Can guinea pigs kill each other?
Do you want to put two or more guinea pigs together in the same cage and you are afraid that they will fight, maybe even kill each other?
You are right to try to understand, because even if it remains very rare, two guinea pigs can fight and one of them might not even survive its wounds, that’s why you have to respect some rules when you want to put more than two guinea pigs in the same cage or hutch and that’s what I will explain in today’s article.
Why do guinea pigs fight when put together?
Guinea pigs are extremely social animals, who like to live in groups of up to 10 maybe 15 members but not in anarchy.
Their social life is very structured and hierarchical, a dominant male, one or more females, second rank males that will later decide the dominant male for the right to mate and young that all guinea pigs watch over.
As soon as this social structure is threatened, tensions can appear in the guinea pig families, and the reason for the fights between them is often for dominance or the fight for the territory (a piece of the prairie in the wild, the perch or the highest corner in a hutch).
The game is usually played between adult males. It is rare that they kill each other, the defeated one is quickly designated and he will yield his position to the winner, the females or the territory.
Do not rejoice too quickly, in the wild, the male who loses the fight can run away to save his life, the meadow is vast, he can also hope to find other females elsewhere which is not the case when they are in a cage or a hutch of only a few square feet, that’s why it is more frequent that they kill each other in cages more than in the wild and in their natural environment, so be very attentive to what will follow to avoid this.
How to know if a fight is being prepared in the cage of your guinea pigs?
If you have two or more males, of the same age and almost the same weight, expect fights to start as soon as they become adults.
There are signs that precede the fights between guinea pigs, here are the most common ones:
Male guinea pigs settling down, actually challenging each other by showing their teeth , how long they are …
You will see your guinea pigs dragging their butts to mark their territory with their scent.
They often slam their teeth to intimidate the other male.
Your guinea pigs will chase each other in the cage and even bite each other on the buttocks.
They already have bite marks (on their buttocks or neck) and hairless areas (unless it’s due to a parasite or disease), signs that they fight when you’re away.
You will notice that guinea pigs stand on their hind legs ( rearing up ) , to appear taller and intimidate the other one, if neither of them give in, expect a fight and it is better to separate them for a while and reintroduce them slowly after a few days.
The loss of weight of a guinea pig while the others don’t is a sign that the others beat it and don’t let it eat, you have to separate it in its own cage, consider giving it to someone because it would be useless to put it back with the others, it will probably die of hunger or bites.
If you notice this kind of behavior, you need to keep a closer eye on your guinea pigs, if they don’t agree and establish a hierarchy of who is the dominant male with intimidation, they will probably get serious and start fighting, chasing, scratching and biting each other.
What can you do to prevent your guinea pigs from fighting each other?
To prevent the cage of your guinea pigs from becoming a ring and to prevent your guinea pigs from fighting with each other and risking injury or even one of them killing the other, there are a few rules that you must follow when you want two or more guinea pigs to live together in the same cage or hutch, here are these rules:
1- Choose the Right Gender of the guinea pigs to put together
If you want to prevent your pigs from fighting each other, you have to choose the right gender. It is for example not recommended to put two or more males together in the same cage, as well as two males and only one female, they will surely end up fighting for dominance when they are alone and to decide who will mate with the female(s) if they are also in the cage.
To sum up, only one male guinea pig in the cage and preferably castrated so that you don’t have small guinea pigs several times a year.
You can add one or two females, preferably only one and if you prefer female guinea pigs, you can put two or three together and a male so that he makes sure that the females remain quiet and preferably neutered (sterilized) if you do not want them to get pregnant.
Can I put two male guinea pigs in the same cage ?
If in fact you want only male guinea pigs, you can put an older male with one or two other males less old and smaller than him, if not look for the good ones at the breeder, and try to detect a dominant male and one or two others who have a rather submissive character, so that there is no conflict in the cage.
2-Space out your guinea pigs:
When you choose the right combination of guinea pigs to put together, you will then prepare a cage that will suit them, a spacious cage, not less than 9 square feet of floor space for more than two guinea pigs (5 square feet for guinea pig), and to avoid conflicts between your guinea pigs, please provide a shelter for each of them, more than one bottle of water, a rack long enough for them to eat together without touching each other, a bowl wide enough for vegetables and pellets, and make sure to give them their treats like pieces of fruit directly in their mouth.
How to introduce one guinea pig to another to avoid them killing each other:
I told you in an other post how to introduce cavies to cats , and now , if you already have a guinea pig and you want to introduce him a new one to avoid that he gets bored, you must respect the rules that I have just quoted but also, to proceed gradually, put each one in its cage and put the two cages one beside the other so that they get acquainted without being able to touch each other and risk to fight…
You will then, after a few days, take them out in a neutral area, which does not belong to any of them, so that they can get to know each other better and establish who would be the dominant if it is two males.
After a few days and if you see that they get along well, you will put them in the same larger cage, respecting the conditions that I mentioned before and watching them to make sure that they get along even in the same cage.
The other reasons that can push two guinea pigs to become aggressive and fight:
If you have guinea pigs that get along and suddenly one of them starts chasing and attacking the others, there may be a few reasons for that:
1- It’s a submissive male who has just discovered his strength and wants to challenge the dominant male in order to steal his throne and become the master of the cage.
2- It could be a sign that this guinea pig who becomes aggressive is sick, or injured and that’s what makes him in a bad mood and aggressive towards his fellow guinea pigs, so check if there are no visible wounds,any illness symptoms if not, take him to see his veterinarian, he’s probably suffering.
3- They can also fight for food if you don’t give them enough, so make sure to respect their diet and especially give them enough hay, their daily ration of vegetables and pellets and if you notice that they fight when they eat, use several bowls spaced between them.
4- Stress can make your guinea pigs nervous, and they can end up fighting each other just because there is too much noise and they are sleep-deprived, your cat attacks them and makes them nervous, it is too hot in the room …etc…
5- Guinea pigs can fight each other if they lack exercise, if they are bored and lack stimulant, buy them toys, balls are excellent for that, give them things to chew on and especially get them out of their cage every day and at the same time so that they can run a little, exercise and get tired to let off steam and spend their excess energy instead of using it against their fellow pigs.
What should I do when my guinea pigs are chasing each other?
If you notice that one of your guinea pigs has started chasing another one, watch them closely but let them do it and only intervene if they start to bite each other and you see that it has become dangerous for them.
If they are just trying to intimidate each other , let them do it because they are establishing a hierarchy in the cage and it never goes beyond a few days, usually two or three days for one of them to become the leader and the other one the submissive and things will go back to the way they were in the cage and calm will finally return.
This kind of fights are frequent at the beginning of spring, it’s the time of mating and rutting, the guinea pigs will be victims of their hormones, the males and even the females can suddenly become more aggressive and in a bad mood, and small altercations can break out between your guinea pigs during this period, so be ready to intervene.
Be aware that you should not stop the process of introducing guinea pigs unless you see that the fight is becoming dangerous, they are tearing off pieces of fur or they are biting each other seriously and may be seriously injured, in which case you should try the reintroduction another time or bring back another guinea pig.
Let’s wrap this up
Two guinea pigs can fight and kill each other, especially during your absence and to prevent that from happening, you must choose the guinea pigs well to put together, ensure them a spacious cage, shelters and enough food, without forgetting toys and exits so that they make of the exercise so that they do not release themselves one on the other.
In spite of all the precautions, be aware that small conflicts can occur between your guinea pigs, they will often be temporary, especially if you intervene and eliminate the triggers and everything will return to normal and calm in the cage.
Know that it is better to have two guinea pigs with the risk of them fighting with each other, than one individual who will suffer from loneliness, boredom and who will surely end up fighting even with you and biting you because of stress and boredom, bring him a companion.