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Blog

The HayPigs!® blog. All the latest news from HayPigs!® along with lots of fun and informative information about guinea pigs.

Filtering by Tag: Top Tips

How To Bond Guinea Pigs - Top Tips

Helen Cridland

HayPigs_Pepper_Guinea_Pig_026.jpg

HOW TO BOND GUINEA PIGS – TOP TIPS

 Guinea pigs, cavies, piggies, fluffy potatoes, furry mini-hippos, wheek machines, grass guzzlers; whatever you want to call them, there is one thing that we can’t dispute … guinea pigs LOVE company! Not just of the human-kind either, they are social animals that need the company of their own cavy-kind.

So, as a guinea pig slave (or ‘pet parent’ if you prefer) there may inevitably be a time when you are left with a single guinea pig and you need to bond them with a friend/friends. Either that, or you are just addicted to your fluffy potatoes and keep acquiring more piggies to join your herd! Whatever the situation, it is of course important that a new guinea pig gets along with you existing piggy (or piggies!).

Sometimes this bonding process of introducing a new partner or member of the herd can be really easy. Excellent! But other times, well, not everyone sees eye to eye (or whisker to whisker) do they?! Most often, people will have two boys together, or two or more girls together. A neutered male can live with a herd of girls or you can have a boy-girl partnership, as long as one of them is neutered to avoid the obvious breeding implications! Neutering is not a decision to be taken lightly however and should really only be done if absolutely necessary.

It is really important that guinea pigs have companionship, so the pros of bonding far outweigh the potential problems of piggies not getting on with each other. Just be prepared to have another go and persevere if the first piggy-date doesn’t go to plan!

A good rescue centre can help with bonding guinea pigs, so if you have one near to you, that’s a great place to start. They can help and advise you and even arrange and supervise the ‘play dates’. We’ve had the support of our local rescue with any newcomers to the HayPigs!® herd and until recently, we had a really easy time adding to our herd of happy pigs! But with our more recent introductions it has not been so easy. This is perhaps due to the big change in the dynamic of our group in recent months, with three of the herd, including our neutered male, passing away in the space of four months (due to a variety of different issues). This upset and stress does of course have an impact on the piggies who are left and could be a factor in why the recent introductions have been more difficult.

Anyway, regardless of ‘why’, here are just a few tips we have picked up along the way from our (relatively modest!) experiences of bonding so far.

- Space. Lots of it. In this case, bigger really is better! Neutral territory is best (e.g. in a large enclosure on the grass if the weather is good, or on a big ‘floor time’ space) so that existing piggies don’t feel threatened by a newcomer invading ‘their’ space. We’d recommend you start with a separating wall (C&C cage is great for this or a similar cage mesh) so the piggies can see one another and interact without being able to ‘get at’ each other. We tend to keep this in place for the first few meetings and then when you do remove the dividing wall, it is less of a shock meeting!

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- Clean and fresh bedding to keep existing smells and scents to a minimum. Also, a small drop of lavender oil on the back of the guinea pigs’ necks can be calming and also help disguise their scent around other piggies for a period of time.

- Ensure there are plenty of tunnels/huts/hideys so there is not a fight over who gets to use them. Try to allow for the free flow of movement too, so a guinea pig doesn’t become cornered by an over-enthusiastic ‘newbie’! As well as plenty of accessories, we all know guinea pigs love their food, so provide lots of tasty treats to nibble on. There’s nothing quite like some fresh grass or tasty hay and forage to distract - and relax - a guinea pig.

Often, things will go well and you will see signs of friendly behaviour, or maybe some dominance from certain piggies, who want to be in charge. Most of the time this is fine and they will settle into who will be the boss and who isn’t quite so bothered!

However, sometimes there will be a clash of personalities and two piggies will show dominant behaviour … neither will want to give in! Things to look out for: rumble-strutting (waggling their bottom and making a rumbling noise); the ‘who can lift their chin the highest’ game; chattering their teeth; showing their teeth; chasing, nipping or biting. None of these are ideal! Some dominance behaviours will only be mild and if the other guinea pig doesn’t rise to it, things will settle. But if neither want to back down, a full-on fight could ensue. Watch your piggies during introduction sessions and be prepared to break them up if they do start fighting - but ensure your safety too, as guinea pig teeth are very SHARP! Have a towel handy to throw over the top of the guinea pig before you pick them up or remove them from the environment, to hopefully avoid getting bitten in the heat of the moment. You might even want to put some thick gardening gloves on, or use oven gloves.

If things go well in a neutral space, do then ensure to keep an eye on the pair or group that are bonding as they are returned to their usual enclosure, as this may then provoke a territory battle. Try all you can to minimise this (fresh and clean bedding, enough beds/hideys/food to avoid arguments etc.) and of course, the more space your piggies have, the better it will be! The occasional display of mild dominance behaviour or a look that says ‘get off my carrot’ is normal (let’s face it - we all have THOSE days!). If moods do change as you return your piggies to their usual enclosure, keep an eye on them and again, worst case scenario, be prepared to step in and separate them if things turn nasty.

Sometimes bonding can be a gradual thing and you may need to just take it slowly with introductions and then give the piggies some ‘time out’ in-between. Other times, piggies just will not get on with each other and if this is the case, you must of course prioritise their safety and separate them to avoid fighting and injury. But when you get the dynamics right and have a happy herd of piggies all munching away happily together, it really does warm the heart!

Grass Time for Guinea Pigs - Some Top Tips!

Rik Cridland

GRASS - GUINEA PARADISE!

Serious nom nom appeal!

Serious nom nom appeal!

Like many herbivores, guinea pigs love munching on grass! Our HayPigs!® will spend most of the Summer out on the lawn* keeping our grass trimmed. Like hay, grass is great for a guinea pigs digestive system and is also a source of vitamin C as well as many other useful vitamins and minerals. When planning to feed you piggies grass, please consider the following:

- Make sure the grass has not been contaminated by any chemicals or pesticides

- Make sure there is no mould present on the grass and that it looks healthy

- Avoid areas that may have been soiled by other pets or livestock

- Avoid feeding from lawn mower clippings

There are a couple of obvious ways to let your guinea pigs eat grass; bring it to them or find a secure spot to let them eat it straight off the ground. If you plan to collect it yourself (to pop in their run, hutch or cage), please always cut the grass with a pair of scissors and don't just rip it out of the ground. The roots on grass can actually  be harmful to piggies, so please avoid them.

If you are planning to let your guinea pigs forage for their own grass (which they will love by the way!) please bear in mind that they need introducing to grass gradually. To begin with, limit the amount of grass they consume a day or they will very quickly become bloated and may suffer from diarrhoea. Over time, their guts will become more used to the grass and they will be able to eat more. That said, please still provide them plenty of hay throughout the day, regardless of whether you think they've got enough grass to keep them busy munching!

A secure run or cage with a sealed or covered roof is great for outdoor grass time.

A secure run or cage with a sealed or covered roof is great for outdoor grass time.

 

FIVE TOP-TASTIC TIPS FOR GRASS TIME:

TOP TIP 1:

Make sure it is warm enough for your piggies to be outside. Feel the ground temperature with your hand, it shouldn't feel cold. Remember your piggies move around with their bodies very low to the ground, if the floor is cold, they will get cold too.

TOP TIP 2:

Introduce your piggies to Spring grass gradually so their tummies can get used to it. For example, on day 1 they might have 10 minutes out on the lawn, day 2, 30 minutes, day 3, an hour, day 4, 2 hours etc.

TOP TIP 3:

Avoid putting your piggies out on damp grass, this is dangerous for them. Wait until the morning dew has burned off in the sun or rain drops have dried up.

TOP TIP 4:

*Please ensure that your guinea pigs are properly secured when foraging outside. A secure run or cage with a sealed or covered roof is essential to protect them from predators and keep them from running off.

TOP TIP 5:

Provide your piggies with a cover over at least half of their outdoor run. This can be done with a towel or sheet pegged over the top of it. Not only will this provide them with shade from the sun, but it will also make them feel safer from predators and they will therefore be more active.