Guinea Pig Bullying

JazzyJ

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Hi all! I became a guinea pig mama two weeks ago and am new to the forum. We have two year-old boars - Tango and Hieronymous. They have always lived together however they are not related (I understand they were bought as a pair from pets at home). We got them from a family who were away often and wanted them to go to a family where they would get more attention. I thought that they would be the perfect pets for my 8 and 6 year old and indeed, they love them.

The guinea pigs came with their own, very large cage (I thought that this was great as it would minimise disruption for them and they would have a familiar environment and smells) it is a wooden pets at home cage with two levels, not sure of exact dimensions but approx 1.5 meters by 0.5m on both levels.

When I went to meet the piggies I held them and spoke at length with the previous owners about their personalities and care (fave foods etc). Tango was introduced as the brave and dominant male and Hieronymous the total scaredy-cat. "Tango is very much the boss." Heironymous enjoyed being held after he calmed down a bit and Tango was just very chill and content to be held and have tummy tickles.

Note: One weird thing about the cage setup was that the previous family used the bottom layer for storage of the guinea pig supplies and the hatch which would usually have a ramp has been patched over with plyboard. Apparently the piggies were too scared to go up and down the ramp and refused every attempt the owners made to get them to go down. In the end they just boarded it up and left the bottom as storage.

PLOT TWIST! After having the boys for two weeks and watching (and learning!) their behaviour, either the old owners got it completely wrong or the dynamic has changed considerably (I think the prior). Although Hieronymous is extremely jumpy and bolts for the hidden "bed" area when we approach the cage, Tango just sits there and doesn't move an inch. I have been watching them from afar and I now know that Tango isn't necessarily brave, it's just that Hieronymous doesn't allow him into he bed area. This means that the poor little guy spends his days in the wire section huddled up in the corner come heatwave or drizzle (I have an insulated cover for rain, so at least he's not damp).

I have also noticed that Hieronymous hogs (pardon the pun!) the food and when he approaches Tango, Tango lies down and shows his tummy in submission. I now wait by the food until Tango has eaten half and then go away so Hieronymous can come out and eat his. I noticed that Tango has a bite mark on his back and today when I came to put out food Hieronymous was chattering his teeth at me and "staring no me down", which I know is a warning and territorial move.

Basically I am very concerned that Tango has been misunderstood by the original family from the start and has in fact been suffering bullying from day one and they just haven't realised. I'm so sad to see the little guy huddled up and living like this. I know that there will always be a dominant male but I cannot stand this behavior and want to try and make the situation better for Tango, so he can have a happy, fearless (if still not dominant!) life.

From what I have read their problem could be a lot down to limited space and boredom. The top level of the cage clearly isn't big enough for the two of them to happily coexist.

My plan is to go tomorrow to the home store and buy some wood to make a ramp with. I have read that they are sometimes scared to go up and down ramps because they don't have enough grip, so I'm going to add carpet to the ramp to make it easier for them. I'm also going to go to the pet store and buy another water bottle, hidey-hole and toys to stimulate them for both levels.

My theory is that if I can get one on each level they will be content (hopefully running up and down!) and still see and hear that the other is there and have more room to play and socialise but have an escape if they want some relaxation time. I hope that this would kick start the bonding process. The plan to get them up and down the ramp is a. the carpet and b. FOOD trail!

If they are still not getting on with the ramp then I may try putting one guinea pig on each level and let them have their own space. From there I can monitor their moods and behaviour and see if life gets better. My only concern with this plan is that it becomes "my space" and "your space" and actually prevents bonding.

Ultimately I would like for Tango to have a relaxed and happy life where he has a bed and food without being bullied and for Hieronymous to chill out with the aggression and feel like he has his own space. I got these guys to give them a happier life than the one they had previously (which still seemed lovely - they just want more attention!).

Even though I have done lots of research I am totally new to guinea pigs so I wanted to give as much info as possible! If anyone has any experience or suggestions for getting these two little guys bonding (not sure they'd appreciate bonding baths..) it would be really helpful!

Thank you so much! :)
 

Wiebke

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Hi all! I became a guinea pig mama two weeks ago and am new to the forum. We have two year-old boars - Tango and Hieronymous. They have always lived together however they are not related (I understand they were bought as a pair from pets at home). We got them from a family who were away often and wanted them to go to a family where they would get more attention. I thought that they would be the perfect pets for my 8 and 6 year old and indeed, they love them.

The guinea pigs came with their own, very large cage (I thought that this was great as it would minimise disruption for them and they would have a familiar environment and smells) it is a wooden pets at home cage with two levels, not sure of exact dimensions but approx 1.5 meters by 0.5m on both levels.

When I went to meet the piggies I held them and spoke at length with the previous owners about their personalities and care (fave foods etc). Tango was introduced as the brave and dominant male and Hieronymous the total scaredy-cat. "Tango is very much the boss." Heironymous enjoyed being held after he calmed down a bit and Tango was just very chill and content to be held and have tummy tickles.

Note: One weird thing about the cage setup was that the previous family used the bottom layer for storage of the guinea pig supplies and the hatch which would usually have a ramp has been patched over with plyboard. Apparently the piggies were too scared to go up and down the ramp and refused every attempt the owners made to get them to go down. In the end they just boarded it up and left the bottom as storage.

PLOT TWIST! After having the boys for two weeks and watching (and learning!) their behaviour, either the old owners got it completely wrong or the dynamic has changed considerably (I think the prior). Although Hieronymous is extremely jumpy and bolts for the hidden "bed" area when we approach the cage, Tango just sits there and doesn't move an inch. I have been watching them from afar and I now know that Tango isn't necessarily brave, it's just that Hieronymous doesn't allow him into he bed area. This means that the poor little guy spends his days in the wire section huddled up in the corner come heatwave or drizzle (I have an insulated cover for rain, so at least he's not damp).

I have also noticed that Hieronymous hogs (pardon the pun!) the food and when he approaches Tango, Tango lies down and shows his tummy in submission. I now wait by the food until Tango has eaten half and then go away so Hieronymous can come out and eat his. I noticed that Tango has a bite mark on his back and today when I came to put out food Hieronymous was chattering his teeth at me and "staring no me down", which I know is a warning and territorial move.

Basically I am very concerned that Tango has been misunderstood by the original family from the start and has in fact been suffering bullying from day one and they just haven't realised. I'm so sad to see the little guy huddled up and living like this. I know that there will always be a dominant male but I cannot stand this behavior and want to try and make the situation better for Tango, so he can have a happy, fearless (if still not dominant!) life.

From what I have read their problem could be a lot down to limited space and boredom. The top level of the cage clearly isn't big enough for the two of them to happily coexist.

My plan is to go tomorrow to the home store and buy some wood to make a ramp with. I have read that they are sometimes scared to go up and down ramps because they don't have enough grip, so I'm going to add carpet to the ramp to make it easier for them. I'm also going to go to the pet store and buy another water bottle, hidey-hole and toys to stimulate them for both levels.

My theory is that if I can get one on each level they will be content (hopefully running up and down!) and still see and hear that the other is there and have more room to play and socialise but have an escape if they want some relaxation time. I hope that this would kick start the bonding process. The plan to get them up and down the ramp is a. the carpet and b. FOOD trail!

If they are still not getting on with the ramp then I may try putting one guinea pig on each level and let them have their own space. From there I can monitor their moods and behaviour and see if life gets better. My only concern with this plan is that it becomes "my space" and "your space" and actually prevents bonding.

Ultimately I would like for Tango to have a relaxed and happy life where he has a bed and food without being bullied and for Hieronymous to chill out with the aggression and feel like he has his own space. I got these guys to give them a happier life than the one they had previously (which still seemed lovely - they just want more attention!).

Even though I have done lots of research I am totally new to guinea pigs so I wanted to give as much info as possible! If anyone has any experience or suggestions for getting these two little guys bonding (not sure they'd appreciate bonding baths..) it would be really helpful!

Thank you so much! :)
Hi and welcome

I think that your boys couldn't have come to a better place. You are doing all the right things to allow them to get away from each other.

Please be aware that any move to new surroundings always comes with renewed hierarchy sort-out. It is the most frequent reason why adult boars can have a fall-out. Hopefully things will settle down again. But it is very likely that a less observant family would not pick up on any bullying.

There are some things you can do:
- please feed pellets and veg in smaller portions that can be eaten in go in a bowl each per boy 2-3 per day. Place the bowls at least a body length apart so the cannot be physically controlled at the same time. Remove the bowls between meals. 80% or more of the daily food intake should be hay. Please make sure that you have got hay in different places or at least two different access points to hay, so it cannot be blocked.
- make sure that you have got at least two hidey (ideally three) with two exits, so the underboy cannot be "locked in".
- Wipe a rag over your boys' undercarriage around the genitalia and then wipe it along the ramp. Guinea pigs follow a scent trail; they will be more willing if it smells right and used. Put them upstairs and let them work the way down if necessary.
 

JazzyJ

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I will definitely get the two exit hideys and try the scent trail on the ramp, that's a great idea. I'm pretty on the feeding so moving the bowls in and out and getting another will be no problem at all.

Thank you so much for you advice!
 

JazzyJ

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Hi All,

I am sorry to say I am back with unsuccessful news.

After reading the advice and a lot of information online we put our piggies into their run and set about making and installing their ramp. While they did tentatively use the ramp after much encouragement, the bullying problem has persisted. Hieronymus now chases Tango around the cage in circles and won't ease up on him at all (except to sleep). Tango emitted high pitched squeaks of fright and had become very unresponsive. We therefore decided it was best to separate them to give Tango some peace.

We closed the ramp back up and Hieronymus is on the top deck and Tango on the bottom. After a few days of this Hieronymus was his same old self and Tango was much more relaxed and perky and less jumpy. He enjoyed being held a lot more and made the his happy sounds. Yesterday however we noticed that Tango has been quite quiet and despondent and stayed curled up in his little shelter and not eating as much. Last night we figured he must miss H and it was thunder stormy weather so we decided to put them in together and hope that the weather and thunder might encourage them to snuggle up together. However after just a few minutes of T and H in the sleeping section H was chasing T around again and bit him :(

We immediately rescued T and brought him inside where he got loads of cuddles and strokes until he was really happy and snuggling into my partner (who is now in love with him!). He seemed calmed and content so we tucked him back in his cage.

H seems fine on his own, so I'm not worried about him. We are concerned about T though because he is once again quiet and seems sad.

I'm looking at other options e.g. Do we get him a buddy to keep him company? Do we get two more and hope to foster a herd mentality? Both of these seem like potentially adding more problems: what if they bully Tango too? What if they bully Hieronymus? What if both boys gang up on the new one?

I know that there is always a dominant piggy but chasing constantly and biting is just not something I can expose any of them to. I also don't want Tango to be lonely and ideally not H either.

If anyone has any advice it would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you!

Worried Piggy Mama
 

TheLottiediarys

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A lot of the time boys find it difficult to co exist in a group of more then 3, even then a trio can cause problems which is why most boars are as pairs,
If you feel like the situation is negatively affecting either boar would it be possible to seperate them and give each a new friend? Either a boar each or get them neutered and give them sows to live with?

Did they draw blood when they fought?
Because that can be hard to come back from in a bonded boar pair.

It might be nicer for them to have a 'speed date' at a rescue then they can each choose a new friend for themselves and it takes the stress out?
That would be a possibility if you can have two set ups?

Of course you could still try to get them to bond again using methods like the bathing together, ect but if your already concerned about them hurting each other it might be better to try a new bond?

Hopefully it will be sorted somehow and you can have two happy Piggies :)
 
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