Main Project Inspo + Plan : Guinea Pig McDonalds Playhouse

Currently my family has three dogs, three cats, and two guineas. If you are a pet owner, you would know how expensive it is to not only care for your pets, but to also provide them with mentally stimulating toys. My biggest obstacle thus far has been finding engaging, quality, and affordable play structures for my guinea pigs. 

If you look on Amazon [1], a lot of the wooden play structures are too small for guinea pigs, they are very simple in design, and quite low quality considering the high price point. For example, a 15 by 9.8 by 8.6 inch castle is $40. 

[1] An Amazon posting for a wooden guinea pig house
Because I have been looking for play structures for my guinea pigs, and have been displeased with the design and price on online stores, this main project will be an opportunity for me to challenge myself to custom-make furniture for my pets that more directly meet their unique needs and personalities. 

One need I see for my guinea pigs is to have a space that they can freely explore and mentally stimulate themselves with. During the spring and summer, I place them outside to eat grass, but it is a flat surface that they easily get bored off, and they tend to wander off and hide under plants or bushes, which puts them in danger of getting lost or hurt. I also notice there love weaving through small routes and climbing on elevated surfaces for a better view. Therefore, I am hoping to build a playground structure that they can hide under and explore while they enjoy the fresh air outside. The required interactive components for the playground are as follows: 

  • Elevated platforms 
  • Ramps for them to climb
  • Roofed area for hiding 
  • A swing or hammock
  • Hooks to hang toys off

I see myself most likely using wood to construct the play structure, However, since this is going to be an outdoor structure, I am looking into waterproofing or finishing the surface so I can spray down the structure once my guinea pigs have roamed on it to keep it clean. However, I am concerned about the risk of them chewing on the materials, and will need to research further to make sure what I use is nontoxic and ways to discourage them from destroying their new playground. 

For aesthetics, since I am essentially building a ‘playground’ for my guinea pigs, I want to evoke nostalgia related to my childhood. One of my core memoires was my dad taking my brother and I to McDonalds for cheeseburgers and letting us play on his days off. Now that these fast food playhouses are not as popular, I want to relive it vicariously through my guinea pigs. To emulate the McDonalds Playplace look, I will look to incorporating: 

  • Bright, neon colors
  • Winding and maze-like geometry
  • Paintings and details of iconic fast food items 
[2] Example of a McDonald’s indoor playground taken in 2012
One detail I am still debating is whether to add the old-school McDonald’s characters. I really hate clowns, so the idea of purposely adding Ronald McDonald is dreadful, but I do see it adding to the throwback vibe.

[3] Collection of all the vintage McDonalds Characters

[1] Large Guinea Pig Play Castle. Amazon. 

[2] “Indoor Play Area at McDonalds” Out and About Mom. 

[3] “The identity of Grimace, Ronald McDonald’s purple pal, finally revealed.” Sethlui.

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4 Comments. Leave new

  • Duncan Laird
    March 3, 2024 4:39 pm

    Hi Helen, this is going to be an awesome project and an awesome activity for your guinea pigs! The aesthetic works very well with the project concept, it’s cool how it ties into your childhood. The list of components you are thinking of including in the project are very cool as well, and I am excited to see how you implement the swing or hammock. Have you considered adding components to make the cleaning of the inside easier, such as a removable roof?

    • Hi Duncan. I did not consider a removeable roof, but I think I will be adding that to my list of components. I always have trouble cleaning my guinea pig’s little homes for that very reason, so great suggestion. Thank you!

  • I love this idea!!! Reliving childhood memories vicariously through your guinea pigs is such a cute concept. It sounds like you care for them well and have thought through a lot of factors like material choice and toxicity, etc. I had a guinea pig growing up that I would let roam in the grass outside during the summer, and I know he would have loved some more exciting environments than his igloo to explore while outside. The clown would really easily evoke the McDonalds association, but totally up to you if you want to include it. I feel like colorful playgrounds already have that childhood nostalgia tied to them, especially because their aesthetics have changed over the years.

    • Hi Katie. So nice to meet another fellow guinea pig parent. Hopefully the really bright colors and playground-like geometry I will attempt to incorporate will be sufficient for the nostalgic feel. If it comes to having to include a clown, I will most likely alter the art style of Ronald McDonald a lot so that I don’t keep creeped out by my own painting haha.


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