All guinea pigs deserve to be happy. Loving your guinea pig and learning to understand their needs will help you identify the things you must do to prevent your guinea pig feeling worried, upset, frightened and stressed. By doing these things, you will be providing your guinea pig freedom from fear and distress.
Did you know that there is a special law protecting animals?
This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act says that your animal has five groups of welfare needs. These are five groups of things that animals need to be healthy and happy. These five welfare needs are called the Five Freedoms.
Under the Animal Welfare Act all animal guardians (owners) need to provide these five groups of things for their animals. One of these Freedoms is: Freedom from Fear and Distress. In this section you will learn about this freedom and how you can make sure your guinea pigs are receiving the love, understanding and companionship they need to be free from fear and distress.
Guinea pigs are very social animals, so it is always recommended that they live with at least one another guinea pig.
Lone guinea pigs can easily become lonely, less curious, less vocal, less active and less funny. It is not natural for them to live without others of their kind. When living together, guinea pigs will communicate together, play and run around more, follow and groom each other, and possibly even sleep cuddled up together.
Having just one guinea pig makes his or her life very lonely, regardless how much time you and your family spend with him or her. Why? Because you are not a guinea pig – you are not able to interact, play and communicate in the same way two guinea pigs would.
Absolutely! It's one of the best things you can do to make your guinea pig’s life a happy and fulfilled one.
Guinea pigs in the wild live in big groups and are very sociable animals, so it makes sense that they should live with at least one other guinea pig friend!
Once you have witnessed a bonded pair of guinea pigs interact together, it's unlikely you would ever want to keep a guinea pig on their own.
While guinea pigs do enjoy human company, it does not replace the fact another guinea pig will be the best companion for them where they can talk the same language, understand each other's body signals, and play, groom, relax, eat together and look out for each other.
The best and easiest pairing is a neutered male and a spayed female.
It is possible to have any pairing of males and females, especially if they've been brought up together from babies. However, a male and female is the most likely to get along.
Even if you have two girls, they should both be spayed or if you have two boys, they should both be neutered in order to make them a healthier and more relaxed pair. Same with a mixed pair - don't just get the male neutered - make sure the female has also been spayed.
Bonding is where guinea pigs get to know and trust each other, before becoming friends. RSPCA staff can help you with this. They will ask you questions and talk to you about your current guinea pig. Once they get an idea about the personality and nature of your current guinea pig, they will be able to suggest which other guinea pigs he or she would mostly likely get along with.
When your family introduces a new guinea pig, never put your new guinea pig directly in the enclosure where your old guinea pig is already living. Their first meeting should be done somewhere outside the enclosure, in a space that is new to both guinea pigs, like an enclosed area of a kitchen or a bathroom.
Place a pile of hay and treats (vegetables) into the center of the area. Place all your guinea pigs into the area. Watch their behaviour: ignoring one another is normal. Then, all this could happen: jumping on one another, teeth chattering, chasing around, purring accompanied by swaggering walk, etc! This is called “rumble strut” and is a natural thing for them – establishing who’s the boss, who’s the friendly neighbor and who doesn’t care. This could take about an hour; after that, you should still watch them for another couple of hours.
After the watching period (about three hours altogether), they should appear comfortable with each other. You can place them in a freshly cleaned enclosure together.
Observe their behaviour in the enclosure for another period of time, just to be sure they are ok. If they start to get physically aggressive and fight, you will need to throw a towel at the aggressive one and separate them from one another. If this happens, you will need to keep them separated in some way.
The best thing to do is to keep them close enough so they can see, smell and talk to each other, but are separated with some kind of a partition. They are still social and having another guinea pig in their vicinity will be good for them.
The more space in the enclosure, the better the bonding will work. Make sure all hideaway areas have an exit route and an entrance so one guinea pig can’t corner another.
Then give your veterinarian a call for some advice, or if you adopted your guinea pig from RSPCA, they will know him or her, so give them a call and they may be able to offer you help and advice.
If you are like most of us here at RSPCA, falling in love with an adorable guinea pig is easy. Adopting a guinea pig, however, is a big decision. Guinea pigs are living beings with needs, wants and feelings, just like you and I. They require a considerable amount of time, money and commitment.
Owning a guinea pig can be a wonderful experience and very rewarding, but only if you think through your decision very carefully.
Your family needs to be confident that they can provide your guinea pig with all five freedoms before you adopt. If you can only afford one guinea pig, then you shouldn't really buy one at all. It is becoming more widely known that guinea pigs that live in groups or pairs are so much happier. Those that live alone can easily become bored, lonely and depressed.
Imagine sitting on your own all day with no other humans to talk to for the rest of your life - you'd wish you had at least one friend to talk to!
It is normal for a guinea pig to be afraid of you at first, and some guinea pigs, depending on personality, are always a little shy. However, with patience and love, you can almost always make good friends with a guinea pig. The younger they are when you start, the easier it will be to gain their trust.
The thing to remember is that you are very large and frightening to a guinea pig. Also, being picked up is very scary since guinea pigs aren't really climbing or jumping sorts of animals - they're used to having four feet solidly on the ground.
It's much easier if you start when they're little. The best way to pick one up is to place one hand under the belly and lift, then as soon as they are off the ground, place another hand under the hind legs so he (or she) feels secure and supported. Try not to let any of the guinea pig’s legs dangle down as this makes them feel like a predator is holding them in their mouth. They are much more comfortable with all legs secure. Put him or her in your lap - maybe on a towel so you don't have to worry about "accidents" and gently pet him or her.
Some guinea pigs also like being held standing against the chest, with the nose pointing up towards your face, or cradled in your arms at chest level. Try different positions and you should be able to tell which one(s) your guinea pigs like by how restless they are. This is a good time to give fresh vegetable treats, so your guinea pig finds this a positive experience!
As soon as your guinea pig begins to squeak or become restless, let him/her down.
Some guinea pigs never feel comfortable being picked up, especially if they aren't handled a lot when they're little. This doesn't mean that you can't have a good relationship with them though. It just means that you have to relate to him or her where they are more comfortable, usually on the ground. The best time to do this is during play time when they are let out to run around the room – this should happen every day, so they get enough exercise. Lie down on the floor so you aren't so tall and frightening and offer a piece of vegetable to each of your guinea pigs. While they are eating, reach forward slowly to pet them. If they run away, let them finish their vegetable pieces and try again later.
It may take patience but eventually the shyest of guinea pigs should sit still for you to pet him/her, and even come over to be petted. The more time you spend on the floor with him or her, the faster he or she will get used to you. Also, the less you chase him/her around to pick them up the less afraid of you they’ll be. If your guinea pig lives in an enclosure, try to set up some sort of ramp so that they can get back into their cage on their own. If you put fresh vegetables in there, or just rattle around their pellets a little, I guarantee they'll go back into their cage without more forceful urging.
Remember, the more time you spend with your guinea pigs, the faster they'll become friendly with you.