Do It Yourself Toys
The Number One rule of thumb for toys is of course: safety first. Many commercial toys have small parts or inappropriate parts that may make the toy unsafe despite being marketed as a "guinea pig toy." See our Toy Safety section at the bottom of this page.
We have also found that the majority of small animal toys are manufactured in China or other countries. Concerns with how the toys are made, what they're made from, and what the toy may have come in contact with during import should be enough of a concern to avoid some of these.
There are some good alternatives to commercially made toys--most of which we can make ourselves. Here are 10 of our favorites:
1. Clean, unused paper lunch bag stuffed with soft hay (avoid sharp hay that could cause an eye poke)
2. Strips of paper bag can be filled with a few Kleenmama pellets or herbs, and twisted into “candy"
3. Small cardboard boxes from Creative Bird Toys can be stuffed with soft hay (avoid 'commercial' grade boxes, which do not use a starch-based glue; we strongly recommend against using boxes that have been through the mail/UPS/FedEx due to handling and dirt, and cola or other cartons -- these may have come in contact with cleaners, rodents, etc. in grocery store stockrooms; always avoid labels, glue, tape, staples, etc.)
4. Clean/untreated dried pine cones that are free of pesticides, either on the tree itself or the surrounding area (we prefer to bake ours, just to be on the safe side)
5. Untreated/pesticide-free apple tree branches (we stick with apple; other tree types may not be safe) -- supervise to make sure these do not cause eye pokes
6. Cone-shaped paper cups -- the type used for snow-cones (this is a favorite at our house); these can be tossed around and chewed on
7. Clean paper plates can be folded into shapes that are fun to toss around and chew
8. A variety of hay: timothy, oat, blue grass/orchard, alfalfa, etc.--dispense it in different locations in the cage
Toy SafetyBelow are a few things to watch out for, either with commercial or DIY toys. Unsafe parts include (but are not limited to):
* Paint, glue, varnish, etc. (use only food-grade, non-toxic coloring)
* Rope, string, yarn (may get caught around the pig's neck, or can cause blockage if ingested)
* Loofa (expands when wet; may cause choking or blockage)
* Discarded toilet paper rolls (airborne germs in the bathroom are a contaminant; glue is not food-grade--we recommend using a toilet paper or paper towel brand such as 7th Generation)
* Dirty/used cardboard boxes or cartons
* Plastics that may contain phthalates or BPA (plastic bags and other plastic materials can also pose a choking hazard)
* Sharp points or edges that can cause eye injury
* EXERCISE BALLS ARE NOT APPROPRIATE FOR GUINEA PIGS! They can cause spinal injury
* Small, non-edible parts that can be chewed off and swallowed
* Wood toys that have become splintered or heavily soiled
* Anything non-edible that can be accidentally ingested
* Any toy or item that has become heavily soiled, damaged or broken
For commercial toys, we highly recommend reading labels and contacting the company if you're not sure where a product has been manufactured or the materials used. Just because an item is marketed for guinea pigs, doesn't mean it's safe. The best tip is to use your own judgment, and avoid any item that has the potential to cause harm.
For certified Made in the USA toys that use safe parts from renewable resources, check out Rabbit & Small Critter Enrichment Toys.
For more DIY ideas on how to keep your guinea pigs physically and mentally stimulated, we like the book "How To Entertainment Your Guinea Pigs" by Karine Jans (at right).