It’s less of a question of can guinea pigs live alone, and more a question of should they live alone. Guinea pigs and their need for companionship is a little more complicated than just a yes or no answer!
Guinea pigs are herd animals, and in the wild they would live in groups of ten or more. Even domesticated guinea pigs thrive and live happier lives when they have piggy friends to keep them company.
Can guinea pigs live alone happily?
Technically, the answer is yes, guinea pigs can live alone, but they shouldn’t if you’re able to adopt at least a second guinea to keep them company! If you’re adopting guinea pigs when they’re babies, growing up together can create a super strong bond between them, and it can be beneficial to the siblings to continue living together throughout their lives for as long as possible!
Guinea pigs are generally ready to live away from their mothers after about three weeks, but some even recommend that they stay with their mothers until around seven weeks of age. If they’re around other piggies for this long, it will definitely take some time for them to adjust to living alone if you decide to only adopt one pup. There’s actually a law in Switzerland that states that it is prohibited to own only one guinea pig!
Signs your guinea pig is lonely
There are a few behavioral signs that you can look out for to determine whether your guinea pig is feeling the weight of loneliness!
We already know that guinea pigs are quite nervous, anxious animals, but if they’re acting even more skittish or nervous, this can be a sign of restlessness that indicates they’re lonely. Guinea pigs are also quite curious, nosey animals and are generally always very alert about their surroundings. This comes from the fact that they are naturally prey animals and they’re just used to keeping an eye out for predators and any signs of danger.
If this curious, inquisitive nature of theirs isn’t present and they seem uninterested in exploring their cage and running around, this can be a sign of loneliness as well. This goes hand in hand with lethargy as well.
Guinea pigs can also lose their appetite whenever they’re lonely, which can lead to weight loss. This is dangerous not just because we want them to eat, but not getting the vitamins and nutrients they need can lead to their immune system getting weaker. This leads to them being more vulnerable to contracting infections and illnesses, which leads to a whole other slew of health issues.
There’s also a whole set of behaviors that can be associated with restlessness, and these include chewing on their actual cage, attempting to escape (even if they know they can’t), messing with their water bottles, and making sounds to get your attention.
Why should you have more than one guinea pig?
As previously stated, guinea pigs are very social animals that enjoy living together in herds for companionship, and they always thrive when they have friends! Having other piggies around can help avoid them displaying the behaviors we discussed above. After all, our goal is happy and healthy guinea pigs, and the easiest way we can take a step towards that is giving them a companion or two.
Giving your guinea pig the chance to form close, comfortable relationships with their fellow guinea pigs can be super important in their mental health. They’ll learn to love each other and they’ll also take care of each other as well.
You may have heard the phrase “safety in numbers” and guinea pigs would definitely agree with this! Guinea pigs are less anxious when they have friends around because they’re able to depend on each other. Even in the wild, guinea pigs lived in herds and would rely on each other to ensure survival, and even if they’re just living in their cage in your home, the sentiment and instinct is still there.
Having more than one guinea pig around can also ensure that they stay active and busy! Even something as simple as running after one another and stealing food from each other could be considered good physical activity. If a few guinea pigs happen to get the zoomies at the same time, it could be fun exercise for them to run around their enclosures together and fly through tunnels and up ramps together.
You may have heard that some humans tend to have better results and more motivation to work out if they have an exercising partner, and the same could be said for guinea pigs!
Are there special cases where guinea pigs can successfully live alone?
There are a few! For example, it is said that male guinea pigs, or boars, are fine living alone, and have even been described as ‘content.’ While male guinea pigs can be pretty territorial, they still can benefit from having a friend around too. Female guinea pigs enjoy being around other guinea pigs more than their male counterparts.
There are also cases where a pair of guinea pigs is living together and their companion sadly passes away. All guinea pigs handle grief a little differently, just like humans, but in many cases it can still be difficult for them to live alone after this. We have a whole blog post on what to do for both yourself and your guinea pig when their companion passes away, which you can read here.
If you’re unable to adopt another guinea pig to give them a friend, you can help alleviate the feeling of loss for them by giving them more attention and bonding time with you. You can also give them floor time to explore a larger area of your house that you have guinea pig-proofed, similar to the idea of baby-proofing a home.
Make sure there aren’t any nooks and crannies that they can crawl into and get lost in, and make sure you don’t give them access to things like radiators or electrical outlets or wiring of any kind. Keep them active by giving them toys to play with as well! You can read about the best toys to keep guinea pigs stimulated here.
Thinking of getting another guinea pig?
Consider adopting from a general shelter or a guinea pig rescue center! We have a post on why it’s better to adopt guinea pigs if you’d like to learn more!
You can also check out this blog post on how to introduce guinea pigs to each other, which will be vital especially if the piggies happen to be different sexes or different ages! It’s important to properly introduce them so that they can gradually grow accustomed to one another and naturally build a strong bond together.
Remember, when you have more than one guinea pig, it’s important to ensure that they have a sufficient amount of space to run around and stay active. According to the Humane Society, two guinea pigs need a minimum of 10.5 square feet, but the more space the better. For example, GuineaDad’s guinea pigs Ru and Mi currently have his entire living room to explore! You can check out our YouTube Vlogs on how he did that here!
In the end, guinea pigs live the happiest and healthiest lives when they have a friend, so it’s best to give them the companionship they need to thrive!