Can Guinea Pigs Be Alone?

Who’s to say there’s a special piggy for every piggy?

We don’t typically associate our little cavies with rugged individualism. In fact, it’s widely accepted that guinea pigs are happier in pairs. But is that always the case? Should we really be arranging relationships for our piggies with whomever we pick up at the local pet store?

Can guinea pigs be alone? Current evidence suggests that guinea pigs are happier if they have a partner. The Swiss government believed the evidence was sufficient enough to enact legislation, which made owning a single guinea pig illegal. But merely stating single guinea pigs become lonely is far too generalized a statement. I would argue that piggy happiness isn’t a single variable equation. A little research reveals that our furry friends are a little more complex and cunning than we realize.

Herd mentality

Cavies are prey animals, and their primary defense strategy is retreat. Over the thousands of years that they existed in the wild, they developed a lot of escape tactics. One of which was traveling in herds. It appears they realized evading predators was a numbers game, and their odds of survival increased if they could outrun the boar or sow on their left or right.  

This herd mentality is deeply rooted in their genetic code, and the reason we believe they’re happier in pairs. So, while some claim that our piggies just love having a buddy, there’s also reason to suggest “scapegoat” may have been a more appropriate name for our furry little friends. Consider the possibility that your cavy doesn’t like his partner so much as he believes he maybe just a little bit faster.

I’m not suggesting that guinea pigs don’t enjoy company. The evidence that your piggy will feel more secure with a partner seems clear. However, that doesn’t mean that the two will always be tight buddies who love spending time together. Cavy chemistry is relative.

Partnering up 

There are countless situations in which two random piggies could enter each others’ lives, but let’s focus on the two which are most probable. 

The first, you’ve decided to adopt a pair of pups and bring them home as new members of the family. This is the simplest scenario and the one in which a little pre-planning can increase your odds of success. Check out this article if it’s your first time owning a guinea pig.

If this is the path that you decide to take, the big consideration is whether you choose males, females, or a combination. 

Keep in mind that if you opt for the combination, male guinea pigs reach “reproductive age” as early as three months old. Your cute little guy may soon take on a persona that isn’t so endearing… but I digress.

In short, the best chance you have of developing the adorable guinea pig duo that we love to Google is by bringing home a pair of same-sex siblings. 

Typically, major pet stores only carry guinea pigs in a single-sex. In my hometown, the major chain on the south side carries males, while the shop on the north side carries females. A concerted effort to responsible piggy population control.

The second likely scenario is that you may be considering a partner for a single guinea pig you’ve had for a while. Whether you’re considering a partner for your mature pet, or sadly one of your guinea pigs has passed, socializing a new cavy may be a challenge. 

As previously mentioned, these are herd animals, and their desire to establish dominance is a factor to keep in mind. If you attempt to adopt an age appropriate guinea pig, you risk an adversarial relationship that may not resolve itself and could cause them both to become aggressive. 

Here’s an option to provide companionship for a mature guinea pig that’s worth consideration. 

Let’s assume you’re looking for a partner for a 3 year old. Why not purchase two same-sex pups? This may provide companionship for all, the sense of dominance that your elder will most likely desire, and the potential of a long, happy life and partnership for the two pups when your mature pig passes. 

This scenario provides a possible win for all with very little increase in upkeep and expense.

And remember, guinea pigs and hamsters do not pair well at all.

Conclusion

I’ve spent a lot of time watching guinea pigs, and I don’t believe that their happiness is a one variable equation. I do believe that when your pet has the right partner for their stage of life, it adds to their overall happiness. But I certainly wouldn’t write an all encompassing law (sorry Switzerland) to force the issue. Life continuously changes, and unfortunately, we all (pets included) need to roll with the punches.

Just keep in mind that there are numerous variables in the cavy happiness equation. Then consider that the person in your pet’s life most able to manipulate those variables is you. Are you factoring in your pets’ need to graze, explore, play, feel safe, and yes… socialize? Life is all about balance, for humans and piggy alike. 

References

Techly.com Is it Illegal To Own Just One Guinea Pig In Switzerland

Vetstreet.com Guinea Pig Facts That May Surprise You

Petplace.com Understanding Your Guinea Pig