If you ask any guinea pig owner what the worst part of caring for a cavy is, chances are they’ll say “cleaning the cage“. A clean cage is essential to help your guinea pig stay happy and healthy, but it’s also unpleasant and time-consuming work.
The good news is that there’s one simple thing you can do to help keep your pet’s cage spotless: potty train your guinea pig. If you want to know how to litter train a guinea pig, keep reading for step-by-step instructions and helpful advice.
Can Guinea Pigs Be Potty Trained?
Many first-time cavy owners are surprised to learn that guinea pigs can be potty trained. Even better, the litter training process is actually quite simple — but you will need a decent supply of patience if you’re going to have any chance of success.
One of the downsides of caring for guinea pigs is that they produce a whole lot of poop. However, most cavies prefer to do their business in specific areas of the cage. Once an area has been established as a toileting zone, you can expect your cavy to return to it time and again when he needs to eliminate.
By taking note of where your pet likes to go to the toilet, you can gradually teach him to use a litter tray whenever nature calls.
What You’ll Need to Potty Train a Guinea Pig
Before you get started, make sure you have the following essential items:
How to Potty Train a Guinea Pig: A Step-by-Step Guide
Teach your cavy the bathroom basics by following these simple steps.
Step 1: Observe Your Pet’s Toileting Behavior
The first thing you need to do is simply watch your cavy’s behavior, so you can understand his toileting habits.
As mentioned, guinea pigs usually have a favorite bathroom spot where they do most of their business. This is often in a darker area of the cage, or somewhere they can enjoy a little more privacy, such as a quiet corner.
Most guinea pigs will still poop and wee in other areas of the cage, but you should focus only on the areas they use the most.
Step 2: Prepare a Litter Tray
Next, choose a good-quality litter tray for your cavy to use. We’ve provided more details on how to choose a litter tray further down the page, but the main things to remember are to find a tray that is large enough for your guinea pig and easy for them to access.
You’ll then need to line the tray with your cavy’s bedding material of choice. Aspen bedding and paper-based bedding are two popular options that not only create a comfortable environment for your cavy but are also absorbent and control odors.
Wearing gloves, you can also place a small amount of already soiled bedding into the tray to help your pet recognize it as his designated spot to go potty.
Step 3: Place the Litter Tray in Your Guinea Pig’s Favorite Toilet Spot
Now it’s time to place the tray in the cage in your cavy’s most frequently used toilet spot. Depending on your pet’s toileting habits, you may want to use a bit of fleece as a privacy screen to help make the area more inviting.
If your guinea pig has more than one favorite spot, you may even want to invest in an extra litter tray to place in that spot as well.
Step 4: Reward Your Pet
Sit back and watch what your guinea pig does. If he goes to the toilet in the litter box, reward him immediately with a tasty treat.
If he poops elsewhere in the cage, don’t get frustrated or try to scold your pet. Instead, use gloves to pick up the poop and transfer the poop into the tray. This will help reinforce that this is where he should do his business.
If your guinea pig starts to favor a different area of the cage as his favorite toilet area, move the tray to that spot and continue rewarding your pet whenever he uses it.
Step 5: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
Practice makes perfect — this old cliche is very relevant here. Now that you’ve taught your cavy the basics of toilet training, the key is to stick with it.
Continue monitoring your pet’s behavior and, whenever possible, reward him with a treat for doing his business in the litter tray. Over the days and weeks to come, your cavy will gradually learn that the litter box is the best place to go potty.
Unfortunately, many cavies will never be 100 percent successfully toilet trained, and may still occasionally wee and poop outside the tray. But even if your guinea pig has an accident from time to time, his cage will still be a lot more hygienic and a lot easier for you to keep clean.
Step 6: Clean the Litter Tray
Finally, don’t forget about the importance of cleaning and refreshing the litter tray. This is a balancing act — you want the tray to be hygienic and inviting to your pet, but you don’t want it to be so clean that your cavy no longer recognizes it as his potty area.
As a general rule, it’s a good idea to refresh the bedding in the litter tray once every day or two. Thoroughly clean and disinfect the litter box once a week to ensure that it remains safe for your furry friend to use.
Training Your Guinea Pig in the House
Once your cavy has been successfully potty trained in his cage, you might want to move on to teaching him to use the litter tray outside of the cage.
If you let your guinea pig roam free, start by training him in a small room with the door shut. Just like when he’s in his cage, your pet will most likely look for a dark, secluded corner where he can do his business. Watch him closely to see which corner of the room he heads to when he wants some privacy, then place his litter tray in that spot.
You may need to restrict your pet’s access to other dark spaces in the room until he comes to realize where you want him to go potty. Make sure to reward your cavy for eliminating in the tray, and before too long, he’ll start to understand what you want him to do.
You can then try letting him roam free throughout a larger area to see if he still returns to his litter box when nature calls.
Benefits of Litter Training Your Guinea Pigs
Now that you know the basics of how to potty train a guinea pig, there’s probably one other important question on your mind: Why? Why go through the effort of training your guinea pig to use a litter box?
The main advantage of potty training is that it’ll mean less work for you in the long run. Every guinea pig owner will tell you that although they’re small, cavies can produce a lot of waste. And if your guinea pig isn’t potty trained, that means you’ll have to spend plenty of time cleaning their entire cage. It’s unpleasant, repetitive, and time-consuming work.
But if your cavy is potty trained, your cleaning tasks will be much less time-consuming. After all, cleaning out a litter tray is much quicker and easier than cleaning your pet’s cage from top to bottom,
The other benefit of potty training is that rather than having poop spread everywhere, the rest of your pet’s cage will be much cleaner and dryer. This means a much more hygienic living environment for your cavy, which prevents diseases and infections such as urinary tract infections.
Choosing a Litter Box
To improve your chances of successfully potty training your guinea pig, you must choose the right litter tray. Consider the following factors to find the best litter tray for your pet:
- Size. The litter tray you choose will need to be large enough to comfortably accommodate your cavy, but also small enough to fit into your cage without taking up too much space. Check product dimensions closely before you buy.
- Design. Next, check the litter tray’s design to ensure that it’s well-suited for use by a guinea pig. For example, does it feature high edges to prevent any messy spills? Is it designed to slot into the corner of the cage where your pet likes to go potty? Is it deep enough to contain a sufficient amount of bedding and ensure that mess isn’t spread around the cage?
- Attaching it to your cage. Some trays can be easily tipped over, resulting in poop and soiled bedding being spread around the cage. It’s a good idea to look for a tray that comes with hooks or clasps so it can be securely attached to your pet’s cage, ensuring that it won’t be accidentally tipped over.
- Ease of access. If you want the potty to be an inviting place for your guinea pig, it’ll need to be somewhere he can get into without any hassle. Make sure there’s a low edge or a specific entry point that your cavy will be able to navigate with a minimum of fuss.
- Ease of cleaning. Finally, don’t forget to check how easy the tray will be to remove from the cage and keep clean.
FAQs About Litter Training Guinea Pigs
What’s the Best Litter for Guinea Pigs?
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ option that is universally recognized as the best bedding for guinea pigs. Aspen, paper-based, and fleece bedding are all safe bedding options worth considering, but each choice has its own pros and cons. Check out our guide to the best guinea pig bedding for more information.
Can You Use Cat Litter for Guinea Pigs?
Cat litter should not be used for guinea pigs. Some litters contain chemicals that could be harmful to your cavy, while clumping cat litters could cause intestinal blockages if ingested by your furry friend. It’s also best to use the same bedding material you use in the rest of your pet’s cage, so look for a litter specifically designed to suit guinea pigs.
Can I Potty Train an Older Guinea Pig?
Yes, guinea pigs can be litter trained at any age.
What Else Can I Do to Encourage My Guinea Pig to Use a Litter Box?
The key is to make your cavy’s litter tray as inviting as possible. In addition to rewarding him every time he goes potty in the tray, you may want to erect some sort of simple privacy screen to help your pet feel more comfortable. Ensuring that he has sufficient space and can easily hop into and out of the tray will also help, while some owners have had success installing hay racks next to the litter tray.
If you’re sick and tired of constantly cleaning your guinea pig’s entire cage, litter training may be the solution. Guinea pigs can be potty trained, but you’ll need to be patient and persevere to have any chance of success.
But with a slow and steady approach, positive reinforcement, and plenty of treats, it is possible to teach a guinea pig to go potty in a litter tray.