a bit.  Technically, it gave them the same area as a 2x4 cage, but with a 2x3.5 grid footprint.  The best part, because it was only a half-grid up from the main floor, I didn't need to make any ramps (which cut into overall area in a cage).  The girls loved the upper level, although Willow was dopey enough to walk right off the edge without looking down, first.  She got the hang of it about  the time I started to worry she'd really hurt herself.  They loved running laps and leaping up and down from that level.

Ramp-Free Second Level Instructions

The Jolly Roger

Unfortunately, Vicky, Willow and Pippin got off to a very rough start. Soon after I took the above photo I needed to separate them. I added a couple of extra grids to the existing cage and put a divider down the middle.  I had this configuration while I had the three of them.  I called it the Jolly Roger.  Yar!


Victoria was very content with the setup.  She'd eat her food right next to the grids, taunting the other girls.  She and Willow eventually worked out a truce and would often sleep next to each other, on opposite sides of the grids.





The Tri-Level Cage

The original tri-level
I decided Willow and Pippin were not getting enough floor time.  Since they were spending a lot of time in their cage, I wanted to at least give them some more space, and to make their cage fun and interesting.  So I looked to expand the cage again.

Guinea pigs are not climbers and generally speaking you want to build a cage out, not up. However, in watching Willow and Pippin, I could see that they loved hopping up and down from the second level, so I figured why not build a third storey?  I could keep all of the existing cage and the coroplast, and it would have the same footprint (which means I could keep where it was and still be able to move the cage into other rooms).

After I built it, I hated it.  I nearly disassembled it.  Even with some extra grids to make sure they wouldn't take a flying leap off the balcony, I wasn't sure it would be safe.  I thought it was ugly; I wasn't happy with the zip ties and the way the back of the cage held together.  I wanted to make sure it could take a few pounds of pig popcorning on that third level.  The girls weren't too sure of the change, either. But since it didn't look like they'd hurt themselves, I figured I'd give it a week or two for all of us to adjust.

Eventually, I got a better brand of heavy duty zip-tie and shored up the back piece so it was more stable.  I came up with a better system to stabilize the ramp (which takes a some of the weight of the top level).  Willow and Pippin got over their fear of the new and unusual layout and started hanging out on the third level.  It was a favorite place to nap on a sunny afternoon.

Jolly Roger II
After Pippin died, I adopted Pinniped and Bertie to keep Willow company.  They did alright in the tri-level cage for about two months, but when dominance battles started, I had to take down the third level.  It briefly became the Jolly Roger II.

That was dismantled after a few weeks when it was obvious I wasn't going to reconcile the three of them. It was just not enough room for the three of them to live comfortably.  I couldn't recreate the original Jolly Roger.  So I ended up restoring the tri-level cage and pulled Eclair and Teddi's old store-bought cage out of the basement.  I hated the top part of the cage, so I replaced it with grids.  That way, it could fit right up against the C&C cage.


Tri-level cage with Willow's divided cage next door
With a 6" wall between the pigs, there wasn't as much contact between Willow and the Newbies.  I wanted Willow to interact with the Newbies similar to Victoria on the old Jolly Roger.  Willow's side of the cage was really too small for her, as well.  So after several months, I replaced the old cage bottom with coroplast and set up a common gridded wall.  I get to see Willow touch noses with Bertie and share hay I stuff between the grids.  She sometimes sits and watches what the Newbies are up to.  She is definitely less lonely with this setup, and it gives her the chance to interact without fear of being beaten up.

Meanwhile, the Newbies love the three levels.  Bertie particularly enjoys running up and down the levels.  She does laps in the morning and I have a few videos of her antics.  I think she popcorns on the third level and the ramp just because it has more bounce than the ground floor!  We get a kick that they'll sometimes run up to the third level to beg for food, because they know they'll be seen.  I think all of us, both human and guinea pig, really like this cage design.

2 comments :

  1. Those were some interesting cage changes to see!

    I too had problems with certain pigs not getting along (Revy still refuses to play nicely with my other pigs) and have had to rethink cage solutions, so I can certainly empathize. I think we end up remodeling their cage at least once every 4 months - each time they gain more square footage, while we lose more workspace.

    Thanks for sharing your cage experiences!

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  2. I love seeing all these cages you've had over the years. I too have struggled with some of the same issues - active, bouncy pigs wanting more space. I think cages are always a work in progress. Thanks for sharing.

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