We’re often told guinea pigs are social animals and can’t thrive as solo pets.
A solitary guinea pig often exhibits signs of loneliness, which may negatively affect their health.
But is it possible for these pets to die of loneliness?
As a general rule, guinea pigs are more prone to illness and death when experiencing extreme loneliness or depression. They will not automatically die as a result of loneliness, but it is possible in severe cases. Guinea pig owners must know the warning signs of depression and how to help their pet.
If your pet’s behavior has changed recently, you may need to worry about their health.
Read ahead to learn more about this critical topic.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Get Lonely?
If you’ve made it this far, you are probably concerned with your pet’s well-being.
We understand having a pet experience behavioral changes is stressful for both the pet and the owner.
When a guinea pig (often called a cavy) shows signs of loneliness, it is a warning sign of possible ailments to come.
Many experts express their concern with these animals living as solitary pets.
This concern stems from their natural inclination to live in a herd or small family group.
Since these herd animals thrive in groups, most guinea pig experts will advise you to adopt a pair of guinea pigs when deciding to become an owner.
If you have decided to adopt a single guinea pig and it seems lonely, you are most likely not spending enough time with your pet.
This is a hard thing for most owners to hear, as we care deeply for our animals and would do anything to keep them happy.
You need to spend a few hours every day with your animal, giving it plenty of floor time and physical interactions outside of its enclosure.
Many people live busy and hectic lives and cannot dedicate the appropriate amount of attention to these emotional animals.
In this case, you should consider adopting a partner for your cavy.
While your pet is not guaranteed to suffer from illness or die from feeling lonely from time to time, the likelihood does increase.
If you had a pair of piggies and one of the pair dies, it is often a difficult adjustment period for the surviving animal.
A lonely cavy grieving the loss of its partner may spiral into a depressive state if it is not adequately attended to.
In many cases, a grieving cavy will adapt to its new reality.
However, some never adjust to living alone.
Dangerous Side-Effects Of Loneliness In Guinea Pigs
Loss of Appetite
Similarly to humans, depressed guinea pigs are prone to a diminished appetite or complete refusal of food.
This is extremely dangerous for guineas because these creatures are foragers by nature.
This means they have a natural inclination to search for food and eat throughout the day.
A loss of appetite will lead to your pet losing weight.
Continuous weight loss is detrimental to their health and could be fatal.
Lack of food will lead to weakness, making these once active animals lethargic and ill.
Related: Do guinea pigs lose weight during summer?
Lack of Exercise
A decrease in physical activity and exercise often have negative outcomes for guineas.
Like any animal, these furry creatures need exercise to stay healthy.
If you recently lost one of your pets and now have a single guinea pig, the surviving cavy will likely suffer physically.
It is used to having a companion to play with regularly.
With their companion now gone, it is crucial for you as the owner to step in and provide these opportunities for fun physical exercise.
Whether it is the result of playing, running on an exercise wheel, or exploring a new maze, physical activity is beneficial to your pet.
These activities provide your pet with fun and exciting forms of exercise both physically and mentally.
A solitary guinea pig without regular exercise may become bored easily.
This boredom may make your pet feel lonely and eventually depressed.
A lack of exercise may also lead to physical health conditions, such as a weakened heart.
The best way to avoid this is by introducing new and exciting activities to your pet regularly.
An increased level of stress is common to see in a lonely guinea pig, especially if it is in the process of grieving a partner.
Any sudden changes in your pet’s environment may increase their stress levels, making them more prone to having a heart attack or stroke.
The loss of a companion would be an incredibly stressful experience, especially if the companion dies outside the enclosure.
In these cases, the surviving piggy does not understand their companion has passed, and it will continuously look for its lost friend.
Depending on the bond between guinea pigs and the surviving pet’s general demeanor and present health risks, high stress may lead to a fatal situation.
In the event of a sudden environmental change or if you believe your pet is experiencing high levels of stress, do your best to soothe it and correct any stressors.
Signs of Depression And Loneliness In Guinea Pigs
If you suspect your pet guinea pig is lonely or depressed, there are several key warning signs to look for, present in both cases.
Key Warning Signs
- Lack of/change in appetite
- Increased sleeping
- Long periods of hiding
- Refusal to socialize/play
- Decreased exercise
- Change in demeanor
These key warning signs are present in many cases of lonely or depressed guinea pigs.
Most, if not all, of these signs, are also common symptoms of depression or a decreased mental state in humans.
Since these social creatures exhibit similar warning signs of loneliness and depression, owners can often spot these behavioral changes, whether subtle or blatantly obvious.
We have already expressed the urgency of addressing some of these symptoms, including a lack of appetite and exercise.
These behavioral changes are not solely associated with a lonely pet and may be caused by unrelated issues.
However, if they are coupled with other symptoms like increased hiding time or the refusal to socialize or play, you most likely have a lonely pet on your hands.
One of the biggest warning signs of loneliness and depression in guineas is a change in their general demeanor.
If you notice a sudden behavioral change in your pet’s general demeanor, you should watch for other symptoms.
For instance, if your pet is usually playful with a bubbly personality but suddenly has little interest in playing with you or seems grumpy, it is likely lonely or even depressed.
This is not uncommon for a surviving pet when one of a pair of guinea passes away suddenly.
If your pet is exhibiting any of the obvious symptoms of depression or just seems to be lonely and unlike its usual self, consider taking one or more of the following steps to help.
How to Help With Guinea Pig Loneliness
At this point, you have already determined your pet is lonely or experiencing some form of behavioral change or depression.
We understand this realization is stressful as an owner.
Still, it is important to funnel your energy into helpful ways to get your pet back to its usual fluffy ball of happiness.
If you are concerned about your cavy’s well-being because it is a solo pet, the best thing you are able to do as an owner is dedicate more time to bond with it.
In the years 2020 and 2021, many individuals have transitioned to working from home on either a part-time or full-time basis.
An increasing number of people adopted pets because of this to alleviate their feelings of loneliness.
In this scenario, these owners can spend a longer period with their pets and likely play with them multiple times throughout the day and night.
If you happen to be one of the many individuals doing your best to make a solo cavy happy, consider taking your pet out for floor time whenever you take a work break during the day.
You may also want to move your pet’s cage into the area of the house where you spend your time working.
This will allow it to hear you or even see you throughout the day when you are too busy to take it out to play.
This minor adjustment will go a long way in reassuring your pet it is not alone.
Helping A Grieving Guinea Pig
If you recently had a cavy pass away and you are attempting to help your surviving cavy through its grieving period, there are several steps which may help you along the way.
The first is to give your surviving pet closure if possible.
We understand this may sound strange, but allowing your surviving pet to see the dead guinea pig will allow it to sense its companion is gone and will provide it with a sense of closure.
Do your best to make the scent of the dead guinea pig on its favorite toy or blanket.
This will give the grieving piggy a sense of security while you figure out what works to keep it from becoming lonely.
Of course, increasing the amount of attention and cuddles you give your pet will help both of you through this difficult time.
Letting your pet know you are there for it will keep it from feeling alone.
Keeping your pet busy is another excellent way to keep it from feeling lonely.
New activities inside and out of the cage will keep your pet occupied and will help to increase its mood and keep its activity levels up.
If your pet is really down, it may take a few attempts to get it interested in these new toys and games.
Another great way to soothe your pet is by playing calming music for it.
Many guinea pigs enjoy listing to calm music, and it may help to increase your pet’s mood.
Be consistent, and do not give up on your pet.
Giving up may make it feel more intense feelings of being alone.
And although death is unfortunately unavoidable, find out what to do with a dead guinea pig in our other post here.
Sudden Death In Guinea Pigs
Cases of sudden death in a perfectly healthy cavy are unfortunately reported by owners.
In some cases, this sudden death occurs a few days after the passing of its partner.
In these instances, it is easy to assume these sudden tragedies are the result of a lonely cavy with a broken heart.
And in some cases, this may be true.
Plenty of cases of people passing away soon after their partner or a loved one are reported and chalked up to dying from a broken heart.
While there is usually more scientific reasoning behind these sudden passings, it is an unfortunate reality for both animals and people.
Extreme stress from a changing environment, such as experiencing the death of a companion, is sometimes enough to kill a guinea pig.
High levels of stress increase the probability of heart attack and stroke.
Other possible reasons for a sudden death have nothing to do with a guinea pig experiencing loneliness.
Sometimes, warning signs of diseases such as cancer or gastrointestinal stasis are overlooked or not present until it is too late.
This leads an owner to believe the animal died suddenly.
If your pet experiences a sudden death, it is best to consult with your veterinarian to determine the true cause.
If you want to learn more here is another article of ours on guinea pigs living alone that you’ll find helpful.