Guinea pigs are incredibly social animals. This is something really important to understand because guinea pigs are not as happy when they are alone. They have a better quality of life if they are living with two or more guinea pigs.
They interact with each other often, and occasionally some of their playing can look slightly aggressive. This behavior can make it hard to tell if your guinea pigs are playing or fighting.
Light chasing, humping and sniffing each other is considered playing. While any biting, lunging with hostile intent or any action leading to bloodshed is considered actually fighting. It’s at this point you should step in and start to take careful action.
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Guinea Pig Bonding can Seem Like Fighting
Sometimes when your guinea pigs are in the bonding process it can look like they’re trying to fight each other.
That’s because from our point of view it seems like they don’t like each other by the way they’re acting. In reality, this is normal behavior for guinea pigs, but you definitely know the difference.
It can be hard to tell if what your seeing is bonding. So if you want to know if your guinea pigs are bonding correctly and how long it can take check out my post on guinea pig bonding.
Establishing Dominance can Seem Like Fighting
Another behavior that can be mixed up with actual fighting is when guinea pigs try to establish dominance.
This behavior really looks like fighting but just like their bonding process, it’s totally natural.
Because this looks so much like fighting some guinea pig owners can get confused and mess up this natural process by separating them.
If you’re unsure about guinea pig dominance and how long it can last, you can read my post on it so you can be sure you’re not interrupting this natural behavior.
Normal Bonding and Dominance Behavior
During normal introductions for bonding and dominance, you need to understand a social game is being played. This can include:
- Butt sniffing
- Lifting their head high
- Chasing each other
Those examples among other things are commonly known practices among guinea pigs when bonding and when trying to figure out who is the dominant one.
This is natural and not considered actual fighting, and it’s bound to happen when two guinea pigs meet.
If everything goes along well, guinea pigs will live in harmony together. Do not worry if they don’t seem overly friendly with each other, guinea pigs need their own space most of the time. But when they feel like it, they’ll play with each other.
When Your Guinea Pigs are Just Playing
Happy and playful guinea pigs are easy to notice. Remember their social game can also be taken into account as playing or dating.
If guinea pigs are happy with each other they will whistle, purr, among other vocal and body language demonstrations.
If your guinea pigs like each other, they will also engage in other games such as running around the cage or playing with toys among each other.
If your guinea pig is hiding from time to time, do not worry! This isn’t a necessarily bad sign as guinea pigs like to be left alone every once in a while.
The best thing to do in this scenario is to leave the guinea pig alone and assume nothing is wrong.
When Your Guinea Pigs are Actually Fighting
You need to be aware of certain things or consequences to understand whether guinea pigs are fighting or not.
First of all, if there is blood or a serious injury, separate them immediately. This is a direct consequence of fighting behavior. Other fighting behavior can include:
- Bite attacks with intent to harm
- Lunging at another guinea pig at full force
- Loud aggressive teeth chattering
- And full-blown physical fights
These are all signs of incompatibility. If this happens, you need to separate your guinea pigs.
If you catch them in the middle of a fight, you shouldn’t use your bare hands to separate them. It’s best to wear thick gloves so you don’t suffer any bites or scratches.
But don’t forget about the dominance social game that might happen between guinea pigs.
Chasing each other, lifting their head high and butt sniffing isn’t aggressive behavior by itself but in some cases, it can turn overly violent.
You need to let this natural process happen as long as there is no blood or injury. If that happens, separate them, dominance game or not.
Why do Guinea Pigs Fight?
There are multiple reasons as to why guinea pigs fight. Some of them you can control like keeping them in a calm environment to keep stress levels low.
While others are impossible to fix, like if they just aren’t compatible with each other.
The first thing you have to remember, a little fighting (where there are no injuries or blood) is somewhat necessary at first. Guinea pigs need to determine who is the alpha or dominant one.
You also need to understand guinea pigs might engage in needlessly constant violent behavior if they don’t like each other.
Guinea pigs act similarly to humans when it comes to bonding. Guinea pigs rely mostly on personality to see whether they will get along with another guinea pig.
If they don’t like each other, there’s not much you can do about it.
What you can Control
Finally, there are some things you can control to avoid violence between guinea pigs.
Three factors that could lead to violence in an otherwise peaceful environment are:
- Cage size
- Enough food for all of your guinea pigs
- Stress levels
The first is cage size. Guinea pigs need big enough cages to move around and exercise freely, as they are active animals. If the cage is too small, guinea pigs will fight each other.
The second one is food. If there is not enough food for everyone, guinea pigs will violently fight for whatever is left, they won’t share.
The third one and this one is hard to measure, is stress. If they are living in a stressful environment, they will lash out at each other and it’ll be harder to keep your guinea pigs calm.
Guinea pigs need to live in a quiet place, without shouting or loud noises around them.
Although that doesn’t mean you can’t play with them with something like the t.v on in the background, just use your best judgment.
If they have enough food and space to move around, try to check how all the people are acting around the guinea pigs before you decide they do not get along.
What you Should do if Your Guinea Pigs are Fighting
Contrary to popular belief, neutering won’t solve this issue. Even if you decide to take that route and place them in the same cage again, they’ll start fighting again as if nothing happened.
You can try different methods to re-introduce the guinea pigs, depending on the situation.
If two females continue fighting over the dominant position, introducing a neutered male (to avoid any breeding issues) guinea pig might fix the situation.
If you have two grown male guinea pigs being violent to each other, the best thing you can do is introduce another two young guinea pigs to them.
You can have the four of them in the same cage as long as it’s big enough for all of them.
This is the best possible scenario as the four of them will live happier together than living as two pairs in different cages.
There are also a lot of other things that you can do if your guinea pigs are fighting as well that’ll help them live more peacefully together.
Separating Your Guinea Pigs After a Fight
Knowing when to separate your guinea pigs is essential when you start to see constant fighting.
If the fights seem overly violent or you don’t want to get more guinea pigs, you’ll have to separate them.
If you decide to do this, you need to keep one thing in mind. Guinea pigs are social, and even though they were fighting, it’s better to keep the two of them together but in separate cages.
Split Cage Method for Fighting Guinea Pigs
By putting two cages next to each other, your guinea pigs will still be able to interact with each other without any chance of violent confrontation.
Alternatively, you can try the split cage method. This works if you have a large enough cage where you can separate it down the middle with a small wire fencing or mesh.
They won’t be able to physically touch each other so you won’t have to worry about any fighting.
They’ll still be able to see, smell and interact with each other through the wire which will fulfill their need to be social.
Keeping them separated like that means they’ll still be close to each other without any chance of violent fighting. Each one of them is going to have their own room and they won’t be as lonely if they are separated completely.
You Can’t Always Avoid Fighting
If you decide to have two same-sex guinea pigs, your best bet is to introduce them to each other when they are young. Which is when they’re less than six months old.
This will not always ensure a peaceful environment, as they may grow apart when they become mature guinea pigs.
Guinea pig’s social behavior is somewhat complicated. They show the common behavior of animals in nature such as an alpha male, or males fighting over a female.
If you have one male and one female guinea pig, you will usually face no problems with them.
If two females are together, fighting is usually not common. Two males are at the highest risk of fighting, but it’s still unlikely.
Fights between your guinea pigs aren’t too common but when it does happen, it’s serious business. If a fight does happen always check for any injuries.
If the fighting becomes overly violent, it a good idea to speak to your vet for any medical advice so you can be sure your guinea pigs remain healthy.