Sparky came to us by way of a thrift store, an abandonment case that involved pre-teens who were not taking proper care of him and a newly pregnant mom who thought she couldn't be around him. (Sparky was the inspiration for our Myth #9 posting.) When I arrived at the store that Saturday morning two weeks before Easter, I wasn't sure what I'd find. When you're picking up an abandoned guinea pig, you're never entirely sure what you're going to find; too often, it's a sad, thin, unkempt piggie.
Sparky turned out to be a beautiful black Peruvian-Abyssinian mix with a swipe of white on his nose. Despite the commotion of the thrift store, and all the people who stuck fingers through the cage bars or put their faces up to the cage, he was remarkably even-tempered. He was sociable, clean, healthy, and overall well cared for.
Except for his cage.
The cage was about 22" x 14", thinly lined with pine bedding. The wire cage top was falling apart pretty much every way that it could fall apart and was held together by binder clips and twist ties. Sparky was sitting on the right side of the cage; his food dish, water bottle, and pile of hay was on the left. He had less than 10" of space for moving around. And no hidey house.
When I brought him home to foster, he was placed in a C&C cage. For three days, he stayed on the right side of the cage...not venturing more than six inches in any direction. I spent an evening coaxing him to be a brave piggie and walk around the cage. For four days, I had to artfully position veggies around his cage to encourage him to move around. And he was obsessed with his waffle-block house.
Once he was comfortable with the cage, I put him in a play area that was bigger than his cage. Again, he would not venture more than six inches in any direction. Even the girl piggies in the neighboring play areas could not lure him out. Strategically placed veggies didn't either. It was all enough to bring tears to my eyes.
Finally, after four days, I put my male in the play area with Sparky. In a few minutes, they were doing a piggie train around the perimeter of the play area and criss-crossing back and forth across the middle. The next night, though, Sparky forgot what a brave little piggie he'd been the night before and Winston once again had to pay a visit and coax Sparky around. And had to for several more nights.
I eventually got Sparky to the point where he'd run around my dining room or, at least, around the perimeter. In his cage and play area, he still favors the right side. And whenever he's introduced to a new environment, he reverts to his old habit -- right side of the cage, six inches in either direction. It's all still enough to bring tears to my eyes.
We can't stress it frequently or loudly enough -- pet store cages do not give guinea pigs enough room to live and play. The single best cage environment that owners can give their guinea pigs is a C&C cage. Your pigs will love you for it!