Everyone knows that guinea pigs are cute, but the critical question is how bad do they smell? If you’re considering getting guinea pigs, this is a natural question. Guinea pigs themselves don’t usually stink, but their cage can get smelly if it’s not maintained correctly. The good news is that this is entirely preventable. I’ll also share a couple of cage cleaning hacks further down this page that will make cleanup a breeze!
Are Guinea Pigs Messy?
Guinea pigs can be messy, although this doesn’t necessarily translate to being smelly. Guinea pigs do poop a lot. Guinea pigs will also not hesitate to poop and pee in the areas where they eat and sleep. In fact, it’s usually those spots where they eliminate the most. Somewhat gross, right?
The good news is that you can contain much of the mess by anticipating this. Choose a roomy litter box and use this for all of your guinea pig’s hay and food. Put absorbent pads or mats under houses and sleeping areas so you can swap them out quickly. If you do these things, keeping on top of the mess is a breeze.
Does Guinea Pig Pee Have a Strong Smell?
Guinea pig pee is going to have a more pungent odor than poop. With that said, guinea pig pee doesn’t have as strong of an ammonia smell as some other animals. Larger animals such as cats, dogs, rabbits, and ferrets, all have smellier pee than guinea pigs. Even some small animals like male mice have a stronger ammonia smell than guinea pigs.
You can also reduce the ammonia smell from urine by identifying your guinea pigs’ favorite places to pee. Put extra bedding or pads in these areas and spot-clean them more frequently to keep any smells at bay.
Can Guinea Pigs Stink Up the Whole House?
The good news is that guinea pig smells don’t typically travel far from the cage. If their living area is clean, you shouldn’t detect any odors from the guinea pigs throughout the rest of the house.
One exception to this can be the hay scent. Fresh piles of hay can smell, especially when you first take it out of the bag. On cage cleaning day, when you add a lot of hay at once, this scent may travel further than usual. Hay has a sweet smell that many people find pleasant, but it may bother individuals who are sensitive to smells. Fresh hay can also trigger allergic reactions in people with allergies.
What Can Cause Guinea Pigs to Smell?
Your guinea pig’s cage is the most common culprit when it comes to smell. However, if you have a clean cage and still find that your guinea pigs are smelling, you need to look deeper to find the root of the problem. It is rare for guinea pigs themselves to stink. However, sometimes things like illness, diet, or dirty fur can cause a pungent odor. I’ll go over some of the potential offenders below and discuss what you can do to fix them.
Leaky Water Bottles
Some guinea pigs are very messy drinkers. You may also end up with water bottles that are prone to leaking. This causes the water to puddle around the cage, mixing with the poop. This can produce quite a foul smell.
To avoid this, put some absorbent pads under the water bottles if you notice them dripping or puddling water. I like to hang water bottles over a litter box so the box catches all the drips. I use these puppy litter boxes for my guinea pigs because the low sides make it easy to hang water bottles over them. Putting the water bottle in the box also gives the guinea pigs an extra reason to go in their box and perhaps use it more.
Guinea pig poop can start to smell more if the guinea pig is fed an incorrect diet. Guinea pigs are herbivores. As such, their diet should consist of 80% grass hay, such as timothy or orchard hay. They should have a big pile of hay in their cage 24/7 to encourage them to eat as much of it as possible.
Guinea pigs also need a small amount of high-quality pellet food such as Oxbow. They only need about 1/8 cup per day of this food to get the extra vitamins they need. Avoid festival mix pellets with seeds or colored pellets. These have added sugar and preservatives that are not healthy. In addition, guinea pigs should not have any seeds in their diet.
They also need between 1/2 to 1 cup of fresh vegetables per day. Feed a variety of vegetables for a balanced diet. It’s a good idea to select vegetables high in Vitamin C. Guinea pigs need to get this vitamin from their daily diet to prevent a disease called scurvy. Bell peppers are one of the best vegetables you can feed your guinea pig every day.
Avoid all kinds of meat, dairy, and animal by-products. Any processed or human food aside from vegetables should not be fed to your guinea pig. Avoid iceberg lettuce as this can cause diarrhea. It’s also best to offer gassy vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage in small amounts to avoid any stomach upsets. Check out our list of 45 foods to never feed your guinea pig for a more comprehensive list.
A Small Sized Cage
A small cage can build up in smell much faster than a larger cage, like a C&C or Midwest cage. This is because the smell is more concentrated in a small cage, and the mess builds up much faster.
This is not great for your guinea pig’s lungs, and it can also cause the room to smell up quickly. The universally recommended cage size is 7.5 square feet for the first guinea pig and 2.5 square feet for each additional piggy. Eight square feet is the minimum recommended size for a pair of guinea pigs.
Uneaten Fresh Food in the Cage
Vegetables that have begun to wilt and go rotten in your guinea pig’s cage can also start to smell. They can even develop mold if they get buried underneath bedding or forgotten. Be sure to check your guinea pig’s cage a couple of hours after giving them any fresh fruit or veggies. Remove any uneaten food promptly so it doesn’t get lost and contribute an unsuspecting smell to your guinea pig’s cage.
One of the most noticeable smells of having guinea pigs is the smell of fresh hay. This smell doesn’t usually travel far from the guinea pigs, but it is present. Most people find this to be a pleasant smell, but it may bother some individuals. Unfortunately, this smell is unavoidable, as guinea pigs need hay to be a large part of their diet.
Also, if you use shavings as your bedding of choice, you will have a bit of a wood fragrance type of smell from them, especially when you first put down the fresh shavings. Again, it’s not necessarily an unpleasant smell, but it is a smell regardless.
Illness Can Cause a Foul Odor
Certain illnesses can also cause your guinea pig to put off a pungent smell. For example, urinary tract infections (UTIs) can make your guinea pig’s pee smell much worse than usual. Diarrhea, abscesses, ear infections, and dental problems can cause a funny smell as well. If you notice a weird smell coming from your guinea pig and they have accompanying symptoms, you should get them to the vet right away for a check-up.
To prevent diarrhea, avoid changing or adding new foods to your guinea pig’s diet too quickly. Also, don’t feed large amounts of vegetables all at once. Avoid giving veggies with high water content, like cucumbers and lettuce, in excessive quantities. Also, avoid feeding iceberg lettuce, as it has an exceptionally high water content. This makes it a common contributor to diarrhea in guinea pigs.
Does Your Guinea Pig Need a Bath?
Guinea pigs groom themselves frequently and rarely, if ever, need a bath. It’s important not to bathe your guinea pigs too often. Baths remove the natural oils in the coat, and frequent washing can also cause dry, itchy skin.
However, there are times when it is appropriate. In particular, long-haired guinea pigs are prone to picking up particles of dirt or poop in their long hair that drags across the ground when they walk. Over time, this can build up and become stinky. Some guinea pigs also like to lie in their litter box in their pee and can end up getting dirty doing this. In addition, older or arthritic guinea pigs may have trouble grooming themselves and require an occasional bath.
If you do need to bathe your guinea pig, use lukewarm water and dry them promptly with a towel after removing them from the water. Use an appropriate shampoo made for small animals, and make sure you rinse all the shampoo out thoroughly. Avoid getting water on their head or in the ears when you bathe them. Finally, make sure they are completely dry before returning them to their cage, so there’s no risk of them catching a chill.
Cleaning Hacks For Easy Cage Maintenance
The chances are high that if your guinea pig smells, it’s their cage. It’s entirely possible to keep guinea pigs indoors without being overwhelmed by animal smells. After all, guinea pigs do not usually have a strong odor as long as the cage is cleaned regularly.
However, guinea pigs can be pretty messy, and this can cause the cage to stink if it’s not set up correctly. Below I’ll cover which bedding to use, cleaning frequency, and litter training so you can be confident that the cage smell will be kept to a minimum.
Choose an Appropriate Bedding
First of all, the bedding. Since guinea pigs require large cages, it is not very cost-effective to fill your entire cage with bedding and dump it out every few days. For this reason, most guinea pig owners use fleece liners in their cages. This means you’ll have to wash the liners in the washing machine. However, you can protect your washer by shaking the fleece liner thoroughly before washing it. You can also get animal bedding wash bags to contain any mess that was missed.
You can make your fleece liners last longer between washings by putting an extra absorbent layer under the spots where your guinea pig pees and poops the most. This will most often be the dark, private corners of the cage. Guinea pigs also like to eliminate in their sleeping areas and where they eat.
For absorbent pads, some people use puppy pads, either disposable or washable. If using disposable pads, be sure they are placed under a blanket or towel so the guinea pigs cannot chew them. Puppy pads often have added scents or baking soda, which can be poisonous to guinea pigs if chewed or eaten. You can also use cheap chenille bath mats.
Once you find something that works for you, you can easily swap and wash these smaller pads every day or two. This helps to keep the rest of the cage relatively clean all week.
Guinea pig cages should be thoroughly cleaned every week. If you have more than two guinea pigs or you’re having issues with smell, you may want to increase the frequency to twice a week. If you’re using a fleece liner, remove the entire liner and wash it on cage cleaning day. Completely clean your guinea pig’s beds, houses, food bowl, and water bottle.
You may want to use a pet-safe disinfectant spray to eliminate any remaining odors in the cage or litter box before putting everything back in. You can also use vinegar to clean your guinea pig’s cage. Soaking the bottom of cages and litter boxes in vinegar is very effective for removing stains and marks that are difficult to scrub off.
Spot Clean Daily
Spot cleaning daily can be a great way to keep your guinea pig’s cage clean and reduce odor throughout the week. This can be as simple as shaking your smaller absorbent pads into the garbage, tossing them in a laundry bag, and putting down a new pad. You may also want to sweep any scattered poops up using a small handheld broom and dustpan.
Litter Train Your Guinea Pig
Can guinea pigs be litter trained? The answer is yes! Kind of. Guinea pigs don’t usually seek out and use their litter box as a cat or rabbit would. However, you can use your guinea pig’s natural tendencies to your advantage.
Guinea pigs like to hide out and pee in private, dark spaces. Place your litter box in an area of the cage that is most private. If your cage is all open, try creating a den space over the litter box. Create a canopy of some kind and drape a blanket over it.
Guinea pigs also like to pee and poop where they eat. If you choose a large enough litter box, you should be able to fit a large pile of hay inside it. This way, the litter box can also double as a hay containment box.
I like to use these puppy litter boxes for my guinea pigs, as they are large enough for lots of hay and food bowls. I place these in a dark area of the cage, and they get used very frequently! They have helped cut down on the mess significantly.
Absorbent Bedding for Litter Boxes
Choosing absorbent, odor-control bedding for your litter box can also reduce potential smell significantly. Paper-based bedding such as Carefresh is an excellent choice for cozy and absorbent bedding. Guinea pigs also really love the feel of soft paper-based bedding under their feet.
You can also use pine or aspen shavings. If using pine, make sure it is kiln-dried. The toxic phenols in natural pine can damage your guinea pig’s respiratory system.
Yesterday’s news pellet bedding also works exceptionally well to keep odor at bay. Yesterday’s news is great to use as a thin layer underneath another type of bedding like shavings or Carefresh. The pellets can be hard on guinea pig feet, and some guinea pigs may try to eat them. However, when used underneath other bedding, they are great for odor control.
Some types of bedding to avoid are cedar shavings and straw. Straw is thick, coarse, and not very absorbent. Because of the coarse strands, it is a common instigator of eye injuries. Cedar shavings are toxic and can cause breathing problems. Newspaper is not absorbent enough to use on its own, but it can be great to use under other layers of bedding.
Do Male Guinea Pigs Smell Worse Than Females?
Male guinea pigs can have slightly more odor than females. However, there is not a significant difference in smell between girls and boys. Male guinea pigs don’t have a noticeable musky scent or more potent smelling pee. I’ve had both males and females, and I don’t notice a difference in smell between the two.
Guinea Pig Grease Glands
The reason why people say males smell more than females is because of their grease glands. Guinea pigs have grease glands near their bum, under where their tail would be if they had one. All guinea pigs, male and female, have grease glands. However, males tend to have a more active and oily grease gland.
Guinea pigs will mark territory by dragging their grease gland over things. They typically do this in new environments and around new guinea pigs. They also love to drag their bums across a newly cleaned cage… 😒 The smell is more noticeable when they first mark things, then it fades away and is only detectable by other guinea pigs.
If you have a guinea pig that particularly loves to do this, you can reduce it by leaving a bit of old hay or a blanket in their cage when you clean it. That way, the cage will still have some of the guinea pig’s scent, and they’ll be less likely to go ham on the marking.
If you notice that your guinea pig is getting smelly for no apparent reason, you may want to check the grease gland. Males, in particular, can sometimes get an oily build-up of grease and hair in their grease glands. If so, you can clean it with coconut oil or some mild soap and water. You can find many videos on YouTube on how to clean a guinea pig’s grease gland.
Do Guinea Pigs Smell Worse Than Rabbits?
No, rabbits overall will have a stronger natural smell than guinea pigs. Rabbits are larger animals and therefore have a stronger ammonia smell from their pee. Males especially can spray and mark much further than guinea pigs, and the smell is much more obvious.
However, if rabbits are spayed/neutered and litter trained, rabbits are not necessarily any smellier than guinea pigs. I have two female rabbits, and they take less time to clean because they are good about using their litter box. Rabbits are clean animals, and as long as the litter box is kept clean, the smell should be virtually non-existent.
Do Guinea Pigs Smell Worse Than Hamsters?
Hamsters do not typically have a strong odor. From previous experience of owning both animals, I didn’t notice a big difference in smell between guinea pigs and hamsters. Some people may be more sensitive to one animal over the other, but I think it can swing in either direction.
Hamsters are much smaller, so the smell does not build up in the cage nearly as quickly as with guinea pigs. However, if cages are cleaned regularly, there should be little difference in smell between the two.
Can You Keep Guinea Pigs in Your Bedroom?
Yes, as long as the cage is well maintained, it is perfectly fine to keep guinea pigs in your bedroom. Make sure they get plenty of attention, as they may get lonely not being in the heart of the house. As long as someone is spending time with them daily, it’s not a problem for them.
The smell is not overwhelming as long as you maintain a consistent cleaning schedule. I kept my piggies in my bedroom for many years and never had an issue with smell.
Do Guinea Pigs Smell More as They Get Older?
Sometimes guinea pigs smell a little more as they get older, although usually, it is not a noticeable difference. This can happen because guinea pigs have more difficulty grooming themselves as they age. They are less agile and cannot clean themselves as thoroughly as when they were young.
In addition, many guinea pigs will get stiff and arthritic as they get older, making it even more difficult to clean themselves. This is when you may need to step in and bathe them once in a while to help keep them clean.
Males also have an anal sack that will sometimes lose muscle with age. This sack can get blocked with cecotropes, which is soft, semi-digested poop that guinea pigs usually eat straight from the oven. If a large number of cecotropes get stuck in the anal sack, this is known as impaction. If this happens, it can be very smelly and require cleaning.
This happened to one of my boys, and I can tell you it really stinks to have to clean out an impacted guinea pig. Quite literally. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen with all males, and it only happened to my poor old guy when he was older than 6. Unfortunately, once they get impacted once, they often require cleaning for the rest of their lives.
Guinea pigs shouldn’t smell in most cases. Occasionally, there may be reasons why a guinea pig could smell bad, but these are usually easily fixable and preventable. Cages are the most common culprit of a stinky guinea pig, and fixing this is the best way to have an odorless pet. Once you’ve found a cage cleaning system that works, cage maintenance becomes a pretty simple and routine task.
If you’re still on the fence about getting guinea pigs, check out our article on 25 reasons you should get guinea pigs. You can also find a checklist of supplies you’ll need for a new piggy on the recommended supplies page.