Small, cute, furry, pet-able, and fit-able in a shirt pocket, this describes the wonderful creature that is a Guinea Pig. If ever you wanted a small wonderful companion who is smart and can show you love in the cutest of ways, a Guinea Pig has to be it. But is one Guinea Pig okay on its own?
If you desire a Guinea Pig as a pet, you are advised to get more than one. Guinea Pigs are herd animals and are most happy when they are paired or grouped. When separated from their partners, they tend to self-isolate or show grief. In the worst case, they can die out of loneliness without any sign or warning.
Due to the impact loneliness may have on the Guinea Pig, some countries have laws prohibiting the adoption or ownership of a single Guinea Pig. It may seem silly, but the reason behind this law is tackled in this article. Read on to find out more.
Is one Guinea Pig Okay on its own
If you are considering taking up a Guinea pig as a pet you may also need to find out whether a Guinea Pig can be alone? It highly depends on your Guinea Pigs personality, but it is recommended that they live either as a pair or in a group.
They are naturally herding animals, happily thriving in a group or pairs. They can spend a lot of time playing with each other. When left alone, these small rodents can become lonely and dormant. You may decide to adopt one Guinea Pig and dedicate your time and effort to take care, love, and keep your Guinea Pig Company. This is all well and good. However, if your Guinea Pig was socialized in a group, and depending on the kind of personality it has, it may find it hard happily coinciding with you.
You may think you are meeting all its needs but remember, you cannot dedicate all your time and energy to keep the Guinea Pig company and preventing loneliness. Even we humans cannot do that for our fellow friends. To be safe, ensure you get a companion for your little friend.
What is a Guinea Pig?
A Guinea Pig, also known as a Cavy, is a species of rodent belonging to the cavy family. It initially originated in South America among the Incas. They domesticated Guinea Pigs breeding them for pets, food, and for sacrifice to their gods.
The action of breeding led to the development of variations in coat color, patterns, textures, and flavor subtleties; this is according to Sharon Lynn Vanderlip, the author of The Guinea Pig Handbook. As trade increased, the Guinea Pig was transported from South America to Europe by Spanish conquistadors. They became popular pets among the Elizabethan Society and with time, domesticated Guinea Pigs ended up becoming a household name classified as exotic animals.
How does it look like?
For those of you who have never seen a Guinea Pig, a small, tailless, furry rodent weighing between 1.5 and 2.5 pounds. It has a compact cylindrical body that ranges from 8 to 10 inches (Bradford, 2015). Its ears are small and petal-shaped, and its eyes are on the side of its head.
The mouth is small and triangular, with 20 teeth. Similar to other rodents, Guinea Pig teeth continually grow, and to stop this, they must constantly chew or gnaw to keep them from growing too long. These small rodents have an average life span of 6 to 8 years. The male Guinea Pigs are called Boars while the females are sows.
Guinea Pigs, like many other animals, are individuals and can have their own unique personalities. They can be timid, energetic, curious, clingy, introverted, and many more. The kind of personality a Guinea pig ends up having highly depended on how it was socialized when young.
What if my Guinea Pig is an Introvert?
Thinking of a Guinea Pig as an introvert is quite a funny concept, but it does happen. Like humans, Guinea Pigs have their own individual personalities. We are all familiar with introverted people. They do not like interacting with others, prefer staying indoors, and would rather be their own company. Does this mean an introverted Guinea Pig can be alone?
You may find a Guinea pig that has a loner’s or introverted personality, but this does not mean that it will thrive well when left alone. Picture this, if you are English, and adopted by a family of Zebras, you would be happy to have a home that is comfortable, food provided, Zebras playing with you and constant companionship, but that does not mean that your Zebra family understands what you really want.
However, if your Zebra family adopts another human being, then you have someone who you can relate with. You may be an introvert and prefer having a few hours to yourself, but having that person close and accessible is better than having no one.
Similarly, Guinea Pigs with such personalities often just need their space. They may be introverts, but with friends around them and the occasional hiding place where they can sit and enjoy some ‘alone-time’, they are happier.
Can a Guinea Pig live alone if it has been raised alone ?
Well, this depends on your Guinea Pigs Personality. As mentioned earlier, these little creatures are herd animals. You may have a Guinea Pig that shows signs of being a loner but that does not mean it is okay living alone.
However, if your Guinea pig has been raised in a solitary kind of lifestyle, and often gets into fights with its cage mates, regardless of whether they are male or female, then they may have an aggressive personality.
What does this mean? An aggressive Guinea Pig who does not get along or like living with other Guinea Pigs can live alone. It is safer to keep the Guinea Pig alone than to try and force it to stay with other Guinea Pigs. Provided you give them with all that they require, these Guinea Pigs are happy living alone.
Point to Note: Not all aggressive Guinea Pigs are solitary Guinea Pigs.
Male Guinea Pigs are generally territorial with some wanting to display dominance among its cage-mates. Just like other animals, Guinea pigs have a natural process of bonding that is not to be interfered with.
Male Guinea Pigs (Boars) can show aggressive behavior when kept in an enclosure with another male boar. This can be due to the need to show dominance. This is natural and often ends up with one Guinea Pig giving up and accepting defeat. However, if this does not occur, try increasing cage space so that the two boars do not have to fight for resources.
Can a Guinea Pig Die of Loneliness?
Many experts seem to know that Guinea Pigs can die of loneliness. How they tested this is uncertain but we would rather be safe than sorry. Knowing how your Guinea Pig is fairing on and what you can do to stop them from being lonely is important. This is often critical when a person adopts one Guinea Pig and does not want others.
What can I do to ensure my Guinea Pig is not Lonely?
Guinea Pigs are bright little creatures that can be taught a lot of things. They are active throughout the day and sleep during the night making them great pets. If you desire to have a happy Guinea Pig living alone, ensure you meet the following standards:
Dedicate a lot of time to Spend with Your Guinea Pig
To take away the sadness that comes with spending too much time alone, ensure you set aside a considerable amount of time to spend with your Guinea Pig. A solitary Guinea Pig requires extra attention from its owner. Spending at least two hours a day with your Guinea Pig ensures it does not feel lonely or stressed.
Provide them with a Great environment
A Guinea Pig can live alone if the environment it lives in is great. Male Guinea Pigs used to be solitary animals in the world. This was possible because they had enough space to go on ‘adventures’ and ‘check-out’ a variety of locations.
For a Guinea Pig living alone to remain a happy while, consider providing a bigger space for it to move freely. You can set aside a room where the Guinea Pig can run around and play.
In this room, ensure that there are no outlets or materials that could be harmful to the pig if it chewed on it (it is a rodent after all). Also, providing several places where your Guinea Pig can hide, should they feel overwhelmed, can also be a great way to keep your pig happy.
Add interesting toys to the Cage
To keep your Guinea Pig happy, ensure it has all the toys to play with. Unlike hamsters, Guinea Pigs are not typically impressed by a wheel alone, so, it is important to bring in other exciting and entertaining toys that can continually stimulate your Guinea Pigs mind.
For instance, ping-pong balls make for great entertainment as Guinea Pigs love chewing and chasing. Hidey houses can also be a great entertainment plan for your Guinea Pig. Also, add something that they can chew on, but not anything, that can tear thin and be a choking hazard.
Frequently Check for Weight Gain or Loss
Be extra vigilant about checking your Guinea Pigs well-being if it lives alone. One of the fastest ways to check if your Guinea Pig is okay is through its weight. When your Guinea Pig is stressed, lonely, or depressed, this may result in the development of other health problems. Sudden drops in weight are sure ways of detecting that something is wrong with your little pet.
Additionally, grouped or paired Guinea Pigs will often play with one another to keep each other active and healthy. A Guinea Pig living alone may not have this luxury so it may ultimately gain weight. Make sure your Guinea Pig gets enough exercise so that they do not become obese.
Ensure the Habitat Temperature is Suitable
Living in a group setting, Guinea Pigs often huddle together to maintain body temperature during cold seasons. A Guinea pig living alone may not have this luxury, so ensure that its living quarters are warm with a stable temperature of between 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Also, provide warm bedding that the Guinea Pig can crawl to if they feel cold at any point in time.
Look for signs of Stress and Depression
Despite your best efforts, you may find that your Guinea Pig is unable to stand living alone and may suffer emotionally. To ensure that your Pig remains happy and healthy, ensure you are well versed with the signs of stress and depression in a Guinea Pig so that you can act before it is too late.
These signs and symptoms include:
- Fidgeting – In Guinea Pigs, fast rapid movements of the head are typical indicators of stress. When this occurs, the Guinea Pig is feeling stressed and uncomfortable.
- Baring of Teeth – When you approach your Guinea Pig and it bares its teeth, it may also indicate stress and un-comfortability. In Guinea Pigs, the Baring of the teeth is a sign of aggression.
- Non-Energetic – Your Guinea Pig may display signs of being listless and lacking the energy to do anything. It may lose all interest in play, food, and any fun activity. Take this as a warning sign for stress and depression.
- Take them Outside
A Guinea Pig living alone can be easily bored and depressed when caged all day. Just like human beings, a bit of fresh air can quickly change their mood.
Guinea pigs love and enjoy being outside. If you have a garden, feel free to take him out so that he can stroll on the sand and grass.
Do not tie a leash or harness on your Guinea pig, but rather, ensure the garden is fenced in. Keep a close eye on your Guinea Pig as he runs here and there. If you can, take up gardening and do it together with your Guinea Pig. Engage him in certain tasks and spend time together.
Can a Guinea Pig Live Alone After one Dies?
Guinea Pigs can show signs of sadness and depression when they lose a member of their herd or their companion but they cannot live alone as they would be in danger of death as well.
As we have mentioned, Guinea Pigs are very social animals and thrive in pairs or groups. If a Guinea Pig has gotten used to living with another, then certain relationship dynamics have been built over time. It is a familial relationship that is not easily replaced.
Guinea pigs often bond through various exercises, from playing, grooming each other, and communicating. For Guinea Pigs, doing some things for one another is the reason they are so sociable. For instance, the action of self-grooming is such a chore. Guinea Pigs prefer if another companion does it for them. Also, they are very vocal and can be heard chattering away talking to one another.
In the event one of the Guinea Pigs passes on, then the other can sink into depression and die suddenly without any warning whatsoever as it deeply misses their companion.
What can I do to help my Guinea Pig Move on and overcome the loss of a companion?
If your Guinea Pig loses its companion, it will experience grief. The Guinea Pig may slowly sink into depression leading to illness and even death if something is not done.
What Can you do about it? Consider the following steps:
- Consider getting another Guinea Pig – this is the best way to aid your grieving Guinea Pig. The Guinea Pig may feel lonely from time to time, but it will have a new companion who is ready and willing to be their friend.
- Give them Closure – Like any human being, your Guinea Pig needs to have closure regarding where their friend went. Allow them to see the body of their friend and pay their last respects. Once the Guinea Pig moves to another part of the cage, then remove the dead Guinea Pig.
- Pay Extra Attention to your Guinea Pig -if you see any signs of loneliness, depression or stress, sudden weight loss, a drop in appetite, or disinterest in play, this is an indication that there is something wrong with their health.
- Consider moving their cage to a different part of the house – this will allow your Guinea Pig to start afresh.
Remember: if your Guinea pig shows signs of inactivity on the first few days after they have lost their loved one this s not shocking. Every person and animal, in this case, needs time to heal. So give your Guinea Pig a few days and check back. If unsure, consult your vet on what to do.
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