So, you’d like to litter train your guinea pig and you’re wondering if you can use cat litter. Unless you’re using recycled paper, such as the brand Breeders Choice Cat Litter, it is unsafe to use any form of cat litter in your guinea pigs’ environment.
In this article, you’ll learn why cat litter is not recommended for your guinea pigs and what litter you can use for potty training.
Health Concerns Regarding Cat Litter
Cat litter is unsafe for guinea pigs for many reasons. Most cat owners prefer clumping or clay litter, which is unhealthy and dangerous for your guinea pigs’ digestion and respiratory function. Below are the dangers that cat litter can pose to your piggy:
It is best to find a suitable alternative for your guinea pigs to live on, and there are a number of good options discussed later in this article.
Intestinal Blockage: Cat litter is designed to soak up urine. When your cat uses its litter box, the litter expands. If your guinea pig were to ingest any litter used for cats, it would expand in their stomachs, and it would be difficult to pass a bowel movement, leading to constipation and the potential for an intestinal blockage.
Digestion Issues: Digestive issues in guinea pigs can cause weight loss,1 diarrhea, lethargy, and dehydration. These signs are, in some cases, fatal. The dust and materials used in cat litter will cause your guinea pig distressing symptoms, so it’s best to avoid cat litter at all costs.
Respiratory Infections: Cat litter contains silica, which has been found to cause respiratory disease in people. It can be assumed that cat litter dust is also not good for your guinea pig, so it is best avoided. When it comes to cat litter that claims to be clumping or clay-based it’s best to keep it away from your guinea pigs. If you have cats and guinea pigs, keeping the litter box as far away from your guinea pigs as possible is the safest option. Remember that cat litter can get stuck to your cats’ feet and tracked around the house. If you allow your guinea pig to roam free, always sweep your floors before your guinea pigs come out.
Is There Any Acceptable Cat Litter?
Some pet owners use pellet styles of cat litter derived from wood, wheat, or corn. Pellet-style paper based litter is a popular and safe choice for rabbits, cats, and guinea pigs. Another acceptable litter brand is Breeders Choice Cat Litter, derived from recycled paper. Be sure not to get Breeders Choice Plus cat litter as this contains an additive that might not be safe for your piggy. It is important to avoid wheat or corn based litters as they can go mouldy quickly. Paper or wood based pellets are safe litter options for your guinea pigs as long as they don’t contain any added chemicals and are toxin free. It is important to avoid any pine or cedar wood based substrates because they give off aromatic oils (phenols) that are harmful to guinea pigs.
It is best to avoid using pine, cedar, or straw for your guinea pig’s substrate. Straw has sharp edges that may poke and harm your guinea pigs, while pine and cedar may contain harsh chemicals. However, kiln-dried wood removes toxins in the wood and therefore is safe enough for your guinea pig’s habitat.
Setting Up a Guinea Pig Litter Box
Guinea pigs can be litter trained, although it may take some time.
There are two types of pooping behaviors when it comes to guinea pigs. The poop-anywhere piggy, or the one-spot-only piggy. If you have a piggy who likes to poop in one spot, it will make the training smoother.
Keep going even if your guinea pig doesn’t use their litter tray at first. Stay patient and observant, and consistently reward them for their behavior. Make sure that the tray is easy for them to get in and out of.
Tips for Proper Guinea Pig Bedding
When looking for the proper bedding for your guinea pig, remember that they used to be wild cavies who lived in grassy areas where they’d forage for food, burrow away from predators, and live together as a unit.
You’ll want to keep their environment as safe and toxin-free as possible. Safe bedding includes paper material, fleece bedding, or kiln-dried wood shavings. Good quality hay should make up the majority of a guinea pig’s diet and should be available at all times. This is absolutely essential for your guinea pigs to keep their digestion and teeth in good health.
Cleaning out your guinea pigs house is essential for their health and should be done once to twice a week. Removing droppings and old vegetable scraps daily is recommended. Remember to use a guinea-pig safe disinfectant when cleaning your piggy’s hutch such as Oxyfresh Crate & Cage Cleaning Spray
Remember, if you are concerned about your guinea pig in any way, it is always best to make an appointment with your vet for a check-up. Guinea pigs are particularly prone to respiratory and dental diseases so any signs of sneezing, nasal/eye discharge, fast breathing, poor appetite, reduction in poop production or any other unusual behaviour, make an appointment pronto.
So, can you use cat litter for your guinea pigs? The short answer is no. Clumping, clay, silica, or other commercial brands are dangerous to guinea pigs and can cause fatal health issues for your guinea pig. Recycled newspaper products, shredded paper, fleece, or aspen shavings are recommended for guinea pig bedding to avoid the risks mentioned above. When you own a cat and a guinea pig, keeping your cat’s litter box far away from your guinea pigs is a good idea. It is advised that you use a guinea pig-safe substrate in your cat’s litter box e.g. a paper-based pellet to avoid any unnecessary risk to your piggy. Remember that guinea pigs are prey animals and therefore don’t show obvious signs of illness until they are really quite unwell. Make an urgent appointment with your vet if you are at all concerned about your guinea pig.
Featured Image Credit: Aurelie Le Moigne, Shutterstock