Companionship

Status
Not open for further replies.

teadragon

Adult Guinea Pig
Joined
Feb 27, 2008
Messages
1,064
Reaction score
39
Points
425
Location
Scotland
When researching guinea pigs, one of the first thing many newbie owners of single pigs will come across is their need for companionship.

Guinea Pigs Live in Herds

The wild relations of our domestic piggies are herd animals who live in small groups of a boar paired with a few females. As prey animals they find safety in numbers; many pigs mean extra eyes to look out for predators. This "safety in numbers" need is still present in our domestic piggies, even when they have learned to trust us completely; nothing can beat the reassurance of another pig. Piggies in groups feel safe!
Guinea Pig Facts - A Short Overview

Human Third Wheel

Many people hesitate when they are told their single pig would be better off with a piggie companion; won't a second pig cause their human-bonded baby to reject them? Will they become a human third wheel?

Many humans find that they have to put a lot of work into bonding with their guinea pigs. One of the reasons for this is that we simply don't understand each other instinctively. It can take years and a lot of lettuce for a guinea pig to warm to its human companion. If that pig is alone, often they have no choice but to warm to their human companion as the sole source of stimulation. Guinea pig to guinea pig bondings happen quickly (or slowly) during introductions and can last a lifetime.

Guinea pig relationships are very different to pig to human relationships. While we will spend time grooming and cuddling with our pigs, pig on pig interaction is different. Sometimes they'll cuddle, sometimes they'll happily thrust their noses into each others bottoms and other times they'll chasing each other around the cage. Other piggie pairs don't seem too fussed with each other and simply seem to enjoy sharing a cage.

Lone guinea pigs will often appear depressed or become extremely bored no matter how many cuddles and toys are provided. They are also much more prone to picky eating and developing annoying attention seeking behaviours.


Cashew, Mimic and Koda group shot.

Getting a piggie companion for your guinea pig will not affect that pig's relationship with you. But it is impossible for you to spend enough time with your guinea pig to compensate for a piggie companion - pigs sleep less than we do and require companionship around the clock. Beyond this, we are simply unable to speak with them in a way that will fill the social void.

Dominant Pig

Guinea pigs in the herd have a strict hierarchy at the top of which is the dominant pig. The dominant pig is more than just the fattest pig who gets first pick of the veggies; they are the peace keeper of the herd. Often the removal of a dominant pig can cause a sudden flare of bickering among the rest of the piggies.


Cashew during his illness hiding.

When Cashew became unwell and was unable to keep the other two boys in check, a sudden flare of bickering, chattering and nipping disturbed my usually (and unusually for boys) quiet cage. I could tell he was beginning to feel better when the bickering stopped; all it seems to take from Cashew is a rumblestrut toward a misbehaving pig to settle a potential argument. Some people also report that by taking their dominant pig on a vet trip with a sick pig, their sick pig seems to become less stressed by the ordeal than if it were taken alone or with another herd pig.

In boars the need to establish and reinforce the hierarchy seems to demand more attention, especially around 4-6 months of age when they hit adolescence. It is unwise to attempt to introduce two (and even less so three) young boars together who may hit puberty at the same time or are currently in their adolescent stages of life as they are much more hormone driven.

Both males and females will partake in dominance behaviour which includes rumblestrutting, humping chasing etc.; if another pig has crossed a line attack-peeing, tooth chattering and nipping will occurr. This behaviour is more worrying for the protective owner than the pigs in question and is all completely normal.
 

Wiebke

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Mar 10, 2009
Messages
65,646
Reaction score
31,612
Points
3,456
Location
Coventry UK
Speaking Pig

Piggies have a very complex method of communication. They can make a range of noises from a loud wheek to bubbling squeeks and have a range of subtle body language by which they can communicate. Communication is such a big part of pig behaviour, I feel it's importance in guinea pig mental health is misunderstood - it's also something a human companion cannot replicate.

There is nothing more enjoyable than watching a group of guinea pigs interacting and talking to each other; playing follow the leader through a room or daring each other to be the first to take a step out of the cage.

Learning Pig

When I first introduced Mimic to my bonded pair, it was clear that he came with a few undesirable habits which neither Koda nor Cashew cared for.


Mimic and Koda happily sharing a bag-o-hay. Behind is Cashew, dominant overseer of sharing.

Mimic believed that it was perfectly acceptable to steal food from another pigs mouth and to push others around. While his introduction was seamless, any disturbances after his inclusion into the large boar cage often found Mimic in the center of it. While neither Koda nor Cashew attacked Mimic for his rudeness, they made it clear that his behaviour was unacceptable. It wasn't until Mimic learned to be politer than he was permitted to snuggle and share.

Often you hear of pigs who don't understand that certain veggies can be eaten or how to work their water bottle. While these things can be taught slowly by a human, it is time consuming and can be accomplished quicker by introducing another pig who has already learned the behaviour required. Often a new pig will bring with it a menu of foodstuffs that it will teach your other pigs to enjoy.

Cashew didn't learn much from the introduction of month-old Koda. However, the introduction of Mimic brought with it his enthusiasm for strange foodstuffs and for tunneling beneath the fleece. Before Mimic neither Cashew nor Koda would tunnel beneath the fleece, something Mimic kindly taught them. You can guess my displeasure and suprise when I came back home one night to find three lumps of pig running happily beneath the fleece!

Skittish Pig

Lone pigs who are skittish often also benefit from the companionship of another piggie that may reassure and provide a feeling of safety to the lone pig.

The End of Piggie Ownership

Sadly there will more often than not come a time when a pig's companion dies and the owner no longer wishes to keep the seesaw going.

It's important to realise that pigs who have lost their companion may become extremely depressed and the importance of monitoring a grieving pigs weight. The pig should also be moved to a busy area of the house so that it can become the center of the household throughout it's remaining years.

There is always the option of contacting a rescue and offering to foster a pair of younger pigs allowing you to provide companionship for your remaining pig without the responsibility of caring for the younger pigs when your pig passes on. Alternatively you can adopt a retiring pig for its remaining years. Rehoming an older piggie will give that pig the chance to live out the rest of its years with an experienced owner alongside a companion.
Looking After A Bereaved Guinea Pig


Koda and Mimic defending the cuddle cup at clean-out time.
 

Wiebke

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Mar 10, 2009
Messages
65,646
Reaction score
31,612
Points
3,456
Location
Coventry UK
Myths on Companionship
  • Neutering will affect a boar's behaviour.
Neutering a boar will not make him get along with other boars. Neutering should only be considered in the event that he is to be introduced to one or more sows.

  • Boars will fight to the death and cannot be paired together.
Boars are essentially more difficult to pair than sows and require a lot more room as they are often more territorial. Introductions themselves can also be either scarily easy or difficult - compounded by the fact that many new owners will often mistakenly try to introduce pigs in a series of multiple-short-introductions as opposed to one long introduction which is prefered leading to a series of multiple-attacks instead of allowing two boars to sort out their differences.

When done correctly and when giving boars the chance to choose who they want to live with, then boars of all ages can be bonded and re-bonded. Key is character compatibility and mutual liking. However, boars that have been in a serious fight with intentional deep bites will rarely go back together; these fights can be avoided/minimised with large cages and the option of the boars to get away from each other and occupy different part of the cage. They are mostly a result of too small cages with no possibility for the losing boy to get out of the way before it comes to a fight.

Information on introductions, dominance and gender specific behaviours as well as companionship guides can be found in this section here. This includes tips on boar bonding. Behaviour and Bonding

  • This pig is aggressive/hates other pigs/is a loner
I have found, through experience, that while there are guinea pigs who prefer to see and hear other pigs yet not share a cage with them, they are rarer than what many in the guinea pig community would have one believe. There are lone pigs of either gender that will not get on with others, but I think the numbers of lone pigs are emphasised by misjudgement on the part of the carer of the pig or by lack of access to a rescue that allows the boar to meet a range of potential mates.

I know of many guinea pig pairings that fail simply because the cage they are expected to co-exist within is too small.

Guinea pig companionship

Piggies are healthier and happier with a companion. A guinea pig companion for your guinea pig will make your cage not only more fun to observe but also provides your pig with a friend from which he can learn and communicate with.

If you wish to look into adding to your herd or getting your current pig a companion, please view the UK rescue locator on the top bar or see Guinea Lynx :: Rescue Organizations for good standard guinea pig rescues in other countries. Members on this site will be more than happy to help you to locate a good standard rescue near you.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top