Many people have single guinea pigs and pet shops seem happy to sell them as solitary pets whereas most rescue centres are inclined to ensure a guinea pig has a companion. So if you're planning on getting a guinea pig, should you have one or two or more... can a Guinea Pig live alone?
Guinea pigs are social animals and they thrive on interaction with a companion so you should always adopt two guinea pigs to avoid a singleton suffering from loneliness.
Imagine living your life alone with no friends and nobody to communicate with. Even if you are a solitary person, this would be extremely isolating.
Guinea pigs live in herds in the wild and it is totally unnatural for them to be put in solitary confinement. In fact, if you live in Switzerland (who have very high animal protection standards) you are not allowed to adopt or buy a single guinea pig as it is against the law and considered cruel.
We have witnessed the difference in a lonely male guinea pig who we rescued and added to our female herd. His personality completely changed when he found he had friends and he went from sitting in one spot most of the day to running around, popcorning and clearly loving his new found companions.
Guinea pigs need company and stimulation so they don’t become bored and depressed.
Having said that, there are times when a lifelong guinea pig partner dies and you have one left alone. Read on to find out what we recommend under these circumstances.
My Guinea Pig’s Partner has Died. What Should I Do?
Your guinea pig may grieve after the loss of a companion. He or she may become depressed and this can lead to illness. This will most likely be felt more strongly if your guinea pig was one of a pair rather than a herd.
The best way to help guinea pig getting over the loss of a partner is usually to find them another friend. If this is not an option for you then you should do your best to improve their quality of life so that they live the rest of their lives as happily as possible.
Here are some tips on how to help your guinea pig overcome the loss of their companion:
- When a guinea pig dies, if you scent a cuddly toy with the deceased pet by rubbing it on his fur as well as the bedding within the cage, you can then put this in the cage for the remaining guinea pig to cuddle up to. It can be a comfort to them.
- Your guinea pig needs closure as much as a human does. Let them see the body of their friend and when they have paid their respects and moved to another part of the cage you can then remove the deceased guinea pig.
- Make sure you spend extra time paying attention to your guinea pig, giving cuddles and perhaps move their cage to a different location in the home where they can see you more. A solitary guinea pig should never be kept outdoors.
- If your pet is less active, not interested in food or water and is losing weight, you must help them get through their depression just as you would a human. If you have any concerns whatsoever, you should contact your vet and take them for a check up.
However, you should ideally find your pet another friend who they can bond with. Make sure you choose the right pairing and you could really change your guinea pig’s life for the better.
Contact a local guinea pig rescue centre and explain your situation. They are experts and will help you make the right choice. Some even have dating sessions so you can be sure of a good match before you commit to a particular piggy.
Good Guinea Pig Pairings and Combinations
If you are getting guinea pigs, you need to make sure they will be good friends. There are certain combinations that work and others that are more problematic.
Remember, even with the options we recommend, you will have to go through a proper bonding session with your new pets. They need to be introduced gradually and not forced on each other or you may have a disaster on your hands.
Neutered Boar with 1 or more Sows
This is one of the most successful combinations and is the set up we have ourselves. The reason this combination makes such a happy group is because they naturally live like this in the wild. Always remember that however many females you have, there must only be one male in with them.
When you have two females together, one will usually be dominant. Providing they are not both dominant characters, they should be good companions.
It is recommended that they should either be brothers or they should be bonded before they are 6 weeks old. Be aware that if there is a scent of female guinea pigs around, it can disrupt their relationship. This can happen if you have female guinea pigs housed nearby or if you have been handling females and not washed your hands afterwards. The RSPCA say that if they are neutered there is less chance they will come to blows.
Older male and very young male (under 6 wks)
This is not always an amicable combination so you’ll need to go through a careful bonding process. Bullying can happen but it can be a great relationship with the older male taking more of a parental role towards the younger guinea pig.
If you look at the respected animal welfare organisations such as RSPCA, Bluecross and the Animal Humane Society, they do vary a little in their recommendations. Bluecross say there shouldn’t be more than one male guinea pig in a group or herd whereas the RSPCA say neutered brothers who have always been together can be friends.
The RSPCA doesn’t mention anything about an older boar and very young male combination but other guinea pig experts have found this can work.
However, both Bluecross and the RSPCA recommend neutering males. It is much easier for males who lose a partner to find a new mate as they can partner up with a female or a group of females.
Combinations that Don’t Work
There some combinations that are just asking for trouble and you should make sure you avoid:
Unneutered male and female
This is an extremely bad combination as you will no doubt end up with more than just 2 guinea pigs. They breed from a very young age and it has sadly been the case many times that owners find themselves with so many they cannot cope.
More than 2 males together
This has been known to work but often when the boy guinea pigs reach puberty their hormones will run riot and they will most likely fight.
Accommodation Must Allow for Time Alone
The housing you choose for your guinea pigs must be spacious and have areas where they can be alone if they choose. This will help reduce arguments between them and give them the best chance of getting on with each other.
You can check out the housing we recommend here:
Will a Rabbit Make a Good Companion?
Guinea pigs and rabbits should not be housed together. Although you will have seen many pictures of rabbits and guinea pigs together, you should never consider mixing the two. They have different needs and can’t communicate in the way that a pair of guinea pigs can. Rabbits have very powerful kicks and this can be extremely dangerous to a guinea pig.
The best companion for a guinea pig is another one of its kind.
So, if you want to adopt a guinea pig, commit to a pair and find a rescue centre where you can find plenty to choose from. We don’t recommend buying from a pet shop as there are many guinea pigs in need of loving homes and your commitment to adopt and care for them could radically change their lives for the better.