Guinea pigs, or cavies, as they are also called, are adorable rodents that can make great pets for kids, teens, and adults. If you are thinking about getting a guinea pig for yourself or for your children, you might be wondering whether you can keep a single guinea pig, or if you need several guinea pigs.
As a whole, guinea pigs are social animals that live in colonies in the wild. They need at least one other guinea pig to live with in order to be happy. They will stimulate each other, play, and cuddle with each other. Pairs are ok, as well as groups of three or more.
In the following, you will find more information on why guinea pigs cannot be kept alone, and if males, females, or groups of males and females are the best combination to go with.
Is it Ok to Have Only One Guinea Pig?
Guinea pigs cannot be kept alone. No matter, which guinea pig species you go for, they are all social creatures that need at least one companion. Imagine you have to live in a flat on your own and have to stay there for the rest of your life without seeing another human being. Just like us humans, guinea pigs have the desire for social interaction and communication. And no matter how much you spend with your guinea pig, they will still need another guinea pig to live a happy and fulfilled life.
One country, in particular, has even prohibited owning only one guinea pig. In 2008 the Animal Protection Ordnance has made it illegal to keep just one guinea pig in Switzerland because they are highly social animals and need social interaction to be happy.
Everywhere else in the world it is technically legal to have only one guinea pig, the Swiss are right. No social animal should ever be kept in solitude.
How Many Guinea Pigs Should Live Together?
In the wild, guinea pigs live in big colonies with males and females. As pets, they are mostly kept in groups of two or three individuals which is perfectly fine.
As a whole, guinea pigs need to be kept in groups of at least two or three. They would rather enjoy even bigger groups. The best combination for guinea pig colonies would be one neutered male with a bunch of females.
Now that you know that you need at least two or three guinea pigs, it’s time to decide if you want male, female, or a group of males and females together and if they would get along or not.
Many pet owners choose one gender and own two or three guinea pigs of that gender. That decision prevents any unplanned pregnancies and pups.
Can Female Guinea Pigs Live Together?
Female guinea pigs are also known as “sows”. Often females are more open to new cage-mates, therefore it is sometimes easier to introduce females to each other, than males.
As a whole, female guinea pigs can live together without any problem. They tend to be amenable and willing to accept new cage-mates. Females can live in groups of two, three, or more together.
In general, guinea pigs that are siblings are less likely to fight and make great cage companions. For females, this is not as important as for males, because they tend to get along, even if they are not related.
Can Male Guinea Pigs Live Together?
Male guinea pigs are also known as “boars”. In the wild, guinea pigs usually live in groups with only one male and several females, therefore it is unusual to have several males living together.
As a whole, male guinea pigs can live together in a group of two or a maximum of three. More males together tend to fight. Siblings are more likely to get along well.
Pet guinea pigs are domesticated versions of guinea pigs that live in the wild. Owning two or even three male guinea pigs should not be an issue if they are related. But if you detect any ongoing aggressions or even fighting, you might want to separate them.
Can a Group of Both Males and Females Live Together?
The most “natural” combination is a group of one male and several females. Even groups of 10 individuals or more are no problem, as long as the male guinea pig is neutered. Otherwise, you will quickly end up with an entire guinea pig farm. They can reproduce quicker than you might think.
As a whole, a group of males and females can live together. Ideally, the group consists of one neutered (!!) male and several females. Being siblings does not prevent them from reproducing.
Yes, it’s true, baby guinea pigs are super cute. But imagine you own a male and 4 females and the male is not neutered. A female can have up to 8 pups in one litter and can give birth up to 5 times per year.
In the worst case that would make 40 pups for one female in a year, which will add up to 160 pups from 4 females in one year- which by the way will also continue to reproduce. Impressive, right?
Can I Introduce New Guinea Pigs?
Guinea pigs have a life expectancy of 4 to 8 years. If you own two or three guinea pigs, at some point you might end up with a single guinea pig. That requires either an introduction of another guinea pig or giving the guinea pig away to someone else who already owns one.
As a whole, it is possible to introduce new guinea pigs to a group, but the introduction has to be made properly to prevent fighting.
Young guinea pigs get along well with older guinea pigs. You don’t necessarily have to try to get a guinea pig of the same age as yours. Females are generally more open to new cage mates.
If you introduce a guinea pig with a different gender than yours, make sure that one of them is neutered.
- Give the new guinea pig some time to get used to the sounds, smells, and sights before attempting any introduction procedures with your guinea pig(s)
- After a few days, you can set the cages up in a way that they see and smell each other. They can already start to get to know each other, without the risk of fighting.
- The next step is to move the cages close enough so that the cages almost touch. It’s much easier now to sniff through the bars and get to know the new roomie. If you don’t detect any negative reactions, and only curiosity and happy sounds from both sides, you can move on to the next step.
- Choose a neutral location for the first eye-to-eye meeting. You can set up the playpen in an area where your “old” guinea pig has not been before. Prepare the playpen with hideouts, toys, and some food, to keep the guinea pigs occupied. Always stay close when your guinea pigs meet for the first time. 10 to 15 minutes for the first meeting is enough. You might need to interfere if they start fighting in a way that looks like one of them might get hurt. Wear gloves that can protect you from scratches or bites, if you need to interfere.
- When everything went well and the guinea pigs got along well, you can let them play together for a longer period of time.
- The next step is moving in together. They need enough space in the enclosure so that every guinea pig has its own place to hide and rest in.
Lisa is one of the two founders of Animal-Knowledge. She has been very interested in animals and insects from a very young age and has owned different kinds of pets such as snails, ants, fish, turtles, mice, rats, hamsters, rabbits, a dog, … you get the idea 🙂