One of the most common questions we get from our readers is whether a guinea pig and cat can live together. We’re asked it so often, we thought it a good idea to answer it, as well as something other frequently asked questions about cohabiting with guinea pigs and other pets.
Pet lovers around the world often have a menagerie of animals that make up their family, so it’s not unusual to have creatures, great and small, sharing the same space. But what happens when those two animals in the wild, are your typical predator and prey species? We’re answering this question, as well as others, including whether or not it’s a good idea to have a cat and a guinea pig living together? And isn’t it a cat’s instinct to kill a guinea pig?
Carry on reading to find out whether or not these rather unlikely bosom buddies can get on. But first, why don’t you watch this clip when Ariel (the guinea pig) meets kittens for the first time…
Do Guinea Pigs Get On With Cats?
Cats and cavies can get on, but it will take some planning on your part. For example, keeping your guinea pig in a safe and predator proof hutch is critical, as is making sure playtime is always supervised. Unfortunately, because guinea pigs are smaller, and more delicate than cats, even a playful paw could end in absolute disaster for everyone involved.
And even if there is no physical interaction, guinea pigs can get quite stressed out if cats are simply sitting close to the hutch, watching them. Cavies are prone to stress, and being watched all the time could leave them feeling vulnerable and at risk.
Understanding a Cat’s Behaviour
Did you know that cats, just like humans, have different personality types? Commonly referred to as the ‘Feline Five’, knowing what these are, and where your kitty fits in, will help you understand its behaviour and temperament better.
Let’s take a look at these in a bit more detail.
Another word for this category is the ‘scaredy-cat’. You know the type. It’s skittish and on-guard all the time, and more often than not, this cat’s own shadow will be cause for alarm. Other common personality traits include being shy, suspicious and afraid of the unknown. But as soon as they realise that they are loved, and in a secure environment, the skitty kitty can become more confident.
If cats are typically described as curious, the extraverted cat is the nosy neighbour. If your cat falls into this category, it needs plenty of stimulation to stop it getting bored. This behaviour can quickly become destructive if there isn’t a healthy outlet for all that pent-up energy.
The dominant cat is best compared to the playground bully. And if you have other pets, it can make their lives absolutely miserable. Cats with this personality type tend to take over the house, and will hog toys, food, litter boxes and you.
An impulsive cat isn’t necessarily a skittish one, but it does react quickly to stress in its environment. They also tend to react differently on different days in the exact same situation. If your cat falls into this category, chances are it’ll bolt first and ask questions later. It’s best to have routines in place for this purr-sanilty type to keep its stress levels low.
As the name suggests, the agreeable cat loves everyone, and everything. Happy meows, enthusiastic headbutts and all-round social butterfly, this kitty does well in any environment.
A cat’s behaviour is very much influenced by its environment and how it is raised. An agreeable cat, for example, has been socialised as a kitten. Of course, if you have an older cat or plan on getting on adopting one, it will take a little time to establish its personality type.
Can Cats Kill Guinea Pigs?
No matter what type of personality a cat has, it’s important to remember that it’s a predator, and its instinct is to hunt and kill. Your guinea pig, on the other hand, is a prey animal, which means a potential meal for your kitty. Of course, if you introduce a cavy to a kitten, there’s a much better chance of them getting along.
Our advice always is to supervise playtime and never leave your guinea pig alone with your cat. This is because even a friendly paw could seriously hurt, or kill your guinea pig.
How Do I Introduce My Guinea Pig To My Cat?
Taking the time to introduce your guinea pig to your furry feline will take some time and effort on your part. But it’s worth it. Keep in mind, though, even with all the patience in the world, there is always a small chance that they won’t get along.
Take a look at our tips on how best to make the introduction.
1. Introduce your pets as babies
If it’s at all possible, it’s best to introduce them when they’re babies. As they grow up together, they’re able to get used to each other and forge a friendship. The best time for your kitten to meet your cavy is when it’s around 10 weeks old. Don’t stress if this process doesn’t go smoothly and be prepared to jump in if there are any signs of stress or aggression.
2. Don’t force the friendship
As much as you might want your pets to get along, it’s best not to force a friendship. If both your guinea pig and cat feel stressed out during the introduction, it may make it more difficult for them to get along in future.
3. Hold your pets
No matter their size, it’s always a good idea to hold your pets while introducing them. If possible, have someone with you to hold one pet, while you keep the other in your arms. This allows them to get used to each other, without stressing them out. Keep these encounters short, but try and do them a few times a day.
4. Make sure you are there to supervise
You must always be there to supervise. Whether it’s during the introductory phase, or when your pets are used to each other. A sudden movement or noise from your cavy could scare your kitty and cause it to lash out. And as already mentioned, even a friendly pawing from a cat can hurt, or kill a guinea pig.
5. Set up a designated play area
Once your pets are comfortable around each other, and you feel confident that they can interact, it’s a good idea to set up a shared play area for them. Cats and cavies can be territorial, so providing them with a shared play area, away from where they live will help reduce aggression and stress.
How To Keep Your Guinea Pig Safe From Cats
The most important thing is to keep your guinea pig safe from cats (and other pets). We’ve included a couple of things you should do, whether it’s supervised playtime or when they are in their hutch.
Make sure they are kept separately
Ideally, you want to house your pets separately. Knowing how and where to set up your guinea pigs’ hutch is the first step in keeping them safe. If both pets live indoors, they should be housed in different parts of the house.
When choosing a guinea pig cage, make sure it’s predator-proof and that you provide plenty of places where they can hide, or sleep without being disturbed.
Always check that the cage is locked
Whether you’re out for the day, or it’s overnight, always check that your guinea pigs are safely tucked up in their beds and that the cage is locked properly. Even if cats can’t get into the cage, cavies are easily frightened, and the consequences could be fatal.
Never leave your guinea pigs in their run overnight
Guinea pigs need plenty of space to exercise and forage, which is why we always recommend a run. However, you mustn’t let your cavies stay in the run overnight. Cats and other predators are a potential threat.
Can Guinea Pigs Get Sick From Cats?
Guinea pigs can get sick from cats, and vice versa. A common respiratory condition that can be passed from cats to guinea pigs and even humans is Bordetella. To prevent the transmitting of diseases, it’s best to always wash your hands after handling them. And if one of your animals is sick, we recommend that you keep them apart until they’re better.
We want to end off by saying that although it’s not the most natural of friendships, there’s no reason you can’t have guinea pigs and cats as pets. But the process of introducing them slowly, and always keeping an eye on their interaction is critical. By their very nature, they are opposites, but that’s not to say they can’t become firm friends with a little bit of planning.
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