Guinea pigs (like humans) are social animals. They need at least one piggy companion to be happy and healthy: meaning that they shouldn’t live alone. However, that doesn’t mean that they’ll accept anybody’s company. There are clear guidelines on how guinea pigs should be paired if an owner wants to bypass hostility.
Guinea pigs are fleeing prey animals: therefore, it’s rare to encounter an aggressive piggy. They depend on self-defense mechanisms such as hiding, freezing, running, and screaming. Only in dire face-to-face situations do they resort to fighting.
How do guinea pigs fight? Guinea pigs have one motive for aggression: asserting dominance. It’s normal for two piggies to clash when they first meet. The following issues are expected, and there’s no need to intervene when they occur:
- Pushing and chasing: One piggy runs after another piggy to show that it’s stronger, faster, etc.
- Mounting: Not inherently sexual, but rather to literally determine the top piggy.
- Yawning to show off teeth.
- Teeth chatter (hissing): A rare signal that means stay away, and only happens under extreme circumstances.
- Standing up and raising the head: Guinea pigs measure up by competing who’s taller, and therefore stronger.
- Rumble-strutting: The guinea pig swings its behind and rumbles to show dominance.
- Spraying: Marking territory by peeing on it.
In some cases, the fight may escalate to dangerous levels, and that’s the time to separate the guinea pigs:
- Attacking the opponent’s face: When a piggy head-butts its companion’s mouth, the next hit will involve teeth.
- Hair pulling: A guinea pig may pull out its opponent’s fur in a fight.
- Blood-drawing biting/nipping: Happens because a guinea pig is angry, scared, annoyed, defensive, or maybe sick.
- Launching/attacking: An excessive measure of aggression when neither piggy is ready to give up.
If left to fight, guinea pigs could seriously hurt each other, and later have no chance of reconciliation. Owners should not let this happen because the two guinea pigs will have to live alone: and therefore, be lonely and depressed.
Separating Fighting Guinea Pigs
It’s important to take several safety measures when guinea pigs are fighting. Firstly, the owner should wear gloves or use a towel: then he/she must take the attacker away from the wounded piggy. If they’re too wound-up, a piece of cardboard between them will enable someone to divide them and end the fight.
These two guinea pigs should be kept in different cages, and in different rooms overnight. They can be delicately reintroduced the next day. It’s important to keep a vigilant eye on the two ex-rivals for signs of rising hostility.
After any fight, both guinea pigs need to be thoroughly examined for bruises, wounds, infections, abnormal eating/drinking habits, or continued aggressive behavior. If a piggy exhibits any of these traits, it must be taken to a veterinarian.
How to Introduce Guinea Pigs?
Before introducing two guinea pigs, the new one must be quarantined for two to three weeks in order to exclude the possibility of an underlying illness. During this time, it’s essential that both be calm and content with their surroundings. This means that the new one should have some time to get accustomed to its surroundings and that each piggy should have appropriate cage space (120cm x 50cm x 50cm) and bedding.
The next step is to begin scent swapping: which just means trading items, such as bedding and toys, between cages. The guinea pigs slowly get used to each other’s scents and won’t feel stressed or threatened once they meet.
If the guinea pigs begin to communicate from their separate cages, then the owner should prepare a neutral area for them to meet in. This is a place that neither of them has been to. It should have boxes and tubes for hiding, as well as food and hay for distraction and positivity.
It’s important to notice how the piggies react to one another: either they’ll start playing together and share space and resources, or they’ll hide and become stressed and aggressive, in which case they should be separated immediately. The session should end positively. Guinea pigs need several of these sessions before they can start living together, especially since some pairs take longer to bond than others.
If a pair of piggies are happy playing together, then they should live together. The owner should replace any closed hiding places (like carriers) in their shared cage with items that promote transparency (like tubes). Food and two separate water bottles are essential for the piggies. The owner should continue monitoring the piggies’ behavior until it’s sure that they’re calm and content with each other.
How to Pair Guinea Pigs?
The first thing to do when getting a guinea pig is to check its gender, as pet stores are often mistaken when making these determinations. Whether or not guinea pigs are hostile depends on the way they’re paired. There are only several appropriate groupings:
- A single, castrated male among multiple females closely mimics guinea pig herds in the wild. This setting encourages the guinea pigs to express their most natural behaviors: which can be quite interesting for a person to watch.
- Two sows, especially if they’ve lived together since infanthood, usually remain friendly for the rest of their lives.
- One older male will establish his dominance over a younger, male piggy companion: it’s a good combination.
- Two boars (males) that get along, preferably raised together, will fight much less than boars that just met. Each one should have his personal sleeping and eating space.
- A castrated male with a sow (female)
Although guinea pigs are innately gentle and docile, stressful circumstances and high levels of hormones are common triggers for aggression. Neutering is a common practice in these cases, but truthfully, it doesn’t really help guinea pigs.
This should only be done for medical or reproductive reasons, and no later than when a piggy is 2.5 years old.
If a boar loses its companion or doesn’t enjoy male company, then it may be put with females. When living with sows, they will definitely breed and produce a huge amount of offspring. It’s crucial to have the male castrated to avoid having astronomical amounts of guinea pig babies that no one can take care of.
Neutering a male will not change his personality. Castration does nothing to make two boars like each other. Owners have to accept that sometimes guinea pigs don’t get along and find a valid solution.
What If They Simply Don’t Get Along?
If guinea pigs fight when they first meet, the introduction should be restarted at a later date. Before they see each other again, they should have another quarantine period in which they’ll forget about any problems.
They may still fight the second time they meet. As long as the introducer has followed protocol, it’s not his fault. Some guinea pigs are just too aggressive for a companion. Besides, some pairs just aren’t compatible.
Guinea pigs can’t live alone, but they also can’t live in a hostile environment. Some professionals recommend putting them in separate cages. They will see, hear, and smell each other without any physical contact. This way, they’ll have some social interaction but won’t be in close quarters with an aggressive companion.
In conclusion, guinea pigs are fearful, small prey animals that can bite hard when they want to be dominant. There are some standard aggressive behaviors that are bound to happen when two guinea pigs meet, such as chasing, mounting, yawning, chattering, head-raising, rumble-strutting, head-butting, and marking. People should not get involved when witnessing these behaviors.
However, if guinea pigs start pulling at each other’s fur, lunging and attacking, and biting or nipping, they must be separated immediately. Since their teeth and claws are quite sharp, a person should use gloves, a towel, and possibly cardboard to separate them. Both piggies should be quarantined and reintroduced after enough time has passed (two to three weeks) for them to forget that they fought. However, if fighting continues after they’ve been reunited, the owner should consider separating them for good.
Guinea pigs require social interaction, otherwise, they start to suffer from depression and loneliness. This means that the two piggies can’t live alone in separate rooms, but rather in the same room but in separate cages. They will see, hear, and smell each other, as well as communicate from afar. This way, they still have a social life, but neither one is getting bullied (or being a bully).
Guinea pigs are sweet, kind, docile animals. They deserve love and attention, and they shouldn’t be punished if they don’t get along. Some owners simply have to accept that and stop forcing incompatible ones to be together. When two guinea pigs are fighting, their animal instinct completely takes over, and they can struggle (literally) to death. That’s why it’s so important to separate them when they’re getting aggressive. Whoever is meddling should be very careful, as guinea pigs see humans as potential predators and will not hesitate to scratch or bite whoever is picking them up when they’re afraid.