Vet Q&A: Can I keep rabbits with guinea pigs?

by PDSA Vets | 19 August #VetQ&As

If you’re thinking of getting rabbits, or have a lonely bunny in need of a friend, you might be wondering what sort of pal they might like. Our vets have pulled together their advice on the perfect buddies for bunnies.

First and foremost, we’d never recommend keeping rabbits and guinea pigs together. They’re both super sociable, but prefer the company of their own species. So if you have rabbits, it’s best to keep them in neutered pairs/small groups, and guinea pigs do best in small neutered groups (one neutered male with a few females is ideal).

In the past, you might have seen pet shops keeping rabbits and guinea pigs in the same enclosure, so finding out that they shouldn’t be kept that way may be a bit of a surprise. But actually, it can make both species really unhappy if they’re kept together.

There are a few reasons you shouldn’t keep guinea pigs and rabbits together:

  • Communication. Rabbits and guinea pigs have very different ways of communicating, which means they don’t understand each other when they’re put together. This can often lead to conflict and even cause fights between them. You can learn about bunny body language in our free guide.
  • Size. Generally, rabbits are a lot bigger than guinea pigs. This can often mean guinea pigs are intimidated by them, and a rabbit kept with a guinea pig could end up bullying them. They can also hurt guinea pigs if they do try to play or fight with them.
  • Food. Although some aspects of their diet are similar, rabbits and guinea pigs do eat different food (and in different amounts). It’s much easier to make sure they’re getting all the nutrients and food they need if they’re kept with their own species. Find out what to feed your rabbits.
  • Illness. There is a certain type of bacteria that can cause serious respiratory illness in guinea pigs that’s harmless to rabbits. The problem? Rabbits can carry this bacteria and spread it to guinea pigs if they’re kept together.

Rabbits and guinea pigs also need different amounts of space and generally have different needs, so it’s best to stick to the same species!

 

So how can I give my rabbit the company they need?

Now that we know guinea pigs aren’t suitable playmates for rabbits, you might be wondering who is. Well, other rabbits! We’d always advise keeping your rabbits in neutered pairs. They love spending time together and need the company of another rabbit or a small group of neutered rabbits.

If you’re thinking of getting rabbits, get at least two. If you get a male and female, it’s really important to get them neutered before they start sharing a home together – the phrase ‘breed like rabbits’ didn’t come out of nowhere!

If you currently have one rabbit and want to get them a friend, or want to bring a new bunny into your group, remember to make sure you have enough space for them (at least 3m x 2m x 1m for two rabbits). You’ll also need to introduce them slowly and carefully – read our full guide on introducing bunnies safely.

 

Why can’t I keep my rabbit on their own?

Just like us, rabbits can get lonely. In the wild, rabbits live in groups – it offers safety and companionship and just generally helps them to be really happy. Our domestic rabbits still have those instincts to live with their own kind.

As much as we’d like to be enough to keep our bunnies happy, sadly we’re not. Kept alone, rabbits can get really sad and depressed. A depressed bunny may stop looking after themselves which could lead to all sorts of health problems.

Having at least one (neutered) rabbit friend will do wonders for your lonely rabbit’s mental health. If you currently have a solo bunny, we’d recommend getting them a friend (remember to follow our guide above to slowly introduce them to each other).

If you are going to get your bunny a friend, or are looking to get rabbits, check out our guide on where to get rabbits from.


Want to know more about rabbits? We’re currently celebrating Rabbit Awareness Week (RAW) and sharing as much information as we can on caring for bunnies! Take a look at our RAW info hub to find out more.

 

PDSA Vets photo
About PDSA Vets
We've put together advice from our veterinary team across PDSA.
Share this article on:  PDSA Vets | 19 August

PDSAblog

Pet care tips, news, supporter stories and vet Q&As