Affectionate and easy to care for, guinea pigs make terrific companions. As rodent pets go, they're relatively large, and that can make for a problem with cage odour. A few simple steps will help you manage your guinea pig's care and keep its cage - and your home - smelling fresh and your pet happier and healthier.
Remove your guinea pig from its cage and place it somewhere safe and escape-proof. You don't want to have to worry about its whereabouts while you tend to cleaning its home. A plastic storage bin, shoebox size or larger, makes a good temporary corral. Put a few treats in there to keep your pet busy. Guinea pigs are not good climbers, so a lid isn't necessary if the walls are steep and at least 17.5 or 20 cm (7 or 8 inches) tall. If you have a curious cat or dog who may seize the chance to get to know your guinea pig, a ventilated lid is a good idea.
Remove the cage portion from the bottom pan. Remove the food dish, water dish, and any toys. Using a scraper such as a large-bladed spatula -- dedicated to this use only -- scrape all the soiled shavings from the pan into a large garbage bag. If you have a place to dump the shavings in your yard, a compost heap, for example, you can place the shavings in a bucket instead. Make sure to get all the waste material you can, including the hardened urine deposits you'll find beneath the shavings.
Once you've removed all the shavings, it's time to wash out the pan. Weather permitting, you may prefer to do this outside, using a garden hose. If that's not possible, use your sink inside. Drizzle a bit of mild washing up liquid on the bottom of the cage pan and use a scrub brush to clean the floor and sides of the pan. Rinse well so that all the suds are gone and the water runs clear. Wash out the food dish, washable toys, and water bottle.
Using clean rag towels, dry the entire cage bottom. Make sure to dry the cage pan very well. Dry the food dish and toys and the outside of the water bottle. Use paper towels, if necessary, to absorb all the water.
Sprinkle the floor of the cage pan with a light dusting of baking soda -- no more than a tablespoon or two, depending on the size of the cage. This will help absorb odours and keep your guinea pig's litter fresher longer. Spread a layer of pine or aspen wood chips on top of this, approximately 5 cm (2 inches) deep.
Reattach the cage top and replace your guinea pig and its food dish, water bottle, and toys. To maintain optimal cleanliness, repeat this process every 4 or 5 days.
Unlike many other rodents, guinea pigs tend to choose one or two areas of their cage to urinate in. You can keep your pet's cage fresh between changes by scooping out the soiled litter from these spots and replacing it with a few handfuls of fresh litter. Some guinea pigs are heavy drinkers, emptying their water bottle every other day. These animals will simply urinate a lot more than others and will consequently need their cages cleaned more frequently. Another way to keep your guinea pig's cage clean is to use terry-cloth towels for bedding instead of wood chips. Lay down fresh rag towels everyday. To change them, carefully remove them from the cage, shake out the solid waste into a bin or outside, and launder the towels in the washing machine, with 40 g (1/4 cup) of baking soda added to the water in the washing machine. This option tends to work well with a heavy drinker.