Introducing Guinea Pigs to Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs are very social creatures and they require interaction to maintain their emotional wellbeing. Some guinea pigs are happy with company from their owners, however most desire company of their own kind and this guide should help you to achieve a peaceful companionship.
Putting boars together can be difficult, and should only be attempted if you are willing to monitor the progress of your cohabiting boars and possibly pay for medical treatment should it all go wrong. Boars are naturally territorial and will fight if they feel their territory is under threat. Some awkward or antisocial boars will simply refuse male company, while others will accept sharing their territory with another boar.
When pairing boars, you should consider the following:
- Brothers are sometimes easier
Boars are easiest to pair if they are brothers and have spent their entire lives together. However this is not a foolproof method of telling if two boars will remain as cohabiting companions for the rest of their lives. Brothers have been known to start fighting with one another quite suddenly, and sometimes simply cannot be housed together again.
- Introduce young
The best time to introduce two unrelated boars is when both boars are young. However, I've found that some older boars will accept a younger companion and the older of the two is sometimes automatically the dominant guinea pig. Attempting to pair two older boars can be tricky because they know what they will and won't accept, and this may result in a struggle for dominance.
- Beware of nearby sows
Cohabiting boars are more likely to fight when living in close proximity to sows, especially if the pairing is new and the boars have yet to settle into a routine. If you keep both boars and sows, you should ensure that your boars cannot visually see the sows, and never allow them to have physical contact. In my experience I can keep both boars and sows in the same shed with no problems, however some boars may be excited or agitated by the smells of a nearby sow.
Pairing and Grouping Sows
Pairing sows, however, is usually a lot easier to do. Sows aren't nearly as territorial as boars and will usually happily accept a companion. Sows living in large groups are a popular choice among keepers of many guinea pigs. A neutered boar housed with a group of sows can create a natural pecking order in the group, and also calm down unruly or aggressive sows to the point where they may live peacefully within the group. On the other hand, I've had neutered boars who obviously don't wear the trousers and are hen-pecked by their female companions!
Pairing Boars and Sows
When pairing a boar and a sow, the most obvious thing to remember is they will breed. Boars should be neutered and kept alone for six weeks after the operation before introducing to a female companion to ensure that any remaining sperm has died. I would only recommend this course of action if the boar is really suffering from being solitary. Sows can be paired up quite easily which means lonely sows are easier to help, but for a boar who won't accept male company or still suffers even with human company, this may be the only option. Over a certain age boars become too old to be neutered, and instead you should consider spending more time with him and perhaps even permanently bringing him into the house.
Hints and Tips
- Keep a towel and/or thick gloves handy.
If the guinea pigs attack one another, it is dangerous to put your bare hands in to break them up. Their teeth are extremely sharp and your hands may be injured in the frenzy. Keep a towel and/or a pair of thick gloves to hand while attempting an introduction so that you are prepared should you need to split them up.
- Mask their personal smells.
A great way I discovered to mask the scent of both guinea pigs (especially boars) is to apply a little bit of "Vicks VapoRub" on the nose just above the nostrils. The smell is so strong they can't actually smell eachother, so hopefully they won't feel like there is a territorial contest. You can get "Vicks VapoRub" from your local pharmacy.
- Introduce in a large space.
When pairing guinea pigs it's advisable to do it in a large area where they can get away from eachother. A large space means they won't feel trapped in eachother's company and avoids putting them under unnecessary stress.
- Stick to your guns.
Boars generally take longer to accept one another than sows. With most pairing attempts of both genders, there is a lot of mounting, chasing, teeth chattering and squaring off with open mouths. As long as there is no obvious physical attacking with intent to harm, then your guinea pigs have a chance of living together.
Sometimes it's just not meant to be, and some guinea pigs just don't like eachother. You must end the introductions if the following happens:
- They turn to face eachother with open mouths and noses in the air, and the chattering becomes very loud and fast (this is an angry sound)
- The guinea pigs physically attack eachother with intent to harm.
If all is going well, then repeat this method of introducion several times before you place them into a home together. You can usually tell when it's time to try them in the same hutch or cage because they get to a point where they're not fussed about being in eachother's company and they do very little. They may even be sharing vegetables by this time and happy to give eachother a good sniff.
Finally, give them both a bath in the same shampoo to give them the same smell and place them in their new home with clean bedding, bowls and bottles to start them off with fresh and neutral territory. They should establish their own pecking order and hopefully their companionship should be peaceful.
There is no foolproof method of getting two guinea pigs to live together, and sometimes it doesn't matter how much effort you put in and how well they get along for weeks, months or years down the line, one day they may decide they just don't want to be friends anymore.