Guinea pigs are known for being extremely social animals. In fact, the domesticated guinea pig’s wild cousins live in herds of 10 or more. Which brings us to the question of why your guinea pigs fight? And what to do about it.
Keep in mind that there is a difference between displays of dominance to establish a necessary hierarchy and an actual fight.
The more common signs of guinea pigs competing for dominance include:
- Chasing each other
- Dragging their bottoms around the cage (to leave a scent, and mark their territory)
- Chattering their teeth
- Opening their mouth to show their teeth
Once a hierarchy is established, you will notice that the dominant one kind of rules the roost, while the others are more submissive. This is normal behaviour and usually resolves itself quite quickly.
But there are times when these situations can quickly get out of hand, and you will need to step in. Before things kick off, your guinea pigs will raise their hackles, stand on their back legs with teeth bared, make angry chattering sounds and even throw in a few bites that are obviously not playful.
5 Reasons Why Your Guinea Pigs Fight and What To Do About It
Guinea pigs usually get into a scuffle for one reason or another. Identifying the specific one will help you figure out the solution. If you have two or more guinea pigs, the fighting could be because:
- They are injured or in pain
- They have been paired incorrectly by sex
- They have been paired incorrectly by personality
- Their cage is too small
- They are bored
To establish which one of these reasons is the motivation for your piggies having a bit of an argy-bargy, you will need to monitor their behaviour for a few days.
Carry on reading to find out in more detail why guinea pigs fight. Understanding the reason will help you sort it out in the best possible way.
1. There is An Injury or Illness
If your guinea pigs have been living together for a while, and suddenly out of the blue, a fight breaks out, it could be one of them has an injury or is feeling poorly. In the same way, humans, and other animals, might get a little irritable when they aren’t feeling well, guinea pigs do too.
Check your guinea pigs for any injuries or signs of illness. If there is nothing obvious, you will need to get your piggy checked out by your local vet for a proper examination. Remember, your guinea pigs’ health is closely linked to the cleanliness of their cage. Make sure you do a spot clean daily and replace their bedding two to three times a week.
Something that will impact their health is the food they eat. It is up to you to ensure your guinea pigs are getting all the nutrients they need from different sources, including pellets, hay as well as fresh fruit and vegetables.
2. Your Guinea Pigs Are Paired Incorrectly By Sex
How you pair your guinea pigs will play a massive role in how well they get along. It isn’t a good idea to have two males and one female in a hutch. As you would expect, the males will fight over the female, and she could get hurt in the brawl.
The best possible pairings for a harmonious hutch is thave two or three of the same sex together. Another good match is a female with a neutered male. Or if you are looking to have more than two piggies as pets, then it is recommended to have one male in amongst the females.
Although neutering your male guinea pigs is an elective process, it is a good idea to have it done. Females can have up to five litters a year, with between two and eight pups each time. That, we are sure you will agree, is a lot of guinea pigs for anyone to have to handle.
3. Your Guinea Pigs Are Paired Incorrectly By Personality Type
When it comes to their personalities, there are two types of guinea pigs. They are submissive or dominant. To make sure your guinea pigs get along, it is best to pair a submissive piggy with a more dominant one.
Putting two dominant guinea pigs in a hutch is asking for trouble, as they will always fight. Another suggestion is to put a younger guinea pig in with an older one. This is because the more senior piggy will naturally be in charge.
This can backfire, however, if the younger guinea pig grows up to be a dominant personality.
If you are adopting guinea pigs, and are able to see how they interact before you bring them home, look to see which ones get along. As with people, sometimes there is
quite simply a personality clash, and guinea pigs just don’t get along.
4. Their Cage is Too Small
You know that saying ‘good walls make for good neighbours’? Well, it is the same for your piggies, except for them it is good sized cages.
Yes, guinea pigs are friendly and enjoy the company of others, but they also need their own space. Most hutches that are available from pet stores are just too small. A cage shouldn’t be smaller than 7.5 square feet, but ideally, you want one that is at least 10.5 square feet.
And it isn’t the hutch size. Make sure your guinea pigs have hideouts where they can enjoy some quiet time. You can buy tubes, tunnels or beehive beds, or if you prefer to grab a few pet-friendly items around the house, like cardboard boxes.
If your guinea pigs’ cage is spacious, and not the apparent cause of their conflict, you could try separating them with a divider so they can still smell, see and hear each other.
5. Your Guinea Pigs Could Be Fighting Out Of Boredom
Guinea pigs are intelligent little creatures and need stimulation. Whether it is time with you, playing outside in a run or having toys in their hutch, without stimulation, they can quickly become irritable and bored.
When this happens, the chance of them fighting increases significantly. To keep boredom at bay, get your piggies a couple of toys for their hutch. Chew toys are great, as are treats that double up as nesting spots. Wood logs are also a great idea. If you are feeling the pinch and can’t afford to shop right now, you could always stuff a sock with hay, and let your guinea pigs at it.
Another way to keep your guinea pigs busy is by taking them out of their hutch to explore. This way, they can forage and graze, things they would do in their natural habitat. If your garden isn’t safe for them to run around freely, you could get them a run. There are even folding runs available if storage space is a problem.
A tired guinea pig is less likely to pick a fight with its cage buddies, so be sure not to overlook this.
What To Do When A Fight Breaks Out
Guinea pigs, although cute and fluffy, can be quite vicious when they are fighting. If the situation hasn’t gotten to the point where you need to intervene, you need to act fast, while protecting yourself.
Before you put your hand in the cage to separate them, make sure you are wearing thick gloves or have a towel wrapped around your hand. Unfortunately, when guinea pigs are fighting, they will bite whatever is close by. And that means you.
If necessary, you might need to throw a blanket or towel over each one, or at least the aggressor, to stop the attack. As soon as you have done this, place them in separate areas where they can cool off.
For them to calm down properly, you need to make sure that they can’t hear or see each other. Once everyone is a little more relaxed, you can then check for injuries and get veterinary care, if needed. If you have been bitten in the process, and the skin is broken, wash the wound with warm water and soap to prevent possible infection. Usually, a bite from a guinea pig isn’t cause for concern, but if you notice swelling around the wound or it doesn’t stop bleeding, then you need to see your GP.
More Questions Related to Why Your Guinea Pigs Fight
Is it normal for guinea pigs to play fight?
Guinea pigs, like humans, love playing with their cage mates. This interaction could include sniffing each other, popcorning, chasing one another around and even a little bit of humping. But occasionally the play can turn into a scrap, especially if one piggy has had enough of the others. Usually, these battles end as quickly as they start, and aren’t any cause for concern.
Is it a problem if guinea pigs nip each other?
Nipping guinea pigs, contrary to what you might think, are actually happy guinea pigs. They nip each other to show their affection, but will also do this as a way of removing dirt or bugs from another piggy’s fur.
Will two male guinea pigs fight?
If you only have two guinea pigs and they are both males, they shouldn’t fight. Of course, there are going to be stand-offs if the cage is too small or boredom is a problem. Also, if one is injured or ill, a fight could break out.
However, if you have a few guinea pigs in an enclosure, make sure there is only one male in the mix.
Why do female guinea pigs fight?
It isn’t often that female guinea pigs fight, but when they do, it can be for dominance. These encounters shouldn’t last long once a hierarchy has been established. It is best to keep an eye on them to make sure things don’t escalate.
Can the weather cause guinea pigs to fight?
Although it might seem rather strange that the weather can cause guinea pigs to fight, there is some truth to it. Warmer temperatures in spring and summer can affect a guinea pig’s hormone levels, making them more aggressive. These fights are usually sorted out reasonably quickly.
How long does it take for guinea pigs to establish a hierarchy?
If guinea pigs are fighting for dominance, it usually goes on for two or three days. Sometimes it can take longer, but as soon as a hierarchy is established, their behaviour should go back to normal. Unfortunately, if the fighting carries on for more than three weeks, there is a good chance it is a personality problem, and the guinea pigs will need to be separated.
Will guinea pigs kill each other in a fight?
When guinea pigs fight, it can get quite vicious, with blood being drawn. It isn’t typical for a guinea pig to kill another one, especially if you intervene and separate them. But, if a fight breaks out when you aren’t there, a larger guinea pig could attack, and kill one that is smaller or younger.
Will an adult guinea pig attack their young?
It is very unusual for a guinea pig to hurt its babies, but it can happen. A mother might attack her young if she is ill, in pain or feels threatened by another guinea pig in the cage. Although there are instances when a mother will eat her young, they are rare.
What is the best way to stop guinea pigs fighting?
If you want to stop your guinea pigs fighting, you need to understand the reasons why they are doing it. Usually, fights break out because the cage is not big enough, they have been paired incorrectly, a guinea pig is sick or injured, or they are bored.
You can prevent your guinea pigs from fighting by making sure their cage is big enough, and they have lots of things to keep them busy. Also, make sure there are plenty of tunnels and hides in the hutch, and that each guinea pig as their own toy. Give them loads of exercise outside of their cage, and always check to see none are injured or ill.
Guinea pigs are sociable, and for the most part, affectionate. They thrive in the company of other guinea pigs and with people, but there are times there will be a bit of a scuffle. The best way to manage this is by understanding the reason for the fighting, and then taking the necessary steps to sort it out.
It will need a little bit of patience and some thought on your part, but as John Lennon once said, “give pigs a chance”.
Tell us if you thought this article was helpful. We would love to know if you have used any of the tips above to stop your piggies fighting, or perhaps you have another method we can share with our readers. Let us know in the comments below.