Guinea pigs are social animals that need the company of their own cavy-kind. But bonding piggies has its challenges. Guinea pigs must have companionship and friends, so the pros of bonding far outweigh the potential problems of Guinea pigs not getting on with each other.
Bonding Guinea Pigs can be very easy and also very difficult. It all depends on your Guinea Pigs personality and this can be hard to decide until you start bonding. Sometimes they fall in love at first sight of each other and are inseparable from that moment on, while others hate the thought of being with another piggie.
One thing that you must accept is that not every guinea pig pair will get along and sometimes you have to just admit defeat!
Some Guinea Pigs get on very well as babies, until they reach the teenage years and they just decide one day that they don’t like each other anymore. This is more common in boys than girls and the reason that 2 boys should have a minimum 5ft hutch if not bigger. It only happens in about 20% of cases, but it does happen.
There are many methods of bonding two guinea pigs together, and many experts have their own routine and things that have worked for them in the past. There is no one right way. Here is the way I recommend bonding guinea pigs and it is the method I use.
Step One: Lay down new blankets/fleece in a neutral part of the house or run. Some people like to use the bathroom because there are no other animal odours in there. I use the play run, as it is neutral territory. Everything you use during this introduction phase should be cleaned or new. This is because you do want to use items that one of the guinea pigs has marked as their own already. A neutral, level playing field is key to success.
Step Two: Make sure there are at least two shelters, tubes, 2 piles of hay and a great big plate of fresh veggies in the middle. The reason you want more is that you don’t want them fighting over places to lay, food to eat or water to drink.
Step Three: Place the guinea pigs in the neutral area together. You want to make sure that you have dry fluffy towels nearby to toss over the piggies and break them up should a fight occur. NEVER stick your bare hands between 2 fighting guinea pigs, trust me on this one! A friend once tried to split her fighting piggy up whilst bonding and she still has the scars to prove it.
Step four: Stand back and watch them. Guinea pigs can react in many different ways when meeting someone new for the first time.
It can take a few hours to find out if they are suited.
If it looks like things are going great, try to keep them together but keep a very close eye on them. Don’t leave them unattended at all. If all looks good, separate them at night and put them where they can see each other. two cages side by side are ideal. They may shout (after separation) to each other, this is a very good sign that they want to be back together. The next day put them back together and repeat the process for a couple of days. If all looks like it's going well, just go for it and put them together.
If things don’t go to plan, don’t give up. Place their cages where they can see each other but can’t get to touch one another for 24-48hrs and then try again tomorrow.
In my experience, I have tended to find that it takes about 4 hours of being together to truly determine whether or not the guinea pigs will be a good match or not. I have talked with others who have said that it took 2 or 3 days before they got a match they were happy with. Sometimes it takes a couple of weeks to settle down. Just make sure you keep your eye on them for a few days after bonding, especially after you have returned them to a clean permanent cage. Check them over daily to check for bites on the ears and their back/ rump end.
Finally, here are some other things you should know when bonding piggies:
1. Mounting and rumble strutting are perfectly normal at first. The piggies are trying to figure out which one will be the boss. Now, should they start biting each other and blood is starting to appear, this is a sign that they are not going to be a good fit. If there is a fight where blood is drawn, itis very likely that this match will never work no matter how hard you try and they will never pair together. Guinea pigs have a long memory when it comes to fights.
2. Once they have eaten and fallen asleep, waking up to another guinea pig in the cage with them is one of the determining factors in bonding and the time where you want to have a towel ready for sure. If they get on ok at that point, you’re on your way to a bonded pair.
As a final attempt if all else has failed......
If all else fails and you have tried putting them together on many occasions with little success you could try a bonding bath. Put them in the bath of 1inch of warm water and bath them together. We have found that sometimes they are so scared of the bath, that they cuddle up to each other for support and comradeship. When they get out and are dried, they feel a bond and it’s a step in the right direction.
We find that this works great for when 2 guinea pigs have been separated due to illness and they don't like being back together as a pair again. A Bonding Bath always does the trick in this situation.
Bonding can take a lot of time, so be calm and patient and try not to get worried or stressed about it. I know it's hard and I have a lot of worried owners contact me when they are stressed about it, but the more worried you are, the more worry that the piggies can sense.
Signs to look out for that show that your piggies are bonding nicely.
Sniffing and nudging each other’s behinds is normal and is just their way of saying hello to each other, as is touching noses.
Guinea pigs may make a deep purring sound. This indicates that they are happy, especially if their posture is relaxed.
Grooming behaviour is common, with each grooming the other’s face and fur. They may emit loud happy squeaks and follow their friend around hoping to play.
They should be comfortable eating near each other and be happy to share food, though there may be occasional disagreements. This is normal.
When bonded guinea pigs are in a happy and playful mood they may do something called popcorning. This means that they abruptly jump up into the air like popcorn popping off. If they start Popcorning you have definitely cracked it!!