Why do my guinea pigs fight? Can I help them to make friends, or do I need to keep them apart?
It’s very upsetting to see your pets not getting along. Especially those that live in close quarters, like guinea pigs do.
But squabbles in cohabiting guinea pigs is surprisingly common, given what social animals they are.
And there is often something you can do to help them get along, once you’ve got to the route of the problem.
There are a few common causes of fighting among guinea pigs.
Here are some factors we are going to consider:
- Male vs female guinea pigs
- Competing for females
- Lack of space
- Places to eat
- Drinking stations
- They don’t like each other!
Lots of these boil down to competition, but a few relate to personalities.
Let’s work out which of the above might be causing your guinea pigs to fight.
Male vs female guinea pigs
Female guinea pigs (sows) tend to fight less than male guinea pigs (boars).
It’s not unusual to have a boar that cannot be housed with others because he spends his entire time picking fights.
This is less common for sows, but not unheard of.
One of the reasons for this is boars have an interest in competing for the attention of sows.
Competing for females
I don’t recommend keeping sows and boars in close proximity to each other.
Hutches spaced apart outdoors with no adjoining mesh are fine, if you live in a climate that allows you to keep them outside.
But if they are near to each other in an enclosed area then the boars can pick up the sows’ scent. And it drives them a bit crazy!
You will hear your male guinea pigs purring, and possibly rocking back and forth around their hips.
They will stand in one position for a long time, facing in the direction of the sows and be far less distracted by movement and noises than you’d expect.
The presence of a sow, makes the boars more likely to fight for the chance to be the one that gets to be with her.
They don’t know they aren’t about to be offered that opportunity!
Lack of space
You know when you get onto a crowded train, and there is nowhere to sit and people keep knocking your elbows? Imagine being told you have to live there.
There are two ways that guinea pigs can end up lacking space.
One is by being put into a cage that’s too small, and the other is by having too many individuals put into a space that would be fine for fewer.
The end result is the same either way.
However social our piggies are, they like us do not want to be literally living on top of each other.
Your guinea pig should be able to get away from his family when he wants to.
Places to eat
He should also be able to eat alone!
In my experience, groups of piggies do best when they aren’t forced to share a bowl.
And this is frequently backed up by my observations of my little clans.
If they have a bowl each, they won’t choose to share.
Provided the contents are all the same, they will spread out between them.
If forced to use the same bowl, fights can break out when one pig feels the need to defend that limited resource.
The same is true of places to drink.
And in fact, i’ve seen mine squabble over a particular brand of water bottle in favor of another ignored one too!
If your guinea pigs are fighting, make sure that they each have a place to drink.
And if they are as daft as mine, that they are the same style.
A source of water that’s easier to access than another is something worth competing over, and competition can lead to fights.
Guinea pigs are prey animals, which makes life in captivity a bit scary sometimes.
They are most relaxed when they have somewhere cave-like to lay their heads.
Having a space each that they can chill out in without rubbing shoulders with another guinea pig is important if you want them to get along.
I have three boars happily cohabiting next to me as I type this. They are in a very long cage, and are currently each asleep in separate hides.
They will come out and warble to each other and wander around, but they like to relax alone a lot.
Occasionally they will cuddle up together in one place, but they always have the option of getting some alone time.
How to stop my guinea pigs fighting
Lack of resources is a major reason that guinea pigs fight.
To help your pets get along make sure that you have:
- A feeding station for each guinea pig
- Plenty of food
- A water bottle each
- Hides for each guinea pig
- Enough space for them to spend time apart if they choose
- No guinea pigs of the opposite sex housed near by
These methods seem to work 9 times out of 10.
But sadly there are exceptions.
They don’t like each other!
In my thirty odd years’ experience of keeping numerous guinea pigs, I have sadly had to recognize that some guinea pigs just aren’t liked by their furry companions.
I currently have one such pig in my clan, and she is kept by herself at the moment.
Periodically, we try introducing her slowly to a new group. But it never works out.
She is the only female guinea pig I have ever seen physically hurt by her companions.
Perfectly friendly pigs that have been introduced to many other females successfully in the past have bitten her nose and ears after a gradual introduction over several weeks.
In a huge run and hutch complex with multiple hides, feeding and drinking stations.
As far as I can see she’s not picking the fights, although she is acting defensively when they approach her.
They won’t avoid her, they track her down and assault her.
The only solution in this case is to cage them separately.
I do this very reluctantly because guinea pigs thrive on companionship, but it is the only safe solution for her.
But most of the time, the measures above resolve the fighting. And it rarely gets beyond chattering and purring and into something physical.
Why do my guinea pigs fight?
Guinea pigs fight because they are unhappy with the situation they are in.
Either due to lack of resources or space, competition, or just down to personality clashes.
The solution is often to give them access to more of the things that matter to them, or when this isn’t possible to physically separate them.