Introducing And Re-introducing Guinea Pigs

Not open for further replies.


Staff member
Mar 10, 2009
Reaction score
Coventry UK
Introducing new guinea pigs

Please also see our our far more detailed bonding guide that discusses the dynamics, interactive behaviours and particulars of boar/sow/mixed gender and group bondings.
Bonding and Interaction: Illustrated social behaviours and bonding dynamics

Please give newly arrived guinea pigs a few days' time to settle into their new surroundings; this will help to eliminate extraneous stress from the bonding itself.
Consider that a newly arrived piggy that has not undergone a mandatory quarantine at a rescue will need to be quarantined for two weeks at your home first.
Importance Of Quarantine

It also helps to let the piggies meet through bars first for a day. If there is teeth chattering, you may want to give the piggies more time to get used to each other.

Where and when to stage introductions
Make sure that you have plenty of time for observation and that you introduce your guinea pigs on neutral ground that is not part of a regular territory. The kitchen floor, bathroom floor, even the bathtub with a towel for grip will do. In summer, you can use a good sized run on the lawn.
Once you have started an introduction in earnest, you will have to stick with it until it has either worked or not.

How to start introductions
You can start the introduction by placing the two guinea pigs next to each other on your lap. Please have an oven glove at the ready to protect your hand. If there are hostile behaviours flaring up between the piggies pretty quickly, I would recommend not to proceed with the bonding and to look for other solutions instead. It is not going to work out between them!

Dos and Don'ts
- Do not interfere unless there is a fight!

- Please do not use any masking scents, especially not vicks (which burns on the skin and can cause piggies to panic blindly and at worst kill themselves). If two piggies don't like each other, no trick in the book is going to make them change their mind in the long term!

- "Buddy baths" have become the latest bonding top tip but they are not necessary in most cases and rather an added source of distress; they only have a place where testosterone soaked hormonal boars are being re-introduced after a near fall-out without serious bites.
If you want to mingle scents, it is much more useful to wipe each piggy with a cloth that carries the other's scent.

- Have a big flat plate of food ready; sharing food (grass, hay, fresh veg) is a good way to start the bonding.

- Don't put any furnishings in with the guinea pigs! Fights and scuffles often start when a frightened piggy feels cornered and can't get away. Block off all nooks and crannies in the space you are using for introductions for the same reason.
Exception: If you bond a baby boar with an older boar, have a little hidey place ready where only the baby can get into, in case the humping gets too rough. A small tube or a cardboard box with two small exits on different sides can help in this case.

Which behaviours are acceptable?
Guinea pig bonding behaviour can look pretty rough to us. Bum sniffing, teeth chattering, yawning and putting the hackles up to appear more impressive, rumbling/rumblestrutting (shifting the weight from on back leg to the other), chasing, nipping, head butting, and (especially with boars) humping from all directions are all part of normal dominance behaviour. Loud sqeaking as if in pain is submission squeaking and the piggy is NOT being hurt!
To judge the signs of serious aggression, please have a read through this thread first: Dominance Behaviours In Guinea Pigs

When to separate
Try not to interfere unless there are clear signs of an impending fight or the boars are fighting. Most biting will occur to mouth/nose, ears and on the rump. Accidental scratches can occur in the heat of a scuffle. Please check your boars over carefully if a fight has happened. Wounds can develop into an abscess if they are not disinfected. Deep wounds will need vet care and an antibiotic.

Special to boar introductions
Be aware that boars always have to start right back in square one after you have separated them and that too many separations can severely hamper any efforts of developing a relationship. Once you have committed, you have to see an introduction through unless there are full-on fights and bites or the humping is truly incessant and seriously upsetting one of the boars.The trickiest moment when bonding boars is often when they wake up from their first nap together and discover that they are not alone.

Sow, group and mixed gender introductions
Sow to sow introductions as well as neutered boar to sow introductions can profit from an overnight separation if the tension level is persistently high and not coming down or if it is suddenly flaring up. However, the piggies need as much time as possible (i.e. several hours in one go) to work through the initial acceptance phase which should happen within 15-30 minutes after first interaction and the immediately following dominance phase, which can take several days to several weeks. Please be aware that not all sows and neutered boars will necessarily take to each other; personal likes and dislikes can form very quickly. Once piggies have made up their mind, they very rarely change it. In that case, a bonding has failed and you will have to find another solution.

When can piggies be transferred to their cage?
You can transfer your guinea pigs to your totally cleaned and rearranged or newly fitted out cage once your piggies have settled in together in the bonding area, ideally have had a nap and are relaxed. They should also have ideally sorted out who comes top between them as the new territory will bring on a reassertion of the dominance. Depending on the piggies and how the bonding is going, the time in the neutral area can take anything from a few hours to two days.

The dominance phase
Dominance behaviour can last for days, weeks or, in some cases with boars, be a regular part of their daily social interaction, especially mounting. Generally, you are talking about a day or two up to two weeks, depending on the personalities. Boars bonds can fail right at the end of the dominance phase, about two weeks into the bonding, especially when there has been a lot of dominance towards a younger boar at the beginning.

The dominant guinea pig might also block out its new companion from the sleeping hut, the food bowl, water bottle, hay etc. in order to assert its position in the hierarchy. Put any furnishings into the cage only when things have quietened down, and then preferably only hideys with two exits, so there is always an escape until the dominance phase is well and truly over.

You best have at least the same number of hideys, bowls and water bottles as the number of guinea pigs. Space the same items well away from each other, so the dominant piggy can't get possessive over them. Please remove any hideysvwith only one exit from the cage/hutch until you know that your newly bonded piggies have settled down well and are over the worst of the hierarchy sort-out. You can substitute with open-sided cardboard boxes or tea towels/hankies pegged to the bars.

To keep boars from fighting and falling out, you want to provide as much space as possible and have everything in twos, huts, bowls, water bottles, hay racks etc...
Please see our boar guide fro more tips: Boars: A guide to successful companionship.

Here is a video about the vital points that can make the difference between a success and a fail:
(video courtesy of skinnypigs1)


Senior Guinea Pig
Jul 16, 2008
Reaction score
i have to reintroduce pheobe to my three other girls soon, because of her operation, the girls all seem to be missing her. it'll be a 10 day split up. do you think it will be hard going? they were really close
Sep 24, 2009
Reaction score
My first guinea pig


I am in need of some re assurance!

I have had my guinea pig for 3 weeks and she is still very shy and jumpy at times.

How long will this last? and what is the best way to show her that I can be trusted?

I want to handle her at least once a day so that she is used to it but every time I go to pick her up she runs away and I don't want to scare her so I leave her. :red

I have however been talking to her as much as I can so she gets used to my voice and when I put the food in her hutch she lets me stroke her. I can tell she is still nervous.:(

Do you have any tips that could help me?

Not open for further replies.