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Guinea pig behaviour

Behaviour logo © RSPCA publications and brand 2010

 

Ensure your guinea pig is able to behave normally

 

Brown and white guinea pig looking out of a wooden shelter © iStockphoto

Guinea pigs need: 

  • Access to everything they require at all times (e.g. space, food, water, safe hiding places, companion guinea pig(s), toys).
     
  • Safe toys to play with/chew, and regular opportunities to play with other friendly guinea pigs or people. They’re inquisitive; if bored, without enough to do, they may suffer. Guinea pigs are very social and need to interact with other friendly guinea pigs. Many enjoy interacting with people.
     
  • Constant access to safe hiding places, pipes and shelters, to be alone/hide/escape if they feel afraid. There must be enough places for all to hide simultaneously. Guinea pigs must be able to avoid things that scare them. As they’re a prey species, they must be able to hide in a secure place, away from the sight and smell of predators (e.g. foxes/cats/dogs/ferrets/birds of prey).
     
  • Opportunities to exercise daily to stay fit and healthy. Guinea pigs are active animals, during the day and night and need frequent opportunities to exercise.
     
  • Suitable materials that allow tunnelling behaviour, such as pipes and deep areas of hay.
     
  • You to be observant. If your guinea pigs’ behaviour changes or shows signs of stress/fear, seek advice from a vet or clinical animal behaviourist - they could be distressed, bored, ill or injured. Guinea pig’s behaviour depends on age/personality/past experiences. Guinea pigs that are frightened/in pain may change their behaviour/develop unwanted habits e.g. aggression/hiding. Signs a guinea pig may be suffering from stress/fear can include hiding most of the time, chewing cage bars, over-grooming, altered feeding or toileting habits, over-drinking or playing with the water bottle, sitting hunched, reluctance to move, and repeated circling of their enclosure.
     
  • Kindness! Be quiet and gentle around them. Never shout at or punish guinea pigs, they are very unlikely to understand and can become more nervous/scared. If your guinea pig’s behaviour becomes an ongoing problem, seek expert advice from your vet or a clinical animal behaviourist.