We understand that as animal lovers, pet owners would love to have different types of animals in their furry family, but it’s important to be thoughtful and careful in how you introduce them to each other! When it comes to guinea pigs, they’re a prey animal, which means it’s highly likely that you’re going to have to be extra careful about introducing your piggies to your cats and dogs.
Before you decide to have your own zoo, there are some things you should be prepared for! Just like it can be a little daunting meeting new people and making new friends for humans, it’s important that we keep this in mind for our pets as well—especially when it comes to the piggies!
The important thing is to take the whole introduction process very slowly, and very carefully so that all animals get the chance to become more comfortable and be at ease around each other. Through this article, we will introduce the ways in which we as piggy parents can help guinea pigs feel more comfortable in a house where other pets also reside, and how you may be able to introduce your piggy to your other pets.
However, we generally don't recommend introducing your animals face-to-face, because when things go wrong, it's usually ends in your guinea pig being hurt.
Keep your guinea pigs and other pets separated at first
Make sure that the guinea pig cage is set in an area that is off-limits to your other pets, whether that be a cat or dog, or both! Your piggies should be able to have their own designated spot in your home where they will be safe and in control, without your dogs and cats in the vicinity.
Introduce through scents
When you interact with animals, they leave a scent on you that other animals can detect! In this case, it’s a good thing and a great tool for beginning to introduce your dog or cat to the piggies. They can smell each other on you, mixed with your own scent.
When you have positive interactions with guinea pigs while having that either animal’s scent on you, it creates a positive association with the others. This builds a kind of indirect familiarity between them.
You can also allow your guinea pig to interact with things that your dog or cat has used! For example, your dog or cat’s blanket would serve well for this purpose because it helps your piggy become accustomed to the other pets’ scents. To encourage your piggy you can motivate them with some fresh veggies placed underneath or on top of the blanket.
However, it's important that you only carry this step out around 2-4 weeks after your piggy has already settled into their own living area.
Meet through barriers
Once they have interacted with each other’s scents indirectly, you can have them meet through a door or some sort of barrier like it. This is another step that is necessary to reduce how overwhelming it can be to meet each other.
Meeting face to face
Before you attempt this step, you should know that some animals are just not meant to cohabitate and shouldn't meet face-to-face for their own safety. It heavily depends on the other pets and what their personality and behaviors are.
This step should always be done in a supervised and controlled environment, to ensure that you are able to intervene and end the interaction if it were to not go well!
First, the guinea pig should be in their cage and the dog should be on a leash or a harness that you have control of. You can then allow them to sniff and smell each other. If you’ve been gradually introducing their scents to each other, that will help with this part of their introduction. However, if you’re introducing your dog to your piggy and your dog seems to be too excited or enthusiastic, you should try again when they’re calm.
The overexcitement can be a little stressful and scary for your piggy! On the other hand, if your guinea pig already seems scared, try again later. You want to do this while both animals are relaxed and calm!
The process is similar for cats, except you are carrying the cat and allowing visual contact first and studying your cat’s reactions before you initiate any more intimate interactions.
When you get to the point where they are comfortable enough to interact in the same space, you should still have your dog on a leash, and if you can, your cat as well. Have both bigger animals in a relaxed, laying down position that allows for the guinea pig to come and sniff around and investigate to build their confidence up.
Never leave your guinea pig alone with either cats or dogs, no matter how well they seem to get along—supervision is always necessary. Your guinea pig is still a prey animal and your dog or cat can still have those predator instincts as well. It’s important to carefully monitor any interactions that your pets have with each other.
If it doesn’t end up going well, then you may have to accept that your piggies and other pets can never interact safely and comfortably with each other.
We know a person who recently had a bunny couple give birth to about seven baby bunnies. She has a dog that she says is "super friendly and harmless." Although she thought she knew her dog well enough, as soon as the dog got a chance, the hunting instinct kicked in and he killed two of the baby bunnies.
From another person's perspective, it could have easily been predicted because her dog has an active personality, is easily excited and has relatively poor body coordination. However, sometimes we underestimate the instinct that our pets have, and can make some mistakes such as this one. We strongly recommend everyone to be safe than sorry.