Guinea pigs are such a cheerful and happy pets. However, most people often don’t realize that even guinea pigs have emotions, and even they can feel sad and depressed. But how would you know if they are depressed? What are the signs of depression in guinea pigs?
Depressed guinea pigs are lethargic and unmotivated. You may notice them sleeping a lot & hiding for long hours. Reluctance to eat and play are other common signs. They are also less likely to socialize and exercise. Some guinea pigs also show signs of aggression like biting, fur pulling, etc.
A depressed guinea pig can be tough to handle and care for. Some guinea pig owners also claim that their guinea pigs starved to end, and they were unable to help them out.
I know it sounds daunting, but it is a hard reality you might have to experience at some point.
Don’t worry; I will help you understand their behavior and signs of depression and also share some tips to cheer up their mood.
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Do guinea pigs get depressed?
Guinea pigs are smarter than most people think. They might not be as smart as your cats & dogs, but they do understand lots of emotions.
They are sentient beings that can experience both positive and negative emotions.
If you provide them with a good living environment and the care they need, then they are going to live a long and healthy life.
However, guinea pigs can become sad and depressed if they experience trauma, stress, or something is wrong in their living space.
Just like any other pet, guinea pigs need more than a basic cage setup, food & water.
To remain happy, they need physical exercise, mental stimulation, as well as social interaction.
A lack of balance of any of these elements can make them sad. They also bond with their cagemates and owners.
They will become unhappy if they are separated from them. Guinea pigs can also get stressed out pretty easily.
Stress is terrible for our guinea pigs, as it can make them sad and depressed if experienced for an extended period.
You must always ensure your guinea pigs are happy and stress-free.
A vet won’t be able to help much, even if your guinea pigs are sad or depressed.
There is no medication or therapies to reduce the same in guinea pigs.
So, it’s up to you to realize the symptoms and provide them with necessary changes so that they can live a happy and cheerful life.
How to tell if my guinea pig is depressed?
Guinea pigs can’t communicate with us vocally, but they do show signs and behavior to transmit their message.
The symptoms of depression in guinea pigs can be subtle and hard to detect.
However, if you pay close attention to their behavior, you will catch it at an early stage.
Guinea pigs are playful and active animals. They love to play, run around the cage, and exercise.
However, if your guinea pig is feeling depressed, they will show signs of lethargy, unwillingness to eat and will not play or exercise as they used to.
Hiding all the time
Guinea pigs do tend to hide when they are stressed or frightened. However, a depressed guinea pig might hide for hours and not move a bit.
They may lay around a corner or even sleep for hours without showing interest in anything.
Loss of appetite
It is common to see that your guinea pig is chewing their hay or munching on their veggies whenever you pass by.
Yes, they need to be eating or chewing something most of the time.
However, depressed guinea pigs have less appetite, and they show reluctance to eat even if we offer them treats like watermelon or blueberries. This may further lead to dental problems in guinea pigs.
No social interaction
Guinea pigs are social animals, and they do communicate vocally and physically with their cagemates.
They are also interested in communicating with their owners.
However, a depressed guinea pig shows no interest in socialization. They will run away and hide from the world in a corner.
Guinea pigs have a habit of chewing on things. You will notice that they chew their food bowls, toys, and anything they can get.
However, a depressed guinea pig may show excessive signs of aggression.
They are more likely to fight and bite their cage mates or even their owners if we try to reach out to them.
Guinea pigs are clean animals, and they tend to groom themselves for the same.
However, if your guinea pig is stressed out or depressed, they may end up over grooming themselves.
Why is my guinea pig depressed?
If your guinea pig is sad or depressed, it’s time to figure out the cause for the same.
There is always a cause or problem triggering their sadness.
You won’t be able to alleviate your guinea pig’s sadness until you find out the reason for the same.
Depression in guinea pigs is usually caused by one of the following things:
- Guinea pigs develop a strong bond with their companion and human partners. If they lose either one of them, then they are going to be stressed for an extended period.
- Continuous stress can also be a problem that can lead to severe depression in guinea pigs. Being cooped up on a small cage, being moved from time to time, etc. can also be a significant problem.
- Sickness and severe pain can also trigger depression in your guinea pigs. Pain can make your guinea pigs reluctant to move and eat.
- Guinea pigs are active animals, and they do need a lot of mental stimulation to keep them healthy. If they don’t have anything to do, they can get bored and depressed over time.
If your guinea pig is depressed all of a sudden, then it is easier to identify the cause. You can simply introspect what you have changed in the past few weeks and undo the change. However, a gradual depression can be tough to analyze, as there is no clear-cut cause.
Guinea pig depressed after losing their partner
As guinea pigs are social animals, they form a strong bond with their cage mates.
A companion is crucial for guinea pigs as it provides them with social interaction and company.
However, if their partner passes away, your guinea pig might go through severe mental stress.
You might notice them walking around the cage and looking for their partner everywhere. If even after looking around, they don’t find their partner, they might be sad and depressed.
The best option is to let them grieve. As guinea pigs can’t remember things for more than a few weeks, you will notice they will get going in their lives as time passes by.
However, you can help them out in making the transition easy and quick. You should shower some extra love and attention to them until they are feeling good back again.
You can offer them their favorite veggies and treats to improve their appetite.
Although these are short term solutions and in the long run, they will still need a companion or cagemate for social interaction.
Thus, adding a new cagemate would be ideal.
However, be careful that some guinea pigs are more aggressive than others, and they might not accept a new cagemate easily.
Still, it is worth it to try. You can contact a nearby rescue for help as well so that you can find a good match for your guinea pig.
Loneliness and boredom in guinea pigs
Loneliness and boredom are some of the significant causes of depression in guinea pigs.
Many owners don’t realize how much attention and care their guinea pigs would need.
Some owners end up neglecting their mental needs, even without realizing it.
Because they are social animals, guinea pigs would need lots of social interaction to be happy.
And a lack of social interaction can make them feel lonely and depressed.
If you have only one guinea pig, you will need to provide them with floortime of 2 hours or more and play and interact with them as well.
Sitting and playing with your guinea pigs, hand-feeding them, or even trying to train them and teach them some tricks can provide them with lots of mental and physical stimulation.
You should also provide your guinea pigs with at least eight sq feet of living space.
Their living space must contain some hideouts and toys to stimulate them and keep them busy.
Depression after major surgery
Any major surgical operation can stress out your guinea pigs. They may also go through severe pain and change in hormonal balance.
Thus, it is normal for them to through a phase of depression. Lethargy and loss of appetite are some common occurrences in guinea pigs after any significant surgical procedure.
Spaying or neutering your guinea pigs may also leave them under depression as they had their organ removed.
You should try to calm down your guinea pigs and provide them with as much comfort as possible.
The pain or wound may subdue within a few weeks, but their personality and behavior may remain subdued for long.
How to cheer up a depressed guinea pig
If you have made some changes in their living environment in recent times that have made your guinea pigs sad, then start with reverting those changes.
However, if you aren’t sure why your guinea pigs are depressed, then the first step would be to take them to a vet and check if they have some kind of pain or undiagnosed illness.
As guinea pigs hide their illness very well, it would be ideal, to begin with, a professional checkup.
If your vet cannot find anything wrong physically, then it is probably a mental problem.
Loneliness and boredom could be one of the signs that get ignored in most cases.
However, we can fix these by making some changes. Here are a few tips you should try out to cheer up your guinea pigs:
- Get a new partner for your guinea pigs. Guinea pigs are social animals, and having a cage mate provides them with social security, interaction, and grooming, which can uplift their happiness.
- Provide your guinea pigs with toys, and more. Guinea pigs need more than a cage, food, and water. Providing some toys to play with and places to hide could spice up their life and make them feel good.
- Setup the largest enclosure possible. Guinea pigs crave space to run, play, eat, and exercise. Guinea pigs might feel depressed if they are cooped up. If you could provide them an ample enough space, they will love you for it. Get the largest cage you possibly can.
- Spend more time interacting with your guinea pigs. Guinea pigs love floortime and human interaction. If you could take out a few hours daily for them, they will be more than happy.
- Provide your guinea pigs with a varied diet. Change is an integral part of everyone’s life, and the same is true with your guinea pigs as well. If you could provide them with new food to taste, new places to explore, then it shall be a life-changer for them.
Enrichment ideas for guinea pigs
Guinea pigs need mental and physical stimulation to keep themselves happy. If you could provide them with more things to do or do some activity with them, then they will be more than satisfied. Here are a few ideas to try:
- Provide them with a cardboard box filled with shredded newspaper or hay. They love to burrow and munch on hay.
- Balls made from hay or wicker are another great addition. They can chase the same around and chew onto it whenever they feel like doing so.
- Make a maze and put small treats on the way that leads them to a big treasure of delight.
- Design a play area filled up of cardboard boxes and bridges. You can include some other materials and utilize the vertical space as well for them to play and exercise.
- Homemade hay feeder. Stuff hay into toilet paper tubes and let your guinea pigs pull it out.
You should rotate the toys in every few days to keep them busy and avoid getting bored of all of them.
You should also make smaller changes in their regular diet to keep their tongue spiced up.
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Can guinea pigs die from depression?
Yes, guinea pigs can pass away from depression.
Guinea pigs are cheerful and active pets, but if we don’t provide them with a good living environment and enough social and mental interaction, then they can get bored and depressed.
This can further lead to loss of appetite, weight loss, and a lot of other health issues that can take away your guinea pig’s life.
Thus, make sure you keep your guinea pigs happy and active by providing them with enrichment and interaction they deserve.
Why is my depressed guinea pig not eating?
Sad guinea pigs can lose interest in all of their favorite activities, including eating their snacks and food.
Usually, a depressed guinea pig loses their interest in food. However, providing them with good and tasty snacks could bring their interest back.
Try offering them more delicious snacks and good quality hay. A 3rd cut timothy hay could be a viable choice.
It can also make them obese, which brings in further problems. Sometimes, guinea pig’s depression can become severe enough that they stopped eating altogether.
This can lead to serious health problems, including gastrointestinal stasis, where the digestive system stops moving.
If left untreated, then the same can be life-threatening within 24 hours itself.
Make sure you rush your guinea pigs to a vet if they haven’t eaten anything for more than 8 hours.
Sometimes a severe pain or dental issue can also make them feel depressed, so a vet might be in a better position to handle the problem than us. Check out our exhaustive vet list to find a reputed vet near you.
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Sources: A water-maze test of learning ability for guinea-pigs, Brain and body growth of guinea-pigs, Care of Guinea Pigs, Guinea pig housing, Suitable bedding for Guinea Pigs, Petsaver guinea pig guide, Guinea pig care.