A good portion of people all know the popular children’s book, No Fighting, No Biting. Like small children and animals alike, Guinea pigs are not ones to be excluded from this fighting and biting behavior.
Guinea pigs, of course, can bite. Their teeth, used for grinding up tough foods like hay, grass, and fibrous veggies, can, by all means, leave a mark on your finger. Guinea pigs are fairly gentle creatures and biting is not a serious issue to consider when getting a guinea pig.
Naturally, when multiple guinea pigs are brought together, there can be small skirmishes to assert dominance over each other. But not all biting and chewing are bad. When kept in groups, some guinea pigs have been known to chew on one another’s hair. Biting or nibbling is a means of communicating for guinea pigs.
Whether it be a signal to announce that one guinea pig is hogging up all the food or won’t share the hiding house, biting is a form of communication.
Guinea pig companions
Guinea pigs live in groups, and having two or more of them gives you the chance to watch and observe the many ways a guinea pig will express itself only when face to face with another guinea pig.
Benefits of adopting a guinea pig companion include:
- Increased movement
- A more varied diet
- Mental stimulation and behavior
As social creatures ourselves, we often feel better or thrive from living together with other people. The same concept works with cavies. A companion allows them to express themselves more naturally than they would with a human.
Guinea pigs will follow each other around their cage, play with new toys, explore new food options, and just keep each other company. A companion will make them feel safer and more at home in their cage. Instinctively, a guinea pig would prefer to have a friend rather than be left in a cage all alone.
Guinea pig pairs
If choosing to have multiple guinea pigs of the opposite sex, it is highly recommended for the two to be spayed or neutered. Breeding your own guinea pigs may sound like a lot of fun, but there are many risks involved with the birthing process and too many guinea pigs is simply a lot of work.
Typically it’s just easier to stick with same-sex pairs or groups. Housing several males and females together lead to competition and fighting over the attention of the females. While 2 males may seem like they’ll get into fights for dominance, as long as it doesn’t turn into a full-on brawl, everything should calm down.
Age has also been noted to help minimize the amount of biting. A younger guinea pig will usually respond less to an older and bigger guinea pig. It is good, however, to analyze the pigs’ personalities individually. The older guinea pig may be more prone to acting chill and laid back. In these circumstances, the younger and feistier guinea pig will sometimes attempt to challenge their dominance.
Most of the time, if the guinea pigs were purchased and raised together at the same time, there is less of a chance for the two to get into a biting match. Getting a cage large enough to support the two, and making sure that they each have their own hiding spots is crucial to having them get along well. Keeping up with their necessities will also reduce the competition over food, water, or hay.
Can guinea pig fights be severe?
In most cases, the guinea pigs are fighting over food or personal space. The occasional nip or two on the ears will be the most intense that it gets. Typical guinea pig fights involve circling each other, shaking, and baring their teeth at one another.
Escalated fights will involve the competing guinea pigs mounting each other and lunging orbiting. Blood can be drawn at this point and as the owner, it is up to you to separate the battling pigs. Just remember to wear thick gloves or have some form of protection for your hands.
For such little animals, guinea pigs can have a nasty bite. If you break the fight early enough there shouldn’t be any serious damage. In a situation where there is a noticeable injury, it is good to visit the vet.
The (Un)perfect pair
Several signals may occur between guinea pigs who feel threatened by the other pig’s presence. Here are a few:
- The males make noises and strut around each other but don’t attack, I wrote a post about all guinea pigs noises that I recorded here in my house, you find also the meaning of each sound visit from here.
- One of them or even both will yawn widely to show off their teeth
- If one cavy headbutts or thumps the other. If there’s hair in one of their mouths, the next movement will be a bite.
At the same time, there can be peaceful actions mistaken for aggressive ones. These behaviors range from:
- Scampering around the cage
- Quiet teeth chattering
Causes for Fighting… and Solutions!
Not enough space?
- Get a larger cage whenever you have more than one guinea pig. You can check my ultimate large cage buyer guide from here.
- In the situation where you can’t find a decent-sized cage, building one yourself is a fairly easy task. Materials can be purchased online and bedding can be found in large quantities at the pet store.
In this video, for example, the owner has a small cage and two guinea pigs:
- Guinea pigs love chewing toys, throw in a couple of tensions start running high.
- Let them go outside of the cage or even better, outside. Guinea pigs feel better being out in the fresh air and playing with their owners.
- An easy fix: throw in some more food whether it be pellets, vegetables, or more hay.
- The majority of fights between guinea pigs tends to be caused by food.
- Separate the two for the night or even up to a couple of days
- Bring them back together slowly and if the fighting continues then something more permanent will need to occur. Keeping the pigs separated in different cages then slowly introducing them back together can help.
Proper cage sizing
The majority of these causes can be prevented simply if there is enough space guaranteed for each guinea pig to have their “me” time and individual access to basic necessities.
The Humane Society recommends the following cage sizes for certain numbers of guinea pigs:
Two Guinea pigs:
- 5 square feet (minimum), but 10.5 square feet is preferred
- About 30″ x 50″ is a good-sized cage
Three Guinea pigs:
- 5 square feet (minimum), but 13 square feet is preferred
- About 30″ x 62″ is a good-sized cage
Four Guinea pigs:
- 13 square feet (minimum) where more is better
- About 30″ x 76″ is a good-sized cage
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