About Cagetopia®

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C&C Guinea Pig Cages – from the beginning to Cagetopia®

Teresa Murphy, a visionary in the realm of guinea pig care, has dedicated the past 25 years to revolutionizing guinea pig cages through her creation of C&C Cages. As the originator of modern guinea pig cage size standards,1 she has significantly elevated the quality of life for countless small pets globally. Teresa's expertise and advocacy have fostered an ecosystem of pet supply businesses, benefiting both pets and their owners. Her ongoing altruistic efforts continue to support guinea pig rescue and adoption, solidifying her legacy as a champion for guinea pig welfare.2

How “C&C” Came to Be

In 1998, Teresa Murphy (known to many online as “Cavy Spirit”), was living in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. She adopted the guinea pig "Babe" from her then-boyfriend, Robert. He had graciously taken in a guinea pig from a colleague, but since Robert was spending more time at her place than at his, Babe moved in. Robert had good intentions, but poor Babe was in a small wire cage with shavings, and fed only carrots and pellets for food. Babe's care was quickly upgraded, but all the carrots had given her diabetes and cataracts. She was a quiet, lonely guinea pig who never "wheeked!"

Babe, Teresa's first guinea pig, 1998

After some cursory research (buying a book at a pet store), Teresa realized that she needed to get a companion for Babe. In 1998, not many people knew that abandoned guinea pigs were in shelters. The internet was new, and folks still relied on the Yellow Pages to find resources.

Teresa in 2003 with Tina, sporting her "Don't Breed or Buy" Adoption Shirt to help get the message out

For perspective, it was the year of the classic You've Got Mail movie with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks and dial-up modems. If you wanted a pet (other than a cat or a dog), you went to a pet store. Google was just a twinkle in the internet's eye. Winking emoji

Also that year, Teresa enjoyed the classic movie Dr. Doolittle. At the local pet store, she fell in love with a pregnant “Rodney” look-alike (the talking Dutch American guinea pig star of the film, alongside Eddie Murphy). This guinea pig "wheeked" loudly when the refrigerator door was opened -- a new experience for Teresa and Robert. The pet store owner agreed to take back any unwanted babies, so home went Lucy.

Miss Lucy had five pups. Teresa thought she had two females and three males. She, to her everlasting regret (knowing what she does now about the pet trade cycle), returned the three males to the pet store, keeping the two 'females.' Oops. One of the 'females' got his sister and mother pregnant! That sexing mistake changed her life. As she dove deeper into research, she discovered that guinea pigs were, in fact, available for adoption in shelters.

Lucy's second litter resulted in back-to-back pregnancies, which is detrimental for the mother. This is because her calcium and other nutrients get depleted both in forming the bones of the babies and producing milk while nursing them. Of the two resulting litters of eight live babies (four each), many were polydactyls (an extra toe) due to inbreeding.

In addition, the delivery of Lucy's second litter was truly awful. Teresa was in Chicago on a business trip when she received a panic call from Robert that both Lucy and Little Lucy had gone into labor. Lucy had delivered four pups and was struggling very hard to deliver the fifth, even rolling on her back in distress. As soon as Teresa got back (five hours later), she knew this was bad and she found the only late night clinic a half an hour away that would see guinea pigs (another big lesson learned about how few vets see guinea pigs). Teresa could hear Lucy's screams from outdoors at the emergency clinic. She couldn't bear it in the waiting room and wasn't allowed in the back. The vet had to pull out an overly large, fully-formed baby that did not make it. It was huge -- almost three times size of a normal pup. Lucy was never the same and distrusted people the rest of her days. She was a great Mom though. 

While Lucy and Little Lucy were still pregnant, Teresa paid a visit to her local shelter, the Peninsula Humane Society in Burlingame, CA. Sure enough, they had an entire "small pet" room with rabbits, ratties, hamsters, guinea pigs, and more. There was a stack of guinea pig cages. On the bottom of the stack, there was a pretty black, short-haired female by herself. It was tempting, but she thought, "What am I doing? I already have four guinea pigs at home with two pregnant!" So, she made the difficult decision to leave her there. She had her hand on the doorknob of the room to leave, and that guinea pig let out a pleading "Wheek, Wheek, Wheek!" That did Teresa in, and she went home with another guinea pig. Surely it was meant to be.

Now, deep research on care was needed, including fertility, neutering protocols, timing, diet, behavior, and more. Teresa joined a number of online 'news groups' and forums available at the time. There was a heavy influence by hobby breeders, accustomed to rationalizing their participation in the pet trade cycle of pet overpopulation. Almost all of the books available about guinea pigs at the time had at least some or a lot of key info wrong -- depending on the underlying objective and frame of reference of the author.

Pet Store Reality

The original pet store that Teresa visited wasn't part of a chain; it was a small, independent Mom and Pop shop located in a local strip mall. Pet store owners often begin with good intentions. Back then, such stores were more common, but many of these smaller stores have been pushed out by larger chains. Pets in pet stores have always been 'loss leaders,' with owners willing to lose some money on the animals to draw customers in to buy more profitable products. Consequently, many small pet shops breed their own animals or 'inventory.'

When Teresa first visited the store, Lucy was pregnant and kept in the back room. Teresa and Robert were allowed to see her there. Later, she discovered another 'storage room' where more cages of animals were kept.

Small Pet Industry

Would you buy a puppy in a pet store knowing about puppy mills and dogs being killed in shelters everyday due to overpopulation? Teresa soon unearthed the darker tentacles of the small pet trade and felt the need to be a voice for the voiceless. She even successfully championed a Bill through the California legislature to require adequate printed pet care instructions to be provided by stores when animals were sold.

13 Guinea Pigs Inspire a Life of Rescue

Now with thirteen guinea pigs at home, she thought, What’s one or two more, I’ll do rescue!” A passion was sparked, and life was never the same. She let the local shelter know of her plans and checked city and county codes to make sure she complied with any needed restrictions or licensing (which were virtually non-existent). Her first call from the shelter was about a group of 12 stressed guinea pigs who'd been dropped off in a box at a local grocery store parking lot. They were in poor condition with mites. The shelter was going to put them down. Mites are quite curable with pennies worth of the drug Ivermectin. Of course she took them in.

Her small spare bedroom that had been turned into a dance room now became the 'pig room.'

The Caging Saga

When she first got Babe, she shopped for the largest guinea pig cage she could find. It was the "Super Pet Cage" which was under 4 square feet. When her guinea pig herd starting growing, she added more of them side by side. She used a hacksaw to cut down the solid plastic side walls to make it easier for the little potatoes to run back and forth among them. Clearly, that wasn't going to work for long and she started working on alternative designs. 

At one point she had a big molded kiddie swimming pool on her dining room table. But it was too wide and virtually impossible to reach across to pick up the pigs or clean the cage. 

She thought a custom plexiglas cage might be great. But after getting a quote from a local plastics company, the cost would have been in the hundreds, too heavy, easily etched up over time, and not versatile at all. 

During these times, she would have the guinea pigs out for floor time and tested out various ideas. She was mindful of the behaviors and activities of the varying guinea pig groups in the different configurations.

She was quite intrigued by the rabbit folks who used "Neat Idea Cubes" -- a popular brand at the time for storage grids used for temporary home shelving. Many rabbit designs used linoleum on the floor of the cage. That worked for rabbits because rabbits weren't pottying on the floor, they had litter pans. She tried it out anyway. 

The trouble with linoleum is 1) it's not remotely safe for guinea pigs if they chew it; 2) most surfaces are textured, making it difficult to clean adequately, and 3) it's too soft to properly form walls -- the material pushes out against the grids if shaped into a wall without building a supporting structure. 

The Eureka Moment! 

In her ongoing search for ideas and inspiration, she came across a black and white page on a Humane Society website in British Columbia. The article looked like a page out of an old Popular Mechanics magazine. A guy had created a large 'play pen' out of corrugated plastic. It was hard to really see it closely but he had cut out the corners and taped it up into a giant box with tall walls from a full sheet of coro. She thought, "Huh, interesting, I wonder what that is." 

After struggling some more with the linoleum, she decided to investigate that new material. She called around and found some at her local "Fast Signs" store. She got her first two 4'x8' sheets of it home and realized, "OMG, it's perfect!" C&C Cages was born!

Now she had a reasonably priced, colorful, fun-to-build, flexible, easy-to-clean, easy-to-replicate solution for a habitat for virtually any size guinea pig herd that could be built horizontally and enhanced vertically. 

Cavy Spirit and Cavy Cages was Born

Teresa was an IT sales and marketing and software development professional. If she was going to take guinea pigs in, she needed to get them properly adopted back out and she needed a website let the community know about them. After all this research and participation in online groups along with her own personal experience, she realized she had things to say and contribute. CavySpirit.com became her platform for her adoptables and her messaging about bigger and better cages. 

She developed her new Cage Size Standards1 through extensive observation of her personal and rescue guinea pig groupings in various cage configurations and sizes. Drawing on these insights, she became a vocal educator and champion for these standards, leveraging her success with adopters and her online activities to promote better guinea pig care.

Teresa’s Early Cages Websites

She created CavyCages(.com), which later became GuineaPigCages.com, to share detailed instructions on “How to Make” a C&C cage, along with a community-sourced directory of where to find materials. She included a forum (still the world’s largest and most comprehensive forum for guinea pigs), a user-generated content photo gallery, and more. Her new guinea pig cage size standards,1 put forth in 2000, continue to be the widely accepted standards to this day. They have been adopted by the HSUS (Humane Society of the United States), ASPCAs, and virtually all guinea pig experts around the world. 

Teresa was making and selling her cage kits locally (in the San Francisco Bay Area) to her adopters and others who wanted this new C&C cage. Multiple families visited her popular home-rescue every week for years. Weekends were especially busy. She always required her adopters to ensure readiness with a 2x4-grid-sized cage, and she provided them with the cage components to take home with them when necessary. Her adoptions were typically a two-visit process. The first visit was to get acquainted with the piggies and the care needed, and to take home the C&C cage kit to get it assembled and ready to receive the piggies. The second visit brought the newly adopted guinea pigs home to their new C&C Cage. She had a modest (but lovely) home with a room full of big, nice-smelling, and easy-to-clean cages that set an inspirational standard for proper care that was both easy and enjoyable to build and maintain. Success grew and the word spread. Her advocacy for these cages continued unabated.

Emergence of the Cages Store

After five years of strong advocacy and marketing, Teresa teamed up with a guinea pig pet owner on the East Coast who saw Teresa's C&C cages, understood the value proposition, and wanted to provide C&C cage kit components for sale online. Great! More people would have easier access, rather than having to source the components themselves. The kits were sold on the internet by and through Teresa’s well-established cages website, backed by her trusted expertise and reputational authority to market and drive demand for the kits. As Teresa continued to grow her web presence and network of guinea pig-related internet properties, more and more people were discovering this new cage design. It was so fulfilling to hear the stories of people walking into sign shops all around the USA and worldwide, asking to buy a sheet of Coroplast. Many sign store personnel would ask, "For a guinea pig cage?" LOL. Corrugated plastic sheets are typically used to make outdoor signs and commercial displays. So a request for just a sheet out of the blue at a sign store was unusual and was increasingly for someone looking to make one of Teresa's C&C Cages.

C&C cages were becoming very popular. In 2010, Teresa created the GuineaPigZone.com website as a one-stop-shop, so to speak, for all things guinea pig -- a central directory for guinea pig rescues, guinea pig vets, resources for cage materials, and adoptable guinea pigs, as well as the cage kits for sale, and more. As the creative juices flowed, cage designs evolved, and the product line expanded to include lofts, ramps, kitchens, stands, cubbies, and more. This growing complexity prompted Teresa to create and introduce a separate, dedicated website -- the Guinea Pig Cages Store, delivering the same attention to all the housing-related details of caring for and about guinea pigs, on a more maintainable, evolving, and modern e-commerce platform.

Growth Beyond Cages

Similarly, in 2012, Teresa then partnered with Jenny Sawyer, an established, expert seamstress creating small pet accessories, to make and fulfill orders for small pet cozies, bedding, and toys. Teresa created the sister store, Guinea Pig Market, which provides easy access to top-quality, gorgeous bedding and cozy products, to match and fit the various configurations possible from the C&C cages.

All products sold in Teresa’s stores are guinea pig-tested for an extended period with Teresa's rescue guinea pigs to ensure they are truly beneficial and healthy for the animals, and are easy to manage and clean for their caretakers. If a cage is at all difficult or inconvenient to clean, good intentions can run amok in the day after day, year after year grind, leading to piggy parenting stress and unhappiness, and to a degrading quality of life for the critters. Her high standards of care, convenience, and safety are always an integral part of products promoted on her sites.

From the beginning, Teresa made the conscious decision not to trademark "C&C" – as she wanted the concept of properly roomy and healthy cages to be universally available, accepted, and adopted by everyone without friction or business greed – to benefit as many piggies and their caretakers as humanly possible. Over the years, many people and businesses have championed the cause of C&C Cages. Big and small companies alike have copied Teresa's designs and products worldwide. Many jobs have been created and livelihoods enjoyed, flowing from her continuing innovations and creative solutions evolving around her C&C cage concepts. By design and intention, Teresa’s C&C Cages were established as a generic term rather than a brand.

Introduction of the Cagetopia® Brand

To establish branding and reinforcement for the designs and intellectual property that she continues to innovate unabated to this day, Teresa created the CAGETOPIA® brand. This was necessary as, unfortunately, most copied products have reduced the quality of the component materials and made compromises on design for the sake of profit. “C&C” sounds generic and implies interchangeability and compatibility – but that is no longer true, due to all of the quality, sizing, and design compromises made by many. Cagetopia® is now the over-arching brand that encompasses the full range of unique, visionary, and quality products being innovated and sold ONLY through Teresa’s websites: www.CAGETOPIA.com and www.GuineaPigMarket.com. No other store domain names are associated with Teresa, even if they look similar. Look for the Cagetopia® brand for the best quality, dependability, and comprehensive, experienced customer service.

In 2023, to position her business for continuity, better economies of scale, and modern sourcing, production, and quality control technologies, Teresa partnered with a new state-of-the-art production company, to fulfill her next generations of cage designs and growth. We have a bright and innovation-filled future ahead – and for our many valued customers, welcome to Cagetopia® the Heart and Art of Guinea Pig Living!

Going Forward

Teresa’s former cage kits supplier established a separate store and domain in May 2023 and may use the old Guinea Pig Cages Store or similar domain, inviting confusion. However, they are no longer affiliated with Cagetopia or Teresa. They are completely independent, unrelated, and not 'the same' as Cagetopia. Currently, their products are generally compatible with those sold on Cagetopia, but products from other brands, are not. For any questions or concerns, please contact us — we’re here to help!

The Content on CAGETOPIA

You may always be assured that the content on Cagetopia.com is original -- it is first-hand information based on Teresa Murphy's extensive experience and expertise. Unlike other sources that so often recycle content or rely on AI, Teresa's advice is drawn from over 25 years of hands-on guinea pig rescue and loving care, involving the direct care and rehoming of many hundreds of guinea pigs and collaboration with key figures in the small pet world. Her commitment is to the well-being of guinea pigs and their caretakers, not profit.

The Customer Service at CAGETOPIA

For over 25 years, Teresa has always published her phone number, making herself available around the clock. She advises caution when vetting guinea pig care and caging advice, particularly from those with limited first-hand experience. Teresa has spoken with thousands of guinea pig owners, gathering extensive insights and addressing various issues and suggestions. She manages some of the largest guinea pig communities online.

Altruism Extraordinaire

For decades, Teresa has personally funded and managed community sites like GuineaPigFinder.com and GuineaPigCages.com. These sites have cost tens of thousands of dollars to maintain over time, benefiting all rescues and individuals looking to rehome, adopt, and learn about guinea pigs. This is above and beyond the normal direct support provided to rescues of deep discounts and products. Through Guinea Pig Finder, thousands of guinea pigs have found loving homes. Your support helps continue this mission.

Guinea Pig Cage Size Standards

Guinea Pig Cage Size Standards Graphic Guinea Pig Cage Sizes shown to scale

2 Quote from Linda Lee of KMS HAYLOFT

Linda Lee (1959 - 2020) was the owner of KMS Hayloft, the most beloved and popular online hay supplier among guinea pig and small pet parents for many years. She loved her guinea pig family and was initially a small hobby breeder. Linda and Teresa were both active posters on the forums of the guinea pig groups of the day. During the early years there was much drama on the forums. At times, they clashed in their views as it related to breeding, but over time she was won over to the rescue perspective. Teresa's most cherished compliment of her ongoing efforts was sent by Linda via this email in 2006:

10/16/2006: You are already an icon, my friend. I am proud of you and you work so hard, not that hearing it from me probably means that much, but I need you to know that. Having friends in the breeding community, I hear all the stories and all the hoopla. Just so you know, you are feared. :)

I can honestly say without reservation that you, and you alone, have done more for the well-being of the guinea pig population than any other person on this planet. You have brought a plight that none of us knew about into focus.

Linda remains a treasured friend in the hearts of so many. Gone too soon, but we're sure she was welcomed by many popcorning piggies and critters in fields of greens and flowers when she crossed over.

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