Posted by: kerryannekay | March 14, 2012

Why Only One?

Guinea pigs are social in nature and almost always do better in pairs.  The more pigs, the more they like it.  I’ve read posts from a guinea pig owner describing their group of guinea pigs affectionately as “my herd”.  There is a lot of “my girls” and “my boys” and “my pigs” going around too.  So why then is Alfalfa alone?  Alfalfa has chosen to be alone.  I have made several attempts to pair him with a partner, both male and female.  He did not react well to another guinea pig.

One specific paring attempt illustrates his resistance to a partner very clearly.  I tried to introduce Alfalfa to a female named Juliette.  She was a cute pumpkin colored pig with little spots of white here and there.  She had a quiet demeanor and was very tolerant of everything and everyone.  She was an idea candidate for my super-hyper-rambunctious-high-demanding guinea pig.   If it worked, her mom was willing to let me adopt her because Juliette was lonely.  I wisely agreed to ‘borrow’ Juliette when I was doing a bonding experiences to see how it when before I formally agreed to take her.  Her mom was ok with the arrangement. 

I started off introducing Alfalfa and Juliette on neutral territory.  I placed both in separate fenced in play areas outside with their own igloos.  I would trade pigs after they were comfortable.  Alfalfa would go into Juliette’s play area and Juliette would go into Alfalfa’s play area.  Juliette was excited to smell another pig and ran around smelling and marking spots that Alfalfa had marked.  I would trade the pigs back and they would get a second shot at each other scents.  Alfalfa would freak out.  He would run around like a mad man huffing and chattering.  He would remark all of his spots and loudly protest with sounds of annoyance.  He did not like having another pig around. 

After a dozen mixing experiences, I stated putting the pigs together for some neutral play time.  New hide outs were made out of boxes to ensure no one scent was on anything.  Juliette was excited about the company.  Alfalfa was not.  He would nip and chatter at her.  He would not go near her.  Each time she approached he would huff and chatter in warning.  After several attempts at this, it became clear that Alfalfa was being too aggressive towards Juliette.  I could not turn away from them for a second for fear that Alfalfa would hurt Juliette.

After two months I of ‘borrowing’ poor Juliette, I gave up.  Alfalfa’s behavior towards this guinea pig was not acceptable.  I could not risk leaving them alone.  He was not getting better with each experience.  In fact, he seemed to be getting worse.  My guinea pig was going to be a bachelor for life.  Alfalfa was too aggressive for Juliette.  The whole situation was sad.  It seemed that Juliette loved Alfalfa.  Fait had different plans for these two star-crossed guinea pigs.  Juliette had found her Romeo and his name was Alfalfa. 

Author’s Note:  Please be aware that it is almost always better for guinea pigs to have a partner with them.  This is a very individual thing to each pig.  Some do well with another pig of the same sex while others do well with one of the opposite sex.  Make sure that you treat each pig with the respect and care they deserve.  If you are not sure about bonding your guinea pig with another pig, ask your local exotic vet.  They will have some good advice for you regarding your guinea pig.  Also, if you decide to pair a male and female, make sure you don’t wind up with babies.  Past a certain age, pregnancy can be a death sentence for a guinea pig.  Breeding is not something to be taken lightly.  Finally, if you have questions about guinea pigs, bonding, and breeding you can find some good advice at:  www.mgpr.org  Remember:  “Rescue first, Adopt second, breed NEVER…” 

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Responses

  1. Have you considered asking a rescue to try finding him a companion? Rescues have a lot of experience trying to match up pigs since they end up with their fair share of singles. They also have more potential playmates to choose from so they may be more successful. Perhaps Alfalfa might find another pig of a different age, gender or personality more affable. Either way, it can’t hurt to ask a cavy rescue for their input.

    Also, have you considered giving Alfalfa a companion not to live with, but next to? My pig Revy also has a problem being around other pigs (she resists socialization despite many attempts over the past 6+ months since we adopted her) so instead of forcing her to live with another pig we set up her C&C cage adjacent to the cage that houses my other four girls. This way she can see, smell, and choose to interact with them through the cage bars on her own terms so shes not entirely without the company of her own kind.

    • Hi Calli Piggies! I have asked for help with him. In fact I had my vet take him and try some other pigs with him. He was not able to get him to calm down with other pigs. I’m afraid with Alfalfa’s escape ability that having another pig near by would spell disaster. Also, I think if I took away his freedom to roam, he would get depressed. When we visit my mom’s house, he gets depressed because he has to stay in his cage. I give him a lot of attention and he has a lot of toys. I know that doens’t make up for a bonded pair. The vet has advised me to keep him alone and love him with all I have. That’s what I do. I think that he has bonded with me as his ‘partner’. Thanks for your comment. I look forward to hearing from you again. – KA


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