Ironically, pets too require companionship from their kind just as much as we do but due to their inability to express themselves, many pet owners don’t realize this often to the detriment of their pets’ health.
When I first got my first guinea pig, I hadn’t done much research on the species and was therefore surprised to see that despite all the cuddles and giggles we shared with my little piggy, she still suffered regular bouts of loneliness and boredom and would sulk for days afterwards.
After consulting my vet, I learned that the problem was on my end and things got better when I brought in another piggy.
So, yes, guinea pigs can get lonely if they don’t have a partner from their own species. If you have one guinea pig and you notice them sulking and not wanting to interact with you, it could be a sign that they’re getting lonely and would like to play with another piggy.
See, just like humans, guinea pigs are social animals and thrive better in packs of between 2-5. It is more advisable to keep same-sex pairs to avoid unwanted breeding and the problems that come with it.
Signs of a Lonely Guinea Pig
While some of them may typify illness or discomfort, the following are the most glaring signs of loneliness in guinea pigs:
- Loss of appetite or a reduced interest in food
- Excessive sleep
- Lethargic and seemingly uninterested in playing with you or going outside
- Abnormally aggressive behavior
- Biting and clawing at the cage bars trying to escape
- Tendency to hide in dark corners when let outside the cage
If your guinea pig exhibits these signs, you may want to check in with your vet and get some tests done to rule out diseases. If no illnesses are found, start thinking of finding a perfect piggy partner for your pet to give them the comfort you can’t provide.
How to Keep a Single Guinea Pig Happy?
Despite everything said above, you can still keep your lone guinea pig happy and sated without having to incur the costs of owning an additional pig.
First things first, you need to get them a large cage (at least 1.5 meters all round) as guinea pigs are typically very playful and need lots of floor space.
Inside the cage, always keep an ever-full bowl of water, some food, hidings, and most important of all, a bunch of toys. As said earlier, guinea pigs require constant simulation and toys provide that in plenty when you are not available.
Secondly, get to know your pet and respond accordingly to their reactions and cues. In particular, give them a treat or some affectionate rub when they make a distinctive wheeking sound, which is basically them telling you that they’re lonely.
Third, and most importantly, you need to place the cage either in your living room, or bedroom or whichever room you spend most of your time in. The reason being that guinea pigs are suckers for company and seeing you around takes away the feelings of solitude.
From time to time, take a break from whatever you’re doing and play with them or give them treats to further feed their attention cravings.
Can a Guinea Pig Die of Loneliness?
No, loneliness by itself cannot lead to death. However, when guinea pigs remain alone for too long, they can develop anti-social behavior like unprovoked aggression and may even become depressed and fearful of any contact.
Can a Guinea Pig Live Alone After One Dies?
Depending on how long the two animals have known each other, the surviving guinea pig may either get over things quickly or sink into extreme sadness and possibly depression.
Generally, guinea pigs are hardest hit by the death of companions if they lived together as a pair than when they were part of a larger pack.
If you only had two piggies and one died, the remaining one will probably find it difficult to cope and you may need to get a new pig to help them get over the loss.
The alternative is to assume the role of the dead companion, which means spending extra time playing with the solitary pet and reaffirming them.
Do You Need Two Guinea Pigs?
Despite being social animals, some guinea pigs can live alone for a long time without any issues. Indeed, introversion is as common among guinea pigs as it is in humans and so are personality clashes.
If you notice that your piggy has an inherently aggressive, or withdrawn personality, it is best to keep them alone as introducing another pig would lead to constant fights.
Nonetheless, all factors held constant, it is strongly advisable to keep at least two guinea pigs since you most likely won’t be able to always be at hand to provide all emotional and physical support that a solitary piggy requires.
Keeping two or more guinea pigs together also reduces the need to invest in special toys, which are relatively expensive by the way, as the piggies will keep each other busy and active.
Notably, the best time to introduce your guinea pig to another pig is when they’re both under six weeks old to allow for a gradual and more long lasting bonding. When dealing with adult pigs, slow and sure is the way to do it.
For the first few days, keep them in different cages when you’re not around to minimize potentially violent confrontations.
In essence, guinea pigs are the type of pet better kept in pairs. And while you can keep a single piggy if you want to, it would be a bit selfish on your part as you would get to enjoy their companionship without providing the same to them to a satisfactory level.
In fact, keeping solitary guinea pigs is so debilitating to their well-being that it is banned in Switzerland!
Paired guinea pigs are also more active, happier and healthier and will light up your world in every way. You only need to find the right combination of partners and of course, a bigger cage.