I picked up a pair of guinea pigs this weekend and I noticed that all of the guinea pig cages I find for sale in the stores and online have solid bottoms, as opposed to a wire mesh bottom many rabbit cages have. Is there a reason that guinea pigs need a solid bottom? Is there any way that I can utilize my wire mesh cages that I use for rabbits to house the guinea pigs?
The wire bottom cages can cause a condition called bumblefoot. It can be very painful for your guinea pig and you're better off springing for a cage with a solid bottom. This condition can also occur in rats. It's the reason we got a solid bottom cage when I had them.
Ulcerative pododermatitis, also known as bumblefoot, is an extremely painful infection of the footpad. The footpad is swollen and may be crusted and/or bleeding. In severe cases, the cavy may be reluctant to move, depressed, and anorexic. If the bone becomes infected, the leg may need to be surgically removed.
Pododermatitis is often attributed to abrasions caused by wire floors or rough bedding which allow infections (typically Staphylococcus aureus, a common environmental bacteria) to become established. Poor sanitation, wet bedding, lack of activity and obesity may be factors. Prevention focuses on avoiding these causes.
If you can completely cover the bottom of your cage with something soft yet sturdy, like fleece (I think this is safe for guinea pigs), I think they would be OK. You would need to be diligent about changing out the fleece so it wouldn't get disgusting (every 1 or two days; buy A LOT).
I also always thought this website for guinea pig cages was really cool. It's a DIY site for making guinea pig cages that are modular, functional, and easy to clean.
I discovered a great alternative to the wire bottom floor that my guinea pigs love: plastic fencing.
I got a roll from my local hardware store: https://www.homedepot.ca/product/peak-products-hardware-mesh-36-inches-x-15-feet-black/1000105621
The gauge is big enough that all mess falls through but small enough that little feet are safe, plus since it's plastic it has some spring and is super gentle on feet but it's thick enough to be used as a floor so it won't sag. I wish I had known about this stuff before I wasted a bunch of money on a metal mesh floor. Oh yeah and the piggies HATED the metal floor. It was loud, probably painful and I happened to get a gauge that was too small so the poop got stuck in the holes. On that note...
Side note Warning: 1/4 inch gauge and smaller will be too small and poop will get stuck in the holes rendering it useless. Stick to 1/2" gauge but no bigger. There needs to be enough surface area for weight to be distributed and avoid hurting delicate paws.
Hope that helps. :)