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How to Potty Train Guinea Pigs: Guide, Benefits, & Tips

Tara Perreault

By Tara Perreault

potty trainer guinea pig sitting on litter tray in the corner

Potty training guinea pigs is a process that will take time and patience. Unlike cats and dogs, guinea pigs go potty anywhere they like. Cats and dogs can be trained to urinate and defecate in areas like the corner of a yard or a designated litter box, but guinea pigs poop where they sleep, eat, drink, and play. So, remember that even with your best efforts, your guinea pigs may not urinate in your designated litter tray. For the best success, your guinea pigs must trust you, so ensure you have created a bond with them before attempting the below steps.

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Is It Easy to Potty Train a Guinea Pig?

Guinea pigs like routine, structure, and a certain future. Have you noticed that when you move your house around, your guinea pigs may become shy or hide for a few days? It’s because they don’t like change.

How easy it is to potty train your guinea pig will depend on how fast they understand what you’re trying to do.1 Although guinea pigs poop anywhere, one spot usually has the most soiled bedding.

Consider dedication, consistency, and patience, as potty training your pocket pals can take up to a month or more.

The Step-By-Step Guide to Potty Train Guinea Pigs

1. Observe

You’ll first want to observe your guinea pigs for the first few days before potty training. Where do they go to the bathroom the most? Guinea pigs usually urinate in their bed, hides, or near their food, so it’s your job to figure out where they often defecate.


2. Prepare The Litter Tray

The next step is to prepare the litter tray. You’ll want a sturdy, easy-to-clean litter tray. Fill the tray with fresh bedding or hay. It’s also a good idea to put soiled bedding or hay at the bottom of the tray so they can trace their scent to the litter tray.

If you don’t have bedding in your guinea habitat, hay, straw, or wood shavings work fine. Before placing the litter tray, you should introduce your guinea pigs to new bedding for about a week.

litter tray for small animals
Image Credit: Nataliia Kozynska, Shutterstock

3. Place The Litter Tray in The Most Soiled Area of the Cage

As mentioned, guinea pigs don’t like change, so you may only need to make minor adjustments depending on how you have their cage set up.

A perfect placement for a litter tray is somewhere dark or secluded, near food and water, and close enough to bedding. However, upon placing the litter tray, place it in the most soiled spot of their cage.

After your guinea pigs have gotten used to the tray, you can adjust later, such as moving food dishes or creating a dark place. Remember, once you place the litter tray, you can only move it once the guinea pigs have gotten used to it. Ensure the tray is well hidden under plenty of wood shavings or hay.


4. Ensure Litter Placement Is in a Dark Area

Hopefully, the tray is already placed in a dark area. If not, it’s best to wait until your guinea pigs are asleep before adjusting. Keep the tray where it is but hide it under blankets or hang a towel in front. Guinea pigs like privacy, as do most animals (and people) when using the potty.

guinea pig in the cage
Image Credit: Inna Reznik, Shutterstock

5. Observe and Reward

After finding a perfect placement for the litter tray, all that is left to do is sit back and observe over the next few days. Of course, you cannot waste all your time waiting and watching for your guinea pals to use the potty, but as soon as you see them use it, you can give them a delicious snack.

Berries, watermelon, or juicy fruits are a good choice for rewarding a guinea pig’s behavior. You may notice that after placing the tray, your guinea pigs have decided to urinate elsewhere. They’re doing this because they’re not sure what the tray is for, so take some more bedding or hay and cover it better so it is almost unseen.

Another trick is to put their new soiled spot in the litter tray. With consistency, your guinea pigs will get the hint.


6. Don’t Clean Litter Tray Until Your Guinea Pigs Adjust

Some information found across the web tells you to keep the litter tray clean; others say they don’t clean it. The best practice is to clean their cage and bedding to prevent sickness and your home from smelling but avoid cleaning the litter tray.

Your guinea pigs need to know where the soiled scent is coming from. So, if their whole habitat is clean except for their litter tray, they’ll direct their potty habits where it’s most soiled.

If you clean the litter tray without your guinea pigs becoming familiar with it, you’ll likely have to start the procedure again, as they’ll choose a different spot to urinate.

potty trained guinea pig sitting on litter tray
Image Credit: Lost_in_the_Midwest, Shutterstock

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Benefits of Guinea Pig Potty Training

While the most apparent benefit of potty training is easier clean-up, other benefits come with potty training:

  • A cleaner hutch, which equals cleaner smelling home.
  • As cleaning becomes more manageable, you’ll need to clean less often, saving time and money.
  • Your guinea pigs will be happier and healthier, as soiled bedding and wet dust will make them ill.

As you’ve probably noticed (if you have more than one guinea pig), some guineas like to poop everywhere, whereas others will choose a designated area. The ones who choose an area will be easier to potty train. However, guinea pigs who let poop fly mean you’ll need more than one litter tray and more patience.

Tips

Don’t give up whether you just started or it’s been weeks since you placed your litter trays. The potty-training process will take time and lots of patience. Below is a list of tips to help the process run smoothly.

Be Patient

Patience is the fundamental element that will make this project the most successful. When potty training, you’ll need to continue to observe your guinea pigs daily and watch for progress while offering an immediate reward. Observation is the most daunting task for most people. After all, we have lives too.

It’s easy to lose patience when your guinea pigs do the opposite of what you’d like them to do. In this case, add more litter trays, hide them better, and place defecated bedding into the litter trays. With consistency comes success.

guinea pig in a cage
Image Credit: Dev_Maryna, Shutterstock

Always Praise

Praise and positive reinforcement go a long way with any pet. Regarding your guinea pigs, noticing litter behavior deserves a treat, a pet, or outside time. Be creative with your rewards.

Alongside positive reinforcement, punishing or yelling at your guinea pigs for anything is never a good idea. Guinea pigs don’t understand punishment the same way humans do. All that will happen is you’ll lose trust and have to work at re-bonding.


It’s Near Impossible to 100% Potty Train Guinea Pigs

Pat yourself on the back. The fact that you have tried and are trying to devise creative ways to maintain a household with guinea pigs is a step in the right direction. Remember that guinea pigs can never really be 100% potty trained.

Guinea pigs defecate anywhere they’d like, so if they use the litter tray most of the time, you’ve successfully potty-trained your piggy pals.

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Final Words

Potty training saves time and money. Rather than using bedding in the entire cage, you’ll use less for their litter trays. If your guinea pigs use a litter tray successfully, you’ll do fewer loads of laundry, keeping up in a hygienic environment.

While there are many pros to potty training your guinea pigs, some guineas aren’t potty trainable. It would be best if you accepted this possibility before starting the training process. Hope for the best and expect the worst. After all, your guinea pigs are prey animals and do what makes them feel most comfortable.


Featured Image Credit: Lost_in_the_Midwest, Shutterstock

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