You may have heard people talk about having more than one guinea pig, but what are the benefits of having more than one?
In the wild, guinea pigs live in groups because they are innately social animals. Just like you never hear of someone having one chicken (okay, once in a while you might), it’s sound advice to give your guinea pig a companion to call his own.
It Makes Him Feel Safe
In the wild, guinea pigs live in herds that usually have on alpha male and several females with their babies. Guinea pigs are prey animals, meaning there are lots of things that want to eat them. Guinea pigs feel safe in a group – they feel there’s safety in numbers, and this is true to an extent in the wild. But as a domesticated pet, your guinea pig will feel much safer if he has a guinea pig companion than if he lives alone.
It Staves off Loneliness
Guinea pigs are awake up to 20 hours a day. That’s a lot of time to be sitting in a cage looking for things to do. Most people just don’t have the time to spend hours and hours interacting with their guinea pig. A companion guinea pig allows your guinea pig to have someone to play with, cuddle with, and talk to without you having to constantly interact with him. Of course, you still need to interact with him daily, but having that companion takes some of the burden off of you. A lonely, boring life is not good for you, and it’s not good for your guinea pig.
It Strengthens his Emotional Bonds
Guinea pigs are made with the physiology that allows them to form strong emotional bonds. Given time, he will form those bonds with you. But just as you have more than one friend or more than one family member in your life, your guinea pig needs more than you to form an emotional bond with. Providing him with a cage mate satisfies his biological need to form a strong emotional bond with a creature like himself. You’re supporting his emotional well-being as well as his basic physical needs when you get him a cage mate.
It’s Illegal to Own Just One Guinea Pig in Switzerland
The people of Sweden have recognized the need for guinea pigs to have guinea pig companions so much so that they passed a law there that makes it illegal to own just one guinea pig (the law is called DFS 2005:8 saknr L80, and can be found on Jordbruksverkets website. Just Google “jordbruksverket marsvin” – the government agency that made the law and the Swedish name for guinea pig – and use Google translate).
Once you have two guinea pig living together peacefully (i.e., after they’ve decided on who is dominant and who is not), you will be able to see the positive effects of having a pair instead of a lone guinea pig. You’ll see them run around and chase each other. Sometimes they’ll cuddle with each other or groom each other. They’ll play with toys together. They’ll chatter and vocalize to each other. You’ll be able to see the positive effects that come when they have a cage mate.
So if you already have one guinea pig and want to get him a cage mate, how should you go about it? Well, you can introduce a new guinea pig to an existing one in a neutral territory. Try getting them used to each other first before just sticking them in the same cage together – a cage inhabited by the existing guinea pig.
If you have two cages, you might even put them in separate cages and place the cages next to each other so they can communicate and get to know each other without having them in physical contact. But guinea pigs will need to decide their pecking order, so if you put two new guinea pigs in with each other, realize that there may be some bullying behavior for a few days until they’ve decided on their hierarchy. Just make sure one isn’t so aggressive that he’s really hurting the other one. If that happens, separate them for a while and do more to try to introduce them more gradually.
It’s not that much more expensive to care for two guinea pigs. Of course, your cage should be bigger (a bare minimum of 7.5 sq. feet, but ideally, bigger than that). You’ll need to clean the cage once or twice a week, and the cost of extra food will rise a little (as opposed to feeding just one), but the extra expense is really minimal. On the other hand, you get a much happier guinea pig, and a happy guinea pig can mean a healthier guinea pig.