Bereavement

The signs of grief in guinea pigs

Some guinea pigs grieve when they lose a companion and because they are relatively sensitive creatures this needs to be handled carefully. Siblings and guinea pigs who have spent a lifetime together especially may feel the loss quite acutely.

You can identify grief by the following signs:

  • Loss of appetite
    Your guinea pig may pick at their food or even stop eating completely. This in particular must be dealt with quickly to prevent weight loss and the slippery slope of recovery.

  • Decline in activity
    Characterised by "staring into space", no more popcorning or exploring and unusually quiet. They may spend their time huddled in a corner or hidey hole.

  • Searching
    Looking around for the lost companion and generally appearing confused and "at a loose end".

What you can do

There are a few very important things you can do to make the loss of a companion easier for your guinea pig. The methods below work equally well for boars and sows, although for anti-social, grumpy or elderly guinea pigs of both genders you may not succeed in finding them a new companion. Boars can also sometimes be difficult to put into pairs and groups due to their territorial nature.


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  • Bring your pet indoors
    The grieving guinea pig needs your company right now, so bringing him or her into the house for a few days is a good idea.

  • Give your guinea pig a bath
    As soon as you can, give your guinea pig a bath to remove the scent of a lost companion and spend a lot of time making a fuss of your pet while drying them off.

  • Clean out the hutch or cage
    Thoroughly clean out the hutch or cage they live in to remove all trace of the lost companion. Also wash all toys, bottles and bowls they used.

  • Spend time with your guinea pig
    Cuddle your guinea pig while watching television. Talk to him while you potter around the house. Visit him regularly while he is indoors with you. Offer him vegetable treats and make a fuss of him.

  • Find a new companion
    Some guinea pigs will accept a new companion after the loss of an old one. Sometimes it's a necessity for the remaining animal to have another guinea pig for company, something which you will learn depending on how well your pet is grieving. The new companion must be another guinea pig - all other animal types, including rabbits, are inappropriate!

Dealing with the loss of a pet

At the time of writing this article I am perfectly placed to give you advice because I have recently lost Sprout, a guinea pig who was very special to me, and I am still grieving. I cry a lot and spend a lot of time looking at photographs and talking about him. It's difficult to write about him because I still miss him terribly, but when I feel able to I will put a framed photograph of him up in the house. Sometimes it helps to go outside and talk to his burial pot.

When I lose a guinea pig I prefer to bury them as soon as possible. We buy a pretty ceramic plant pot from the garden centre and a little evergreen plant to put on the top. Evergreen plants work well for this because they are good all-year plants and hopefully shouldn't need replanting soon after the burial of your pet. I make sure the ceramic plant pot is large enough to lay my guinea pig inside comfortably and the pot is placed in a sheltered area of the garden.

If you have many pets, turning a corner of the garden into a beautiful area with flowers and somewhere to sit is a nice way to remember them. I have a decked area behind the guinea pig shed where I can sit and relax. This could be a long term project, something you add to whenever you lose a dear pet, and somewhere you can bury them or scatter their ashes.

  • Bury or cremate your pet
    How you send your pet on their way is a very personal thing, and you should always do what feels right for you. You must be comfortable with the way your pet is laid to rest so you can grieve properly.

  • Talk about your pet
    Try talking about your pet to a friend or family member and remember the happy times you had. Talking can help you work through your grief and help you to reconcile the loss.

  • Keep photographs
    It may be very painful right after the loss of your pet to look at photographs, but as time passes you will want to remember them and you'll be glad of the photographs you kept.

  • Don't blame yourself
    Sometimes you want to blame yourself in some way for the death of your guinea pig. This isn't constructive and will only make you even more upset.

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