The guinea pig, or Cavia porcellus, is a species of rodent that originated in South America. Unknown to Western civilization until being discovered by European traders during the 16th century, guinea pigs have long since been domesticated and are no longer able to survive independently in the wild. Despite their domesticity, guinea pigs still require a substantial amount of daily exercise to live healthy, content lives. One way that guinea pigs should exercise is through the use of specially designed pens known as a guinea pig runs. Usually a minimum of 7 square feet (0.65 square meters), runs are essentially spacious cages that allow guinea pigs to take part in exercise, play, exploration and mental stimulation.
Owners have many options when it comes to finding the ideal run for their guinea pig. Although basic runs can be bought at a local pet store, store-bought runs typically are too small for a lively, healthy guinea pig. Some owners opt for buying second-hand runs used by previous owners. Although these runs are generally the most affordable option, they should be well examined before purchase to ensure that they are sturdy and safe. Many owners choose to build homemade guinea pig runs, which allows the owners to customize the look and feel of the runs specifically for their guinea pigs.
Guinea pig runs are made from a variety of materials, including wood, chicken wire and plastic mesh, and they can be built in all different shapes and sizes. Some runs are rectangular, and others are shaped like a pyramid. A run might have only one story or might have two stories with a ramp connecting the first floor to the second. The key factor for a run is that it is fully enclosed so that if a guinea pig is left alone to exercise in the space, it cannot escape.
After a run has been purchased or built, it should be supplied with the needed items before a guinea pig is placed inside. Preferably, guinea pig runs should contain food, water and play houses known as pipes, hideys or tunnels. These play houses entertain the guinea pig and make the animal feel more secure. Lastly, if the run is not being placed outside in a grassy setting, hay or animal-friendly wood shavings should be placed in the run to give the guinea pig a more natural environment in which to play and exercise.