Guinea pig owners know the joy and happiness when a cavy is present in the home. However, most guinea pig owners keep just one cavy as a pet and think these pets are indeed the perfect, and calm rodents. And the truth is they are by nature calm and not aggressive, but those that keep more than one guinea pig at home, know the struggle of separating them when it’s needed to avoid further fights or injuries.
Why are my guinea pigs fighting? Usually, guinea pigs fight when they need to establish dominance over something or dominance over the other guinea pig in the cage. Other times they will fight because they are in some sort of physical pain or are unhappy with something. Of course, every animal tends to get in a fight with another animal, even from the same species. And when we think of this, it is very normal for cavies to fight occasionally. Guinea pigs are sociable and adorable, but they do fight and this can happen often sometimes, however, the owner is the one who can prevent further damage and calm down the cavies.
If two or more guinea pigs share one space or one bedding space, fights of this kind are expected because socializing has its own drawbacks. Of course, fighting between guinea pigs is not as random as it seems. In fact, it is some type of bonding and establishing communication between the two. This sort of communication should not be encouraged and must be stopped, but the initial step is to determine whether it is playful or aggressive fighting.
The Significance of Fighting for the Guinea Pigs
Try to think well before you combine two guinea pigs in the same cage. The main goal is not to end up with a pregnant female unless you are breeding them on purpose. So, if you keep a male one, get him another male, and same goes for females. It is crucial to pair well their personalities and needs, so if you don’t intend on breeding them on purpose, same-sex guinea pigs would be the smartest option.
It is more or less similar for the fighting aspect; you need to have one dominant and one subordinate cavy if possible. The older and more mature guinea pig will establish its own dominance over the smaller one, and this is the natural and desirable hierarchy. The smaller and weaker cavy would almost never dare to challenge the older one, so fewer fights are expected.
Pay attention to the individual personalities – this can be tricky. If the younger cavy is feisty, behaving dominant-like, and the older cavy is very relaxed, expect them to fight a lot because the roles here would be mixed up and complicated, and they would fight over who deserves to be the alpha male in that cage.
When you see a younger cavy fighting with an older one, it is not always conscious fighting for dominance. Often, it happens that a young cavy gets into its adolescence period, from 3 to 5 months, and when it enters that stage, it behaves almost like an alpha male fighting for domination.
You can always determine certain ways to avoid fights between the guinea pigs. When you buy a guinea pig, always ask if it’s a female and/or pregnant. This will determine whether you can or can’t pair it. in such a case, it will be completely fine with another female, or by herself, but not with a male partner.
It is always the best option to pair two males and two females, or if the cavies are neutered, they can be of mixed genders.
The next thing is to treat the cavies equally. Give them the same food items (for example don’t give treats just to one of them), change their bedding regularly so they don’t have too much scent markings day by day, and play with them in the same play area space or with the same toys. Remember, both cavies must be equally socialized and they must know that they are equally loved. This may not prevent fights or make them less severe, but it surely adds to the quality of life and the calmness of the guinea pigs.
Who Fights More; Males or Females?
In general, both can fight when necessary or needed. Two females could fight over domination, but males do the same, except much more aggressive.
Special attention should be paid when introducing two males in a cage.
As an advice, you can introduce both cavies for the first time, on an area that neither claims, an area that was not a cage for guinea pigs so far. In such an environment, they will sniff at each other before they start to silently purr and mark each other with their scents. The one that succeeds in the marking and mounting over the other one, is the ‘winner’ or the dominant one. This way of establishing dominance could prevent fights to happen because one of the cavies is already the dominant one in a neutral area (out of a cage).
Pregnant Guinea Pigs and Aggressive Behavior
Pregnant cavies require special care and understanding of their behavior. More often than not, pregnant cavies must be removed from the cage (if they share the space with another guinea pig).
The hormonal changes during the pregnancy change the behavior of the guinea pig drastically in most cases. When in heat, the females will tend to fight the others in the cage, to establish dominance over ‘her safe, homely space’. In the beginning, this can be normal for the first few times, but if the fights get more aggressive and frequent by the day, separation of the female from the rest is inevitable.
Preventing and Stopping Fights Between Guinea Pigs
First, it is important to differentiate between dominance or a real fight.
If it’s a real fight, you will have to separate them. When nothing severe is damaged and if there are no injuries, everything is fine, but if one or both are injured from the fight, you need to take them to the veterinarian immediately.
If a fight is already serious and very dangerous, you as the owner must use some thick gloves to reach inside the cage and separate them. A towel wrapped around your hand will also give good protection from bites. You need to closely monitor the behaviors of the guinea pigs when fighting, and you need to do it quickly. Pinpoint the aggressor cavy and quickly remove it from the cage. do not try to remove the subordinate first, because the aggressor may try to scratch or bite him as you try to remove it at the same time.
If you don’t have a chance to separate them out of the cage, put something between them both, such as cardboard or something similar until you can reach inside and take out one of them.
When they are separated from each other, clean the cage, replace the bedding and put fresh food and water. All objects are clean, bedding is new, so the cavies can be reintroduced here again. Before the cavies are reintroduced, let them spend a night out of the cage. After a full day of this, they are ready to be reintroduced together in the same cage.
Body Language of Guinea Pigs That Meet for the First Time or Show of Initial Dominance
Usually, when guinea pigs meet for the first time, they will most likely meet and greet in a very adorable and even intimidating way sometimes!
On first glance, there will be a lot of wiggle from the back side, raised hairs of the fur and even swaying of the hips. This is not yet serious dominance showing.
The quiet rumbles or low sounds as if silent rumbling and purring (vibration-like sounds), are the onset of dominance and power manifestation. After this, there will most likely be some ‘nose-off’ competition between the two. They will even rub their cheeks against each other as they get closer, and at this point, it is more noticeable whether they will be very aggressive or not at all.
Sometimes owners get confused whether the cavies will fight or not because cavies can drag their bottoms on the pellets or mount each other – this can be marking of territory, and playful mood or the start of a fight.
If the cavies chatter their teeth, silently or loudly as if they chew, they are probably not angry, but if the chatter is incredibly loud and visible – it is fight mode for the guinea pig.
Remember, pouncing, tackling, rumbling, very loud chattering of teeth, bites (not the playful kind, but the hostile, fast and aggressive type) are the obvious signs when you need to separate the cavies.