Other Animals

Guinea Pigs: What’s in a Cage Mate?

Pairing a dominant guinea pig with a submissive one can lead to fewer fights. By: David

If you’ve recently acquired a guinea pig, you may be wondering if he’s lonely. You could be right. That’s an awfully big cage for one little guinea pig!

Guinea pigs tend to be fairly sociable animals and like to live in small groups.

However, it’s important to find the right cage mate for your new friend. Guinea pigs — like people — don’t always get along. When they fight in their home, it can be deadly, so it’s important to try and match your guinea pig with the right cage mate.

Personality Types

The Animal Humane Society (AHS) says, “Have you heard that males fight? Did you know that females may fight, too? Did you know that some males and females also won’t get along? Guinea pigs all have their own personality.”

Be sure to match up your guinea pig’s personality with a likable counterpart. For example, the AHS recommends that you pair up a dominant guinea pig with a more submissive guinea pig so the former easily establishes dominance and the two are less likely to fight.

When introducing your guinea pigs to one another, the AHS warns to watch for the following signs:

  • Bite attacks are no longer warning nips. They are lunges with intent to harm.
  • Raised hackles, loud and angry teeth chattering, and “rumblestrutting” in place with the head staying in one position while facing the other guinea pig doing the same thing are usually signs of an imminent attack. But the animals may back down before they engage.
  • Both pigs rear up on their haunches, face to face. This is a clear, brief signal of their intent to launch full attacks. Separate them quickly before anything happens.
  • Full battle: The pigs are locked in a vicious ball of fur. This is serious. Carefully separate them immediately — throw a towel over them and use a dustpan or something other than your hand to block them off from one another. Their very sharp teeth can cause serious damage to you.
Guinea pigs can form strong bonds and even grieve when a friend dies. By: su-may

Gender Matters

Unless you are really keen on adding family members to your household (think dozens), you’re going to want to pair up 2 or more guinea pigs of the same gender.

Guinea pigs, according to Wikipedia, can produce up to 5 litters of pups per year! Even if your female guinea pig only has 3 pups per litter, by the end of the year, you’ll have almost 20 guinea pigs. And if you don’t separate the males from the females in those litters? You could be looking at a situation similar to when Gremlins get wet — rapid multiplication!

Spacious Living

One guinea pig needs about 4 feet of living space, according to the ASPCA. If you get more guinea pigs, increase their cage space so the pigs have room to roam and play without bumping into one another constantly.

You should also clean the cage frequently — otherwise, your guinea pigs can get sores and irritation on their feet and skin.

Watch these happy guinea pigs enjoy one another’s company (for the most part):

When a Cage Mate Dies

Guinea pigs often bond strongly with their cage mates. When one passes away, it’s not uncommon for the remaining guinea pigs to grieve. (By the way, guinea pigs live only about 5–7 years.)

In her book The Guinea Pig Handbook, Dr. Sharon Lynn Vanderlip, DVM, explains what to expect: Guinea pigs “have been known to stop eating and drinking when they lose a friend. Under these conditions, your pet’s health could rapidly deteriorate. By housing at least 3 together, your surviving animals will always have each other if the third one should pass away.”

While you will be terribly sad at the loss of your guinea pig, it will be critically important to monitor your survivors to ensure that they are not refusing food and water.

Having a few guinea pigs in the family can be a joyful experience. They are smart, fun to watch and even more of a blast to interact with. Watching several guinea pigs bond in their home is also a delight.

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