Guinea pigs don’t like change. It can make them frightened and anxious, which makes it a bit tricky making new introductions, whether new hutches/environments or new friends. The key is to take it all nice and slowly.
This page of the Omlet Guinea Pig Guide contains tips and tricks that give you the best chance of making those new introductions go smoothly.
- Be 100% sure of the gender of all guinea pigs you’re introducing
If you’re not sure, ask the vet to check. It’s an unfortunate fact of the pet trade that some genders are incorrectly assigned. You need to know for sure, to prevent being overrun with baby GPs. A female guinea pig who gets pregnant for the first time when she’s passed one year old is at risk, as her hip bones will have fused and he will struggle when giving birth.
- Make separate, temporary enclosures
When introducing new guinea pigs to an existing GP troupe, keep the newbies quarantined for the first few weeks, in case they’ve picked up any health problems in their previous homes. If everything looks good after a week apart, it’s safe to gradually introduce them to the others, starting with just a few minutes at a time and building it up as the next week passes.
Guinea pigs can be nervous and usually need time to get used to new company
- Create neutral, unmarked territory for making introductions Make the initial introductions on neutral ground. Guinea pigs can be territorial, and the exising troupe will have established a sense of territory in the hutch and enclosure already. If they judge the newbies to be invaders on their patch, they may take a stubborn dislike to them.
- Get rid of existing guinea pig odours Wash all the guinea pigs with special guinea pig shampoo, to stop them smelling strongly of their existing group and territory. Wash the guinea pig hutch and equipment too, to minimise scent markings.
- Monitor progress
Once they’re all living together, keep monitoring how they all get along. Be ready to intervene by having a small towel at hand to gently drop over them if they start fighting. This is to prevent them harming each other, or for lashing out at you in the heat of battle!
It can be difficult to judge whether to step in, as a little push and shove is fine. It’s when it tips over to repeated bites and clawings that you need to step in. One of the warning signs is erect hairs on the guinea pigs’ backs – a bit like an angry cat’s – a bout of ‘yawning’ to display the long rodent teeth, and teeth chattering. A single, gentle nip from one guinea pig to another is normal, but if the nip looks aggressive and the victim GP cries out, it’s time to separate the combatants.
Even if there are no obvious warning signs, it’s still best to watch the guinea pigs for a few hours when they’re together for the first time, to make sure no aggression suddenly flares up.
Rub your new guinea pigs with hay and bedding from the guinea pig hutch , and put some fun and interesting toys and treats in the neutral area to keep them amused. These tricks can all help defuse potential confrontations.
Keep a close eye on guinea pigs that have just been introduced
- Install a mesh partition
If, after several unsuccessful attempts at introducing on a neutral ground you have two guinea pigs who just don’t get on – don’t despair. The best thing to do is to put a wire mesh between their different sections of the enclosure. They will then be able to see and talk to each other without physical contact, and over time should come to accept each other as grudging companions.
Most of the time, guinea pig introductions will go well and after a few hours in the neutral zone it's likely that your guinea pigs will be getting along well. Keep distracting them with treats and toys. After a few hours it may be ok to reintroduce your new enlarged herd to their normal enclosure. For the first few days it might be a good idea to have multiple sleeping and eating areas to prevent them from getting too stressed out and invaded, but as long as you carefully monitor them then things are likely progress smoothly and you’ll have a nicely settled group.