Is a guinea pig the right pet for you?
Guinea pigs can make wonderful pets, with fantastic individual personalities. They can be amusing and entertaining to watch but need to be given plenty of space and lots of things to do.
You’ll soon get to know your individual guinea pigs and the excited behaviours and sounds they make, like a purring noise when they’re happy. Guinea pigs who’re very used to their owners will sometimes squeal with delight when their owner appears.
They can be nervous animals and will sometimes run away from you, even if they’re used to being picked up. They tolerate being picked up but are unlikely to enjoy it as much as some small pets such as rats or ferrets.
Should I get my guinea pig a friend?
In the wild, guinea pigs live in large groups and even raise their babies together. Our pet guinea pigs are no less sociable and they really need company. They’ll get lonely and stressed if they live on their own.
Guinea pigs might enjoy human company but it’s no substitute for having other guinea pig friends. They have different needs to us and their own ways of communicating – imagine how lonely you’d feel if you lived in a house full of guinea pigs without any people to talk to!
Guinea pigs can happily live in pairs, trios or small groups. It’s ideal to give a home to guinea pigs who have grown up together as they’ll have already bonded and won’t squabble.
You can keep guinea pigs in single sex groups – boys with boys and girls with girls. A group of female guinea pigs who haven’t grown up together might have a few scuffles until they each find their place in the group. If your male guinea pigs are separated for a while, they may find it difficult to bond again.
You can also keep mixed groups. It’s best if they’ve grown up together as introducing a new female to a group of males can cause a few fights. If you’re keeping a mixed group, you’ll need to get your male guinea pigs neutered. Female guinea pigs can get pregnant as young as 3 weeks old and can have up to six babies per litter. That’s a lot of babies for you to find homes for!
Can rabbits and guinea pigs live together?
You might have heard that rabbits and guinea pigs can live together – this is a common myth. They actually make very poor companions for each other. They don’t communicate in the same ways and have different needs. Rabbits are much bigger and can bully guinea pigs if they’re kept together.
Other things to consider
Before you commit to getting guinea pigs read our vets advice on:
- The five welfare needs – make sure you understand the legal responsibility you take on when you own a pet.
- Giving your guinea pigs the ideal home – advice on the type of enclosure they need.
- Guinea pig health – find out how to stop your guinea pig getting bored as well as signs of illness to look out for.
- Your guinea pig’s diet – read about the kind of food your guinea pig should be eating and how to keep them in shape.
- How to hold a guinea pig safely – a guide to how adults and children should hold guinea pigs.