When you try to bring together two or more guinea pigs that aren’t familiar with each other, it is quite a complicated process to break the ice between them and make them get along well.
Many guinea pig owners find this confusing, which is why I decided to share my experience on the subject along with expert opinions in this post.
How do I Make My Guinea Pigs Get Along?
So how actually to make your guinea pigs get along? Let us approach this in steps.
Step 1: Making sure the compatibility of sexes.
Step 2: Precautions:
- Ensuring space according to the need.
- Scent Swapping.
- Outdoor time before caging together.
Step 3: Introduction to each other (preferably done outdoors).
Step 4: Moving In together!
We shall see in detail about each of these steps in the upcoming sections. As we move through these steps, I shall give you tips on how you can make each step work faster and more efficient.
1. Grouping Based on Compatibility of Sexes
In the case of two guinea pigs, there are two choices:
- You can have a neutered male and a female
- You can have two females
These two combinations will help them get along with each other very well.
If you have a male that is not neutered, along with a female, then get ready to have more guinea pigs from their litter.
Two males are not usually kept together even though in several cases their getting along well has been observed. In a group of more than two, do not have more than one male. Males are quite territorial, and there may be a sense of competition that arises which could cause fights.
You can read more about whether or not it’s better to get a male of female guinea pig here.
1. Ensure That They Have Enough Space
Give them the space that they need for them to get along better. According to the recommendations of Blue Cross, you need at cage dimensions to be a minimum of 120cmx50cmx50cm for two guinea pigs to get along well. Although, don’t be a miser in giving them more space if you can!
2. Scent Swapping
According to experts, guinea pigs get along well with other individuals when they recognize their scent. So, when you know that the sexes are compatible, switch their resources.
You can try to switch their bedding or their play items. Although, it is not recommended to switch food bowls because they would only recognize the scent of the food over the scent of the other individual. If they do not show any negative reactions to being around the new scent, you can proceed to the next step of the process.
3. Outdoor Time Before Caging Together
You may have noticed that I am referring to the task of making your guinea pigs get along, as a “process”. It really is quite a process. You can approach it with the step-by-step formula described here for best results.
Now, before moving them together into a common cage, you need to bring them to a more social and friendly mood. In order to achieve this, you can give them longer times outdoor than usual. Gardens and backyards are preferred over large open fields because of exposure to predators in the latter case.
3. Introduction to Each Other
First, if possible, try to make them communicate with each other in such a way that they cannot come in contact with. For example, next to one’s hutch you can leave another in a run, or you can have two runs adjacent to each other.
The response that they give to the scent swapping and the above communication attempt shall decide our next action. Only if it is a positive response in both cases, you can proceed to introduce them to each other. By positive response we mean their actions such as jumping, sniffing or staying longer near the common barrier.
Negative responses would be teeth grinding or teeth chattering. Find out more about that here.
Now you have to find a place for them to meet. The most suitable place for their first meet would be outdoors together.
Things to Keep in Mind:
- Make sure to leave some wide enough hollow pipes or open boxes in the space that they meet. If at all one of the guinea pigs feel that it wants to escape from the other one, it should be able to hide in such spaces. Do not leave them in just a plain space with nothing but corners and walls!
- If you can, provide them with plenty of food items, preferably their favourite ones, in the area that they meet. At the end of the article, you can find the answer to how you can find out which your guinea pig’s favourite treat is.
- A very crucial part of the introduction is to monitor them from a distance that they can’t see you. You need to look for positive behaviour such as sharing resources or relaxing together. Do NOT leave them on their own in the area that they are introduced to each other for the first time.
- You need to be prepared for anything that may befall. So have a large enough barrier which can be inserted between them in case of violent response to each other.
Negative responses including biting each other, chasing or constant attempts to hide away from the other. When you observe these signs, immediately take them away from each other, and start all over again from square one.
If you do follow the steps in the right sequence, and you receive positive interaction between your guinea pigs, then congratulations (to them!), they are now ready to move in together.
4. “Wanna Move in Together?”- “Oh Yeah!”
The heading of this section might possibly be the dialogues between them in squeaky guinea pig language, if they positively responded to their first introduction.
There are a Few Things You Have to do Now That They are Ready to Move in Together:
- You need to remove all carriers in their new place, and add enough tubes where one guinea pig can hide from the other- if at all they start to have issues.
- With respect to the provision of water, have two different sources for the two guinea pigs.
- Closely monitor their interactions for the first few weeks, if they continue to interact positively, then congratulations, your guinea pigs now get along very well.
Isn’t chasing a good sign?
Chasing may seem romantic or friendly when two humans try it. But when two guinea pigs chase each other, it is a sign that they do not get along very well. Although, if they run beside each other you have nothing to worry about.
This is an area where many guinea pig owners commit a mistake because of the misconception that guinea pigs are playing happily when they chase each other. They are NOT!
My guinea pigs showed a neutral response. What does it mean?
When two or more guinea pigs are allowed to mingle, you can expect any one of the three possibilities.
One, they get along with each other very well. Two, they fight with each other or show their territorial nature. Three, they do nothing!
They may stay away from each other, they may not try to lie down together, they may not share resources, at the same time not show any aggression. This could mean two different things.
One, both of them could be sick. Two, their resources are not sufficient. It surely does not mean that they do not get along well with each other. If they did not get along, you can surely observe the negative response.
In this case, try to make them happier with their favourite foods or longer durations outdoor. You could also try spending more time with them together, because guinea pigs tend to show depression when they are lonely.
How to know which food my guinea pig likes?
The only way is to try different treats. Most guinea pigs like lettuce, carrots and berries. So try them one by one on a trial and error basis. Do not force your guinea pigs to eat items that they avoid when given.
How to Introduce Two Male Guinea Pigs to Each Other
Introducing two males guinea pigs is a delicate task, but one that you can overcome. This is something we learned the hard way and now we wish to make it easier for you to understand and try for yourself.
Bringing them into the same space too soon or too quickly will result in teeth chattering followed by a fight in many cases.
- Go slow.
- Place two cages 10cm or a few inches apart. This is close enough for them to see and smell each other, but they do not need to sacrifice their own unique spaces.
- If they keep noticing each other and draw attention to their own actions in relation to the other male, they might be genuinely curious for more interactions.
- It’s time to bring them to a neutral site. You need to be the mediator.
- Be gentle, soothing and offer treats to both of them. Let them stay apart and gradually come together on their own.
- Bring the cages closer together.
- Repeat steps 4 and 5.
- If there are no fights or teeth chattering any longer, let them have their space on opposite sides of the same cage.
- Place separate toys, bowls and bottles for their own personal use.
Welcome your boars to the cage mate life!
How to Help Guinea Pigs Get Along
The best way to help guinea pigs get along is to not rush the process. The entire act of getting guinea pigs to warm up to each other could take weeks to months.
We thought our two females and one male were doing great after a step by step introduction. We had them in separate cages. We brought them together in neutral spaces for them to sniff, play and eat treats. They all received their fair share of attention and seemed to be getting along.
Then the male tried to mount one of the females. Teeth chattering ensued. We thought they were so close to living together in the same cage. Spaying or neutering your guinea pigs presents the sexual tensions that we observed.
It took a few more attempts and play sessions outside of their cages before they were all united together in one enclosure. They occupy separate corners to make sure they still feel secure in their own spaces within the same cage.
Guinea Pigs Chasing Each Other, What Does It Mean?
Guinea pigs can chase each other when they are playing or when one of them is trying to be a dominant bully. You have to step in when it’s the latter, because it can lead to the inferior guinea pigs wishing to retreat, hide or give up eating and playful habits.
You may also be witness in the following acts of dominance.
- Twitch chattering
- Heads up high
- Excessive rear end sniffing
Sometimes this stops after they are spayed or neutered. Otherwise, we can reset the atmosphere by recreating the spaces and rearranging the play pen or enclosure to start fresh. Patience and persistence are the two keys to peaceful coexistence of piggies.
Signs Guinea Pig Introduction Not Going Well
It happened to us and it may happen to you. We rushed the process and these three guinea pigs dealt with some agitation.
They may have felt like one of them was trying to dominate or their personal territories were feeling threatened. Look for the following signs that the introduction of guinea pigs is not going well.
- Teeth chattering
- Standing on hind legs
- Yawning and showing off teeth
- Hairs standing on their backs.
- Aggressive heads high walking towards each other
Your guinea pigs do not wish to live in constant threat. They wish for you to re-create or reset the situation. Give it more time and give them more space to adjust to the cohabitation.
Prevent a fight from occurring if you react to signs listed above. Set up their bowl and bottles further away from each other once it’s time for them to move in together.
Keep separate cages at first or add dividers made up, mesh, wire screen, glass or other see through materials.
How Do Guinea Pigs Play With Each Other?
Guinea pigs play with each in multiple ways. They can start by sniffing each other to get used to the scent of their new friends. They may engage in the act of popcorning. This means they hop around in happiness or excitement.
Mounting or humping is more a dominant act for territory, bullying or sexual urge that can be quelled by neutering or spaying. Chasing is either positive or negative.
In time, guinea pigs will trust each other and know that their cage mates aren’t trying to infringe, steal or dominate the territory. When they learn to share common spaces, neutral areas and not interfere in private corners, they are likely to play when they are together and nothing more.
How Long Does It Take for Guinea Pigs to Get Used to Each Other?
Unfortunately, we cannot answer this question for you and can only explain our own situation. This is because all guinea pigs and their surrounding environments in captivity or even in the wild are unique.
It could take one afternoon in the best case scenarios or many months for guinea pigs to form a trusted bond with each other and with you. Everything is connected.
The space must be spacious, comfortable, full of enrichment and support from you. You can’t leave them alone in the same cage and expect them to figure it out.
We wrote a full article about this to make sure you can look through the steps that we took to get our guinea pigs to get used to each other.
It took 2 weeks, then a setback with teeth chattering and mounting. Then after the setback, two more weeks passed for a total of 4 weeks plus a few days to get our guinea pigs to bond together.
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