Why Are My Guinea Pigs Fighting? | Reasons and Steps to Stop Them

Guinea pig owners know the joy and happiness of having a cavy present at home. However, most guinea pig owners keep just one cavy as a pet and think these pets are indeed the perfect and calm rodents.

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 if they are unhappy with something. Of course, every animal tends to get in a fight with another animal, even from the same species.

For these reasons, it is perfectly normal for guinea pigs to fight sometimes. Guinea pigs are sociable and adorable, but they do fight and this can happen quite often in some cases.

However, the owner is the one who can prevent further damage and calm down the cavies.

The first step you need to do is to determine whether it is playful or aggressive fighting between your guinea pigs. Now, let’s go more in-depth about why your guinea pigs are fighting.

The Guinea Pigs’ Reasons for Fighting

The Guinea Pigs' Reasons for Fighting

Cage

Try to think well before you combine two guinea pigs in the same cage. It is also very important to have the right cage size for two guinea pigs.

The main goal is not to end up with a pregnant female unless you are breeding them on purpose.

If you keep a male one, get him another male and the same goes for females. It is crucial to pair their personalities and needs.

So if you don’t intend on breeding them on purpose, same-sex guinea pigs would be the smartest option.

Individual Personalities

Pay attention to their individual personalities. If the younger guinea pig 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.

They will fight over who deserves to be the alpha male in that cage.

When you see a younger guinea pig fighting with an older one, it is not always about fighting for dominance. Often, it happens that a young cavy gets into its adolescence period, from 3 to 5 months.

When it enters that stage, it behaves almost like an alpha male fighting for domination.

Moreover, you need to have one dominant and one subordinate guinea pig 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 guinea pig would almost never dare to challenge the older one, so fewer fights are expected to happen.

Male vs. Female Guinea Pigs | Who Fights More?

Male vs. Female Guinea Pigs

In general, both can fight when necessary or needed. Two females could fight over domination but males do the same, except that they are much more aggressive.

As an advice, you can introduce both guinea pigs for the first time to an area that neither one of them claims. 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 can prevent fights from happening because the guinea pigs have already established who is the dominant one in a neutral area (out of a cage).

Related: Male vs. Female Guinea Pig | Which Guinea Pig Gender Is Better?

Pregnant Guinea Pigs and Aggressive Behavior

Pregnant Guinea Pigs and Aggressive Behavior

Pregnant guinea pigs 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 will 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 just 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, the separation of the female from the rest of the guinea pigs is inevitable.

Steps to Stop Fights Between Guinea Pigs

Preventing and Stopping Fights Between Guinea Pigs

In this section, we are going to show you step by step guide on how to stop guinea pigs from fighting.

Step 1: First, it is important to differentiate between dominance and a real fight.

Step 2: 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.

Step 3: 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.

Step 4: You need to closely monitor the behaviors of the guinea pigs when fighting and you need to do it quickly.

Step 5: 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.

Step 6: If you don’t have a chance to separate them out of the cage, you need to put something between them, such as cardboard or something similar until you can reach inside and take out one of them.

Step 7: When they are separated from each other you need to clean the cage, replace the bedding, and put fresh food and water. When all objects are clean and the bedding is new, the guinea pigs can be reintroduced into the same cage again.

Step 8: Before the guinea pigs 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.

How to Prevent Guinea Pigs From Fighting?

How to Prevent Guinea Pigs From Fighting

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 with the other guinea pig.

If you have a female guinea pig, it will be completely fine to pair it 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 guinea pigs are neutered then they can be of mixed genders.

The next thing is to treat every guinea pig equally. Give them the same food items (for example don’t give treats just to one of them). You can also change their bedding regularly so they don’t have too many scent markings day by day, and play with them in the same play area space or with the same toys.

Remember, both guinea pigs must be equally socialized and they must know that they are equally loved. This may not prevent fights or make these fights less severe but it surely adds to the quality of life and the calmness of the guinea pigs.

Body Language of Guinea Pigs Meeting for the First Time and Display 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! This is usually how the first introduction goes:

  • On first glance, there will be a lot of wiggle from the backside, raised hairs of the fur and even swaying of the hips. This is not yet serious showing of dominance.
  • The quiet rumbles or low sounds (vibration-like sounds) are the onsets 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 about whether the guinea pigs will fight or not because they can drag their bottoms on the pellets or mount each other for other reasons.

    They can be marking of territory or just be in a playful mood. It doesn’t mean they are going to start a fight every time.
  • If the guinea pigs chatter their teeth silently or loudly as if they are chewing something, then they are probably not angry. But if the chatter is incredibly loud and visible, this is a fight mode for the guinea pig.
  • 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.

Summary

If you see your guinea pigs fighting, this can mean a lot of things but it is not necessarily a dangerous act. They can be having a fun time playing or just establishing dominance.

But as owner, you need to know if things have gotten serious and a fight is about to break out. If a fight happens, just follow our step-by-step guide on how to prevent guinea pigs from fighting.

Hope we have been of help and as always, take care of your guinea pigs!

List of Sources

The Environment, Hormones, and Aggressive Behaviour: A 5-Year-Study in Guinea Pigs

Odor Discrimination and Dominance in Male Domestic Guinea Pigs

Female Novelty and the Courtship Behavior of Male Guinea Pigs (Cavia Porcellus)