Two main methods have been used to house guinea pigs, the "floor method" and the "cage method". In the floor method the guinea pigs are run in groups of about 30 on a floor of concrete or asphalt covered with a litter of sawdust, and the litter is renewed once or twice each week. In the cage method, the guinea pigs are run in smaller groups in cages with wire mesh floors which have trays beneath on to which waste matter falls.
The floor method has an advantage over the cage method in requiring less labour for cleaning and feeding, and this is important since wages represent about half the running costs of a small animal colony. A disadvantage is that the guinea pigs and their food are in close contact with excreta so that good hygiene and disease control are difficult to maintain. Though labour costs in cleaning and feeding are low this is offset to some extent by a surprisingly high cost of dry sawdust, and by losses of food through fouling or being buried in the litter.
The cage method gives improved hygiene but labour costs are higher. Feeding and cleaning and handling guinea pigs through cage doors is slow and the cleaning of trays from beneath the cages is especially time consuming.
An intensive cage system has been devised by Lane-Petter (1954) in which guinea pigs are kept in batteries of four tiers of cages. Between each tier of cages is a tray covered by bituminised paper, and the paper can be replaced by pulling through from a roll fixed at one end. Cleaning is simply accomplished by pulling through and discarding the paper. This system of housing has many advantages in saving of space and labour.
The system recently adopted at Wallaceville Animal Research Station is described below as it incorporates the best features of the methods mentioned and adds some new ones which further simplify and cheapen the maintenance of the guinea pig colony.
Inside the cage are two bafHe plates which form havens for young animals at each end of the cage. The top of the cage is not closed by a door and1958) CUNNINGHAM-HOUSING GUINEA PIGS 753it is found that guinea pigs rarely escape. Dispensing with a door cheapens construction and facilitates feeding and handling. The separate floor makes cleaning easier.
The cages were made from wood to save cost. Wooden cages of the design shown and without a floor were made for £2/17 /6d, while cages made to a similar design in 24-gauge galvanised iron cost£6/17/6d. The wire floor costs £2/5/-.