Experts advise that the best companion for a rabbit is another friendly rabbit and for a guinea pig is another friendly guinea pig. Keeping rabbits and guinea pigs together is not an ideal combination.
In the past, one reason for keeping rabbits and guinea pigs together was the desire to provide companionship for these animals when it was considered unsafe to neuter rabbits. This is no longer the case since rabbits of both sexes and male guinea pigs are now routinely neutered safely. Therefore rabbits may more safely, and far more appropriately, be kept with their own species, and it is not necessary to keep them with guinea pigs instead.
The RSPCA advises against keeping rabbits and guinea pigs together for a number of reasons
- The two species have different needs so keeping them together is not ideal. For example, rabbits and guinea pigs have different dietary needs. Unlike rabbits, guinea pigs cannot synthesise vitamin C and therefore this must be provided adequately within their diet.
- Rabbits can cause injury to guinea pigs, intentionally or unintentionally, by kicking them with their powerful back legs. Rabbits may also bully their guinea pig companion, which can make the guinea pig stressed if he/she cannot get away from the rabbit. Additionally, if the rabbit should attempt to mate the guinea pig, the rabbit is likely to cause injury to the guinea pig’s back and may also injure the guinea pig by biting him/her on the neck, which is part of normal rabbit mating behaviour.
- The bacteria, Bordetella bronchiseptica,is the most common cause of respiratory disease in guinea pigs. Rabbits, as well as cats and dogs, can carry this bacteria which can be passed to guinea pigs and cause disease. Therefore, due to the risk of infection, guinea pigs should not be housed with rabbits, and should be kept away from dogs and cats.
Rabbits behave and communicate in very different ways to guinea pigs, so if kept together they will not understand the other species' behaviour and therefore do not make ideal companions for one another.
What to do if a rabbit and guinea pig are currently kept together
If there is a situation where guinea pigs and rabbits are kept together and get on well, it is best not to separate them as this could cause welfare problems. The following advice should help to ensure the welfare needs of both animals are met:
- The guinea pig(s) must have constant access to safe hiding places that he/she can escape to. These hiding places should have an entrance that is large enough for the guinea pig to enter but which is too small for the rabbit to enter.
- The rabbit and guinea pig will need to be fed different diets, so may need to be fed separately, to ensure they both get the nutrients they need.
- The rabbit should also be neutered as otherwise he/she stress or injure the guinea pig with mounting behaviour or bullying.
Your vet will be able to provide further advice about meeting your animals’ welfare needs.