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Do Guinea Pigs Need Exercise Wheels and Balls?

Tim Rhodes
Written by Tim Rhodes Last Updated: May 8, 2022

Most people wonder do guinea pigs need exercise wheels and balls because guinea pigs look like hamsters, chinchillas, mice, and other rodents.

So, if these little rodents look alike, their needs must be alike too. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

Guinea pigs need accessories but they don’t include exercise wheels and balls in which they can spin and run. The skeletal anatomy of a guinea pig is dissimilar to that of a hamster or mouse. Guinea pigs cannot arch their back without the possibility of a serious injury.

If you’ve ever seen a hamster in exercise wheels, you’ll notice that the wheel significantly arches the hamster’s back.

Fortunately, hamsters are built to take that kind of stress on their spines while they run on exercise wheels.

Hamsters enjoy the stimulation and activity an exercise wheel provides but the guinea pig’s spine is not designed to bend that way.

It helps them get in good shape and breaks their routine with some fun.

Yet, you can place a playpen for your guinea pigs and add accessories and toys such as balls, chew cubes, tunnels, and ramps.

Before we continue, check out these top guinea pig products to help them exercise:

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Last update on 2023-05-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

a guinea pig peeking from a flower pot

Do Guinea Pigs Need Exercise Wheels and Balls?

Guinea pigs do not need exercise wheels and balls to exercise and stay active.

While these products can be used for other pets such as hamsters and mice, they can be dangerous for guinea pigs.

Prolonged periods in an exercise wheel may cause your guinea pigs to suffer from spinal injuries.

Similarly, guinea pigs’ feet are especially sensitive to the mesh wiring on the floor of the wheel.

You may think your guinea pigs are getting their workout of the day on the wheel, but it’s just more harmful than beneficial to them.

That’s why an exercise wheel will just harm your guinea pigs rather than keep them healthy.

Exercise balls for guinea pigs are a much safer option compared to any exercise wheel.

How Guinea Pigs Differ From Other Rodents?

Hamsters need to run, and often, they can get very depressed if they can’t do that.

Guinea pigs require something that stimulates them physically and intellectually.

However, guinea pigs do not have the same need to run as hamsters do.

The curvature of the exercise ball is also harmful to their spines.

Like an exercise wheel, the ball’s structure forces the guinea pig’s spine to bend unnaturally in a harmful way.

Added to that, there may not be enough ventilation in exercise balls for your guinea pig’s comfort.

Guinea pigs are very sensitive creatures that can’t withstand extreme temperatures.

If the internal temperature of the ball were to go any higher than 25 degrees Celsius, guinea pigs would suffer a heatstroke.

This is why exercise balls are also a pretty bad idea if you want a toy to keep your guinea pig active and stimulated.

Guinea pigs are unlike other pocket pets.

To begin with, they’re not very athletic, so you don’t need to do too much or give them too much to do either.

Guinea pigs are not fond of running or climbing, so guinea pig exercise doesn’t involve such activities.

However, guinea pigs do love burrowing, nibbling, and sometimes throwing things everywhere.

This is why guinea pigs make great pets for kids and busy adults alike.

You don’t need to do much to entertain your guinea pig.

Do Guinea Pigs Still Need Exercise?

Still, guinea pigs need some form of daily exercise and stimulation.

Lucky for you, there are several safe alternatives that you can test and try to find what suits your furry little friend best!

Exercise is not the only way to get your guinea pigs in a good shape; giving them the right kind of food will get you a long way.

You should avoid plastic wheels as guinea pigs love to chew on them and if they swallow the plastic it can be dangerous as they can be in pain.

It would be better if you get them some other type of wheel that can save you a headache, just designate an area inside their cage for it and see if it fits.

If you cannot afford a new wheel of high quality you can look up used ones that people give out for free if they don’t need them anymore.

The Cage

Before you make any large investment towards your guinea pig’s entertainment, you’ll want to buy a large cage to house them.

Most guinea pigs are pretty active and to be that active without getting bored, they need large floor space.

A large cage with lots of room will do half your work for you in maintaining the mental and physical fitness of your pet.

How Can I Get My Guinea Pig To Exercise?

Guinea pigs are adventurous creatures and setting up an obstacle course is a great way to stimulate a guinea pig and strengthen its agility.

Before you set up a whole course though, you may want to train your guinea pig the right way so your pet can complete the course, keeping in mind that guinea pigs are not athletic animals.

When choosing the equipment for your obstacle course, ensure that the equipment is low to the ground, stable, and wide enough for the piggy to use safely.

Ideally, you’ll want to incorporate the bar jump, hoop jump, open tunnel, closed tunnel, and weave poles.

You can read more about the individual equipment for your obstacle course here.

Now, when you begin to train your guinea pig, you might want to use a stimulus or motivator like a yummy treat.

Using a treat may influence your guinea pigs to learn the maneuvers and do what you want them to do quickly.

The only downside is you can’t overstuff your guinea pig with treats in hopes that he’ll learn faster.

You might not also be able to train your guinea pig for long periods.

You may also want to switch up the obstacle course and redesign it every week or so, so the course does not feel stale or boring for your pet guinea pig.

Be careful not to tire out your guinea pig or overstimulate it with too much all at once.

You’ll want to take it slowly and build its skills from the bottom up.

Take your time training your pet.

It will not only help the guinea pig enhance its mood and agility, but it will also give you quality time with your pet and help you two bond.

The Toys

Scuttling around in an exercise ball or wheel may not be best for your guinea pig, but that doesn’t mean your pet can’t play with a ball.

Give your guinea pig a ball that it can push around and entertain itself for quite a bit, particularly if you have a single pet pig.

If you have two or more guinea pigs, even better.

Typically, you’ll want to use a ball that’s small enough for them to push around easily, but large enough that they can’t ingest it.

Guinea pigs are prone to chewing and licking practically anything, so you’ll also want to hutch-and-run that the ball is not made of toxic material.

Experts recommend that you give your guinea pigs something that’s approved for children since children’s toys are absent of toxic glues and dyes.

Others say that cat toys are also great for guinea pigs.

The downside is that some toys come with attachments like rings or bells. You might want to remove those before you pass on the toy to your guinea pig to play with.

If you’re into super laidback solutions, just give your guinea pig a crumpled-up tiny bit of paper that’s small and light enough for your pet to push around.

Like cats, guinea pigs love to push things around and this can keep them fully entertained while you’re busy.

An added benefit of using a homemade paper ball is that when your piggy tires of pushing it around, it just might end up joyfully chewing and gnawing the paper, shredding it to bits.

Cardboard Boxes

The great thing about guinea pigs is you don’t have to spend on fancy exercise wheels and balls to keep them entertained.

Cardboard boxes are a cheap, efficient way to stimulate your guinea pig to run around, particularly since guinea pigs love to play hide and seek.

Guinea pigs enjoy running in and out of cardboard boxes so it works pretty well if you’re cash-strapped.

If you have old packing boxes in the house, your guinea pigs will be most pleased to run around in them.

You can even use empty cereal boxes or any other kind of cardboard you don’t need anymore.

If the box gets dirty, wet, frayed, or just looks overused, simply change it out with another box.

You can even hang up some soft fabric in their cage to create a little hideaway for your piggy to retreat into as a game.

If there’s an article of clothing you no longer need or wear, just cut it up appropriately and set it up in the cage.

Your guinea pig will thank you.

Another alternative is to fill up an old sock with hay and leave it in your pet’s cage.

Guinea pigs enjoy taking the hay out and eating it.

A simple but effective way to keep your guinea pig happy and healthy and win its love.

Lap Time

Spending time with your guinea pig is an invaluable experience for your pet.

Though some guinea pigs may be more receptive to cuddles than others, it’s a great bonding experience for the owner and pet.

It helps build a connection between you and your guinea pig that will better help you understand its moods and feelings.

The guinea pig will also feel calmer, loved, and relaxed in your lap, bonding with you more than at any other time.

Be sure to lay a cloth of some sort to avoid little accidents.

Here are the most popular guinea pig products currently on the market:

Last update on 2023-05-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Final Thoughts

The most important thing to remember when you play with your guinea pig is to have fun.

Too many owners can get hung up on the little things.

Your guinea pig should be a joy in your life and it’s important to keep that in mind.

You can get all kinds of fancy toys and items, but it will never beat the quality time that only you can give to your guinea pigs.


Tim Rhodes
Tim Rhodes

Hi there! My name is Tim Rhodes and I'm a guinea pig enthusiast through thick and thin. My mission is to teach others useful tips and tricks about these cute creatures. When I'm not writing, I enjoy kickboxing and work as an animal trainer.

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Check out these most popular guinea pig products on the market:

Last update on 2023-05-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API