Guinea pigs are social animals that thrive in the company of their own kind. It’s instinct, really. There is power in numbers, especially when you only weigh two pounds. But what if your guinea pig doesn’t seem to enjoy the company of others? Is he broken? Are you doing something wrong? Is he destined for a life of loneliness? Or is there bullying guinea pig behavior going on?
While sows can live in large groups, usually without issue, the fellas can be a little more challenging. In the wild, the king of the castle doesn’t have to share his territory with fellow alpha males; they have the freedom to pick and choose their pals. While there are always exceptions, usually two’s company but three (or more) is a crowd when it comes to boars. Don’t be surprised if you find it harder to introduce a gentlepig to a male duo than growing your group of gals. A neutered male does, however, make a nice addition to a sowority house.
Normal Behavior or Trouble in Paradise?
Regardless of gender, you’ll probably notice that one pig is more dominant than the other. This is normal. Rumblestrutting, chin-raising contests, humping, scent marking, and even a little chattering is to be expected from time to time. Females may mount each other when in heat, which only lasts a day or two about every two weeks. If one guinea pig seems to be pestering other more than usual, you’ll want to keep an eye out for the picked-on pig becoming distressed, hiding more than normal to get away from her roomie, or being discouraged from her share of food and water. This is bullying in guinea pig behavior. So be on the lookout.
Loud, serious chattering with an open mouth and raised paw while circling the other guinea pig is a sign that things may be going south. A guinea pig that starts lunging, biting to draw blood, and starting pignados means business. While it’s unlikely guinea pigs will have a falling out after they have been bonded for some time, it does happen occasionally. This is most common around puberty, when a baby hits a few months old and decides to challenge his pal for the throne.
Breaking up is Hard to do.
You can take steps to ensure guinea pigs stay bonded and set them up for success. Limited space can cause tiffs over territory and is the primary reason guinea pigs fight. Small cages don't allow for "alone time" and even the best of friends need some time away from one another every now and then. Bigger cages allow for multiple hides, several guinea pig hay areas, two food dishes, and other small pet supplies and accessories. This means guinea pigs will be less likely to feel resources are threatened.
Despite your best efforts, sometimes personalities just don’t fit. Guinea pigs hold grudges. Once blood is drawn or he decides he isn’t a fan, that opinion is pretty much set in stone. For their safety and happiness, you may need to separate them. Let the break up letters and healthy snackers binge ensue.
Even guinea pigs that can’t live together may coexist perfectly fine with a barrier between them. As long as it doesn’t upset either pig, adding a cage wall so they can still chat may be just the compromise they need to be buds.