In selecting living quarters, remember that "bigger is better". The bigger the living area, the happier your piggie will be. Cages should be no smaller than two square feet per guinea pig. Make sure the cage is fully enclosed, or invest in a tightly-fitting top. Guinea pigs *can* jump. Period.

Make sure the cage has a solid/tray bottom. Never use a wire mesh bottom cage with a guinea pig! The mesh can irritate their feet, resulting in a condition called pododermatitis (bumblefoot), which is painful and not easily managed. Also, a wire bottom cage can have serious consequences if the piggie should get a toe or foot caught. At the Save-A-Piggie site you'll be able to read about Sweetie Pig, an abused pet store piggie that was kept in a wire-bottom cage. She lost her leg because of it. (To read about Sweetie Pig and learn more about helping abused, abandoned or unwanted guinea pigs and the organizations that help them, visit the Save-A-Piggie site).

A cage that has a plastic tray bottom is easier to clean, and will not rust as a galvanized one may. The cage bars or wire mesh should be chrome-plated or powder coated (or plain), never painted. Guinea pigs chew a great deal, and usually nibble the cage bars quite often. Many cages use galvanized wire mesh; the zinc used in the galvanizing process may or may not be a problem if the piggie chews the wire/bars. There is no hard evidence I have seen to indicate that this could be a problem, but over a period of time it may be.

I do not recommend glass aquariums for new piggie owners, as they do not provide adequate ventilation, and the piggie can develop respiratory problems. Conversely, if you cannot offer a draft-free environment (as guinea pigs are very vulnerable to drafts), then an aquarium may be a possible solution - but only if kept *very* clean and dry.

If you are handy with tools, or feel like taking a shot at building your own Piggie Palace, check out this information compiled by Kathy Anderson for ideas on making your own cage.

Bedding is the next consideration: you should *never*, under any circumstances, use red cedar bedding or raw (untreated) pine. Both contain harmful aromatic hydrocarbons that can cause respiratory problems and are also suspected of causing permanent liver damage. The aromatic hydrocarbons are what give red cedar itís smell (and raw pine the scent of turpentine). There is medical evidence on file that explains how it is harmful.

Safe bedding that can be used include kiln-dried white pine, aspen shavings and the recycled paper bedding materials such as Carefresh.

Aspen is the safest of the wood shavings, being a hardwood, but is not as absorbent as the white pine. The white pine (characterized by its soft "woody" smell) has had the hydrocarbons baked out of it, but some people feel it should not be used regardless.

Cat litter should be avoided - (especially the clumping kind, which has been linked to kitten deaths [articles here]) - because it is quite dusty and the guinea pig will inhale the dust. Likewise sawdust.

Speaking of dust, dust and guinea pigs don't mix. Dust can cause respiratory problems, which are difficult at best to cure. You should never let the "dust" that is in the bottom of food pellet bags get in the piggie's bowl; likewise, you should always shake that handful of hay out before putting it in their cage. A bit of hay dust or food dust once in a while may not be harmful, but over a period of time it could cause problems.