Guinea pigs are sweet and docile animals. You will be mesmerized, looking at their delightful activities and movement all around. They are also happy with little fun and food. But when a guinea pig is annoyed or irritated with another guinea pig, they may start fighting with each other. So, it is important to learn why do guinea pigs attack each other.
Guinea pigs are territorial animals, and they will get aggressive if their cagemates evade their space. Some guinea pigs do not want to share food, water, and other resources, which may result in a fight. Proving and maintaining dominance in the cage is yet another major cause of conflicts among guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs have a habit of showing aggression and dominance to each other or bonding with their mates.
The reason for fights among them and differentiate between the play and attack. We will discuss all these about your guinea pig’s behavior in this article.
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Are guinea pigs aggressive?
No, guinea pigs are not aggressive in general. Guinea pigs are loved as pet animals because of their nature. They are joyful and hardly they will show any signs of aggression.
They are content with what they have, and you may leave them playing with their toys for hours.
There behavior and activities will change all of a sudden when they are threatened by something. They are always concerned about their safety as being prey animals.
Be careful, their bite do hurt. They can fight among themselves wildly and even mutilate each other. However, most of the time, there is a reason behind such fights, and it is crucial to understand that.
Also read: Do guinea pigs bite?
Why are my guinea pigs suddenly fighting?
Guinea pigs bite is often assumed as aggression, but it may not be so. A guinea pig can tear down the fur of other mates while fighting with each other. Their fights are very nasty once they start showing aggressive nature.
Guinea pigs are highly concerned for their territory. Once they get a sense of invasion in their territory by any other guinea pig, they will become aggressive and fight hard to safeguard its area.
Apart from this, guinea pigs sharing a joint home fight to establish each other’s dominance. They follow hierarchy among themselves, just like other animals.
A group of guinea pigs will be lead by one guinea pig. The leader wants to be groomed by other guinea pigs and will be offered food first. So, it is apparent each of the guinea pigs intends to be the leader. That leads to fights among guinea pigs.
If the guinea pigs are kept in restriction, they may show aggression. Under such conditions, they get frustrated.
Their energy is not utilized because of the lack of activities. They are unable to express their natural behavior. Such situations often result in fights between the guinea pigs sharing common space.
Male guinea pigs also fight among themselves when they compete with each other to mate with a female counterpart.
Hormonal changes results urge for mating, especially among female guinea pigs. The unneutered males will show aggression to entice the female guinea pig. Such an attack converts into a fierce battle among the male guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs attack as a mechanism of defense. If your guinea pig is suffering due to some pain, it won’t reveal its weakness. To hide their fault, they attack others to show their strength.
Is it normal for guinea pigs to bite each other?
Guinea pigs often bite each other while playing. You need to differentiate between a nip and a bite while fight.
They nip each other to get attention or when they are performing.
But if you find one of them trying to dominate the other, then the biting might get dangerous.
Sometimes they end up pulling each other’s fur out while fighting.
You need to be careful if you are trying to interfere in such fights as they can get aggressive towards you or even bite your hand if you bring it in between them.
Should I separate my guinea pigs if they are fighting?
In the first instance of fight, one will think to separate the guinea pigs so that they do not hurt each other. But guinea pigs are social animals, and they like to be in pairs. They are happy when they have a mate, and they thrive well together.
Guinea pig always enjoys the presence of someone else. They do not like staying alone. They get bored and will be under stress. That often leads to depression. You may try to offer the company of yourself still; they need a companion as a guinea pig.
They should be kept in pairs at the minimum level. You should take appropriate measures to avoid any conflict between them. Even if you are keeping a guinea pig alone, then you should give enough time to it.
Try to keep your busy indoor activities. The guinea pig will not feel lonely and have some interaction with us.
So, it is best to let them settle their own fights. You may need to step in and stop them if things get heated up, but in most cases, they will figure out their role in the cage and settle down their own fights.
How do I stop my guinea pigs from fighting?
To avoid the conflicts between the guinea, one needs to understand the cause of the fight. After that, only you can find a solution to the problem.
The reasons behind the aggressive behavior of the guinea pigs are summarised below:
- Territorial behavior
- Trying to prove dominance
- Change in hormones
- Lack of play and exercise
- Boredom, stress, and depression
- Suffering from diseases
Dealing with territorial behavior
Guinea pigs should not be forced to share the same space unless they are closely bonded. There should be friendly terms between the two guinea pigs. They are very attached to their mate once they create their bond.
Initially, keep both the guinea pigs in two separate cages to develop a bond between themselves. They will slowly get used to each other. They will identify each other with the smell.
Once they have been neutered, you can put both guinea pigs in a new place, which is neutral to both of them. It will be a new space for both of them as none have been to this place before.
Both guinea pigs may behave as a stranger and ignore each other. Ignoring each other is better than any fight between the two.
Observe their activities and bring them back to their home after some time. You should repeat this activity until they start behaving friendly with each other. Look for the following signs of bonding between the two:
- Cuddle together
- They start playing along and sharing toys
Once they start grooming each other, you will believe they are bonded firmly. Even if wires separate guinea pigs, they will sleep near the cage walls.
When to separate guinea pigs
You should be keen to observe any negative signs also. The guinea pigs should be separated if you keep any of the following actions:
- Rumbling and growling
- Chasing and mounting
- Biting or barbering
Guinea pigs once bonded with each other, remain friends for the rest of their life, and remain inseparable. They will stay together in an enclosure.
You should keep them in a new enclosure for both of them. If you keep them in the old home, you may need to start bonding again.
Do not separate the guinea pigs once they are bonded until they fight with each other. If you observe them fighting, you need to separate them so that they do not harm each other.
Spaying/neutering your guinea pigs
Guinea pigs obtain sexual maturity just within 3-5 months of age. That results in hormonal changes and swings in mood also. They are concerned with their personality, among others. So spaying them becomes crucial to control their behavioral differences.
Female guinea pigs are more aggressive and territorial during this period. They are more sensitive to hormonal changes. They will not entertain any unwanted interference in their space.
If there has been mating between the male and female guinea pigs, you may see some changes towards each other.
Even after the mating is complete, the female guinea will be aggressive towards the male guinea pig. The female guinea does not like any disturbance while the babies are being nursed.
Even if a male is neutered, it will be showing hormonal changes. It will try to hump over anything to seek relief from their frustrations.
The guinea pig is incapable of mating, but those hormones will lead to such activities. Guinea pig mounting on others can be an act of dominance also.
Neutered males also show such activities but less compared to those unneutered.
Guinea pigs of the same gender will fight fiercely if they are kept together unneutered. You can keep two guinea pigs of the opposite gender even if they are not spayed as there is no competition between them.
It is recommended to keep guinea pigs in pairs of the opposite sex. They should be spayed even if they are of the opposite sex. If a male guinea pig tries to mount on a female, which is not spayed, the female may become aggressive.
Male guinea pigs try to dominate initially when kept in mixed pairs and even don’t let female guinea pigs have what it needs. But eventually, female guinea pigs learn to control the things when kept in the mixed pairing.
Initially, the spayed female guinea pig will tolerate male guinea pig mount on it. Slowly the male guinea pig will be put back to its place. Here onwards, they start sharing bonds between them and become friends.
Provide a large enough cage
Guinea pigs like to play around, hopping, and jumping. They are curious about everything nearby and want to explore different things.
Keeping your guinea pig in a small cage is only good enough to relax but it will leave him bored and irritated.
Cage area of around 8 square feet is the minimum requirement for the guinea pigs. Your guinea pigs will need an activity area of the size of your bed, at least.
Physical exercise is also vital to keep guinea pigs engaged in some activity and healthy. At least 5-6 hours of exercise is required. Otherwise, it is hard to keep them contained because of their curiosity.
If the guinea pig is not provided with enough space, they may get irritated and start fighting over petty things.
They may put themselves in some trouble if left unattended. Guinea pigs may chew live wire or some other dangerous thing.
Even in your backyard, they are exposed to the dangers of being lost or attacked by other animals. So you need to keep watch on them.
Also read: How big should a guinea pig cage be?
Keeping them stimulated
Guinea pigs need lots of activity to keep them engaged. They quickly get bored. Guinea pigs cannot sit idle unless they are sick.
Lack of activities for stimulation Is a common cause of depression and frustration. Such conditions are responsible for aggression among guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs should have access to plenty of toys. They like to hide around and play. They are curious about anything new they find. For that, you put some cardboard boxes, chew toys, and more in their enclosure.
Wooden toys have double benefits when kept in the cage of guinea pigs. Guinea pigs will enjoy playing with these toys, and chewing them will trim the ever-growing teeth.
Instead of offering guinea pigs food directly on the dish tray, hide them. You can conceal pellets so that they look around for food. They will use their senses to find their food. That will keep them busy in a joyful manner.
Hiding the food around the cage is an even better idea. As feed should comprise most of the food consumed by guinea pigs, this will serve both ways. They will feel extra food items in the hay as treats.
Regular health checkup
Guinea pigs require regular health check-ups. Visit a veterinarian yearly, if possible, more frequently.
The vet examines the health and well being of the guinea pig by checking some vital signs. That is to ensure that your pet is not suffering from any disease. Guinea pig suffering from any illness will show aggressiveness.
You need to visit a vet having the expertise to deal with the guinea pigs. There aren’t many exotic veterinarians for guinea pigs. So you might need to find one.
Check whether there is insurance available to cover the health problems of the guinea pigs. It is worth taking it as the medical expense for the treatment of guinea pigs can burden your pocket.
Also check: List of 200+Vet for your guinea pigs
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Is my guinea pig fighting or playing?
Guinea pigs are often mistaken to be fighting when they are playing. They will bite each other, have petty fights, but all these are the part of their play. They build bonding among themselves.
Nipping is done when a guinea is interested in mating. When you observe a spayed male is nipping or trying to mount on another guinea pig. They do so to dominate on the other instead of approaching for mating. Such acts should be handled carefully.
Guinea pigs themselves usually resolve minor tiffs while playing. Till they do not show aggressiveness, it is considered safe. The following are the casual behavior of guinea pigs:
- Nipping each other but causing any severe damage or drawing blood.
- Mounting on each other with no sharp reactions
- Moving around each other
- Touching nose
- Moving behind each other
Guinea pig following each other is common between the tightly bonded ones. But every time they might not be playing, observe that they are not aggressively chasing each other.
What does it mean when your guinea pigs are chasing each other?
Guinea pigs chasing each other indicate something is wrong between the two. The guinea pigs sharing close bonds can even fall out. A submissive guinea pig following the dominant guinea pig is not the same as chasing.
Chasing will be done with some aggression and intention to harm others.
There may be various reasons when bonded guinea pigs fight with each other. Guinea pig suffering from some disease will show unnatural aggression even towards its mate.
A submissive guinea pig is willing to achieve leadership status. That is a healthy competition. Guinea pigs put under stress can fall out with each other.
When you observe guinea pigs chasing each other, you can distract them by making a loud noise around them. Separate them and keep them in different cages placed near each other.
After separating the guinea pigs, observe their activities. If they continue to fight through the space between the wires, you need to separate them permanently.
Guinea pigs are blessed with sharp memories regarding their enemies. They do not forget the fighting mate, and it is hard to bond against the two guinea pigs. You should try the technique as mentioned earlier once. But, rarely, bonded guinea pigs come together again after a fight.
Guinea pigs are gentle and docile in general. But it is in their instinct to protect their territory from any unwanted member.
Guinea pigs should be allowed to develop the bond before they are kept together, as it is essential for a lifelong friendship. So, do not keep to new guinea pigs in the same enclosure. Apart from it, other fights are usually for their social order.
Sources: Reduction in aggression and dominance status in guinea pigs, Guinea Pigs: Aggression and Dominance, Social confrontation in male guinea pigs, The environment, hormones, and aggressive behavior: a 5-year-study in guinea pigs.