How many guinea pigs should you keep?

Guinea pigs are naturally sociable creatures – they should always be kept in pairs or small groups. If you find yourself with a lone guinea pig of any age, contact your local rescue centre to help find your piggy a companion.

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Suitable combinations of guinea pigs:

  • Two or more sows of a similar character – a strong character may bully a shy piggy
  • Two boars – take care not to mix two very strong characters, as they may fight. Often a slightly calmer male pig will be more suitable and accepting of a strong character
  • A neutered boar with one or more sows. Females often seem more relaxed when they live with a neutered male

Unsuitable combinations of guinea pigs:

  • Three boars regardless of whether they’re related – although they often start off fine, one guinea pig is likely to be badly bullied
  • A boar with a male piglet below 20 weeks. Although the mix may work at first, when the piglet matures it will compete for dominancy, resulting in serious fights
  • A rabbit and a guinea pig. Although some owners have found a rabbit and guinea pig to live seemingly happily together, there is a big risk that the guinea pig will be accidentally kicked when the rabbit is running and hopping about. Guinea pigs are also vocal communicators, while rabbits are mostly silent - this can be upsetting for the guinea pig.

Introducing your guinea pigs to each other

When introducing guinea pigs, it is very important that it’s done on neutral territory. Ideally, mix them in the outside run. This will give them plenty of space, and the fresh grass will be neutral. If you do mix indoors, make sure they have plenty of space.

Thoroughly clean the cage or hutch, add new tunnels and hiding areas to make it interesting. Place a few resting areas for the guinea pigs to hide under. These should be open ended to prevent your piggies becoming enclosed in a small space and starting an unprovoked, reactive fight.

Starting the bonding process

Once your mixing environment is set up and ready, place your piggies in the run or indoor set up at the same time. Allow them to investigate the territory and approach each other. Guinea pigs will often show signs of bonding or aggression fairly quickly.

Signs your guinea pigs accept each other:

  • Loud squeaks and following each other
  • Feeding close to each other
  • Grooming each other’s faces
  • Males will often mount and scent a submissive male or a female - they will also make a gentle rumbling sound.

Signs your guinea pigs are being aggressive:

  • Continual chattering of teeth
  • Rearing up at each other with open mouths
  • Chattering of teeth and regularly walking to the side with their rump in the air
  • Constantly attacking the face or rump
  • Signs of injury/blood.

If any of these aggressive behaviours are fairly instant during a mix – or if they start to occur between an already bonded pair – this mix is unlikely to work and you should separate the guinea pigs.

Mixing a group of guinea pigs

Use the same method when introducing a group as with a pair - the behaviours are likely to be the same.

Watch the group carefully to make sure there is no bullying. Health check all guinea pigs daily to spot any hidden injuries.