Humans are social beings and as much as we want to socialize with our human connections, we also socialize with animals. Some animals are more social than others and we can say that every domesticated animal is quite social. Most animals live in a herd and they are used to social behavior. Now let’s talk about our guinea pigs.
Are guinea pigs social? Guinea pigs are social animals and they like to socialize with humans just like any cat or a dog. It takes just a couple of weeks for guinea pigs to develop affection towards the owner and after a few months, their trust and social behavior towards the owner start to flourish. In the wild, guinea pigs live in herds, and after domestication, this has not changed as they always want companions (other guinea pigs) near them. Guinea pigs thrive best when they are paired or kept in groups.
Some people may argue that their guinea pig is happy with only having human affection and does not need a companion (other guinea pig). But, if only they would stop being selfish and look closely, they would understand that even guinea pigs need the companions of their own species.
If not anything else, imagine living a life with just a guinea pig without any human connection. It is the same for these poor animals. As we’ve said, guinea pigs are social animals and they don’t like to live alone and an interesting fact is that they can even die of loneliness.
In the following sections, you can read more about guinea pig’s social behavior with their owner and other guinea pigs. Let’s begin!
Guinea Pig’s Social Life: Do Not Expect Much of Their Attention
Guinea pigs communicate with each other with their sensitive nose and sharp ears. They also make sounds to interact with others. In the absence of the companion, these skills can get lost, and the people who complain about their guinea pigs being lazy, non-responsive or aggressive should look more closely. As a pet owner, you should keep a guinea pig in pairs or groups, if you want to enjoy hearing happy guinea pig sounds.
Usually, pet owners become obsessive with getting the attention of guinea pigs. Guinea pigs are responsive, but they are different from dogs or cats. Guinea pigs do not act according to your whims.
The sooner you realize that, the better it is for both guinea pig and you. They will gradually befriend you, but you will have to give them time and another guinea friend to talk to.
Domestication has been part of human life since long ago. Guinea pigs have been long known for domestication and at first, they have been used by humans as food. They became popular as a pet when Queen Elizabeth kept guinea pigs as her favorite pet.
Low Levels of Social Aggression in Guinea Pigs
Do Guinea Pigs Fight?
It doesn’t matter if two guinea pigs living in the same cage are fighting all the time, having a company of another guinea pig is always better than no company at all. They will still be happier than just living alone with you. As a pet owner, it might hurt your ego, but this is a fact. Exceptions naturally exist and some guinea pigs like to be left alone, but that happens rarely.
Guinea pigs fight with each other and then eventually settle down their fight like a grown-up intelligent people which shows their constant need to socialize.
Male guinea pigs love to seduce female guinea pigs and also fight with their competition for getting the attention of the female guinea pig. In case, your guinea pigs are fighting a little bit too much, you can always separate them in different cages or make a wall of grids inside the big cage.
Some behavioral characteristics they show while seducing are rumble strutting, butt sniffing, butt nudging, chasing, butt dragging, mounting nose faceoffs, teeth chattering and raised hackles.
Are Guinea Pigs Dominant?
Guinea pigs not only fight for female guinea pig’s attention but they also fight for supremacy in the herd. This can happen between male/male or male/female or female/female guinea pigs. Again, if the fight is getting extreme, it is better to separate them.
The chances are that your guinea pigs will never get along with each other and you should be prepared for it. But, this nature is also part of socialization. Fighting is a social character. Some of the features that they exhibit while they want to show their dominance are teeth chattering, nips, wide yawn to show off their teeth and snorting.
When the fighting gets extreme, they show behavior like bite attacks, raised hackles with loud, angry teeth chattering and rumble strutting. Sometimes, both guinea pigs will raise up face to face on their haunches, which will finally lead to the full battle.
Females try to avoid confrontation with each other when they are trying to get a mate but they can also be aggressive. After they are done with mating, they go back to being normal. It’s like two friends trying to hide something from each other.
The social behavior of showing dominance is common in both male and female guinea pigs. If there is only one source of food, water or even a potential mate, the dominant will definitely try to bully others.
Guinea pigs are quite picky with their food and show childlike behavior if you don’t feed them the food of their interest. They will even go to the length of starving themselves to death to force you to give them what they want.
Reasons Why Guinea Pigs Are Socially Active Animals
Do Guinea Pigs Like to Communicate?
Guinea pigs are very communicative animals. They produce so many different sounds. Guinea pigs love to be vocal when they want to communicate their happiness, excitement or even sadness to others. They chatter their teeth, squeak, wheek, and chirp. Don’t be disheartened if they don’t do it.
Like us humans, some guinea pigs are extroverts while some like to keep things low and don’t want to talk at all. It does not mean that those guinea pigs are not social. It means that they all have different personalities. Their behavior and their voices can tell you what they are trying to say to you.
There is no set timetable for their sounds or chattering. They can do that during the day or even at night. Guinea pigs are most excited when they are being fed with fresh veggies or hay or when they are communicating with their companion.
So, if you want to witness their chatter, you have to keep an eye on them and feed them lavishly. Guinea pigs also respond to the noises that they don’t like. This could be loud music in your house, the sound of a keychain, wind chimes hanging at your door, doorbells, the ringtone of your phone, etc.
When in herds, guinea pigs maintain a social hierarchy. This enables them to avoid unnecessary fights. In fact, research has shown that guinea pigs thrive better in herds than in single units or even in pairs.
Are Guinea Pigs Depressive?
Guinea pigs can love with their whole heart. Often, when one guinea pig dies, the other will suffer from depression and might refuse to eat, which in the end can also lead to starvation. Guinea pigs make chirping sound indicating that they miss their friend. In that case, you should try to introduce it to a new guinea pig to them.
Guinea Pigs and Their Need for Personal Space
Guinea pigs can become your snuggle pets if given time but if they don’t, there is not much you can do about it. Generally, guinea pigs are popular as a pet for their gentle and affectionate nature. They respond well to gentle handling but do not require as much attention as other pets such as a dog or a cat.
Guinea pigs love to spend some ‘lap time’ with the owner due to their social nature. They love to play and to have someone to talk to. Guinea pigs are rarely hostile but guinea pigs love to have some personal space. You as the owner needs to understand when the guinea pig wants to quit cuddling and playing.
Though guinea pigs can settle with anybody, it is better to keep them with their own species to avoid any clash especially the animals which are stronger than guinea pigs. Animals like dogs and cats are carnivores and can harm your guinea pig in your absence even if you have trained them enough.
Even less aggressive animals like rabbits or hamsters can bully your guinea pig which will on aggravate their stress. Guinea pigs go well with humans because we do not try to harm them and we only show them affection.
As it is obvious from the upper sections of the article, it is quite evident that guinea pigs are social animals and easy to be domesticated. It is okay if your guinea pig hides away at the first sight of your guest who you might want to show your pet animal. It is their basic instinct to find a safe place if they see any danger. The unknown stranger is perceived as a danger.
So, give your pet a little time to adjust even with you, and if they don’t feel comfortable with you, it does not mean that you are not a good owner, it is just that your guinea pig is an introvert and likes to be left alone.
Stay and watch them from a safe distance and enjoy their way of life. If they are active with you, just be happy and appreciate your pet guinea pig. Best of luck!
List of Sources
Sachser, N., Of domestic and wild guinea pigs: studies in sociophysiology, domestication, and social evolution, Die Naturwissenschaften, 1998.
Wade, M. J., Bijma, P., Ellen, E. D., Muir, W., Group selection and social evolution in domesticated animals, Evolutionary applications, 2010.
Sachser, N., Lick, C., Social experience, behavior, and stress in guinea pigs, Physiology & behavior, 1991.
Stefanski, V., Hendrichs, H., Social confrontation in male guinea pigs: behavior, experience, and complement activity, Physiology & behavior, 1996.
Beauchamp, G. K., The perineal scent gland and social dominance in the male guinea pig, Physiology & behavior, 1974.
Harper, L. V., The effects of isolation from birth of the social behaviour of guinea pigs in adulthood, Animal behaviour, 1968.
Kaiser, S., Kruijver, F. P., Straub, R. H., Sachser, N., Swaab, D. F., Early social stress in male Guinea-pigs changes social behaviour, and autonomic and neuroendocrine functions, Journal of neuroendocrinology, 2003.