Finding Friends…

After the successful collaboration of Gorgeous Guineas and Planet Guinea last year the Planet Gorgeous Bitesize newsletter has evolved, bringing monthly hints and tips that are current and topical.

Finding Friends…

Guinea pigs should be allowed to find their friends as opposed to being “bonded” with them or having no say in the matter. Being bonded implies “being stuck” and no pig should “be stuck” with any pig that is not of their own choosing.

  • What is the best mix of guinea pigs?

The best mix of guinea pigs is one that gets on! These may be same gender or different gender (castrated boar and sow), or young and old, or same age; equally all these mixes might not get on.

  • Is there more chance of a baby boar and an adult boar getting along than two adult boars?

Possibly, at first. What should always be taken into account with this pairing is that the ‘baby’ still has a lot of maturing to do and fighting may break out at a later date. Boars are often sold in pairs as youngsters at pet shops, only to end up fighting 6 months or so later. Where this hasn’t been prepared for or is unexpected the boar(s) will often end up in rescue. In 2003 every baby and adult boar pairing at Reading Guinea Pig Rescue was eventually separated because of fighting, their new owners were aware that this was a possibility though and were able to “cope”. Reputable sources will make sure that new owners know that this is a possibility and advise accordingly.

  • Is it possible for a single adult boar to be matched with another single adult boar?

Yes, it may be more difficult than matching sows because there are often more sows than boars to choose from but depending on your boar’s personality it is possible to find a compatible boar. Boars will often display instant dislike as opposed to low level bullying that can be seen in sows.  Similarly they can show instant approval of a suited boar. Never judge a boar (or a sow) on past relationships; each one will bring something new to the friendship making each partnership unique. Always be prepared to separate boars where bullying or fighting develops.

  • Will any combination of a castrated boar and a group of sows ‘get along’?

Not necessarily, either party may reject the other; often it is the sow that rejects the boar, but boars rejecting sows is not unheard of. With any mix the most balanced and compatible one is what you are aiming for. A balanced group of a castrated boar and sows are able to accept newcomers, to a certain degree, providing they are having their own needs met. Where there is ‘conflict’ it is often the sow that is ‘bottom of the pile’ that is ‘fighting’ to keep her place in the hierarchy. The top sow is usually confident of her role and becomes more of a leader to the newbie than a defender of her own place in the herd, however if the newbie is determined that her rightful place is at the top of the herd then there will be trouble until the positioning of the group is established.

  • What do I look for in a friend for my guinea pig?

Let your guinea pig choose their own friend. All guinea pigs should be free from issues and ready to choose a friend. Little Miss Lucky was a good example of this. After being moved around to 6 different homes in two weeks Miss Lucky was not ready to find herself a friend, yet she was being moved from home to home because she “wouldn’t live with other guinea pigs”. After being allowed some time to de stress and adjust she lived with a herd and learnt how to be a guinea pig again… Because she had a problem with living with one guinea pig she gained a label and the vicious circle of being moved to different homes began.

Any potential friends should be free from skin issues and other health problems unless ongoing such as Fatty Eye or Impaction for example. For more, see: Reputable Sources, on Guinea Pig Welfare.

  • When it all goes wrong…

Happy and healthy guinea pigs can have issues too, maybe a ‘same gender’ pair has turned out to be different genders and there are pups on the way. Providing the ‘mistake’ is handled correctly that’s all it will be, one mistake. But often things get out of hand it’s the rescues that end up picking up the pieces when the pups aren’t separated at the correct age. Weaning age in the wild is said to be 2 weeks, sexual maturity for males can be reached at any time from 3-5 weeks, and females from 4 to 6 weeks. However, it is worth noting that a single pup is perhaps more likely to mature quicker than if he had siblings with which to compete. He automatically fulfils his ‘optimum size’ with ease because of the lack of competition, it’s likely that he will be maturing quicker too and extra care should be taken that he is removed at 3 weeks. These are often the hardest ones to remove as well; the single pig becomes attached to his Mum and almost needy and precious. Worse still, if there is no boar for him to be put with he will often “cry” to be put back with Mum. In order to prevent more accidental pregnancies though it is vital that he is removed.

  • How do I introduce new guinea pigs?

Ensure both guinea pigs are in a place where they are able to be introduced, i.e. neither has any other issues going on that affects their well being. Neither guinea pig should be carrying labels such as “needs a submissive type to be her friend”, or “is a dominant sow”; guinea pigs respond and react to every guinea pig as an individual, Humans should also treat their guinea pigs as individuals.

The healthy and happy individuals should be put in a “neutral run” with a little hay. Whilst lots of will distract the guinea pigs the outcome needed is to see if they get on not if they like hay. Putting into words what should happen next is not possible, some “language” will happen, maybe good, maybe bad; gestures will be made, bottom sniffing, standing for a boar (in the case of a sow), face to face challenges (not a good start and likely coupled with teeth chattering); in the case of two boars meeting for the first time behaviour might be a “face off” which is likely to mean that the pairing isn’t going to work, or some chasing; in the case of chasing where there is no aggression wait until things settle (maybe hours) and monitor from there. Often this is establishing themselves and leads to friendship, however the pair need to be monitored in case of bullying occurring.

Finding a friend for your guinea pig can be complex if you are not confident about what you are doing, go to a reputable source that is able to manage the friend finding for you. Your guinea pig(s) will sense the stress you are feeling and this will be mirrored in their behaviour. Bachs Rescue Remedy is useful for the first few days or so when a new friend arrives and is good for Humans too.

Points to remember:

  • Let your guinea pig(s) do the choosing, colour is superficial, character is pure.
  • Both/all guinea pigs need to be free from other issues in order to make a choice about their new friend.
  • Remove all previous labels the guinea pigs may have had, these are past issues, it is time to move forward (if not then the guinea pigs are not ready for rehoming).
  • Let your guinea pig be a guinea pig and do piggy things. Whilst they have emotions they are not human emotions that are attached to thought nor do they act with ulterior motives. Humanising guinea pigs can bring about a different set of problems.
  • Where a guinea pig has been bereaved it is often easier for them to move forward when they have seen the dead body of their friend, acknowledged it and started to move on already.
  • Please remember to adopt guineas wherever possible. Pet shops only supply Mini-Pigs that are usually 6-8 weeks old, sometimes incorrectly sexed and not always appropriate to go with older guineas or for children. See Guinea Pig Rehome for just some of those waiting for homes or Guinea Pig Welfare for a list of links to rescue websites.

These are just guidelines for finding your guinea pig(s) new friend (s), each situation is different and common ground is rare! The bottom line is character and personality are what is matched, not colour and not scent. Colour is meaningless, scent lets a guinea pig know who’s around, it doesn’t tell them whether they get on…

None of the advice contained in this newsletter is a substitute for good veterinary advice or treatment.

February 14, 2010   Posted in: Behaviour, Planet Gorgeous