No-Sew Fleece for Guinea Pig Feet
by Allison Malone
Unlike rabbits, guinea pigs have very small hairless feet, and housing them on wire bottom cages can result in injuries like bumblefoot and broken ankles. Therefore, bedding in hard bottom cages are an essential part of guinea- husbandry. There are many versions of guinea pig bedding, from shavings to recycled newspaper, but I have found fleece to be the best solution.
Fleece avoids many of the shortcomings of other bedding alternatives. For example, shavings can cause eye injuries, and both newspaper and wood shavings can get caught up in male reproductive organs causing irritation and in severe cases, infection. Fleece, however, provides a smooth soft surface that is easy on the feet. It’s also easy to clean- just sweep up the droppings and extra hay throughout the week, and when it’s time for a full cage change, just shake it out and throw it directly into the wash machine. Not only is this method quick, easy, and comfortable for piggies, it’s also environmentally friendly.
I make my fleece cage liners with a sewing machine, sandwiching a thick and absorbent U-Haul blanket between two layers of fleece, but you can achieve the same result if you don’t have access to a sewing machine, or simply don’t have the time right now to make a full-blown set of fleeces.
Start out by measuring the cage you want to line. I always add an inch or an inch and a half to whatever measurement I take so that the fleece goes up the wall slightly, covering all the edges of the cage and leaving room for shrinkage.
(If you’re going with the sewing method, add your seam allowance as well. Then, put your fleece right sides together with the U-Haul blanket on top, so that when you turn everything inside out to hide the raw edges, the blanket will be in the middle. Seal up the last edge you left open so you could turn it, and you’re done!)
For those of you not sewing, figure out whether or not you will include the center blanket layer. If you don’t, the fleece will need changing more frequently as it will be less absorbent. If you do decide to include it, cut it out to the exact size you want your finished liner.
Cut out your fleece about two inches bigger than the U-Haul blanket on each side. This doesn’t have to be exact, so lay your blanket piece out on top of the fleece and eyeball it. Leaving the blanket on top, cut the edges of the fleece up to the edge of the fleece, spaced about one inch apart. Again, this can totally be estimated. Do this around the entire perimeter.
When that’s done, you should have a fringe of roughly two-inch long by one-inch wide strips around the edges of both your fleece pieces. Lay one piece of fleece face down on the floor, then lay the U-Haul blanket in the center, followed by the second fleece layer, face up. (If you’re not using a blanket in the center, just lay the two fleeces on top of each other, right sides facing out.) This should leave you with a blanket sandwiched between the two pieces of fleece.
The final step is to tie each piece of fringe to the matching strip directly below it. Work your way around the entire perimeter of the fleece, using whatever knot you like, sealing the blanket in between the two fleece layers, or just attaching the two fleece layers to each other. If the blanket inside ever wrinkles, you can just undo a few of these knots and pull it back into place before re-tying everything.
With this accomplished, you should be left with one piece of fabric once again, that can be laid down in your guinea pig’s cage. Tuck in the ties of the fleece if you don’t want them chewed, and you’re ready to go!
A few closing tips: if you have an oddly shaped cage, you don’t have to make one single liner to fit that shape. Make a couple different ones for each section of the cage, so that the entire floor is covered. For example, I have an L shaped cage, and I make one fleece for each end, and they meet in the middle.
Also, if you have a guinea pig who likes to tunnel, consider using a double layer of fleece. Some pigs like the coziness of sitting under a fleece, but sitting around underneath it with nothing to absorb urine can lead to urine scald and general ickiness. Throw another fleece or even a towel down, and then they’re safe to tunnel away.