Guinea pigs do not have to live in pairs, but it is highly recommended. Guinea pigs are herd animals, which means they like to be around other guinea pigs. Guinea pigs that live alone will often become lethargic and depressed.
It’s a common situation. You’re thinking of buying a guinea pig but can’t make up your mind. Will he be fine alone? Do I have enough time to take care of him? Does he have enough things to do in his cage?
Well, let’s start by answering this one question….
Could A Guinea Pig Live Alone?
Yes, It Could, But It’s Not Recommended
While guinea pigs can live alone, they aren’t supposed to. All guinea pigs are social creatures. That means they NEED other animals of the same species to happily survive.
Some countries (like Switzerland) have even made owning a single guinea pig illegal. That alone should tell you how bad it is to have one guinea pig.
How Bad Can It Be? They CAN Live Alone, Right?
In the beginning, things won’t be bad. You may even get through a year with no issues. During that period, most guinea pigs are getting used to their surroundings. They will not react to not having anyone to socialize with if they are cared for properly.
Soon, however, your Guinea pig will show several signs of being unhappy. First, it will be more lethargic. The guinea pig that used to run around its cage/grass all the time will not move as much and may even stop moving entirely.
Then it will become underweight as it stops eating. From time to time, you will hear what sounds like screaming in its cage as it tries to get the attention it needs. Eventually, if you ignore its loneliness for too long, it may even die.
Okay, I NEED Another Guinea Pig, But What Does That Mean For Me?
It means several things. You need more space, more food, and more attention as they both adjust to their new lives together.
It’s recommended that you keep the guinea pigs in a cage of at least 10.5 square feet. You should also give them a neutral space to meet instead of where they sleep (although a divider in a cage could work just fine).
It’s recommended that you have at least two separate cages that can hold one Guinea pig (at least 7.5 square feet in size) in case they fight or one gets sick. You wouldn’t want either guinea pig to be stuck with a sick guinea or a guinea that it hates.
Two guinea pigs will only increase your costs by around 25%, but it’s still important to think about before getting a second guinea pig.
You also have to think of any additional vet care you might need in the future. This is especially true if you get a male/female pair that are not neutered. If the female gets pregnant, that means going to the vet for any health complications during the pregnancy and afterward for the babies.
Before you can just leave your two guinea pigs together, it’s important to have supervised time with both guinea pigs for at least 2 hours. It should be in neutral space (neither guinea pigs’ home), and it should involve you watching to make sure that neither are fighting.
There are many reasons two guinea pigs would fight, as I will cover later, and it will usually not get too rough. But in case it does, you should be prepared to separate both of them quickly, as I also talk about later in the article.
How To Introduce One Guinea Pig to Another
Okay, you now understand how important it is to get a pair of guinea pigs. You also have the space, money, and attention for a new guinea pig. So how do we introduce them?
The First Meeting
Before putting two guinea pigs together, you should quarantine one for at least two weeks. You wouldn’t want one of them to catch a cold from the other.
As I mentioned in the previous section, the first meeting should be a supervised meeting where you watch them for the first couple of hours.
It would be best to introduce them somewhere where neither would be threatened by the other. But somewhere they can “talk” and have fun!
Oh No, They Keep Butting Heads And Chasing Each Other!
Don’t worry. The guinea pigs must make a social hierarchy between themselves. Guinea pigs often do this when it’s two males or two females and they meet for the first time.
Since they are herd creatures, Guinea pigs have to figure out which one will be the leader and which one will be the follower. This is normal. However, if you sense that an actual fight is about to start, you must end it before it begins.
Wait, Why Are My Guinea Pigs Fighting All the Time?
Anytime you put them together, the guinea pigs fight or start injuring each other. All you want is for them to get along like they should. Now what?
Why They May Be Fighting
Guinea pigs may fight each other for many reasons. But the big one is that their personalities clash. Make sure that you don’t place two guinea pigs with dominant personalities together, or it could lead to constant fighting between the two.
They could also fight constantly after their hormones kick in and they feel the need to establish dominance. Or they could fight because one of them is in pain/sick.
The best (and easiest) solution to fighting is to separate them (either with a divider or separate cages). However, if you find them fighting, it is very important that you try to separate them with thick gloves and as gently as possible. You don’t want anyone getting hurt!
Overall, it is not required (although in Switzerland it is) for guinea pigs to live together. Still, it is highly recommended that they do. It’s also recommended that you budget for two guinea pigs in terms of space, money, and attention.
Try to introduce them in neutral space while keeping your full attention on them. Be prepared to break them up if they look like they are about to fight each other.