Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ramps in Piggie Cages

Ramps, Stairs, and Ladders

If your pets' cage is split over several levels, they will need some way of getting up and down between them. Ramps are the best thing for the job, although there are alternatives if you don't have much space. You can also use guinea pig ramps to allow your cavies to get in and out of their cage, and to add interest to a run or playpen.


Guinea pigs are most comfortable walking on solid, flat surfaces, so a ramp is the best thing to use if you need to give your animals something to walk up and down. Try to keep the angle as shallow as possible by getting a ramp of a good length - if it is too short and too steep, your pets will have difficulty getting up and down it, and may avoid using it completely.

A cage ramp
Provide ramps for your pets to move between different cage levels. This one doubles back on itself to save space.

Many pet stores sell ramps which are made from solid wood. These are ok, but can be a little uncomfortable on your guinea pigs' feet, and you might also find that they can't get enough grip to walk up it properly. You can fix both of these problems by covering the ramp with a soft, grippy material such as carpet, towelling, or rubber.

If your guinea pigs' cage doesn't have much room for a ramp, you can buy or make one which doubles back on itself. This gives the benefits of a shallow angle without taking up lots of space. These are particularly common in hutches which have a built-in guinea pig run underneath.

When buying or making a guinea pig ramp, make sure it has plenty of width. This will make your cavies feel safer and more confident when using it.


If your pets have a steep angle to climb, or if you are very pushed for space, you can use stairs rather than a ramp. Guinea pigs are actually quite comfortable using them, and can get up some surprisingly large heights - they can even be taught to climb the stairs in your home! When buying them, make sure that each step is large enough for them to sit comfortably before tackling the next one.

Wooden stairs
Stairs are a good alternative if you haven't got space for a ramp.


Guinea pigs have very delicate, sensitive feet which makes it painful for them to walk on wire mesh ladders, so they should be avoided. They also tend to be far too steep for your cavies to climb, so you will find they won't use them anyway.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Litter-training Piggies - Is it possible?

When new pet owners bring their furry little bundles of joy home, it doesn’t take them long to realize how much poop piggies can produce. This often leaves them asking the question: Can I litter train my guinea pigs? The answer quite simply is yes, but only to a certain extent.

If you want your pigs to only use their litter box and never have accidents when they are out of their cage, then perhaps you are setting your standards too high. Be realistic. If your guinea pig manages to use it’s litter box even just 50% of the time, it will still help keep the cage tidy and reduce your work for cage clean outs.

We’ve all seen the small corner litter trays available at pet supply stores for various sized rodents, and dream that perhaps our piggies, too, could learn to be more ‘accurate’ with where they go. Well, the next time you’re shopping, I suggest you pick one up to try it with your piggies, or try constructing your own.

Both female and male guinea pigs can be territorial and like to scent mark around the cage. Often guinea pigs will choose corners in their cage to go to the bathroom in, constantly returning to the same corner. When you have seen that your guinea pig has chosen a corner, place the litter box in the spot. Put your normal bedding in the litter box before trying any new types of litter.

Steps for Success

  • Allow your guinea pigs to scope out their perfect toilet corner, before placing a litter tray in the cage
  • Put the litter tray in the corner that the guinea pigs seem to pee/poop in the most
  • Fill the litter box with a familiar smelling and looking litter to the one the guinea pigs are currently on
  • Wait to ensure that the guinea pigs are content using the same corner before changing the litter
  • Change the litter box every three days as needed, and wash it every other week. This ensures that the guinea pigs’ scent is still strong on it, so they will more willingly go back to use the litter box and ‘re-scent’ it.

If all succeeds, your piggie should still be happy to go in his/her chosen corner; but now you can more easily clean it by simply emptying and refilling the litter box. Some guinea pig owners have tried putting food dishes in their litter trays so that as they eat, they will also pee/poop in the same location. This is a conflicting method as many animals avoid urinating and defecating near their food source. As your guinea pig becomes more comfortable with using the litter tray, try using your preferred litter such as Carefresh or Yesterday’s News.

Despite guinea pigs sometimes not seeming to be the brightest, like when they popcorn, they are surprisingly smart and clean animals. So give your guinea pig the chance to try the litter box, and maybe they’ll be happier to use it than you think!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Homemade Rat Toys

Rats are intelligent and playful and need a variety of toys to keep them amused and active. With a little creativity, you can provide inexpensive and entertaining homemade toys in addition to a variety of store-bought toys.

Safety First 
The most important thing when choosing any pet toy is that it is safe. Anything you give your rat must be non toxic, and you should also watch bits that might be swallowed and cause a blockage of the digestive tract. This includes threads off of fabric items and ropes. Also, loose threads might become wrapped around toes or pose a strangulation risk (fleece is a good choice as it avoids the loose thread problem).

Cardboard boxes and rolls from paper towels, toilet paper, and other rolls make good toys. Boxes are great for hiding in, though they will often be shredded fairly quickly (but that is fun too).

Another great idea is to take a variety of boxes and other items to create a rat playhouse for enjoyment outside of the cage during playtime. You can tape together a bunch of boxes and create a network of rooms connected by doors, ramps, bridges and ladders. See an example at The Dapper Rat.

Some concerns have been raised about potential toxicity of the ink and glues used in cardboard and paper towel roll cores. Little data is available on the safety of these; I think these items are safe in moderation, but efforts should be made to use plain cardboard or paper whenever possible.

Most rats love shredding paper. Small plain brown paper lunch bags are great for playing in as well as shredding. Crumpled up paper makes a fun, if temporary, ball. Your rats will likely love digging, diving, and hiding in a plastic bin or box filled with crumpled or shredded paper. Paper towels and tissues are also great for shredding, and your rats can make a nice bed out of these too.

Also, try wrapping or folding a piece of paper in layers around a favorite treat; shredding and unwrapping the treat will keep your rat busy for a while.

Wood is good for chewing (and rats need to chew on to keep their teeth in good condition). Make sure wood is untreated, not painted, and non-toxic. Branches from apple or willow trees are good as well (make sure no pesticides have been used).

Digging Box
Hard-shelled nuts provide good chewing opportunities as well as a tasty treat inside (use sparingly as many nuts are high in fats).

Most rats love a digging box. Take a small cat litter pan or other shallow plastic box and fill it halfway with plain sterilized potting soil (not treated with any chemicals or fertilizer, and with no additives like vermiculite). Plant some birdseed or wheat grass and water it for a while to let the seeds sprout and grow for a bit, then let your rats go crazy in the box. To minimize the mess, don't water the box for a day or two before offering it to your rats, and place it a bathtub or spread a tablecloth or newspapers around the box to contain the mess. Your rats will love to dig in the soil and snack on the sprouts or unsprouted seeds.

Tubes and Tunnels 
PVC pipe is pretty indestructible, and comes in a variety of sizes and configurations at your local hardware store. You can get a simple straight piece or use a variety of connectors to create a network of tubes. Choose a size you are sure your rats will be able to fit through without getting stuck.

If you are handy with a sewing machine, you can also make great collapsible tubes out of fleece or other sturdy fabrics. You can even sew a ring cut from a plastic bottle or wide cardboard tube into the ends to help hold it open. Sleeves cut off old sweatshirts are also handy tubes/sleep sacks.

Other Containers For Hiding and Climbing 
Clean jars and clay plant pots placed on their sides make neat hiding spots for rats. Mini stacking bins (like those meant for office or workshop supplies) make great hiding spots too. Washed coconut shells are also good for hiding, climbing and chewing.

Rats are very agile and like to climb on ropes. You can make little rope ladders and bridges for in the cage. Cotton rope comes in some nice thick widths and is usually available at hardware or horse supply stores. Just make sure the configuration of ropes doesn't post a strangulation risk and that your rats are not unraveling the threads.

If you are really creative, you can get supplies (such as vegetable tanned leather or other bird toy parts) and make your own elaborate toys.

More Great Ideas: see The Dapper Rat for more interesting and fun ideas to keep your rats busy.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Critter Terms (Vol. 1)

Critter-Lovers can be...well, odd to the general public.
What is a cavy?? What about a binky?

Here is a short guide to help you out.

cavy - a 'scientific' term for those little squeaking creatures that look like a furry brick, a.k.a guinea pigs, wheekers, piggies, and other less professional but still-cute terms.

binky - When a rabbit wildly jumps in the air, twisting its body as it lands and ending up in a new direction than which they started. A bunny that binkies is a happy bunny indeed.

rattie - A cute term that we rodent owners call our pet rats. Far better than 'rodent.'

lagomorph - A VERY scientific term that classifies rabbits and pikas. NOTE: Rabbits are noooot rodents. Nuh-uh. NOOOOPE.

bunny 500 - When a rabbit runs crazily about the house, going in circles and zipping past your feet at break-neck speed. It isn't quite like a binky, but it still is a sign of immense happiness.

eyelights - I just made this up, but it is a great term for those cute eyes our pets make at us. Here's a visual example -

bunnimom/bunnidad - A rabbit 'parent', or as our bunnies like to put it, slave.

bun - A shortened term for bunny. Far more civilized. It can also describe this -

dook - The sound a ferret will make. This onomatopoeia-ish word is a sign we truly endear ourselves to our wittle weasels by making an official word for a sound they make. Just a thought.

wheek/wheep - Yet another onomatopoeia-ish word, but this time, it's a sound guinea pigs make. They are very well known for this sound, and I hear it a million times a day.


glider - A shortened term for 'sugar glider', which are little exotics that many of us keep as endearing pets.

piggy - A cute term for 'guinea pig'.

pig - Another name for 'guinea pig.'

chub - The rolls of fat on small pet's bodies. Fun to pinch. Especially on those Shar-Pei dogs or my hamster Mickey. 

adurable - 'adorable' and 'durable' mashed together into one word. It describes animal that is small but acts fiesty and tough. An Example of this -
Our chicken Primrose is adurable.

wittle weasel - A term of endearment to our furry ferrety friends.

bruxing - A sound a happy rat makes. A bruxing rat makes a deep throaty sound, grinding its teeth and bulging its eyes out a bit. It's actually a very sweet expression.

bed-binkying - Where a bunny binkies on a bouncy bed. There are oodles of YouTube videos on this - Look it up.....You will be amazed at such cuteness.

chubular - See chub. Basically, it's descriptive term to describe a chubby pet.

hammie - Cute-speak for 'hamster.'

wheeker - What some of us call our wheeking guinea pigs.

boar butt - A less than eloquent term to describe the buildup in a male guinea pig's anal gland. Whether you like it or not, ya hafta clean that gland out, piggy owners!!

boar - A male guinea pig.

sow - A female guinea pig.

popcorning - The guinea pig version of binkying. While pigs 'popcorn', they make a popping noise, also called 'chuttering' or muttering.

kangaroo rats - Another word for 'gerbil.'

What Do I Call My Pets?

Yesterday, I recieved this question: 
"Do you have nicknames for your pets? If so, what are they?
Also, do you have pet middle names??"

I thought this was a very interesting question. Prepare yerselves, folks. Here is my very extensive list of my pet nicknames. After I do those, then we have middle names.

Ignatius Sir Pig ~

Red(I don't really know why)
Blue Eyes
Maple Syrup

Mickey ~

Mickey Hamster

Daisy ~

Pepper(Not sure why I call her this, either.)
Cadence(Her middle name)
Daisy Petal
My Inspiration

Minnie ~

Loving Girl
Minnie Moo
Girly Girl

Lily ~

Darth Bunner
The Dark One
Silent But Deadly (Emerson actually made that one up for Lily. It's not thaaat funny.)
The Midnight Hour
She Strikes At MIdnight
Vampire Bunny
Red Eyes
O Evil One
Tiger Lily

Next up, Middle Names.

Daisy's full name is 
~ Daisy Cadence Anastasia ~

Minnie's is
~ Minnie Petal Rose ~

Ignatius's is  
~ Ignatius Sir Pig ~

Mickey's is 
~ Mickey Khomyaka McHammie ~

Lily's is
~ Lilliana Midnight Star ~


Fun Rattie Activity - Pea Fishing (Reader Tips)

Peas + Rats = FUN!

To give ages of fun to your rat buddies, prepare a shallow bowl of water and drop a handful of peas into it. INSTANT Rat Boredom-Buster!

This tip was provided by Kelsey(and her whole 'zoo' of pets, including several hairless rats!) Thanks for submitting!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


When you think about it, guinea pigs are pretty odd critters. 
At birth, they are fully-furred with wide-open eyes and can eat solid foods. Cavies wheek and squeal like pigs.
Guinea pigs have portly little bodies with floppy ears and no tail. They were previously classified as a rodent, but scientists are considering changing this because it was discovered they have no family ties with them.

Piggies also have fairly strange sleeping habits. They learn to sleep when we do, taking a few afternoon naps to catch some extra Z's. 
They typically like sleeping houses but Ignatius chooses to doze out in the open where he has no fear of being 'caught'. A comfortable little guy, isn't he?

While their sleeping habits are somewhat simple, if you delve deeper into these wheeking creatures's minds, you will find that they do in fact dream.
That's right!!

Studies have shown that guinea pig's minds are intelligent enough for them to dream. 
This also means piggies can remember hundreds of images, linking them to other senses like smell.
They can recognize faces of people and other animals as well. 
So, what do they dream about? 
Guinea pigs usually dream simpler than we humans do. Mostly, the dreams are bits of the day playing back to them, just like video clips. If there is a new piggie that has been introduced, or a brand new toy or cage, your pig is very likely to dream of these things. 

The next time your piggie is snoozing away, leave him be! His incredible mind is at work - and that is nothing to mess around with.