Guinea pigs are social animals which means they should always have a same-species buddy. Does that mean they immediately get along with any other guinea pig? Nope! They also have a hierarchical system of leadership, somebody has to be the boss and the others follow them.
All guinea pigs have to go through this introduction or “bonding” process when they first meet. Typically the first few minutes where guinea pigs display normal bonding behavior is where most casual guinea pig owners think their guinea pigs are fighting and label them as antisocial, keeping them alone forever. Is my guinea pig antisocial?
But this doesn’t have to happen. Here’s how to find your guinea pig a friend!
If there is a guinea pig or small pet rescue near you (Google or check on Facebook), they often offer free bondings or are happy to help find your guinea pig a compatible friend.
Bond your guinea pig at home
I bonded my “antisocial” guinea pigs by using GuineaLynx’s introduction tutorial. Note that a lot of these behaviors will look scary to humans, but GuineaLynx’s most important advice is to not interfere! Trust me, it was really hard for me to watch my guinea pigs make those noises and act like that, but after the bonding process was done, they all now live happily together.
Butt Sniffing and Nudging
Two pigs rear on haunches at each other
Flying ball of fur – separate with towel immediately
If blood is deliberately drawn – end introductions immediately
Common bonding mistakes
Not placing the guinea pigs into a neutral space to begin the bonding process.
If a guinea pig is accustomed to living somewhere or is placed on a blanket that they’ve been using and another guinea pig “invades” that space… They’ll try extra hard to defend it! AKA easier for a fight to start.
No research on normal guinea pig behavior prior
As mentioned before, guinea pigs have to go through a bonding process and what is normal to them, can be scary to humans. This is why so many guinea pigs are labeled as “antisocial.” Watch lots of live bondings on YouTube to get familiar with what to expect. For example, male guinea pigs climb and hump each other aggressively when bonding. This is completely normal and the most important piece of a male bonding.
When I first tried bonding my guinea pigs, I was touching them reassuringly (I thought they were angry or scared) and talking to them the whole time. At the first sign of discomfort, I jumped in every time. I was acting with good intentions, but what it was really doing was not allowing my guinea pigs the time to work things out on their own. They need to decide themselves who is going to be the new dominant leader, not me. Again, watch videos of guinea pig bondings to see if you can distinguish the difference between a “skirmish” and an intentional attack with intent to harm. Skirmishes can last a few seconds before someone backs down. Backing down is good–it means progress is being made! My guinea pigs had several skirmishes, but each time, somebody backed down. And, wow, those skirmishes were scary to watch! But I waited patiently, they figured out their (many) issues and now they live happily together.
Only trying once
If your guinea pig introduction fails, some people will stop trying and label them as “antisocial.” As a human, you can’t be expected to like every single human, just because they are human. Same for guinea pigs! They shouldn’t be labeled as antisocial until at least 3-5 different introductions are tried.
General guidelines for finding a compatible guinea pig friend
More experienced bonders than I are able to pick guinea pig couples based on personalities that might be more compatible than others. But really, you don’t know until you try.
Before you commit to buying a new guinea pig friend, ask the rescue or the person you are rehoming from if your guinea pig can have an introduction before you buy and take them home. Please avoid purchasing from pet stores.
Guinea pigs can have a same sex friend or a neutered opposite-sex friend. Because of the dangers surrounding guinea pigs with neuters and spays, same-sex is the safest way to go!
Males are generally harder to bond than females, but not impossible. There is about a 20% chance two males will get along and 80% chance females will get along.
Groups of over 3 males rarely work. Stick to a pair and maybe a third, or else you risk the bond of your original pairs. Never have two males with a female. They will fight for her.
Male guinea pig pairs will need to live a size up from the recommended cage size for guinea pigs.
Guinea pig babies are easier to bond with adults, because the baby is not perceived as a threat to the older guinea pig’s dominance. However, once the baby reaches teenage/adult years, there is no guarantee that they will not challenge the other.
Adult guinea pigs are harder to bond, especially if they were previously dominant. But once they do find a friend, their bond will be stronger.
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