Guinea pigs are inherently social creatures. In the wild, social life for guinea pigs comes from their herds. However, keeping a colony of ten or more guinea pigs requires a lot of space. Instead, you can supply your guinea pig with a companion or two and still meet their social needs.
Pairs and Trios of Guinea Pigs
Duos and trios are the best situations for most domestic guinea pigs. The space requirements are not enormous, but it still allows a social life for your guinea pigs. The trick, though, is to give the guinea pigs enough space. A pair requires eight square feet or more, while a trio needs 10 feet or more. Without the proper amount of space, even the mellowest guinea pigs may fight.
Guinea Pig Colonies
In the wild, guinea pigs live in groups. They do not mate for life or anything like that, but the social aspect is essential. If you want to mimic the social life for wild guinea pigs, that means keeping five to ten guinea pigs together. At one point, Guinea Pig Center Founder Coleen had a colony of thirteen girls living together. You just need to be very sure of the sex of the guinea pigs before you choose this option.
Breeding pairs need to be kept separate from other breeding pairs. This separation prevents competition, and you will be sure of the bloodlines. You should slowly introduce the members of a breeding pair to ensure they get along. Also, for safety, you will need to disrupt the social life of your guinea pigs for birth and the weeks after. This disruption doesn’t happen in the wild, but you do not want pregnant pups.
Guinea pigs are herbivores, but that doesn’t mean they do not have social dynamics. Before committing to a pair living together, they need an introduction. This introduction can start with something as simple as placing both guinea pigs in separate laundry baskets. Assuming there is no aggression, you can move to the next step.
Next, place a divider in the middle of the cage. This divider can be a piece of chicken wire, some plexiglass, or other material. The goal is for the pigs to be closer without allowing them to fight. You can keep this arrangement for a few hours or a few days, providing both sides have food and water.
The last step in introducing guinea pigs is to remove the divider from the cage. You’ll need to do this at a time when you’re going to be around for at least three hours. You should also place a dustpan on top of the cage in case you need to separate the guinea pigs. There is a chance that even with a gradual introduction, a pair will not work.
Of course, if you get the guinea pigs from a pet store or rescue as a pair, the guinea pigs are already introduced. You’ll still need to watch for signs of fights. The same logic applies to keeping siblings together, providing you sex them correctly.
When Social Life for Guinea Pigs Fails
Social life for guinea pigs is important, but sometimes it fails. Just like people, guinea pigs have unique personalities. Since people don’t get along with everyone, you should not expect guinea pigs to as well.
Female guinea pigs, called sows, tend to get along better in groups. While these guinea pigs are competitive over food, they tend not to pick as many outright fights with each other. Female guinea pigs may even cuddle.
Male guinea pigs, on the other hand, are competitive. They must be in order to mate, even if you don’t have any female guinea pigs in the house. Your best bet for male guinea pigs in pairs or trios is siblings. Even siblings may fight though, especially once they’re more than six months of age. Sometimes, you will get lucky.
Neutered males are also a possibility, though the surgery can be expensive. These males are safe to keep with females and enjoy their company. Just like with dogs, neutered males tend to be less aggressive overall.
Regardless, sometimes attempts to create a social life for your guinea pig fail. You can still keep all the guinea pigs, but they need to be in separate cages. They can also enjoy social life safely if you place the cages next to each other.