A lot of people that are new to guinea pig ownership ask the question “Is it OK to have just one guinea pig?” We will answer that question in this article and provide you with other information on owning more than one guinea pig.
The honest answer to this question is that a lot of guinea pig owners just have one guinea pig and this is OK but it is not ideal. Why? Because guinea pigs are very social animals and they really like the company of other guinea pigs.
Does a Guinea Pig need a Companion?
A guinea pig will be a lot happier if they have at least one other companion. They will communicate with them and it will stop them being withdrawn and lonely. Guinea pigs are active creatures and they like to be alert and curious. They like to explore with other guinea pigs and if they are on their own then they can lose their motivation for these things.
Quite often a single guinea pig can be listless and miserable. They like to groom other guinea pigs and will really miss this activity if they are on their own. In fact self grooming is something they will see as a chore and it is certainly possible that they will not take good care of themselves without a friend.
Communication is a very important aspect of guinea pig life. They like to chatter away with other guinea pigs because talking to themselves is really not much fun. So we would always recommend that you get a companion for your guinea pig you can do this.
Can a Guinea Pig Die of Loneliness?
Some experts will tell you that a guinea pig can die of loneliness. How they know this for sure is not certain, but it certainly isn’t worth taking the risk. It is important for you to know if your guinea pig is suffering from loneliness and what you can do about it.
If you only have one guinea pig then one way to make them a lot happier is to provide them with a great environment that they will really enjoy living in. The most important thing about a guinea pig cage is the size of it. It needs to be large enough for your guinea pig to feel free and be able to explore and not become bored.
Add some interesting toys to your guinea pig cage so that they will spend time playing with them. Your guinea pig will enjoy chewing so find some good chewable toys. Check the materials used in all toys to ensure they pose no health threats to your cavy.
I wrote more on The Top 3 Things Guinea Pig To Chew On
Most guinea pigs like to run around and hide. They are very different to hamsters and will not be impressed with a wheel. But they will find different structures that they can hide in a lot of fun. Again be careful with the materials used here as your guinea pig will want to chew them.
You need to closely monitor the health of your guinea pig. If they are bored or lonely then this can lead to health problems. It is much better to find this early and do something about it than to discover your cavy has a health issue that has been going on for some time.
A guinea pig can get depressed. They will show this through a lack of appetite or not running around and playing as they usually do. If your guinea pig is moving their head rapidly this is a sign of stress. This could be because something has scared them but it can also be an indication of loneliness and depression.
Does it look like your guinea pig is losing weight? This will go hand in hand with appetite loss. When a guinea pig has a companion they will rarely lose their appetite and not lose weight quickly. Of course if your cavy stops being as active as usual and still eats the same amount then they are likely to gain weight.
So what is the bottom line here?
Well we would certainly recommend that you get a companion for your guinea pig to prevent loneliness and depression and the health issues associated with this.
How to Introduce a Companion Guinea Pig
The first thing to consider when getting a companion for your guinea pig is the gender issue. If you get this wrong then your cavies will not be happy living together. Of course if you get another guinea pig of the opposite sex and neither have been neutered or spayed then you are likely to have a guinea pig litter on your hands.
A male and a female guinea pig will mate quickly and if the female becomes pregnant then prepare yourself for a big litter of guinea pig babies. What will you do if this happens? Can you look after them or find homes for them?
Sometimes two male guinea pigs will just not get along well together. They tend to be very territorial and this can lead to a lot of fighting between the two. It doesn’t always happen but there is always the risk. The most likely chance of regular fights will occur if you have a dominant male and a submissive male.
So how can you tell if your current guinea pig is a dominant or submissive male and the new one the same? The answer is that you can’t. This will be total luck if you find two compatible male guinea pigs.
The only real way to tell if two male guinea pigs are going to get on well together is to put them in the same environment and see what happens. A bit of initial aggressive behavior between the two males is fairly normal. You may hear hissing noises, teeth chattering and see them arching their backs to each other.
This kind of behavior shouldn’t last longer than a few minutes. If you experience this aggression for more than 20 minutes then you are probably looking at a worst case scenario of the two males not being able to live together. Two males that are likely to get along will drop the aggression (or not display it at all) and sniff each other and even purr with contentment.
If you are looking to add 2 new guinea pig companions then we strongly recommend that you don’t have three males living together. The chances of fighting will go way up with this scenario.
Have at least one female in the mix here. Two female guinea pigs will usually always work well together although it is not completely out of the question that they could fight occasionally.
One very important thing to consider when getting a new companion for your guinea pig is the space that you have available in your cage. Guinea pigs never like living in cramped conditions so make sure that your existing cage is big enough. If it isn’t then you will need to extend it or get a new one.
A common question with companions is whether they need to be of a similar age. Well we would always recommend that you get your two guinea pigs together from the start. But if this is not possible then you don’t have to worry too much about age difference.
Where is it Illegal to Own One Guinea Pig?
The only place in the world where we found it was illegal to only own one guinea pig was Switzerland. They introduced this animal rights law back in 2008 and it also applies to owning one parrot as well.
You may find this all hard to believe and a really stupid law to enact but it is true. If you live in Switzerland then you can face prosecution if you only own one guinea pig. Will this happen in other countries? It could do but it is probably fairly unlikely. Apparently Sweden is going to introduce similar laws in the near future.
Why is it Illegal to Own One Guinea Pig in Switzerland?
The law about having to own more than one guinea pig was passed under pressure from animal rights groups that are listened to in the country. They campaigned for the social rights of guinea pigs and this enabled the passing of the law.
You may already be aware that guinea pigs are herd animals. In the wild they always run around in packs. So the animal rights people in Switzerland strongly believed that a guinea pig having at least one other companion would make their life a lot happier.
From a legal point of view, guinea pig owners in Switzerland face another dilemma. If you have two guinea pigs and one of them dies then you are breaking the law. A lot of owners will immediately go out and buy another one and you can now actually rent a guinea pig as many of these services have emerged since the law passed in 2008.
This law in Switzerland emphasizes the point that guinea pigs have a better quality of life when they have a companion. They need someone to communicate with, groom and enjoy life with. When you introduce a compatible companion for your guinea pig you should see them become happier.
So if you have a single guinea pig then think seriously about getting a companion for them. If you have a male guinea pig then you will need to choose a spayed female if you don’t want any babies or take a chance on finding a compatible male companion.