Introducing a new guinea pig friend

Guinea pigs are highly social creatures who need the company of their own kind. But what happens if you lose a piggy and want to find your cavy chum a new companion? We’ve a step-by-step guide to help you make a smooth introduction...

Posted: 19 January 2020

Introducing a new guinea pig friend

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A solo guinea pig is not likely to be a very happy guinea pig. These chatty cavies really need at least one other piggy for company and to allow them to express their natural behaviours. However, introducing one guinea pig to another has to be done very carefully. Put yourself in their paws – how would you feel about living with someone you don’t know?

Would like to meet

Before you start looking at potential partners, make sure you know the sex of your guinea pig (ask your vet to check if you’re not sure). If you have a male, it’s best to get a neutered female to be his roommate. In the wild, guinea pigs would have just one mature male in a group and putting two boys together who are not from the same litter will likely result in a fight. Never consider a bunny as a new pal – these two different species can’t communicate very well and rabbits are likely to bully guinea pigs and given them serious diseases.

If you have a female guinea pig, a neutered male may be better than another female – girls can be just as territorial with each other as boys. In fact, the animal charity PDSA advises that sometimes, if you have two or more females who aren’t getting along, introducing a male piggy can help the situation.

A good place to find a new friend is from a rescue centre such as Blue Cross, RSPCA and Wood Green as the staff will be able to tell you a bit about different guinea pigs’ personalities and check they are in good health. If your piggy is a confident sort, they may prefer a quieter friend, and vice versa.


A chance to check each other out

The first rule of guinea pig introductions is to never put them together straight away. Building a good relationship takes time and it’s really important that things get off on the right foot. Here’s a plan of action to follow:

  • Put your guinea pigs’ homes and runs close enough so that they can see each other but are still separate. Keep this arrangement for at least three days.
     
  • During this time, try some ‘scent swapping’ by letting them have each other’s toys, a bit of bedding and other items so they get used to each other’s scent.
     
  • Next, move their accommodation closer. This allows your piggies to see, smell and sit with each other, but with a safety barrier between them. When they are close to each other, feed them both a few tasty treats so they associate this arrangement with good things happening.

Up close and personal

Once your guinea pigs seem comfortable hanging out together either side of the barrier, pick a neutral area for their first proper meet and greet. This is essential because if one feels the other is intruding on their territory, they may get really protective and sparks could fly. 

  • Set the scene by putting out tunnels to hide in, lots of toys and some of their favourite nosh – such as a few dandelion leaves scattered about and some yummy nuggets – along with a few piles of sweet smelling hay to hide in and munch on.
     
  • Once you’ve got everything ready, let them in the special area you’ve created and give them some time to introduce themselves. There should be lots of interaction and chattering – but keep a close on eye on proceedings. Some guinea pigs will become firm friends quite quickly, others will need several meetings on neutral ground before they feel happy hanging out together permanently.
     
  • If a scuffle breaks out, you’ll need to separate them (a piece of thin board you can slide between them can be helpful here – but be careful not to cause any injuries) and go back to the scent swapping stage. Try another face-to-face meeting again after a few more days. 

Setting up home together

Once you’re sure your guineas have become pals and are showing all positive behaviours, they’re ready to be roomies.

  • PDSA recommends allowing your new piggy pals to live in neutral territory together before moving them into their permanent home. Their enclosure should have plenty of space – Blue Cross recommends that the minimum for two guinea pigs living together are 120cm x 50cmx 50cm, although you should provide the largest space possible. 
     
  • You’ll also need to set out lots of tunnels to hide in and toys to keep them occupied, along with different sleeping spots so they can choose to snuggle up together or enjoy some ‘me’ time alone. 
     
  • Also ensure there are enough resources – nuggets, fresh greens, water and hay – for both to get everything they need without any squabbling.

How to tell if things are going well (or not)

Happy, positive guinea pig behaviours reveal things are working out just fine. Look out for these, outlined by PDSA:

  • ‘Popcorning’ (jumping suddenly in the air like popcorn)
  • Loud squeaks or ‘wheeks’ (different from louder, high-pitched squeaks made if frightened or in pain) 
  • Wanting to be close to each other (following one another or lying next to each other)
  • Feeding close together
  • Grooming each other

Signs that not everything in the garden is rosy include:

  • Teeth chattering (revealing they are threatened or angry) 
  • Hiding from each other
  • Chasing (rather than following)
  • Often opening their mouths at each other
  • Constant fighting and trying to injure each other

If you start to see more negative behaviours, such as signs of stress or aggression, then go back a step. Sometimes, building a good relationship takes work.


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Sources: pdsa.org.uk, bluecross.org.uk

 

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