GUINEA PIG COMPANIONSHIP AND BONDING Guinea pigs are herd animals and require the company of their own kind to effectively communicate and express themselves. Imagine if you were the only human and couldn’t even talk to another person who could understand you and keep you company!Having two guinea pigs or more will enrich your guinea pigs life and also provide you with the chance to observe all the wonderful sounds and different behaviours your guinea pig can only express with another cavy. As this guide provides a very comprehensive approach to guinea pig companionship you can click on the tittles below should a topic interest you in this article: Benefits of Adopting a Companion for your Guinea PigMales or Females?Tips to choosing your guinea pig a companionQuarantine First!IntroductionsVideo table on different dominant behavioursAfter Introductions what if my Guinea Pigs are still not getting along? Tips and Tricks to helping your Guinea Pigs BondBullying SignsRabbits and Guinea pigs Benefits of Adopting a Companion for your Guinea PigAdequate Exercise: Guinea pigs require daily exercise in order to maintain a good quality of health and also to increase their mental stimulation and prevent them from becoming complacent. A companion will assist in letting your guinea pig express themselves. Guinea pigs will often follow each other around their cages(also referred to as a piggy train), explore new toys, eat together, sleep together and keep each other company. Older guinea pigs benefit from a companion to keep them moving and preventing obesity related issues. Varied Diet: Guinea pigs are known for their reputation when it comes to enjoying food. Often when a guinea pig is by themselves they do not have any other guinea pigs to teach them which foods are the right ones to eat and may refuse to each some vegetables you offer them. If however a companion is eating a vegetable that they have never tried, instead of letting them eat it all they will often grab or attempt to eat that food, because their companion thinks its so tasty! This keeps the diet varied and can help your guinea pig obtain the essential nutrients and vitamins needed to meet their nutritional requirements.Mental Stimulation and Behaviour: In the wild guinea pigs usually live in a herd for safety reasons. If a guinea pig is faced with a predator they will usually run in different directions to confuse the predator, freeze and become rigid and can also warn each other through a high pitched squeal. They find safety in numbers. A guinea pigs natural instinct is to be with its own kind and having a companion will allow you to assist your guinea pig in being as healthy and happy as possible. Even though your guinea pigs home is in a nice, safe indoor cage, instinctively a guinea pig would much prefer to have companion throughout the day and night to ensure they are safe and make their home feel as comfortable as possible.Males or Females?Guinea pig behaviour can be quite complex at times and it may be a challenge to choose another friend for your guinea pig. Guineas pigs need to establish dominance in order to have a successful herd. Sometimes guinea pigs may get along straight away and it may take weeks, months or may not get along at all. Don’t give up on a pairing it can take sometime. Guinea Pigs Australia highly advises same sex pairs i.e. two males or two females. If a male and female pair are together we strongly recommend one of the guinea pigs being either sprayed or neutered. Do not breed your guinea pigs! There are numerous risks involved and many homeless guinea pigs who require a loving home can be adopted instead. Opt to Adopt! See our recommended rescue page here.Male Guinea Pig PairsThere is a common misconception that male guinea pig pairs will not work as a pair or continually fight. There are many male guinea pigs that have successfully established dominance and will live together quite happily. One the the keys to a successful male bonding is space! Male guinea pigs need at least 2.25SqM of cage space in order establish dominance and also be able to have a time out area where they can get away from their cage mate and have some time alone. See Cage Size for more information on cage size. It is also vitally important that if you have female guinea pigs (sows) in or around your male guinea pigs cage ensure that they are kept well away and out of sight of your male guinea pigs. Males will fight over females and male guinea pigs who have been happily living together as a bonded pair may start to bicker and fight for dominance when it comes to females. Unlike rabbits neutering will not alter your guinea pigs behaviour, only neuter for medical reasons or if you are housing a male and female pair together.Female Guinea Pig PairsFemale guinea pigs can be bonded in much larger groups in comparison to males however there are some owners who have reported of up to 8 males living happily together. It depends on the “personality “ of the guinea pig. If two females have a very dominant personality they may not get along at all despite your best efforts. Having a large cage is also key to ensuring a successful introduction. Male and Female Guinea pig PairsA male and female pair should only be considered if one of the guinea pigs is neutered. Usually the male. Spraying a female guinea pig has much higher risks in comparison with neutering a male, however there can be complications to both. It is important that you have an experienced exotics veterinarian who is familiar with the procedure and can also assist with post op care. For more information on neutering your guinea pig we recommend reading this great article by CavySpirit: Neutering Your Guinea Pig.Tips to Choosing Your Guinea Pig a CompanionChoosing a guinea pig that will be either more dominant or subordinate can assist to ensure you have a pair of cavies that will find it easier to bond. Below are some great tips to help you choose a suitable guinea pig: Age: A younger guinea pig paired with an older guinea pig may help establish a natural hierarchy, Usually the older guinea pig will naturally be more dominant then the younger. However it is important to know your current guinea pigs behaviour. An older guinea pig who presents a laid back nature may not get along with a younger, feisty and bolder guinea pig who may challenge that dominance. Size: The size of a guinea pig can also help establish a good bond. The larger guinea pig will usually be the “boss” whereas the smaller cavy will be subservient in the pairing. Cage Size: Your guinea pigs require adequate space in order to establish a new bond. Essentially they need an area to “time out” and having a large enough cage to effectively achieve this is vital. See Cage Size for more information. Housing your guinea pig in a confined area if it is a fairly new bond can significantly reduce the chances of a successful pairing. Neutral Area: Guinea pigs are able to mark their territory via adanal glands located just above where the “tail” would have been. When introducing a guinea pig into an established environment it is important to thoroughly clean the cage where both guinea pigs will be housed in order to ensure that there will not be any conflicting scents on bedding, housing or cage accessories. A great way to clean cage accessories and walls of cages is with a spray bottle filled with 1 quarter vinegar and 3 parts water. See Cage Cleaning for more information.Quarantine First!It is essential to ensure that you quarantine all new guinea pigs before introducing them to an existing cage mate. Quarantine periods should be a minimum of 2 to 3 weeks in a separate area away from your existing cavy. Washing your hands thoroughly between handling your new and current guinea pig will minimise the threat of any bacteria from spreading if it is present. Clothing should also be changed. Even if both guinea pigs look healthy it is important to ensure that quarantine procedures are followed to prevent any chance of illness or parasitic infection from potentially spreading. A vet check on your new guinea pig can also be done as a precautionary measure if needed. IntroductionsOnce the quarantine period is over you can introduce your guinea pigs to one another. It is vitally important that you ensure you perform introductions on neutral territory and on an equal footing. Section off an area similar to floor time. For information on floor time see: Floor Time. It is advised to include toys and food to distract both guinea pigs and engage them in social activities whilst introductions take place. In case fighting may occur it is important you have a dust pan or broom/towel ready to use to separate any guinea pig should aggressive behaviour arise. Guinea pigs can unintentionally bite or cause harm you if they are in the grips of a fierce battle and you place your hands between them, hence throwing a towel over them or separating with a broom or brush is an easier and safer way. Please see our helpful tips below which will help you to introduce your guinea pigs to one another:TIP: Some guinea pigs may get along straight away but be prepared that they will not and above all be patient. Patience if the key to a successful introduction. 1) Ensure you place your guinea pigs on neutral territory. If you are introducing them during Floor Time a towel is an easy way to separate your guinea pigs or grab hold of them safely. It may be easier to have two people participating - one person to monitor one guinea pig and the other person the other. 2) Let each guinea pig explore and have contact with the other in their own time. Do not force each guinea pig together. Introductions take time and patience. Watch their behaviour. We have included a table below which will help you differentiate between normal dominance related behaviour and aggressive behaviour. Not all behaviours are shown here - however they will assist you in determining what behaviours are aggressive or non-aggressive. After introductions, what if my guinea pigs are still not getting along? Guinea pigs can take some time to establish a new bond. Its is important to be patience and assist them with the pairing by trying some great techniques below which have helped many owners establish a long lasting bond between their guinea pigs.Bathing can assist you in bonding two guinea pigs who are not establishing dominance or fighting. Many guinea pigs find bathing a different experience and will often cuddle up to one another out of instinct for support. Being in a completely different environment and taking your cavies out of their comport zone can help be an ice breaker for two squabbling guinea pigsEnsure that you have adequate toweling for both guinea pigs and a safe stable location to supervise two or more guinea pigs. For information on how to bathe your guinea pigs see Bathing.After you have bathed your guinea pigs, introduce them to oner another again. The experience of bathing should bring them closer together as a herd. Ensure you try a safe shampoo such as the gorgeous guineas shampoo range can keep them smelling neutral or the same, and also assist in cleaning your guinea pigs thoroughly during a buddy bath without drying our the skin. The main aim of a buddy bath is to bond through the same experience and also assist in each guinea pig smelling neutral. Grid Wall Placing an adjoining wall in your guinea pigs cage so they can still see, hear and smell each other can be beneficial in helping your guinea pigs get used to each other without the potential of injury. You can also swap cage accessories that belong to the other guinea pig and place them in each others cages. This will assist in each guinea pigs scent being in the others environment. It can take time for a pair to bond and being patient is key. Some guinea pigs may never enjoy being in direct contact with one another and you may need to be prepared for each guinea pig being happily content to be independent yet near each other through a cage wall. Some guinea pigs are simply dominant and will not bond with another cavy, but all guinea pigs enjoy the company of another guinea pig. They need to communicate to one another and be able to see, hear and smell the other guinea pig. Guinea pigs are herd animals and must always be kept in pairs. Tips and Tricks to Helping your Guinea Pigs Bond1) Move cage accessories around in their cages if your guinea pigs have had successful introductions but still continue to fight. Guinea pigs love routine. Changing their cage accessories, washing them daily and removing any smells can help place each guinea pig on an equal and neutral footing to ensure they can establish a bond. 2) Weigh each guinea pig weekly. Look for signs of bullying DAILY. Does any guinea pig have scabs, cuts, abrasions or has lost weight? If you see signs of bullying separate. Bullying is a serious health risk for guinea pigs in the short and long term. Bullying is when fighting is occuring when you are not at home or cannot monitor your guinea pigs for aggressive behaviour. Some owners install web cams in their cages so they can monitor and rewind recordings of bullying activity. 3) Take your guinea pigs out for extra floortime. Space, playing and being able to explore on a neutral territory on a regular basis can assist in establishing a new bond. Some guinea pigs who do not get along within the confines of their cage can be best friends during floortime. This can be a sign that you are half way there - keep increasing floortime sessions, try another buddy bath before placing them back into their cage. Try a new space for each floortime session. New cage accessories and placed to explore. Make it fun for each guinea pig to want to chase, popcorn and be with the other. 4) Clean their cage daily. Spray their cage with vinegar and water solution to remove any smells. This may be time consuming but trying every method possible even daily cleaning can assist as the guinea pigs will need to establish dominance on a neutral footing during floortime and when placed back in their cage. 5) Don’t remove your guinea pigs too early from a floortime session or a cage session. Bonding takes time. Monitor your guinea pigs for the first 30 minutes or so. Leave them for an hour - then two. If you see normal dominant behaviour such as nose off’s, mounting, chasing, butt sniffing and dragging its okay. Separate when you see aggressive behaviour such as biting, raise hackles, increased teeth chattering. Leave the guinea pigs to sort out dominance - do not separate too early. Separating early can prevent your guinea pigs from establishing a hierarchy and can cause bonding to be a more prolonged process both for you and the guinea pigs.Bullying SignsSome guinea pigs can exert very dominant behaviour on a submissive or less aggressive guinea pig. Whilst bickering in a herd can be a common place experience, it is always important to monitor and observe signs of bullying behaviour to ensure that both guinea pigs are healthy, safe and happy. If a guinea pig is constantly being bullying it can ultimately have a prolonged effect on their mental and physical health. Signs of bullying behaviour can include: •Nipping or biting another guinea pig on a regular basis. The other guinea pig may squeal in pain•Seeing scabs, or bite marks on their backside, face or ears•The dominant guinea pig may prevent other guinea pigs from obtaining access to water sources or food bowls•The submissive or bullied guinea pig can withdraw into hiding, be skittish or seem afraid to interact with you or other guinea pigs. •Visible signs of weight lossIt is vitally important to ensure you weigh and monitor your guinea pigs for signs of bullying. If a guinea pig is being deprived of food by another cavy it may be a good idea to ensure many sources of water and food are available in their cage. At times it can also be highly recommended to separate. Do not keep a bullied guinea pig together - sometimes guinea pigs just do not get along and it may be in the best interests to separate and let them live together with a grid wall separator so they can still, see, hear and smell each other but not bully or cause each other injury. Rabbits and Guinea PigsBefore any attempt is made to bond a guinea pig and a rabbit it is vitally important that the full scope of risks associated with such a pairing be considered. See below for information on the differences and health concerns with rabbits and guinea pigs: Diet: Guinea pigs like humans cannot synthesise their own source of Vitamin C and as such require this to be substituted into their diet. Rabbits however do not require extra sources of Vitamin C and as such their pelleted food does not contain this vitamin, in the required quantities needed to maintain the levels needed in your guinea pigs diet. In addition to this requirement some pelleted feeds for rabbits may contain harmful antibiotics which if ingested by the guinea pig can cause health issues. The vegetables need to accommodate for both guinea pigs daily needs. Guinea pigs should be offered high vitamin C vegetables and fruits whereas many rabbits may not appreciate or be interested in eating the same vegetables as your guinea pigs. Behaviour: Rabbits and guinea pigs are both social animals and enjoy the company of their own kind or another companion. However rabbits tend to groom each other also referred to as barbering, cuddle and snuggle one another. Guinea pigs however have very different behavioural traits. Whilst they do respond to grooming, constant grooming or affection is not enjoyable for a guinea pig. Even when a guinea pig grooms another, they each keep in mind the other cavies personal space, whereas most rabbits enjoy a cuddle and social grooming. Communication, wheeking, rumble strutting, teeth chattering and being able to express all these wonderful natural behaviours with another guinea pig are severely limited with a rabbit. Guinea pigs express themselves via their behaviour and sounds. They require another guinea pig to “talk” and “chatter” back to them, to fully communicate their wants and needs. Strength: Whilst injury can occur unintentionally there is still a chance it can. Rabbits can express their joy by jumping, leaping or also can start up from a sudden fright with a kick or jump. This action can cause injury to a guinea pig sitting near by, or the rabbit may not see the guinea pig until it is too late. Constant monitoring of this behaviour is difficult - even a small dwarf rabbit has considerable more leg strength than a guinea pig and can cause injury even with a small unintentional kick. Respiratory Infections: Rabbits can carry a respiratory infection called Pasteurella, and exhibit no outward symptoms. Guinea pigs are very susceptible to upper respiratory infections and can contract this infection which can prove fatal in a short period of time. Guinea pigs have different health concerns to those of rabbits and whilst both species require an exotics veterinarian to treat them, their immunity and capacity to deal with infections can differ greatly.