As a new guinea pig owner, you may be wondering how many of these animals you should adopt.
Although some people own a single guinea pig, it is often suggested to have more than one, but can these pets do OK by themselves?
As a general rule, guinea pigs should not live alone. These piggies are very social animals and naturally live in large herds in the wild. To ensure your pet lives the happiest life possible, we suggest adopting two or more guinea pigs when becoming an owner.
Although most experts say they will not survive alone, there are rare cases where a human companion is enough for an unsocialized cavy.
Let’s look at this topic in more detail, including how to keep your guinea pig happy.
Why Guinea Pigs Shouldn’t Live Alone
In the wild, guinea pigs live in large herds or smaller family units.
The size of their herd depends on environmental factors, such as the area of land and the number of predators present.
Even in extreme conditions, you will not find a solitary guinea pig living in the wild.
These sociable animals require a lot of attention and thrive on building a relationship with others.
Some pet shops sell cavies as solitary pets and insist they will be fine living on their own.
While this is potentially true in owning a single therapy guinea, guinea pig experts disagree.
If you are an experienced owner with guinea pig knowledge and can own several of these adorable animals, group living will prove to be highly beneficial to their overall health.
Herd living helps alleviate stress and allows these pack animals to thrive socially, physically, and mentally.
Having at least one cage mate will increase the physical exercise your cavy receives daily.
Mental stimulation in guinea pigs is also essential.
Having a cage mate will provide this regularly.
Adding toys and furniture to their cage will keep your guinea pigs busy.
Cage playtime is excellent for your pets during the day or when you are unable to be at home with them.
While cage exercise is essential, piggies need floor time too.
Purchasing a guinea pig playpen is an excellent way for you to spend quality time with them while simultaneously allowing them to explore another part of your home.
Although these animals thrive in pairs or groups, they need access to familiar hiding spaces within their cage.
Constant companionship is excellent, but your pets will need their own space the same way humans do.
Adding a tepee for guinea pigs or little hides is an excellent way to accomplish this.
In general, if your pets are given floor time as well as plenty of quality time together and with their owners, they will thrive.
Rare Exceptions To Cavies Living Alone
For the most part, to have a happy guinea pig, you will need more than one.
However, there are rare exceptions to the rule of guinea pig socialization.
You may be advised to keep your pet separated from others because of extreme territorial behaviors in some instances.
This behavior is more common in males (boars) than in females (sows).
In most cases, boars are only territorial with other boars.
On occasion, a boar may show territorial tendencies when housed with sows.
Your pet may be prone to these behaviors for several different reasons.
If you own a male who is not neutered, he may be prone to being territorial.
In most cases, once a boar is neutered and healed, he will leave these tendencies behind and begin to socialize with a female guinea pig.
Introducing Guinea Pigs Together
It is also essential to consider how your cavies were introduced to each other.
If they were not adopted together and were brought into your home at different times, this may be the source of the problem.
This is often accomplished by placing them in a large playpen for supervised meetings.
If neither of these reasons explains why your pet does not get along with others, it may result from severe neglect and isolation at an early age.
Bad experiences as pups are likely to affect the social relationships they have has adults.
In cases where all attempts to socialize a cavy with other cavies fail, you may need to consider keeping your pet alone.
In these rare scenarios, extra attention from its favorite human is essential for their mental health.
Even if your pet does not seem to form social relationships with other animals, it is crucial to building a strong bond built on trust and plenty of attention.
This entails playing outside of the cage several times per day and loads of physical contact.
It is essential to hold a piggy every day from an early age to instill human trust.
For the most part, these animals enjoy human contact and will allow you to hold them.
If the cavy receives extra attention from its human daily, it may attempt to cuddle with and groom its owner.
On occasion, cavies are adopted as emotional support animals.
If you want your pet to thrive without a piggy friend, it is vital to spend as much time as possible with it and ensure it has plenty of physical and mental stimulation in its enclosure when you are not home.
Guinea Pig Cohabitation Combinations
Should Boars Live Together?
Having two or more male cavies as cage mates is not a common occurrence.
For the most part, a boar will do best with one or more sows as companions.
If you are able to find boars from the same litter who are raised together, you may luck out.
Even if they have bonded as pups, we still suggest having both boars neutered to decrease aggressive tendencies.
In general, males are more aggressive than females.
These animals thrive on a hierarchy level in their social group, and males often fight to be the alpha.
Should Boars and Sows Live Together?
Boars and sows can bond and live in peace.
Again, we advise having the boar neutered to prevent possible aggression and breeding.
If you are able to house a small herd, having one boar and several sows often works well.
It is common to find a male living with a group of females in the wild.
As an owner looking to rescue two guinea pigs, we advise searching for two females to adopt.
You are less likely to run into territorial issues, and you won’t have to worry about getting your pets neutered.
What To Do If One Guinea Pig Dies
In a scenario where you own a pair of piggies, and one of the partners dies, you will likely need to handle the surviving animal’s grief.
If you own a small herd of cavies, they will seek support from the rest of their herd and will most likely show fewer signs of grief.
A single cavy may show signs of depression and will have a grieving period for its lost partner.
You will need to spend extra time with your pet and do your best to support it during this time.
Since these animals are very social and pairs tend to have a close bond, the surviving pet will feel the loss of its partner the same way a human would.
Signs of Stress
- Refusal to move
- Excessive grooming
- Irregular appetite
- Excessive water consumption
- Chewing on cage
- Circling the enclosure
Chewing on the cage is one of the more common behaviors so check out our post on how to stop guinea pigs from chewing their cages for tactics you can put into action.
If your pet is exhibiting any of these signs of stress, do your best to cheer it up.
Approach it with a calm voice and gentle touches.
If your pet enjoys being held, consider cuddling them in your arms or close to your chest to show them support.
A vital step to take when one of your guinea pigs has passed is allowing the surviving piggies to see their companion.
They will gain a sense of closure with this interaction and will be able to sense their companion is gone.
Before removing the deceased cavy from the enclosure, we suggest rubbing one of the surviving pet’s toys over it to carry the scent.
This toy will act as a security blanket for the grieving cavy while you sort out how and when you replace their partner.
We understand the loss of a pet is difficult for owners.
Do your best to keep your surviving pet in mind and grieve with it.
Again, provide plenty of cuddles and extra attention in an attempt to cheer up both yourself and your pet.
The best step to take in this situation is adopting a new companion for your surviving pet.
If you are unable or unwilling to take on a new guinea pig, it is best to consult with an expert or your local rescue center on what to do next.
You may be able to raise your surviving animal as a solitary guinea pig.
However, not all guineas will do well on their own if they have spent their lives with one or more companions.
If you choose to keep only one cavy, be sure to increase interaction with it and watch for signs of loneliness.
Here is our post on guinea pigs that die from loneliness for more information.
How To Help Loneliness In Guinea Pigs
The stress of your pet losing its partner may lead to loneliness and depression.
Loneliness is also common in guinea pigs raised alone.
- Loss of appetite
- Change in food preferences
- Hiding for long periods
- Unwilling to socialize/play
- Lack of exercise
- Change in behavior
If your pet is experiencing any of these symptoms as a solo guinea, there are several steps you should take to cheer it up in an attempt to get it out of this slump.
One of the best ways to cheer up your pet is by attempting to stimulate its mind.
Introducing new puzzle toys or setting up a maze for it to navigate are excellent ways to do this.
When your cavy is depressed, it may take time to become interested in these new activities.
Be consistent and cheerful with your pet to motivate it to play.
Move the Cage
Housing your pet in an indoor enclosure is essential.
If you usually house it in an outdoor cage or pen, set up a new enclosure inside to not be left alone.
For pets already living indoors, consider moving their cage to a busier area of your home.
Allowing the cavy to hear and see you while you go about your day will likely help its mood.
Even when you are not able to spend time interacting with it directly, letting them know you are there will be comforting.
Although there is no scientific research definitively stating guinea pigs like music, many owners say playing calming music positively affects.
Calm music and increased human interaction are likely to boost your pet’s mood and hopefully increase its willingness to socialize.
Every animal has its personality, so do your best to find out what makes your guinea pig happy.
Seek Professional Advice
In some cases, owners are unsuccessful in cheering up their lonely pet no matter what they do.
If you are struggling to make your solitary guinea pig happy, we suggest taking it to your vet to seek professional advice.
Speaking with an expert will enable you to assess your pet’s situation better, and you may find new and exciting ways to cheer up your guinea pig.