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Floor Time

Giving your guinea pig exercise and exploration time

Your guinea pig needs exercise and mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy. The smaller the cage the more important floor time is to the health and happiness of your guinea pig. Any cage size less than an unencumbered 10.5 square feet (or 2 x 4 grids) requires additional floor time. Guinea pigs in large cages will benefit from the additional change in environment, stimulation, and exercise. Even with large cages, your guinea pig cannot get the same quality of exercise and running as they can get with floor time. Lap time (holding and petting and snuggling with your guinea pig outside of it's cage) does not count as floor time. Lap time is good for you and your guinea pig, but does not give him the additional exercise and play time he needs.

The primary objective of floor time is exercise. When you first introduce your guinea pig to the concept of floor time, they typically just sit there and huddle, or they might scamper (or waddle) to the furthest, darkest corner and stay there. Don't worry, many people experience this behavior when starting floor time. This page has tips and suggestions for making floor time a success for your and your cavy.

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In addition to giving your guinea pig exercise, you have an opportunity to play with and bond with your guinea pigs. Ideally, you should spend some time interacting with your guinea pigs during floor time, especially if you have only one guinea pig. A single guinea pig doesn't have a pal to run around and play with and so may take some extra encouragement and interaction from you.

Tip! The easier it is for you to set up for and clean up after floor time, the more often you will do it. Simple is better!  Floor time is a requirement for the life of your cavy. It can be challenging to continue to give your guinea pig proper floor time day after day, year after year. Making it easy to do and enjoyable is very important.

The Key to Our Success!

At Cavy Spirit, we have discovered a method that works with all of our guinea pigs. We chose to make our location semi-permanent. This makes it easier to do every day. You need to work with the natural tendencies and likes of your guinea pigs.

  1. Bath mats
    floortimerugs.jpg (22722 bytes)They like to run and hide in far away dark corners. Choose a corner like that as their home base. We picked a far corner in our dining room (or what used to be a dining room), under other tables (cages). We put a few rubber-backed bath mats over our white Berber (don't ask why) carpet. We cut the mats to fit around table legs so they could  easily be picked up and washed and put back down again. Be sure to have the carpeting cover the entire back corner!

  2. Newspapers and Accessories
    floortimewaterbottle.jpg (51819 bytes)floortimenewspaper.jpg (15951 bytes)Then we put newspapers down over the carpet and added some familiar items. It's easiest to have a couple of duplicates of things from their cage--a wooden box, maybe a cozy, maybe a pigloo, maybe a tunnel, etc. Definitely add some hay and a food dish. You could also add an 'L-shaped couple of grids' so that you can attach a water bottle. Very important--be sure to put some Timothy hay down. That should keep them munching on that and not on other things.
  3. Guinea Pigs
    floortimetinaandbuddy2.jpg (48276 bytes)floortimetineandbuddy.jpg (17457 bytes)floortimetinaeatingnewspape.jpg (18555 bytes)Now, just add pigs! The trick is to ALWAYS put them down on the newspaper, and let them wander off when they are comfortable. The newspaper gives them a natural border, very similar to their cage. They will be comfortable there and will treat it like their home base.

    Remove pigs, roll up newspaper and toss! We leave the carpets down all the time. If you get bath mats to match your decor, who will know?

    Protecting other areas
    floortimechairwithrug.jpg (17876 bytes)Our dining room borders a kitchen with linoleum and a hallway with tile. No pig has ever ventured willingly on either. But, in our office area, we have a chair that they love to hide under and is a pain to get them out from under. So, we do two things. We put a rug underneath the chair so that if we feel like letting them go under it, they are messing up the rug and not the carpet. floortimechairandgrids2.jpg (21578 bytes)floortimechairandgrids.jpg (17056 bytes)And we have a bunch of grids cable-tied together to make a barrier which can be unfolded and put in place in about 3 seconds. When not in use, it just folds up and out of the way.

So while these guinea pigs are not litter-trained, per se, they in fact use the newspaper at their home base to potty, and we rarely pick up any stray poops and rarely break out the carpet shampooer because of floor time. Consistency is important for them to feel comfortable. Try to always use the same home base for floor time. Of course adding and changing toys and play items will keep it interesting for them.

For additional great ideas on floor time, please visit the Free Range page and see what others have done to make life very interesting for their piggies on the floor! Free range guinea pigs get to enjoy permanent floor time.

Choosing an area for floor time

The area that you choose for floor time will depend on a variety of factors. Here are some ideas with pros and cons of each.

Kitchen floor



Easy to pig-proof.
Usually no wires or outlets on the floor.
Usually very few places to hide (except behind appliances).
Easy to clean.
Able to socialize with your guinea pig in the room.
Won't forget about him/her.
Usually easy to block off door way or entrance areas.

Floors are usually linoleum or tile or wood, surfaces which are not ideal for guinea pigs.

May be too busy of an area in some households.


Dining Rooms, Living Areas, etc.



More space available for interacting with your guinea pig during floor time.
Easier to watch your guinea pig while you go about your life.
May take more preparation and clean up time.
Not as easy to pig-proof.



Easy to pig-proof.
Usually no wires or outlets on the floor.
Usually very few places to hide.
Easy to block off.
Floors are usually linoleum or tile, surfaces which are not ideal for guinea pigs.
You may not be as apt to sit down and interact with your guinea pig due to a lack of easy space.
May be too much traffic in a busy household.
Bathroom floor



Easy to pig-proof.
Usually no wires or outlets on the floor.
Usually very few places to hide.
Easy to clean.
Easy to cat and dog proof by just closing the door (but can lead to cons of forgetting, no interaction, and poor light and lack of fresh air).
Floors are usually linoleum or tile, surfaces which are not ideal for guinea pigs.
You may not be as apt to sit down and interact with your guinea pig.
You might forget the guinea pig is in the room depending on the location.
The room may not have natural light or air during the day.



More space available.
Might be easier to cleanup.
Not necessarily a good environment in seasonal extremes (heat and cold).
Might be drafty.
Might be fumes from solvents and cleaners in the air.
Not part of your daily living. 
Might forget your guinea pig is "out there."
You may not be as motivated to interact with your guinea pig.
Do not run a dryer with your guinea pigs in the vicinity--too much of a change in temperature and humidity.

Outdoors  (only during good weather)



Potential fun for the guinea pigs.
You get the lawn trimmed.
You MUST be present to watch for predators (sky and land--many people do not realize that crows, ravens, and hawks are deadly predators).
The grass must be untreated  --  no pesticides & no fertilizers.
They must be in an "enclosed" space. Never think they will "just stay" where you have them. 
You must be more vigilant in looking for parasites which can be picked up outdoors.
Only an option during good weather.
They must have shade available as heat stroke kills many guinea pigs very quickly.
Poisonous Plant Links
There must be no potentially poisonous plants in the area. Here are some links to review for poisonous plants:

Beds, Bathtubs, Big Boxes, & Closets  (last resorts)



Any miscellaneous place that is bigger than the cage is a potential area to allow your guinea pig to get some exercise.
Depending on the area, there can be many potential negatives.

Pig-proofing the floor time area 

Safety First! There are two major dangers to guinea pigs during floor time, one is wires, the other is getting lost or stuck in places they shouldn't be. 

With wires, any plugged in wire represents an immediate lethal hazard. One bite through and they could be electrocuted. Many guinea pigs will chew on the wire for a bit before they might manage to bite through. In addition to the risk of electrocution is the risk of internal injury. For example, phone cords do not carry enough of an electrical current to kill a guinea pig, however, they have been known to eat little pieces of that wire causing themselves major internal injuries. It will tear up them up inside. Some guinea pigs will not chew any wires, but many will and you can't risk it.

Tight spaces represent a hazard that you do not want to deal with. You might be surprised about the spaces that a guinea pig can squeeze into, but may not be able to get out of. There are many stories, some hilarious, some sad of guinea pigs getting behind refrigerators, water heaters, built in shelving units, inside of furniture, inside walls, etc. Retrieving a stuck or missing guinea pig can be traumatic for you and them. It's better to block off areas they shouldn't be in.

Litter training for floor time (and cage time)

Many people want to know if it is possible to litter train a guinea pig. We wish we could offer a resounding, "Yes!" However, with guinea pigs, the degree of success of litter training varies greatly. Some can be litter trained. Others simply cannot. But there is a degree of success that you might be able to achieve. And your degree will vary. You should have the right expectations going into a "training" exercise. First, don't expect miracles overnight. Second, while you may be able get guinea pigs to urinate in an area that you designate, it is usually much more difficult to control the "bean" (or poop) location (the bean drop zone). The good news is, the beans are relatively easy to pick up or clean up, although they look messy. Also, even if you can get the urination to occur in one place, there may be the occasional accident.

Litter Training Tips and Tricks
Guinea pigs like to potty in private in the darkest, most inaccessible, most covered area possible--under furniture, in corners, and behind heavy, immovable objects. The trick is to work with that behavior. But be forewarned, they are not very consistent. They like to keep their caretakers busy cleaning up after them!

The following suggestions come from people who have had success with these methods. Others have tried to copy them, some successfully, many not.

Litter training program #1
  • Before you begin any elaborate efforts, put your guinea pig in your designated floor time area, and observe! Let them show you where they are want to go hide and potty.
  • Block off all the hiding places except one, or choose a corner that is the farthest away and the darkest--the most likely hiding and potty location.
  • Make a shallow litter tray with some bedding or litter from her cage with her scent on it (a little wet and with some poops). Or use a paper bag with a layer of newspaper in it with some bedding on top of that. Or just use a couple of thick layers of newspaper with some bedding on top. A paper bag on it's side offers an excellent solution. Guinea pigs like the privacy, the dark of it, and the "roof" over their head. And you have the added benefit of it being a snap to clean up. Simple fold and toss!
  • Hopefully, she will find this and go there to make her scent or mark stronger. 
  • Try to reward her with a little veggie treat.
  • With some luck, you may be able to reinforce this behavior.
Litter training program #2
  • Cover the floor with newspapers.
  • Slowly take them away. 
  • Hopefully, they will continue to potty on the newspapers, as that is what they are used to.
Litter training program #3
  • Spend a few weeks watching and scooting them into the litter pan every time they go and give them a treat for reward. 
  • If the litter pan is always around they might use it more, so try being consistent. Leave it in the cage with them and also bring it out at play time (if there is room in the cage).
  • It can be an ongoing process with the training never stopping. Every time you catch them going on the floor, scoot them into the litter pan and always reward them, especially when they go in the litter pan on their own.
Litter training variation #1
  • Make the litter box a big corner box, filled with litter (bedding material) and top it off with good a good hay (grass hay, meadow hay, Timothy hay). 
  • This gives them a reason to be there. They will munch on the clean perimeter.
Litter training variation #2
  • Use a covered box, perhaps a small animal carrier that is used for trips to the vet, also with litter and hay. Or, turn a plastic bathroom garbage can on its' side with some litter and hay in the back (easy to clean afterwards). The carrier approach has the added benefit of having your guinea pig used to being in it for traveling or trips to the vet, although the carrier may or may not be easy to clean. 

When and how often to give your guinea pig floor time

Guinea pigs tend to be most active at dawn and dusk, times when in the wild, the birds are not flying and they are safer (at least that's one theory). At the Cavy Spirit rescue, approximately 7 am and 7 pm seem to be popular lap running times. These times could also coincide with feeding times.

More important than when you offer floor time, is how often and consistency, and the answer is DAILY or as close to daily as you can possibly manage. Ideally, your guinea pig should get exercise every day. If you can give your guinea pig exercise twice a day, that would be great. An hour a day minimum, would be good. With cage size, the bigger the cage the better. The same idea applies to exercise, the longer the better. Some people provide a cage-free environment during the day, and place them in their cage for sleeping at night. Some provide several hours a day. Again, the more time the better.