Guinea Pig Bonding!
For all the guinea lovers out there here's a post about bonding your lovely guinea pigs!
As a long time guinea owner myself I have had to twice bond guinea pigs in the past (and I do find this slightly easier than bonding bunnies ..however it will always depend on the individual animals!)
Guinea pigs as you probably know are extremely social animals. You may have found youself with a now single one after the death of one of the pair and are perhaps wondering whether to get another.. I would always say yes if you can. My male guinea Fatman had 2 bonded partners throughout his life and I do think he preferred his second wife Bosshog!
Ideally the best place to start is to contact your local rescue, as most rescues will offer a speed dating service and this was great for me as I was simply able to bring Fatman along and a female (Pickles McWheeky!) was found to be his best match.
So where do you begin?
Obviously the easiest pair if the two don't already know each other is a male/female pair or a female female pair, however you must make sure they are neutured if you are mixing the sexes! Bonded males can work but usually these will already know each other- it's a bit more difficult to match these up later on. If you have a trio or more I would recommend not having more than one male in a larger group to avoid conflict over the ladies!
Ideally start slowly- so initially you could house them seperated by a mesh so they can begin to communicate. This could be having 2 runs next to each other so they can begin to get an idea there's someone else out there!
If this works well you can slowly begin the introductions. Try and do this in a neutral space and make sure there's plenty of hidey things with open ends ie a box but this must be open ended so one doesn't feel cornered. Scatter food and hay around too as this will help as a bit of a distraction!
So how do you know if it's going well?
Relaxed behaviours include-
Spending time together
Sharing rescources ie food and water
You will need to do a few of these sessions before the pair are ready to move in together.
Sounds simple right? While yes some pairings will be super short and easy often it's not that simple and you may see some other behaviours first. In any pairing the guineas will need to work out who is the boss and who's in charge. You can help the pairing along initially by choosing a potential match based on thier personalities. For example my Fatman was quite dominant and chatty- So the rescue recommended we tried Pickles as a partner as she was naturally shy and subsurviant- avoiding them having to decide for themselves who's the boss!
You don't need to seperate at this point if you do see these behaviours which can include
Butt dragging (they are leaving their scent)
Nose face-offs (higher in the air wins, one must lower their nose to be subservient to the other)
Teeth chattering: a little (signal of dominance)
Raised hackles (hair on the back of the neck and along the spine)
Posturing for possible attack
Teeth chattering: sustained (signal of anger, aggression, warning)
Nips, light bites (may result in little tufts of fur in their teeth)
Wide yawn (they are showing their teeth)
Snorting (like a strong puff or hiss)
(Source- Animal Humane Society)
If the behaviour moves to include an attempt to harm ie lunging to bite, raising on haunches or a full on fight you must seperate. Ideally while doing these introductions have a water bottle or towel handy or anything you feel would help if you needed a quick separation. A solid board can be useful for quick physical separations. For my bonding sessions I tend to wear an old dressing gown over my clothes to protect against any bites or scratches and have a spray bottle filled with water handy while clutching a towel! Whatever works for you.
Once the pecking order is decided hopefully you will have a very happy pair of piggies!
But do make sure you give yourself time- you want to make this a stress free experience for your pets too so make sure you are only doing bonding sessions when you have time to observe the behaviour.
Oh and one final thing- Don't house rabbits and guineas together! Bunnies are way too big and strong and can really hurt the guinea.
Please feel free to contact me if you would like any futher advice or support.