While the question ‘can guinea pigs live alone’ is pretty straightforward, the answer to that is a little more complicated. Guinea pigs, especially boars, or males, can live alone, but it isn’t necessarily the best-case scenario. Rather than asking if they can live alone, we prefer the question ‘should guinea pigs live alone?’ And the answer to that quite simply is no. And here’s why.
In their natural habitat, guinea pigs are incredibly social little animals and live in muddles of 10 or more. Guinea pigs who live alone will experience loneliness, boredom and more than likely develop behavioural problems. It also has a negative impact on its physical well-being. So much so that it’s considered illegal to own just one piggy in Switzerland.
While you won’t be breaking any laws owning a single piggy here in the UK, we strongly recommend you don’t.
Carry on reading to find out why you should never keep a guinea pig on its own.
Do I Need 2 Guinea Pigs?
As already mentioned, guinea pigs thrive in groups of 10 or more in the wild. Of course, it isn’t always practical to have that many as pets, but we recommend housing at least two guinea pigs together. If you have space for more, however, then all the better.
How Do I Know If My Guinea Pig Is Lonely?
Trust us, even though your piggy can’t tell you it’s lonely, if it’s living on its own, chances are it is. Without a hutch buddy, a cavy is likely to suffer from boredom and loneliness, which in turn can lead to depression, behavioural problems and even health issues.
Signs your guinea pig is lonely include:
- Skittishness or nervous behaviour
- Lack of interest in day to day activities
- Loss of appetite
- Behavioural issues such as chewing on the cage, trying to escape, rattling water bottles and constantly crying out for attention
Do I Need 2 Guinea Pigs?
It can be confusing with all the conflicting information out there. Often, if you are getting your guinea pig from a pet shop, they will happily sell you a single piggy. Rescue centres and veterinary experts, on the other hand, always recommend keeping two or more guinea pigs together.
As we have already mentioned, guinea pigs are social animals and need to be with other guinea pigs. Without a piggy friend, a single guinea pig is likely to develop physical, mental and behavioural issues.
Other reasons for keeping them in pairs or as a group include:
The opportunity to form close bonds with other guinea pigs
In the same way, your family looks out for each other, so do guinea pigs in a pair or a group. And in some cases, two piggies may even form a close bond. When this happens, the bonded cavies will take care of each other throughout their lives, well into their senior years.
A decrease in stress levels
Living as a pair or in a group helps decrease a guinea pig’s stress levels. This is because guinea pigs are prey animals and depend on each other for survival. A cavy will alert the herd to potential predators and huddle close together for safety in the wild. While there may be no real danger for guinea pigs in a secure hutch, they will still warn their piggy pals when they feel threatened or scared.
An increase in physical activity
A guinea pig on its own is less active and tends to spend most of the day in its hideout. This sedentary lifestyle can lead to all sorts of health problems, including obesity and diabetes and can even affect its mental health. Two or more guinea pigs will forage and explore the hutch, chase each other and if you’re lucky, popcorn together.
Can Male Guinea Pigs Live Alone?
There are circumstances where you may be left with just one guinea pig. If this happens, it is essential to remember that sows, or females, enjoy being with other guinea pigs, while a male or boar can be pretty content on its own.
Of course, every guinea pig is different and if a male was bonded to its hutch mate, suddenly finding itself alone could prove too stressful. So keep an eye on your piggy for signs of loneliness, depression and boredom.
When Is It Okay To Have One Guinea Pig?
There are always exceptions to the rule, and in some cases, it is okay to keep a guinea pig on its own. More often than not, it is usually a rescue piggy that has experienced some kind of trauma, is particularly aggressive, or has been raised as a single pet.
Take note, though, rather than keeping a guinea pig on its own in a hutch outside, we recommend housing it indoors, preferably in a room where there are people. You will also need to spend a lot more time with it and give it loads of attention.
What Can I Do To Keep My Guinea Pig Happy?
Whatever the reasons, if you find yourself with one guinea pig, there are a few things you need to do to ensure it is happy and healthy and has everything it needs to thrive in its environment.
Setting up the cage
Making sure your guinea pig is happy starts with the cage set up. Space is essential, as are separate areas where it can eat, sleep and play. And because it is on its own, you need to create a stimulating environment with plenty of hideouts, tunnels and nesting spots.
For advice on how best to set up your guinea pig hutch, why not take a look at this article.
Create a stimulating environment
Guinea pigs are intelligent little animals and need a stimulating environment to stay healthy, mentally and physically. And it’s even more critical for a guinea pig living on its own. Think hideouts, tunnels, balls and chew toys.
For the best boredom busters available, take a look at our top 10 list here.
Spend quality time with your guinea pig
As a single guinea pig parent, you will need to spend a lot of quality time with your pet. You can do this by making sure its cage is placed in a room inside your house where you (and other family members) spend a lot of time.
We also suggest chatting to your guinea pig whenever you can. As silly as this sounds, your cavy will thrive on the interaction, and while it may seem like a one-sided conversation in the beginning, over time, you will learn what your piggy’s sounds and body language mean. And in no time at all, you will be 100% fluent in Piggy.
Give your guinea pig plenty of time outside its cage
Your guinea pig must get plenty of time outside its cage. For your pet’s physical and mental well being, we recommend at least two hours a day of floor time. This can be split up throughout the day, either in four half-hour slots or for an hour in the morning and another hour later in the day.
For its safety and your peace of mind, we suggest guinea pig proofing the room, making sure there are no wires to chew on, no escape routes and no other pets that may pose a threat.
Floortime can and should include playing games with your piggy, a grooming session that doubles up as an overall health check as well as cuddle time.
Spend time outdoors with your guinea pig
Guinea pigs are outdoor animals, so it is vital that you spend time with yours outside as often as possible. Make sure the garden is enclosed, and there are no poisonous plants or flowers nearby. For added protection, we suggest getting a folding run. This provides your piggy with a safe space, away from potential predators that can be moved around the garden.
Introducing A New Guinea Pig
All guinea pigs are different, and while one may do well on its own, another will pine for a piggy pal. When you introduce a new guinea pig into the cage, you must do it correctly. Unfortunately, without the correct preparation on your part, it could end up being incredibly stressful for both you and the guinea pigs.
This article takes an in-depth look at how to introduce guinea pigs correctly for the best possible result.
Frequently Asked Questions Related To Guinea Pigs Living On Their Own
Our frequently asked questions section gives you all the answers you need at a glance.
Can guinea pigs live alone?
Guinea pigs are social animals. This means that in their natural habitat they live, and thrive with other guinea pigs. While pet stores will happily sell a single guinea pig, rescue centres and vets recommend keeping at least two piggies together.
When can a guinea pig live on its own?
Of course, there is always an exception to the rule, and some guinea pigs do better on their own. For example, boars, or male guinea pigs, are more solitary than females and can live alone quite happily. Aggressive or extremely timid guinea pigs may prefer being alone too. A lot of the time, it depends on the piggy in question’s personality.
Can you tell if a guinea pig is lonely?
While a guinea pig may not tell you it is lonely, it will definitely let you know by its behaviour. Signs that your guinea pig needs a cage mate include:
- Disinterest in day to day activities
- Loss of appetite
- Aggressive behaviour
- Abnormal behaviour including chewing its cage, trying to escape, and making noises to get your attention
Can guinea pigs die of loneliness?
Believe it or not, guinea pigs can most definitely die of loneliness. This is especially true if a pair has bonded and one suddenly dies. Without its partner, the surviving guinea pig can become depressed, stop eating and exercising and eventually die of loneliness.
If one of my guinea pigs dies, should I get another one?
If you have three or more guinea pigs and one dies, it isn’t necessary to get another one straight away. However, if you have a pair and one dies, there is a very good chance the remaining piggy will feel the loss a lot more. This may result in it becoming depressed and sick. Keeping an eye on your single cavy will help you decide how soon you need to get a piggy friend.
Is it better to have two males or two females?
As much as it comes down to their personalities, some piggy pairs work better than others. We suggest having two males or two females. If you decide to get a male and a female, it is crucial that the male is neutered to stop unwanted pregnancies.
What is the best way to introduce my guinea pig to a new one?
Introducing your piggy to a new guinea pig will need a fair amount of planning on your part. Keep in mind that the process takes time and requires patience and persistence. So whatever you do, don’t rush it. Our 7 step guide will help you successfully introduce a new piggy into the mix.
How long does it take for guinea pigs to get used to each other?
Although guinea pigs are social animals and enjoy interacting with other piggies, it may take some time for them to get used to each other. External factors such as age, sex and personality type will also determine whether or not they get along.
Is it okay to keep my guinea pig with rabbits?
While it may be tempting to house your guinea pig in the same hutch as rabbits, we advise against this. Not only do they have different dietary needs, but a guinea pig is also at risk of getting hurt. And then there are the different bacteria that rabbits carry. These can be passed onto a guinea pig, causing it to become sick.
To summarise, a guinea pig can live alone, but ideally shouldn’t. This is because they are social animals that want and need the companionship of other guinea pigs. A piggy on its own requires a lot of care and interaction, which is why experts recommend keeping at least two guinea pigs together.
Why not tell us about your guinea pig set-up? Are you a single piggy parent? How do you keep your pet happy, mentally and physically?