Guinea pigs are adorable and affectionate pets and they are favored by most people because they are relatively easy to take care of and also good starter pets. Another reason for their popularity as a pet animal is their easy-going nature and simple habits.
They are not demanding like other pets and you can easily manage them but never give them to kids without supervision. But are they dangerous, can they exhibit aggressive behavior towards owners or other guinea pigs?
Are guinea pigs aggressive? Aggression in guinea pigs is not very common but some changes in their routine, different cage position, health problems, or improper handling of guinea pigs can trigger aggressive behavior towards owners. Guinea pigs can also show aggressive behavior towards other guinea pigs, this happens a lot when they are trying to show and establish dominance.
In the case of aggression, separate guinea pigs in different cages. Let them calm down and then again try to put them in the same cage. When the guinea pig is aggressive towards the owner, look for causes of their aggressive behavior and always introduce any environmental or routine change gradually.
In the following sections, we have talked more in-depth about aggressive behavior in guinea pigs, possible causes and how to prevent and stop this behavior.
It is important to note that every guinea pig has different behavior and in some cases, guinea pig owners will never experience aggressive behavior from their pet. Now, let’s talk about the symptoms of aggression in guinea pigs.
Aggressive Guinea Pig Behavior: Signs, Causes and More
Signs and Symptoms of Aggression in Guinea Pigs
Although guinea pigs are quite affectionate normally, sometimes they tend to show aggressive behavior. The sings of aggression might include biting, fighting and squeaking. Living in a pair or a group, they might bare teeth at each other, showing unhappiness. Sometimes grinding and shaking teeth when they look at each other can be a sign that they intend to start a fight.
These signs of hostility usually subside if one of the opponents backs down and does not respond to the intimidating moves of the other. When picking a fight, the male guinea pigs mount on each other’s backs to show dominance.
Factors That Cause Aggressive Behavior in Guinea Pigs
There are various reasons that aggravate aggression in guinea pigs. Sometimes moving into a new place, they might want to mark their territory or show dominance over other guinea pigs. This is a natural behavior that many species follow when they get into a new place.
Mostly, these dominance wars don’t get to a serious level and subside as time passes. Severe physical conflict only occurs if one of the opponents shows resilience and is not willing to surrender to the other. In most cases, one guinea pig is dominant while the other is submissive.
Sometimes an injury or illness can trigger aggression in guinea pigs. Going to an unfamiliar place also tends to cause aggression and anxiety. While some animals are curious to discover new places, guinea pigs seem to be comfortable only in territories familiar to them.
While two male guinea pigs can live together in harmony, the same might not be true when both genders (male and female) are living together. If two males are living in the presence of a female guinea pig, they are will likely insinuate fights and acts of aggression.
So, if you are going to keep more guinea pigs in a cage, it might not be a good idea to mix genders, as it can cause competition amongst them for the female.
How to Distinguish Aggression from Abnormal Behavior in Guinea Pigs
Normally guinea pigs are cute little pet animals and they rarely show aggression. But, as an owner, it’s your responsibility to pay attention to behavioral changes. They start to excessively vocalize, biting their cage and pull hair to register their protest and show that they are angry or have some issues that need to be resolved.
Many things can make them angry, unsatisfied or unhappy. Just be active and analyze their behavior and keep track of it.
Aggression is slightly different from abnormal behavior. There are various things that will trigger aggressive behavior. Aggression can make them bite you or their cage mates.
When guinea pigs fight, their easy targets are ears of their opponent. In order to determine if their aggression is alarming, you should check for injuries on the ears of their cage-mates.
Triggers That Cause Behavioral Change
Guinea pigs are quite expressive in terms of letting you know about their feelings by changing their behavior and voices. Being a guinea pig owner, your responsibility is to note such behavioral changes and try to minimize or eliminate the reasons that are causing the aggressive behavior in them.
Any event can prove to be a trigger to a behavioral change in guinea pigs. To address such abnormal behavior, you need to know the events that happened prior to this behavioral change. Accordingly, you can eliminate adverse effects or come up with a better solution to satisfy your guinea pig.
For example, when your guinea pig sees a new person, it may squeal or hide. When he is unhappy with his meals or serving size of the meal, then they show their dissatisfaction and irritation by hissing or shrieking. Beware, that these are in the category of abnormal behavior and not be classified as aggressive behavior.
Aggression and Guinea Pig’s Body Language
Guinea pigs quite casually display behavioral expressions like love, hatred, aggression, disliking by making different vocal noises. It’s really a matter of time, that by analyzing their behavior that you will be able to decode various body expressions of a guinea pig.
If your pet is whistling, then know that it’s out of sheer excitement and happiness. When they purr in high pitch then it means they are annoyed. When guinea pigs want to show they are angry, they will make chattering teeth sounds.
Only after you have spent some months with your guinea pigs will you be able to understand the different ways through which they exhibit different emotions. Freezing, fidgeting or throwing up the head in the air means that the guinea pig is not happy or comfortable with its condition or surroundings. Teeth barring, hissing and strutting are also some signs of aggression.
Guinea pigs are quite social and friendly pet animals. On the contrary, when the little pet is happy he will show this by rapid hopping like popcorn popping or in some cases it will rub noses. This shows that they are happy and content.
Guinea pigs love to play so make sure that you spend time with them or get them other cage mates with whom they can play and socialize, otherwise they may get stressed or depressed. Guinea pigs can even die because of loneliness.
Guinea pigs are sensitive creatures and they show it quite effectively as well. In the state of depression and stress, guinea pigs become detached and they look tired. You need to consult a vet if this state of depression is shown in your pet guinea pigs for a prolonged period of time.
How to Separate Aggressive Guinea Pigs: Instructions
Sometimes, aggressive behavior occurs when two or more boars are placed in the same cage. The cage is new for them so both guinea pigs will fight each other to prove their dominance.
The first solution is to separate the two guinea pigs from each other at least for a night or two. It will help them in stabilizing their nerves and the aggression when they are on their own for some time.
The next day introduce them to each other again but closely monitor their behavior. Usually separating them for a night helps a lot. When you re-introduce them to each other, give them enough time to familiarize themselves with the environment in each other’s company. Make sure that the cage is big enough for two boars to roam and play around.
Aggressive Behavior in Guinea Pigs and Other Pets: Comparison
Other pets like cats and dogs, show their aggression quite fiercely by destroying your belongings, pooping around, biting you or your friends who come to the house.
The aggression phase in guinea pigs is short and signs of aggression begin to show before the actual aggressive outbursts. Some other pet animals, like rats, rabbits or others silently build up an aggressive behavior and then suddenly put you in a shocking and embarrassing situation by bursting off without any notice.
Guinea pigs are not destructive. The maximum aggressive behavior they can exhibit towards the owner is biting the owner’s hand or cage wires. Cavies are reasonably easy to take care of, even when they are having an aggressive phase.
Guinea pigs are great to have as pets because they live longer than other small pet animals and provide a great company. Take good care of them and look out for the signs and triggers that may lead to their changed behavior and try to prevent them. If you liked our article please share it and keep following us for more guinea pig content. Best of luck!
List of Sources
Künzl, C., Sachser, N., The Behavioral Endocrinology of Domestication: A Comparison between the Domestic Guinea Pig (Cavia apereaf.porcellus) and Its Wild Ancestor, the Cavy (Cavia aperea), Hormones and Behavior, 1999.
Levinson, D. M., Reeves, D. L., Buchanan, D. R., Reductions in aggression and dominance status in guinea pigs following bilateral lesions in the basolateral amygdala or lateral septum, Physiology & behavior, 1980.
Bradley, T. A., Normal behavior and the clinical implications of abnormal behavior in guinea pigs, The veterinary clinics of North America. Exotic animal practice, 2001.
Sachser, N., Lick, C., Stanzel, K., The environment, hormones, and aggressive behaviour: a 5-year-study in guinea pigs, Psychoneuroendocrinology, 1994.