Guinea pigs: Who can live with whom?
Luckily it is old news that guinea pigs need the company of their own kind. However even these extraordinarily social creatures cannot live with just anyone. The experts from Maxi Zoo explain what works and what to look out for in a guinea pig group.
Although guinea pigs are very social animals who are almost constantly communicating with each other though sounds and body language, each one remains an individual. Unlike rabbits, these small animals do not like to huddle together. Although a guinea pig needs a group he doesn‘t want the others bothering him. For this reason it is important that each animal has his own sleeping hut or that the hutch provides plenty of space for all the animals. Guinea pigs will only huddle together at times of stress! If they crowd each other it is not a sign of friendliness but a sign that they are afraid. However there is a strong cohesion in a group, usually with a set structure and hierarchy and the animals can build up close ties with one another and suffer greatly if separated.
On the other hand there is also antipathy amongst animals. If two guinea pigs really cannot stand each other and continue to get at one another after a week’s familiarisation time, they should be separated and new partners found for them. If small animals are under so called “social stress”, they don’t feel good and can even become ill. Even loneliness can lead to stress!
Groups of two or more females usually pose no problems. It is usually the case that they get on better in odd numbered groups, three or five animals. This is actually the trend but no rule for it can be established. Guinea pigs are too individual for 100% proof to apply and so you could also keep two or four females together.
Groups of males can also be kept well if you observe a few points. A young male will usually look to older males in the group and boars of the same age can also live peacefully together if they are litter mates or have known each other for a long time. The hutch or enclosure should be very spacious so that the animals can move out of the way if there is a row. If non-castrated boars are being kept then there should be no females living nearby as their smell can incite the boars. Castration is no guarantee that two boars will get on and it is also possible to mix castrated and non-castrated boars. Tip: multiple feeding bowls and drinking bottles can help avoid crowding – this rule also applies to mixed and female groups.
One or more females and a castrated boar is a good mixture. If there is stress within a female group the introduction of a male can put things right as a boar usually creates calm amongst the sows. Don’t forget though that this is all dependent on the character of the individual animals and always remember that lots of space helps to avoid friction between the animals.