Breeding cavies comes with high expectation of expanding your litter. It is then shocking for a new pet owner to find their beloved guinea pigs eating their little ones.
Although it rarely happens with domesticated piggies, cannibalism is quite common with their counterparts in the wild. Also, it is a common trait with other small mammals like mice, gerbils, rabbits, and hamsters.
Luckily, there are a couple of things that an animal lover can do to bring the habit to a halt. Allow us to delve deeper into the issue and pinpoint effective cannibalism preventive strategies.
Why do Guinea Pigs Eat Their Young?
Though uncommon, inadequate water or food results in baffling cannibalism behavior in guinea pigs. For a healthier life, a guinea pig requires plenty of food each day. The need inflates during pregnancy due to the growing babies in the belly.
Moreover, child birthing is an agonizing activity that calls for healthy and enough meals. If a new mother fails to get enough food, they may resort to munch on their babies for the vital nutrients. Usually, this happens if a guinea pig becomes pregnant several times within a short duration.
It should be noted that there is a higher probability of your pet developing numerous deficiencies because of over breeding. Soon after birth some mother guinea pigs confuse the placenta with the newborn pups and eat them both.
This is a natural tendency that helps sows regain nutrients lost during pregnancy. Likewise, male guinea pigs are some of the most jealous animals on the planet. If they suspect that they did not father the babies, they viciously turn on them.
All things considered, the effective solution to the problem is to reduce malnutrition. Always ensure that your pets have an abundance of nutritious food in the cage. Lack of vitamin C and calcium is one common deficiency with guinea pigs.
To curb it, give plenty of hay, and fresh fruits and vegetables on regular basis. Other causes of cannibalism include territorial behavior and getting rid of a stillbirth or weak babies not likely to survive.
Do Guinea Pigs Eat Their Babies if You Touch Them?
Apart from creating a bonding relationship with your little cubs, touching saves them from cannibalism. If you have a thriving relationship with the mother, your smell on their babies may be soothing and comforting to the mother.
As a result, it may trigger some maternal instincts. There is a lot of misconception around this theory. While some pet owners swear by it, others presume it is a myth.
All in all, there is no major problem in handling your newborn pups a few weeks after birth. However, ensure that you give them enough time to bond with their mother.
Bear in mind that some guinea pigs maternal instincts kick-off after birth. So, if you disrupt the bonding period, the mother may reject or refuse to feed them.
When lifting a new pup, approach them from the front to avoid scaring them. Before you create a trusting relationship with the pups avoid moving too fast when carrying them.
Gently place a hand under their stomach, hold them closely and pet them with the other.
Keeping Guinea Pig Babies Safe
This is a journey that starts way before the sow becomes pregnant. Firstly, ensure that the mother is strong enough to carry a pregnancy to term. You can visit a vet to confirm this before mating.
During pregnancy feed them with plenty of vitamin C and energy-giving food. Keep the beddings and cage clean during labor and after you welcome the pups. Note that ammonia causes lungs and other complications to the little guinea pigs.
Monitor the babies’ progress especially within the first 12 hours. Then, start feeding them with shredded lettuce soon after birth. Regularly remove leftovers to prevent contamination.
As they grow up provide them with spacious, comfortable, and safe cages to prevent them from escaping. To prevent attacks from male’s guinea pigs, always keep them in separate cages.
When to Separate Pups from Their Mother?
Before separating the pups from their mother distinguish their sexes first. On that account, males have a slight budge and a visible penis. Given that male guinea pigs impregnate their mothers and sisters, separate them at three weeks old.
Female pups can stick a little bit longer for one or two weeks after you remove the boys. It is not always an easy thing to separate a mother from her children.
Like any other animals, guinea pigs develop an emotional attachment with their little ones. To avoid getting them stressed up, do not remove the pups too soon.
Yet, if you sterilize the male pups, it is safe to keep them with others if the cage allows.
Do Male Guinea Pigs Eat Their Babies
Male guinea pigs exhibit aggressive traits more than females. Due to territorial characteristics or competition fear, it is more likely for boars to attack or eat the little ones.
To avoid this, ensure that the sow and her little ones do not have access to the males. While the pups can meet the father, allow them to bond with the mother around.
Most importantly, do not allow female pups to associate with their fathers or brothers after 21 days old. At this age, they can get impregnated by either.
Additionally, keeping males apart prevents over breeding and allows the sows to recover well after giving birth,
Though guinea pigs eat their babies, it rarely happens if you take preventive measures. The trick lies from feeding them well and separating the pups from the males immediately after birth.
Due to their physical nature, breeding guinea pigs exposes sows to life-threatening conditions. It would break anyone’s heart for the little ones to lose their lives in the hands of their parents or older siblings.
One effective proactive measure is to invest in spacious cages for added comfort during pregnancy. Then, buy several others to separate your boars and sows.
To prevent over breeding, sterilize your pups soon after birth. This approach curbs male clashes during the mating season.