Guinea pigs are social and affectionate animals, and every owner gets surprised by how close the relationship has become after a few months of having a guinea pig.
Do guinea pigs need a friend to be happy? They need a fellow guinea pig to be happy. Guinea pigs will feel much more relaxed and secure having a companion in the cage. Moreover, if a pet owner neglects a guinea pig and starts feeling alone, they can get depressed and eventually die.
Guinea pigs are really social animals, just like us humans. This is why you can connect with them, and they can become an actual member of your house.
In the sections below, find out more about guinea pigs’ affectionate behavior and why they need a friend. Let’s start!
Related: What Makes Guinea Pigs Happy?
Natural Habitat vs. Domestication
In their natural habitat, guinea pigs live in herds. Though they are sometimes regarded as exotic animals and are usually preyed on by predatory animals in the wild, they don’t remain solitary.
They are meant to live in groups and thrive in interaction. Also, they rely on each other for warmth and alert the herd if a predator comes in.
As domestic pets, guinea pigs are great companion pets as they always need attention and affection. Each guinea pig has its personality and mood state, and they are very friendly.
Though they could be skittish at first, they are relatively easy to tame. They recognize and respond well to their owners and can be very attached to them.
However, if you think you can provide all the companionship that your pet guinea pig needs, think again. While you can be a good friend to your pet and interact with it all day to provide all the companionship that it needs, you can’t take the place of a guinea pig companion.
Especially if you’re mostly out for the large part of the day due to work and other important things, you won’t be able to provide the interaction it needs during that part of the day.
Just imagine the loneliness your pet is going to feel being alone in a cage when you’re away.
Related: Can Guinea Pigs Die of Loneliness?
Why Do Guinea Pigs Need a Roommate?
Your pet needs another guinea pig as a companion to provide the best possible natural environment. It needs someone of its kind to interact and play with. It’s almost criminal to adopt just one guinea pig. Heck, it is even illegal to adopt less than two guinea pigs in some countries like Switzerland!
You might be worried about additional costs, the time you will spend cleaning and maintaining two guinea pigs. Adopting a second guinea pig doesn’t add too much to your expenses compared to just one. Even vet expenses don’t cost too much for the most part.
Also, here are some additional advantages that will convince you in adopting a second guinea pig:
- Exercise – If you have work or study at school, the fellow guinea pig will provide the activity your other pet needs when they play with each other all day while you’re out.
- Better food selection – Having a single guinea pig will sometimes result in your pet being picky and finicky in the foods that you give it—having a friend guinea pig introduced will result in a food competition. Your picky pet with food selection will try out treats that his companion is eating, thus resulting in a varied, balanced, and healthier diet for both of them.
- A better behavior state – Ok, we’ll use the happier term here. It will be more rewarding to see your pets interact, chasing each other, cuddling, and snuggling together.
However, giving your pet guinea pig a companion is not as easy as putting another guinea pig in the same cage. Careful introduction of your pets to each other is necessary.
As an important rule, having guinea pigs of opposite genders is not recommended unless you are prepared to have an additional 7 or more pups every two to three months.
And speaking of pregnancies, as general advice for breeding guinea pigs, please don’t, if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Adopting two same-sex guinea pigs is the more recommended option. An adult female guinea pig usually won’t have any issues being introduced to another female guinea pig. Still, there are instances when two mature male guinea pigs might not get along very well.
Males tend to be territorial. This largely depends on their personality too, so it is recommended that you introduce two male guinea pigs to each other as babies so you won’t have problems with them fighting each other and they can create a stronger bond this way.
Another option is to introduce a younger male guinea pig (typically as young as six months old) to an older male guinea pig. They can establish a natural hierarchy, with the older one being more dominant than, the younger one.
Related: Which Guinea Pig Gender Is Better?
Introducing Guinea Pigs to Each Other
While some guinea pigs will act like meeting a long-lost friend when introduced to each other for the first time, there are just those times when your guinea pigs will fight each other due to personality differences.
Similar to dogs or wolf packs, there are guinea pigs who have a dominant personality or want to establish themselves as the “boss piggy.” There are also submissive guinea pigs who are just following the leader.
When guinea pigs try to assert dominance over each other, showing the fellow guinea pig who’s the boss might result in a fight. It can be a necessary process, but things might get bloody if no one gives in and keeps asserting dominance.
Here are some things to look out for when introducing guinea pigs to each other for the first time and what to do if a fight ensues:
When You Put Them on the Same Cage, Watch Them Closely for at Least One Hour
Look for signs like bottom-smelling, yawning, mounting, aggression, or non-serious fighting. These can be signs that one is upset with the other. If they don’t get along and suddenly engage in a fight, separate them with a towel to avoid getting bitten.
If They Are Not in a Fight, Listen Carefully to the Sounds That They Produce
Some sounds that they produce like rumble-strutting and constant teeth-chattering might mean that a guinea pig is anxious or stressed. It may even try to show dominance over the other, which can start the fighting between your guinea pigs. Keep a close eye on your pets and take action when the fight begins.
Related: What Do Guinea Pigs Sound Like?
Check for the Things They Might Fight For
If your cage is too small, they will fight each other for space. As a standard, having a cage of 10.5 square feet is the minimum for two guinea pigs. If you have a tunnel or house for the guinea pigs with only one entrance, they might fight for that. Also, if you don’t have hay beds, dishes, toys, and water bottles for each guinea pig, then they might fight over those things as well.
Scuffling and lunging on each other is a sign that they are fighting over space or things.
Check for Unusual Behaviors
If one of your pet guinea pigs seems terrified, just staying alone in one corner not doing anything, it can signify that the other guinea pig is bullying it. It is recommended to separate them if that is the case.
If You Suspect They Are Not Going Well With Each Other, Separate Them
Introduce a neutral space or put a cage divider to see each other’s safe interaction. Keep them separated for a few weeks. Swap their cages to get used to each other’s smell, and hopefully, this will make them friends over time.
Here is a video on how to introduce and bond guinea pigs:
Have patience, follow the tips above, and hopefully, your pets will have a bond that will last a lifetime.
That’s not to say your guinea pig doesn’t need you as a friend. It can consider you as a good companion as well. It makes his life much more complete when you’re around. You’ll be the provider of its food, water, shelter, and cuddling, and his guinea pig companion will provide everything else.
So it is still important to interact with them often by talking, holding, or petting them and giving them treats. Be a loving guinea pig owner and make them feel like a part of a family!
Related: What Do Guinea Pigs Need?