If you own a guinea pig, you know that they are gentle, social creatures that are quite emotional.
These little piggies tend to freak out over the littlest things from loud noises to changes in temperatures or their diet; even moving their cage to a different location can cause all sorts of trouble.
As you can see, they take everything to heart, so the death of a cagemate can be quite devastating. Guinea pigs are very social, so when they lose a companion, they tend to pine.
If your pet was used to living with a mate, they might have difficulty coping with staying alone.
So your little piggy just died- will the other one be okay?
Grief hits quite hard, and just like humans, guinea pigs react to a companion’s death. Even in a cage with more than one guinea pig, a fellow cagemate’s death might affect each guinea pig differently. If the guinea pig was close to the one that died, they could be badly affected by their loss. This bereavement might be more pronounced if they were a pair rather than in a group.
When one guinea pig dies, the other one must take time to deal with their death and say goodbye.
Can guinea pigs die of grief-induced loneliness? What are the signs?
Companionship helps keep away the paranoia associated with being alone. Some of the symptoms of loneliness in guinea pigs include:
- A loss of or a decrease in appetite. Your guinea pig might nibble and pick at their food or even stop eating altogether. This can result in weight loss.
- Detachment and staring into space
- No popcorning or exploring.
- Uncharacteristic quietness
- Self-isolation. They may spend long periods by themselves huddled in a corner or hiding hole.
- Searching for their lost companion and exhibiting a confused expression because they can’t find them.
How Long Do Guinea Pigs Grieve For?
Death and grieving are two absolutely unavoidable moments in the lives of guinea pigs. We grieve for their loss, but they do for each other as well.
Guinea pigs may grieve for the loss of one of their companions for a few weeks to several months depending on the situation. We must take this opportunity to limit the grieving time.
If your guinea pigs is grieving, you may notice them acting in these ways:
- Loss of appetite
- Unresponsive to play
- Staring into space
- Constantly searching
When a guinea pig is looking for their old friend, they will be on the move in their space and might not give up until they fall into a weakened state where their immune system gets compromised. They might become susceptible to illnesses at this time.
Your cuddles, interaction, soothing voice and distractions with treats, soft toys and increased play time may offer a way out of grieving or shorten its duration. Lethargy can get serious. Please read more about that in our article here.
One of My Guinea Pigs Died Should I Get Another?
It is not entirely necessary to get another guinea pig for your cavies when they lose one of their companions. When a lone guinea pig remains, then consider adding another soon.
Allow for some grieving to last. Maybe wait 4-6 weeks before you replace your lost guinea pig. During this time, you will be the sole companion and soothingly assure that everything is going to be ok.
We had four guinea pigs at one point and didn’t feel the need to replace one that sadly passed on to guinea pig heaven.
The other three were searching for their lost friend, but soon realized that they could continue living in the safe, enriched and comfortable space once again.
Getting another guinea pig is entirely up to you, but we recommended keeping at least 2 of them together.
Introducing New Guinea Pig After Death
Bringing home a new guinea pig will not replace the loss of your previous one. They will always remain in your heart and the memory of your other guinea pigs as well.
If you can be there for your grieving guinea pigs for 4-6 weeks and spend more time together, then you can wait this long before introducing a new member of the family.
If your guinea is alone and showing signs of increased lethargy or lack of appetite, bring a new friend, but do so with respect to the space that your remaining guinea pigs occupy. They have developed habits and routines that they do not wish to change when a newcomer arrives.
Place another cage side by side and let your guinea pigs get to know their new addition by looking and smelling first. You might need a week or two of this patient introduction process to take place before they warm up to each other. Rushing this could stress everyone out.
Do Guinea Pigs Understand Death?
In our unfortunate experience, we agree that guinea pigs understand death much like the way we do. Their grieving process must not be underestimated because of their small frame. They are intelligent and highly social creatures.
A guinea pig will continue to search for their lost friend or stare out into space while they take this time to mourn. It’s best that we do our part.
- Clean out the cage thoroughly.
- Remove any possible smells of the lost guinea pig
- Replace toys and bedding
- Consider a new enclosure
- Move things around
- Spend more time together
- Get a new friend for your guinea pig
- Introduce them to each other in side by side cages at first
- Respect the grieving process
Your guinea pig may need to feel this loss for a few weeks and that’s ok. Be there for your little companion and assure them that this time will pass with the help of a comfortable environment, enrichment activities, varied foods and treats and lots of cuddles.
How you can help the grieving guinea pig
There’s a lot you can do in this time of grief to cheer up your little furry friend. You need to closely monitor your pet to check for signs of grief.
However, no matter what you do, it’s normal for a grieving guinea pig to be withdrawn and melancholy.
These few tips can help you get them back to their jovial social selves and hopefully prevent them from spiraling and getting lost in the grief, eventually dying.
1. Give them time to grieve
Similar to how you need time to mourn your pet’s loss, your guinea pig needs time to grieve too. Rather than immediately taking out the deceased guinea pig from the cage, leave them for a bit so the other guinea pig or pigs can see them.
If they died outside the cage, put them back, and watch what happens. They may engage, trundle, lick or ignore the dead pig.
Their companion’s death will hit home once they notice that the deceased guinea pig is not responding to any of their advances.
Anecdotal evidence shows that given their social nature, guinea pigs can miss a lost companion for a while. And while you may want to help them through this tough time, you are helpless.
The best thing to do is give them time to process and grieve. After removing the dead piggy, rub a piece of fleece or a plush toy on the deceased pig to get its scent, then place it in the cage.
This can serve as a way to comfort them and help the survivors deal with the loss.
2. Create a better living environment
A good way to get your pets to open up is to create an enticing environment for them. You can give them more toys to play with or replace their favorite chew toy.
Since they love playing, make them cardboard houses or caves where they can play, climb, hope, and hide.
As you try to spruce up their living quarters, it’s important not to change things up too much. This might be stressful for the guinea pigs worsening their symptoms.
These furry creatures are very sensitive, and having lost a companion is hard enough without feeling like they are losing their home too.
Alternatively, you might choose to completely overhaul everything and erase any trace of the dead guinea pig. Thoroughly clean out the cage, replace the bedding, wash all the toys, bottles, and bowls used.
3. Create time for your pet
Death is hard on everyone. While you lost a pet, your other guinea pig lost a companion. At this trying time, your pet needs to know that you are there for them.
Just as humans need to be comforted after a loss, guinea pigs also need that time and attention.
A simple way to spend more time with your furry pet is by playing with them. In the absence of a partner to hang out and play with, it falls on you to pick up the slack.
Aside from bonding with other guinea pigs, these creatures can bond with people too.
As you play, you are giving your pet a chance to acclimate to you. Make sure that you show them a lot of affection to help create a stronger bond.
Guinea pigs love getting petted and cuddled. Take the bereaved piggy and place it on your lap, stroking it gently as you watch television. Give them a refreshing bath to calm them and help remove the scent of their fallen friend.
Offer them some treats and make a fuss as you feed them to attract attention to the little piggy and make them feel special. They are sure to enjoy the affection, attention, and warmth.
Every once in a while, after ensuring it’s safe, let them out of their cage to roam about freely. For instance, you can take them out in the backyard and let them take in some sun and fresh air.
4. Find them another companion
Guinea pigs are social beings that thrive in the presence of others. After a classmate’s death, most guinea pigs tend to become withdrawn and quiet because they miss and crave the companionship of another guinea pig.
A great way of helping them get over their cagemate’s death is getting another piggy to fill the void left behind. This is a great option for a guinea pig in deep mourning.
After getting a new guinea pig, you can’t just place the little piggy into the cage; you have to make the proper introductions.
When attempting to introduce two guinea pigs to each other, pick a neutral location because neither one has explored it, and marked its territory.
Even though guinea pigs aren’t very territorial, bringing in a new guinea pig into their cage might be seen as a hostile act. Large cardboard boxes make for a great neutral meeting ground.
Alternatively, you could designate a spare room, make it safe for your little furry friends to roam about and get to know each other.
Ensure there’s enough space so the pigs are not forced to get too close to one another as they could feel threatened and be less open to boding.
Introducing the piggies on neutral ground means that neither one feels like the other is invading their space, making them more likely to bond and get along.
Getting your new guinea pig from a rescue center is a great way to kill two birds with one stone. Rescue pets are in great need of love and care.
They may also be going through the same thing your pet guinea pig is going through. By rescuing a guinea pig, you are helping one get over their grief and helping the new one get a home and companionship.
5. Keep track of your piggy’s health
Losing a companion can be depressing. If you were to lose someone, you would lose your appetite and might not be taking care of yourself as you should, causing your health to deteriorate, and you might even lose some weight.
The same applies to guinea pigs. These little furry creatures might opt not to eat or simply take a few bites of their food.
Constantly monitor their eating habits and body temperature. If something is off, take them to the vet immediately. This decrease in their appetite could prove fatal if ignored.
Should you cremate or bury the body?
When your guinea pig dies, you need to decide what to do with the body; do you want to bury them or have them cremated.
Picking whether to bury or cremate your pet is a very personal decision. While each method has its perks, you also want to weigh other factors such as price.
Cremating your pet is a great option if you have nowhere to bury your pet or if you want to store the ashes in an urn.
You can find out where to cremate your pet from your vet, ask them what the process entails and if there’s a chance of going to a crematorium specializing in pet cremation.
There are two types of cremations communal and individual. In a communal cremation, other pets that died around the same time as yours are cremated together. You cannot keep the ashes, though. This is a great choice if money is a bit tight.
Individual cremations, on the other side, are as the name suggests. Your pet is cremated alone, and you choose what happens to their ashes.
They can be sent to you or stored at the pet crematorium. This is a highly personalized service, so it costs a bit more than communal cremation.
While weighing your options, ask as many questions as you need to understand what will happen to your beloved pet. If you held an individual cremation ceremony for your little furry friend and you want to keep the ashes, there are several things you can do with the ashes.
This can include storing them in a traditional burial urn, keepsake box, memorial stuffed bear, or putting some in a piece of jewelry such as a pendant or charm bracelet.
You have read up on pet burial laws before burying your pet in your backyard. For instance, in some places, the law states that you can only bury a pet in the back yard if you own the house.
This means that if you are only leasing the place out, you may have to get permission from your landlord before burying your guinea pig.
You might not get to bury your pet if they have been euthanized or treated with controlled drugs before their death. This is because the chemicals might pose a health risk to you and your family.
Talk to your vet about this to get more information, and they can advise and explain things fully.
A backyard burial is a great final send-off for your little pet. You can dig them a grave in your garden and bury your little piggy in a cardboard box or a pet coffin.
Ensure that the grave is deep enough to keep scavengers from getting to the body.
Having an elaborate burial service is not only important for your pet, but it’s also a great way for everyone to grieve and deal with the death, especially if it belonged to your child.
You can place a special burial marker such as a memorial statue, large pot, or plaque as a reminder of your pet’s resting place. These grave markers can prevent wild animals such as street cats or foxes from digging up the corpse if they are large enough.
If you don’t have space or a garden where you can lay your pet to rest, you can bury them in a large planter pot instead. The pot makes for a lasting memorial; it can even include an engraved plaque of your pet.
What great about this is if you move, you can take your pot with you. Please don’t bury your pet indoors; the smell from the decomposition will stick up the whole house.
How to deal with pet loss grief
Hold a memorial service
Holding a pet memorial service is a good way for those close to the furry pet to say goodbye. A child who lost their pet can appreciate the formality of a proper send-off for their beloved pet.
Similar to holding a wake, It gives them a chance to reminisce on the good times they had.
They can even speak a few words at the ceremony. Even if it seems weird to you that they want to hold a burial service for their pet, go along with it.
Children process loss differently, so allow them to come to terms with this in their own way. Remember to grieve too; the deceased guinea pig was your pet too.
Don’t project your feelings
Death elicits many emotions, and while you are attempting to comfort your grieving pet, you may be tempted to view your pet through grief lenses, seeing sadness or dismay in every pose or expression. While these creatures are hit hard by grief, they can move through it.
Projecting your own feelings of loss might affect your ability to take care of your surviving pet. It can also cause you to misinterpret your pet’s feelings when they don’t look as devastated as you think they should.
As you take care of your surviving pet, don’t forget to process the loss yourself.
Don’t be overprotective
If your dead guinea pig died suddenly or under traumatic circumstances, it’s normal to be overprotective of the surviving pig or piggies; wanting to guard them against harm at any cost.
While this might be admirable, think about how this overprotecting might affect your pet’s quality of life and mental well-being.
Ask yourself, should your other guinea pig stay in their cage because their companion was squished by a random broken branch while playing in the yard?
Dealing with a cagemate’s passing can be hard on your surviving guinea pig because these creatures are not made to live a solitary, lonely life. They are social creatures that thrive in the prescient of others.
The key to recovering quickly from a tragic loss is catering to their social need by getting them another companion; in no time, your little piggy will be back to their normal self.