Can Guinea Pigs Live Alone? – Depression Incoming!

Two guinea pigs in front of a pink background.

You were planning on getting a pet guinea pig, but you are not sure whether you should get only one or more.

There are a lot of debates between people on this topic supported by various experiences in owning a guinea pig. It’s not your fault you are confused and aren’t sure what to do.

Most breeders and rescue groups will definitely advise you to keep at least two guinea pigs together. On the other hand, all pet shops will be more than happy to sell you even just one.

The truth behind guinea pigs living alone or in groups is multifactorial and must be thoroughly explained.

Is it Okay to Just Have One Guinea Pig?

In most cases, you should have at least two guinea pigs.

However, the definitive answer to having just one guinea pig is ‘yes, but…’ since it very much depends on the personality of the guinea pig.

Some prefer to live in solitude (it’s a rarity, but it does happen) whilst others are happier if they have the company of their own kind. However, it’s recommended that you should keep more than one guinea pig.

Here’s why.

By nature, guinea pigs are herd animals, meaning they need to socially interact with others by living in groups to avoid danger, feel more secure, work on finding food, find a partner, etc.

Of course, none of these herd issues are really relevant anymore today, but that’s how guinea pig genetics have developed.

The decision on getting only one guinea pig will be in your best interest (but not the animals’) because you will have fewer financial expenses, more space in your home, fewer obligations for cleaning and feeding.

Two guinea pigs stand on a blanket and tug on lettuce from each side.

Getting only one guinea pig doesn’t make you a bad person; especially if you are adopting one from a shelter where the animal had a sub-standard quality of life.

You will be doing this guinea pig a favor. So don’t feel all that bad regardless of the different opinions.

What Happens If You Only Have 1 Guinea Pig?

If you have only 1 guinea pig you will have a wonderful time and lots of fun with your new pet. And that’s precisely what will matter in the guinea pigs’ significant little life.

Attention! Spending a lot of precious time with your guinea pig will ensure that it feels less lonely, even though there isn’t another guinea keeping him company.

On the flip side of the coin, there are guinea pigs that don’t enjoy having a mate in their cage. Usually, these are more tempered beings in nature and don’t get along with anyone else.

Keeping them without a cage-mate while fulfilling their essential needs with water, food, toys, and interaction is in their best interest.

Those that need the company of others of their kind will eventually suffer from loneliness and that will manifest upon their health and wellness.

If you own a single guinea there are few signs to look out for indicating he is lonely:

  • Spending a lot of time sleeping
  • Lethargy
  • Constant hiding
  • Loss of appetite
  • Attempts to escape the cage
  • Aggressiveness
  • Biting the cage bars

Loneliness is a silent killer so finding a suitable partner for your pet as soon as possible is of utmost importance. Talk to your vet or any shelter worker experienced with guinea pigs and find the perfect fit.

Do Guinea Pigs Get Depressed After One Dies?

Guinea pigs tend to bond strongly with their cage mates. The longer they are together, the stronger the bond becomes.

When their friend passes away guinea pigs can become depressed, experience severe mental stress, and lose interest in life. Some get out of it in time, but some don’t.

One can frequently spot a grieving guinea pig wandering about in the cage looking for his diseased friend. Letting them grieve is the best possible thing you can do for them.

Guinea pigs can’t remember stuff for more than a few weeks so it will get easier for them. In the meantime show them a lot of attention and affection.

Offering their favorite treats and vegetables can get their minds off the things bothering them. Some get stressed more than others.

If the behavioral changes are too obvious this could prove to be fatal for the remaining guinea pig. Signs of depression in guinea pigs include:

  • Lethargy
  • Hiding
  • Avoiding social interaction
  • Loss of appetite
  • Biting non-eatable objects
  • Aggression
  • Overgrooming
  • Late-night chirping (more than usual)

Can Guinea Pigs Live Alone After One Dies?

Those that get past the grieving period of a few weeks without more serious consequences can continue living on their own.

Maybe this new life won’t be anywhere close to the happiness they used to have, but they will be able to carry on their own.

Two guinea pigs with flowers on their heads

If you had more than 2 guinea pigs and only one passed away, nothing special will change in the lives of the remaining guinea pigs.

A guinea pig that lost its cage mate recently will benefit from the introduction of a new one both physically and mentally.

The personalities of the new one and the old one should match if you want them to get along. It’s a lot easier for a guinea pig that shared the cage with another to accept a new companion.

Whether the grieving pet will be happier with the new one depends on how depressed he got and how well the recently introduced guinea pig suits his character.

But one thing is for certain, he will be much happier and healthier than left to live alone.

Introducing a New Guinea Pig

When you bring home a new guinea pig to keep the existing one company, you shouldn’t put them together immediately.

Keeping the guinea pigs apart for at least two weeks is mandatory. The two weeks serve as a quarantine period for the new one during which you will make sure it doesn’t have any diseases that can be transmitted to the old one.

Quarantine doesn’t just mean keeping the two individual guinea pigs in different cages. It also means keeping them in two separate rooms and practicing strict hygiene measures when cross-handling them.

For example, if you played or interacted with the new guinea pig, thoroughly wash your hands before interacting with the old one.

Keep a close eye on your new pet for any signs of transmittable diseases. Scratching and hair fall can indicate infestation with mites, lice, fleas, or a fungal infection (ringworm).

Loud and hard breathing, wheezing, and sneezing are signs of URI (Upper Respiratory Infection). All of the aforementioned diseases are easily-transmittable and you don’t want them in your home!

After the quarantine period is over it’s time for the dating game. The dating game is the first introduction between the guinea pigs made outside of the cages. For this, you need two people, two towels and two guinea pigs.

Spread the towels over the couch and place the guinea pigs on opposite sides. Keep all sound distractions to the minimum.

Point the guinea pigs in each-others direction and observe their behavior.  The first 15 minutes usually pass without significant interaction.

30 minutes after contact it gets quite interesting – it’s when the emotions come up to the surface. Some pairs will show immediate affection and liking for each other.

Others will go through a normal dominance dance to figure out who will be the boss. These types of interactions mean the guinea pigs are ready to co-exist in a mutual cage.

Unfortunately, some will get into some serious fighting and inflict wounds on each other. That’s when you need to separate them using the towels and repeat the procedure few more times until they start to get along. Take your time over the next few days. The good thing is that you doing need to worry about them killing each other.

When different guinea pigs are put to live together in a limited space there is an initial period during which they work out their social relationships.

This period is a nightmare for any owner. It starts with mutual aggressive behavior that stabilizes once the social hierarchy is formed.

In an organized group of guinea pigs, the interactions are calm and based on avoidance. Some ritualized threat to one another can occur, but it’s far from harmful to any of the animals.

As long as you keep the daily routine the same, the hierarchy and thus the peace won’t be disrupted.

There are 3 things to look out for when you have a group of 2 or more guinea pigs:

  • The guinea pigs have enough space to maintain proper distance in which they feel comfortable
  • The guinea pigs have enough food and space to eat on their own without being disrupted
  • You don’t practice regrouping and introducing new animals too often

If you fail to maintain these rules the hierarchy will break and the social interactions will again become aggressive.

Can Guinea Pigs Live With Rabbits?

Keeping these two pets together is possible and a many owners choose this way, especially when they can’t choose between these two lovely pets.

Not the best idea though.

Guinea pigs and rabbits shouldn’t be kept together for several reasons.

Guinea pig cozies up next to a larger rabbit in a hutch.
  • Different dietary needs
  • Different ways of communication and behavior
  • Rabbits can injure guinea pigs (unintentionally and intentionally)
  • Rabbits can bully guinea pigs
  • Rabbits can try to mate with guinea pigs and injure their backs

It used to be a thing in the past to keep rabbits and guinea pigs together, but that no longer is advisable since you can easily get a companion of the same species.

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