Are Your Guinea Pigs Fighting Or Playing?

Guinea pigs are adorable, great pets, and they can live for many years; thus, you can indeed enjoy these pets longer compared to most rodents. Guinea pigs vary in personalities as they are so vocal. Thus, it would be easier for you to get emotionally attached by understanding their individual personalities. 

Also, because their behaviors are naturally entertaining, they are fun to play with and are highly recommended to be your kid’s first pet. But be careful because guinea pigs fighting each other may be a sign of aggression, but is it really “aggression”?

Can Guinea Pigs Be Aggressive?

There are times when they behave aggressively towards other guinea pigs, and this might often cause those minor physical injuries. Because of this, it is important to learn more about this behavior.

In this article, we will be talking about guinea pigs’ aggression towards each other, what causes these behaviors, and how to avoid its repeated occurrence. 

Are Your Guinea Pigs Fighting or Playing?

There are times when guinea pigs bond aggressively. From sniffing to actively chasing each other, it can be a sign of missing each other’s company. The bonding process may actually look like they are trying to hurt each other, but that is only from a human’s point of view. 

Their owners won’t really know which of those behaviors are actually hurting them and which of those are tickling them.

The process of establishing dominance would also seem like they’re attacking each other. Establishing territorial instincts are natural for guinea pigs, but it shouldn’t be confused with behaviors that are considered hostile in nature.

As a normal reaction, owners would immediately try to separate them. There are sets of behaviors intended for dominance establishment, rough playing, and pure hostility. So, how can you really tell whether the aggressive behaviors they manifest are part of playing or signs of fighting?

How Can You Tell Whether They’re is Fighting or Playing?

Although guinea pigs are gentle and friendly animals, they often interact with other guinea pigs in a slightly aggressive manner. Their owners might be experiencing some difficulty understanding whether they’re just playing or fighting. Well, here’s the difference.

Guinea Pigs Playing

Playful and happy guinea pigs are always easy to identify because when they are, they purr, whistle, or express plenty of other body language cues or vocals.

If guinea pigs want to play with each other, they engage in physical games such as playing with their toys or actively running around their cage. Guinea pigs also play through humping, sniffing each other’s butts, and light chasing. 

Guinea Pigs Fighting

On the other hand, you’ll know they’re fighting when they engage in full-blown attacks, aggressive and loud teeth chattering, and lunging towards each other at their fullest force.

Guinea pigs fighting may also take the form of biting with aggressive intent or any other actions that cause them to bleed. When this happens, you should take immediate actions to stop them from harming one another.

Also, aside from playing, guinea pigs also have this natural habit of fighting for dominance, and this is completely normal. After posturing, one of the two guinea pigs will usually give up and back down.

They become submissive to the other, and when this happens, this will be the time they already resolved their hierarchy issues. 

So, how to tell when they’re just establishing dominance or fighting?

When your guinea pigs are attacking each other for domination, they will raise hackles, butt-drag in order to leave some scent in a particular area inside the cage, widely open their mouth to show their teeth, and snort.

All of these behavioral manifestations are okay as long as they don’t exaggerate their aggression to the point of severely wounding each other.

Why Do Guinea Pigs Fight?

There are plenty of reasons why your guinea pigs fight. They might have developed excessive stress levels, lack food, lack cage space, or they are just merely establishing dominance.

In comparison, some of them can be controlled by transferring them in an isolated and calm environment (away from other guinea pigs) in order to reduce their stress levels. Then, after several weeks, you may put them back in their cage together with other guinea pigs.

However, some guinea pigs are nearly impossible to correct. It seems like they just don’t go well with another guinea pig. However, you should remember that initial fighting can be normal, especially when they’re still determining who the dominant one is. 

Specifically, guinea pigs establish their dominance or hierarchy for two to three days. This type of activity is part of their nature; that is why they usually fight when they have been alone for a couple of days and later on get introduced to another guinea pig.

There are cases when establishing a hierarchy will take longer than expected. However, as soon as they have successfully identified the dominant one, the behaviors should be normal again. 

When the time they needed to establish dominance has already passed, but they still don’t like each other, then there is nothing you can do about it at all. Thus, if fighting and attacking still continues even after the establishing process, this is when you should be alarmed.

Specifically, if the fighting persists beyond three weeks, then there is a high chance that they or one of them has a personality issue. You must take the necessary actions to isolate one of them.  

Moreover, guinea pigs fight when they get bored. Although people believe this is a strange reason for them to do so, this can be true in most cases. Guinea pigs get bored when they lack exercise. Just like human beings and other animals, their daily activities can affect their mental and overall well-being. 

When there’s not much activity to be busy with, like playing with their toys and running around their cage, they will eventually get bored and randomly attack other guinea pigs. Imagine being stuck all week inside your small room without any gadgets or sources of entertainment. You’d most probably look for ways to divert your frustrations elsewhere.

Another potential reason is they’re not feeling well. They might have been injured some time from the past, and you haven’t cured their wounds yet, causing feelings of discomfort and persisting pain.

Thus, when one guinea pig randomly attacks the other, gently take it out of its cage and check for any signs of illness or injury. Although you can check for some overt signs yourself, it is highly recommended to go see a veterinarian for expert advice. 

Vet clinics offer consultations and conduct careful examinations to provide your guinea pig the care that they need. Also, to prevent your guinea pig from catching illnesses, sanitize their cage every once in a while.

You can change their beddings, wash their food tray, and replace their muddy water into clean one at least once a week. Moreover, you should immediately remove the food right after your guinea pigs eat so that molds wouldn’t develop in their cage’s floor and walls. 

Lastly, male guinea pigs fight over females. When they do, the female will be caught in the middle of the crossfire. So, to avoid this issue, pair your guinea pigs according to sex.

Same-sex guinea pigs, meaning without any opposite sex’s presence, will create a happier and safer environment for both of them. Same-sex animals get along more easily compared to opposite-sex animals. However, this is still not guaranteed because there are other reasons why they clash and fight.

How to Stop Guinea Pigs Fighting

Before you learn what you can do to stop them from harming each other, you need to understand that there are some factors you can control and cannot control. Factors you can control are their stress levels, their cage size, and the amount of food you feed them. Guinea pigs need more space inside their cage to freely move around and exercise. 

They’re actually active pets, so confining them in small spaces will stress them out. Then, they’ll fight. Also, when there’s no enough food for both of them or for every guinea pig inside the cage, they will surely attack each other to fight for what is left. 

Since you already know what factors are under your control, we’ll proceed to the factors you cannot control.

Some guinea pigs just really don’t like each other’s company or presence. Even when you take them to another place for several weeks or months and place them back in their old cage, they still won’t like each other. 

However, you may try solving this problem by re-introducing your guinea pigs, but this only depends on the situation. If two female guinea pigs fight over gaining the dominant position, then try introducing a male guinea pig. Just make sure the male guinea pig is neutered to avoid breeding issues. This can help fix the situation. 

Also, if two adult male guinea pigs fight over gaining the dominant position, then try introducing two younger guinea pigs. You may keep four guinea pigs in one cage as long as the cage is big enough for them to freely move around. This is actually the best possible solution for your guinea pigs to live healthier and happier lives.

The Split Cage Method

If you see them violently attacking each other, don’t separate them with your bare hands. Instead, grab a pair of thick gloves and wear them. This will protect you from receiving any scratches or bites. Then, while wearing a pair of gloves, gently pull them away from each other.

Carry the other one and put them inside another cage that is placed next to the other. In that way, they can still actively interact (verbally) without any violent confrontations.

Also, some cages can be separated in half. If their cage is big and spacious enough, then you can just split it in the middle by using a barrier that can act as their fence. 

Make sure the fence is a kind of material that will still allow them to see each other. It could be mesh or wire fencing. Permitting your guinea pigs to smell each other even without confrontations will familiarize them with each other’s scent, satisfying your guinea pigs’ social needs. 

Entertain Your Guinea Pigs

There are several ways you can entertain your guinea pig to avoid them from randomly attacking the others because of boredom. Because they are brilliant and sociable pets, they get along well with both adults and children.

Thus, instead of confining them all day in their cage, you should allow them to roam inside a specific area in your house to bond with your kids. 

By training your kid not to hurt these adorable pets, they would enjoy the entire time they spent outside their dungeons. This can also exercise their mind and expose them to the sunlight. Like human beings, guinea pigs need fresh air, sunlight, and social interaction to remain fit. 

You may even buy them some DIY toys such as crumpled papers, paper bags for them to hide in, old socks (you may also use this for their bedding), and ping pong or tennis balls.

Another way to entertain them is to tie their favorite treat into a thread and repeatedly drag it back and forth across the floor to challenge them. Finally, catching the treat is an automatic reward for their success.

Why Are My Guinea Pigs Fighting All of A Sudden?

Generally, they fight because sometimes, because it’s natural that they do so. If you only feed them a small amount of food, enough for a single guinea pig, then all other guinea pigs would attack each other to get enough food.

Limiting the number of their basic needs, especially food and water, can elicit an aggressive reaction as means of survival.

Moreover, when you only provide a tiny amount of space for your guinea pigs, such as a small cage for three adult guinea pigs, it can indeed cause trouble. The other guinea pig might step on the other and hurt them. This will stress them out, causing them to act violently towards each other. 

Also, small spaces can hinder them from exercising. Lack of exercise can increase stress levels among all animals, not only in guinea pigs. Thus, make sure to provide more cage space if you plan to add more guinea pigs as pets.  

However, there are times when your guinea pig just attacks the other because they are incorrectly paired. When this happens, you cannot do anything to make them like each other’s company. There will also be times when a guinea pig gets bored; thus, it randomly lunges towards the other. 

While you still can’t apply the different cage method because there’s no extra cage yet, you can temporarily avoid this by keeping them busy.

Give them plenty of toys to chew and bite. Just make sure these toys are safe for your guinea pigs to play with and avoid giving too small toys that they can easily swallow. By providing those loads of toys, there wouldn’t be any competition and tension.

FAQs

Can The Weather Cause Guinea Pigs To Fight?

Although some people think the weather is an odd reason for guinea pigs to develop aggression, it is somehow true. Like human beings, warm weather causes us to become quickly heated during an argument, perhaps due to our ranging hormone levels.

Likewise, guinea pigs’ hormone levels are also affected by the spring or summer heat. Warm temperatures can make them more aggressive and cause them to fight more often than occasionally.

Will Guinea Pigs Kill Each Other?

Guinea pigs fighting can be caused by various reasons. Still, regardless of those reasons, from rough playing to seriously attacking each other, they can unintentionally kill them by inflicting too much pain and causing severe injuries.

The way they fight with each other can be ruthless, and yes, there are times they won’t stop until the other one bleeds or passes out.

Although it is not typical for guinea pigs to kill each other intentionally, when they apply too much physical force in their violent acts or the bigger guinea pig attacks the smaller guinea pig, this can result in death.

How Long Do Guinea Pigs Fight For Dominance?

Guinea pigs usually need 2-3 days to establish their hierarchy completely. However, there are instances when they need more time to establish dominance, and in this case, it would take one to three weeks.

Therefore, when your guinea pigs continue to display violent behavior even after the maximum duration, then it means they would never like each other’s company.

Is It Normal For Guinea Pigs To Fight?

Some aggressive behaviors of guinea pigs are normal, while some aren’t. To determine whether their aggressiveness is typical or not, you should understand their nature first.

Firstly, guinea pigs typically fight when it is their first time seeing each other because they naturally establish dominance.

However, when your guinea pigs already exceeded the time it takes to establish a hierarchy, then this is when you have to intervene. This is because their aggressive behaviors are no longer considered normal.

Will Neutering Stop Guinea Pigs Fighting?

Although it can do a little change in your guinea pigs’ behavior, neutering cannot wholly solve their attitude problem or change how your guinea pigs behave towards their cage mates.

Some people think that their aggressive behaviors are only caused by the strong tension from their sex drives. However, several studies have proven that it still doesn’t entirely improve or alter their behavior.

This does not only apply to guinea pigs but also all animals, but you must remember that neutering is more useless if you aim to reduce tension between male guinea pigs.

Should I Separate My Guinea Pigs If They Are Fighting?

As much as you could separate them, you should. Guinea pigs could injure each other, either intentionally or unintentionally, because their aggressive behaviors involve forceful biting and lunging.

So, suppose you can’t separate them. In that case, there’s a possibility that the other one might get seriously injured or the worse, get killed. You may divide them by placing a barrier inside the cage or transferring the other one into another cage.

Recap

Guinea pigs are very social creatures. They are not the kind of aggressive animals who would bite another one of their kind without a reasonable cause.

So, knowing this, you will understand that when your guinea pigs start to behave unusually and aggressively, there might be something wrong with their health, personality, and how they feel towards their cage mates. 

To assure that your guinea pigs are healthy, take them out of the cage and check for any injuries or illnesses. And because you can’t determine whether your guinea pigs are healthy, it is highly advised to take them to a vet for a thorough examination. Vets can provide a detailed assessment of your guinea pigs’ behavior and physical health. 

They can also give you some useful tips on maintaining your guinea pig’s healthy lifestyle to reduce the possibility of developing unhealthy behaviors that may harm other guinea pigs. Factors such as cage size, food serving, cage hygiene, your guinea pigs’ lifestyle, and stress levels are the things you can control and modify to improve their behaviors. 

On the other hand, factors like their dislike towards other guinea pigs, weather conditions, and establishing dominance are factors that are out of your control. Thus, when these factors occur, you have to separate your guinea pig from other guinea pigs. You can also place a border inside their cage to stop them from hurting each other. 

Most importantly, to avoid false alarms, you should learn how to determine whether they’re fighting or just playing. Guinea pigs playing take place in light chasing, butt-smelling, and humping. On the other hand, guinea pigs’ fighting can take the form of forceful lunging, aggressive biting that can cause the other one to bleed, and full-blown fights.   

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