Cavies, piggies, squeaky loaves, wheekers, furry potatoes, grass guzzlers, or just good old guinea pigs, these puffy clouds of adorableness love spending time with their humans. Still, they are at their happiest in the company of other cavies. Whether you’re the proud parent of one guinea pig or a herd, there will undoubtedly be a time when you’ll introduce a new member to your furry family.
Bonding new guinea pigs is a process. Merely throwing a newcomer into the hutch isn’t going to cut it. And there’s a good chance you will end up with an ‘apigcalypse’ on your hands.
Knowing how to pair guinea pigs correctly, and understanding the necessary steps you need to take to do this will give your pets the very best chance of getting along together, without fur flying.
Fancy Terms You Need To Know
Teaming guinea pigs up means you need to understand a few essential terms. These come in handy when you’re asked if you want a sow or a boar, and whether you’ve sexed your guinea pigs. They’re also helpful if you plan on spaying or neutering your pet.
- Sow: This is the term used for female guinea pigs.
- Boar: Boar is the term used for male guinea pigs
- Sexing a guinea pig: Sexing a guinea pig is a fancy way of finding out whether you have a boar (male) or a sow (female).
- Spaying: Spaying refers to the removal of a female animal’s reproductive organs. Having their ovaries removed stops a sow becoming pregnant.
- Neutering: The word neutering is used to describe the removal of a male’s reproductive organs. The term, although often used to describe the procedure for males, can, in fact, be used for both sexes. Castration, which is the removal of the testicles, is specific to male animals.
Both procedures are performed under anaesthetic. However, because spaying is more complicated, having your males neutered is the better option.
Perfect Guinea Pig Pairings
Pairing guinea pigs correctly from the start. Of course, other factors play a role in how well they get along, but those need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
Pairing Piggies – The Best Partnerships
- Two baby guinea pigs or pups
- A pair or group of sows with a neutered boar
- A dominant boar with a submissive boar
- An older guinea pig with a younger one of the same sex
- Two or more boars that have grown up together
7 Things You Should Do When Introducing Guinea Pigs
Right! You know what a boar, sow and pup are, you’re familiar with the terms ‘spayed’ and ‘neutered’ and you have an idea of what guinea pig pairings have the best chance of working. Now it’s time to do the introducing. While the bonding process can be relatively straightforward and go off without a hitch, this isn’t always the case. Our advice is to have a plan, be patient, and persevere.
1. Sexing your guinea pigs
Make sure you know the genders of the guinea pigs being introduced. Unfortunately, this isn’t as easy as you might think. To be absolutely sure, ask your vet or your local rescue centre to assist, as this is one of the most critical steps when you’re introducing one or more guinea pigs for the first time.
2. House your new guinea pig in a temporary enclosure
When you bring a new guinea pig home, you must keep it in a temporary enclosure that’s separate from your existing piggies. This quarantine period gives you the chance to make sure your new piggy isn’t pregnant or sick. If after two to three weeks all looks well, you can start gradually introducing the latest addition to the rest of the furry family.
3. Make sure their first meet-up is on neutral territory
Guinea pigs are friendly, but they have a tendency to be a bit territorial. For the process to go as smoothly as possible, you must create a safe, neutral area before you make any introduction. This way, your new piggy won’t be seen as a space invader and will have a better chance of being accepted.
4. Remove any existing scents
It’s a good idea to get rid of existing smells on your guinea pigs as well as bedding, food bowls, water dispensers and toys.give your piggies a bath and wash or replace bedding to remove scent markings. Another handy little tip, which works really well, is to place a small drop of lavender oil on the back of your guinea pigs’ neck. This not only calms them down, but it also disguises their scent while they’re around other piggies.
5. Supervise your guinea pigs’ first play-date
Never leave your guinea pigs alone during the introduction phase. You will need to keep an eye on how they’re getting along and be prepared in case a fight breaks out. Have a towel on hand, or if you prefer, a pair of oven or garden gloves, in case they lash out at each other. Their teeth are sharp, so it’s a good idea to protect yourself from any collateral damage.
It’s not always easy to tell when guinea pigs need to be separated, but you should be able to tell by the sounds they make and their body language. Signs that things are going well include:
- Ignoring one another
- Mounting one another
- Chasing each other around
On the other hand, if you notice your guinea pig’s teeth chattering, or there’s a lot of hissing, whining and growling going on, it could mean a fight is about to break out.
6. Monitor your guinea pigs’ throughout the process
Even if things are going well in the introduction phase, you will need to monitor your guinea pigs’ progress for the two to three hours. You may notice one or two piggies trying to assert their dominance, but this is totally normal. Keep them entertained with plenty of treats and toys, and make sure there are enough to go around.
7. Putting your new piggy in the hutch
If after a few hours, things are going well, you can place your new guinea pig in the enclosure with the rest of the gang. However, if any territorial fights break out, you’ll need to be close by to separate the feuding furries. Having clean (unmarked) bedding, tunnels and toys in the hutch will reduce the risk of this happening, as will placing enough food and treats around the hutch.
Try to rearrange things in the hutch so there’s a free flow of movement. This will stop your guinea pigs feeling cornered or caged in and stop potential squabbles happening. Don’t stress too much if one of your existing guinea pig’s displays a little bit of dominance. Your new guinea pig needs to know who’s boss, who’s friendly and who needs to be avoided. Finding this out early on will help the newest member figure out its place in the pecking order.
What To Do If Your Guinea Pigs Don’t Get Along
If you follow our 7 steps, the introduction should go smoothly, and everyone lives happily ever after. Unfortunately, there are instances where two guinea pigs quite simply don’t like each other. When this happens, you need to take action, as leaving them to their own devices could result in one of them getting seriously injured, or even killed.
A good idea is to use wire meshing as a partition to separate them. This allows them to still see each other and chat, without getting annoyed or irritable. This also works if you have unspayed females and unneutered males or if one is continually pestering or bullying another guinea pig.
You could, if you notice relationships are improving between the bickering piggies, remove the mesh and see how things go. If they still come to blows, it’s still perfectly okay to keep them together with the partition in place.
Introducing Guinea Pigs At a Glance
If you need a quick reference, our introducing guinea pigs at a glance will definitely help. Keep these handy tips close by on your fridge or on your phone.
- Never place a new cavy in your existing guinea pigs’ house immediately
- When you first introduce guinea pigs, make sure it is on neutral territory
- Use fresh hay or washed fleece, with plenty of treats and toys to distract them
- In case you need to break up a fight, have a towel handy or wear protective gloves
- If all the guinea pigs are getting along well after a few hours, you can put them together in the hutch
- Keep an eye on them for another hour or two to make sure all is okay
It’s essential to manage your expectations when you first introduce guinea pigs. In the same way some people take a while to get used to one another, so too do guinea pigs. Patience and perseverance are key, and allowing them some time out is entirely normal.
Have you introduced a new guinea pig into the herd? How did it go? Let us know in the comments below.