How to Introduce Two Guinea Pigs to Each Other?
When it comes to guinea pigs, this saying is true: “Two is company, three’s a crowd.” However, if you can’t get enough of their furry cuteness, you might just want to grace your home with a few more.
Cavies are herd animals which means that they are naturally adept at living and working together in groups. A solo guinea pig rarely thrives on its own, which is why pet owners are highly advised to get a partner for their cavy if it doesn’t already have one.
But introducing a new member into the family can be more work than you bargained for. Guinea pigs are social animals that have distinctive personalities and letting someone join the group can sometimes be a hit or miss.
Two guinea pigs that meet for the first time must bond with each other first and learn their place in the family structure before things can run smoothly.
Best Cavy Matches
Before you getting a second guinea pig, there are criteria that you should take into consideration before deciding on what type. In order to increase the odds of having a good match between guinea pigs that will become fond of each other right away, first take a look at your current cavy and start from there. The goal is to see what your pet lacks and find a companion that will fill in the gap.
If you already have a male guinea pig (called a boar), look for another male. If you have a female (called a sow), get another female. If possible, same-sex companions are always the best choice.
What you don’t want is a pair of opposite-sex guinea pigs that can reproduce, spawning fur-pigs left and right. Guinea pig litters have been known to contain as many as 7 pups so take this advice seriously, unless you want an episode of “The Trouble with Tribbles” to unfold in your house.
If you’d really like two opposite genders, you do have an option to have them neutered. You’ll have to pay for the surgical operation though, so keep this in mind when choosing your guinea pig. Also, neutered boars can only be introduced to a sow or a herd of sows at least four to six weeks after the operation because they might still be able to reproduce.
Matching up personalities is going to be a more difficult challenge for you when introducing guinea pigs. It will be much easier if you’ve had your current cavy for a couple of months already and know its behavior.
Two dominant males should never be paired up with each other as they’ll both strive to be the alpha of the herd. The competition can lead to fighting, biting, scratching, and even seriously injuring each other which is something you definitely don’t want.
An ideal pair is a dominant boar/sow and a submissive boar/sow. You won’t be able to know right off the bat what the personality of the new guinea pig is, so there are a few tricks and techniques you can use to help you decide (see “The Meeting” section to learn more).
Another good matchup regardless of sex is an adult cavy and a younger cavy. The hierarchy will normally fall into place by itself, with the older one establishing its dominance and the younger one obeying.
You can introduce as many new guinea pigs as you want into the family as long as you follow this rule and stick to groups of two. Also, if the herd is primarily comprised of females, never add more than one male. Striking the right balance limits the number of power struggles that can take place and having too many males may result in some serious scuffles.
There’s one last thing to keep in mind – never allow guinea pigs to cohabitate with rabbits or other rodents such as hamsters and gerbils. These different species cannot understand each other and can easily end up becoming aggressive due to miscommunication.
Preparations Before Introducing Guinea Pigs
There are a few things you’ll need to do to prepare the environment for the arrival of a new guinea pig. First off, make sure the cavy you’ve chosen is the right sex. Determining the sex of a guinea pig isn’t that easy of a task as their genitals can be difficult to locate and identify and the staff in pet stores often make mistakes.
Here are a few tips to help you do the examination by yourself like a pro:
- Conduct the examination on the floor or a low table. In case the guinea pig wiggles or attempts to escape, possibilities of injury will be minimized. Keep a firm but gentle grip on its chest and shoulders.
- Spread the legs apart and look at the crotch area. A male’s genitalia will look like a small circular dot and will bulge slightly outward while a female’s will appear to be a flat Y-shaped opening.
- There will be a large empty space between the genitals and the anus in males. This space is also present in females but is smaller.
Once you’ve successfully identified the sex of the guinea pig and have had enough of the eagle-eyed stares from people standing around the room, you’re ready to purchase your piggy and head on home.
The cage where you’re planning on sheltering both guinea pigs should be large enough for them to have their own space. It’s recommended to have at the very least a 10.5 square-foot cage. A grid wall divider is good to use in case you need to keep them separated for short periods of time.
After arriving home with your new cavy, don’t put it together with the other one right away. The new guinea pig will first need to undergo a quarantine period while you gradually familiarize the two animals with each other’s scent and presence.
In case the new piggy has any parasites or infections, you’ll want those gone before you allow it to interact. Always wash your hands after handling the new animal and if you notice any signs of health problems, bring it to the vet straight away.
During the period of quarantine, you may begin the familiarization process by swapping their toys, feeding bowls, and bedding. This will allow you to observe their reaction to the other guinea pig’s scent and alert them of the presence of another animal.
Since you’ve already completed all the required preparatory steps and ensured that your new guinea pig is free of diseases or parasites, the time has come to allow them to meet face-to-face. Be sure to carefully monitor their interaction during this event.
The Meeting Of Two Guinea Pigs
Cavies may form good relationships immediately, or not. Sometimes though, two particular guinea pigs might have contrasting personalities which will make it difficult for them to become friends. However, there are plenty of ways that you can encourage newly-introduced guinea pigs to socialize with each other and eventually learn to live in one single habitat together. The best and easiest way is to play games.
There are two games that you can play with your guinea pigs which will allow them to interact and bond with one another – the Dating Game and the Bathing Game. Don’t get frustrated if everything doesn’t go as planned right away. Sometimes it takes a while for the animals to learn their role in the family.
The Dating Game
To play the Dating Game, you’ll need another person to act as a helper. You’ll also need two or three large, freshly-laundered towels.
Start by laying the towels down flat on a couch or on the floor and line them up to create a soft-landing area. This is the staging ground where the cavies will meet. Make sure that the area where you conduct this activity is quiet and free of distractions.
Have your helper hold one guinea pig and stay on one side of the towel-area while you hold the other guinea pig and stay on the opposite end. Count to three and release both cavies simultaneously.
They will begin to sniff the air and cautiously approach each other while attempting to identify the source of the new smell. You may have to give them a gentle nudge in the right direction if they don’t meet up right away.
For the next 15 – 30 minutes, give the guinea pigs some time to acclimate themselves. From this initial interaction, you’ll be able to gauge whether or not they’re comfortable. Some cavies tend to warm up right away, but the majority will probably start establishing their dominance.
This is a necessary part of the activity and it is highly advised to avoid interrupting them once they’ve started. If any fighting breaks out, throw a towel over and separate them as fast as possible to avoid potential injury.
The conclusion of this game is reached when both guinea pigs are calm and know their place. One will usually have come out as the victor, claiming the alpha position, while the other will act submissive. You may put them together in one cage once this harmony has been achieved.
The Bathing Game
The second game is called the Bathing Game and it’s more useful to use when you have two dominant males or are adding a third male to the family. Do not try playing this game unless you have experience with bathing guinea pigs and know what you’re doing.
The intro to the game is similar to the Dating Game wherein you’ll place all three cavies on a towel and let them interact with each other. If all goes well following their dominance rituals, then you can place them into one cage together.
If, however, any of the guinea pigs begin to get aggressive while on the towel, it’s time to give them a bath. While frolicking in the warm water, they will have forgotten their argument and become distracted by the bath.
Finish washing them and dry them thoroughly using a hairdryer. Place them all down together on a fresh towel. The bathroom experience will hopefully have served its purpose in helping them to bond together and they should no longer be pursuing aggressive actions.
One important last step is to make sure you clean the communal cage very thoroughly before putting the new guinea pigs together. This is to remove all lingering smells and give all of the animals a sense that they are entering a new home for the first time.
As they enter the cage and begin to groom each other, give yourself a pat on the back for all the effort that you put into ensuring the safe and happy introduction of your new family member.
This marks the beginning of a new lifelong friendship between two pets and a very proud owner.