Keeping rabbits and guinea pigs together
A rabbit's best companion is another friendly rabbit. A guinea pig's best companion is another friendly guinea pig. Keeping rabbits and guinea pigs together is not an ideal combination.
Historically, rabbits and guinea pigs were kept together, providing companionship for each other when neutering rabbits was considered unsafe. Now rabbits of both sexes and male guinea pigs are routinely neutered safely. Therefore rabbits may more appropriately, be kept with other rabbits, so it's unnecessary to keep them with guinea pigs.
We advise against keeping rabbits and guinea pigs together as:
- They have different needs (e.g. dietary). Unlike rabbits, guinea pigs cannot synthesise vitamin C which must be provided adequately within their diet.
- Rabbits may injure guinea pigs, intentionally or unintentionally:
-by kicking them with their powerful back legs,
-trying to mate with them (e.g. could injure the guinea pig's back).
- Rabbits may bully guinea pigs, which can make them stressed if they cannot get away. The bacteria, Bordetella bronchiseptica,is the most common cause of respiratory disease in guinea pigs. Rabbits, cats and dogs can carry this bacteria which can pass to guinea pigs and cause disease. Therefore, guinea pigs shouldn't 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 won't understand each other's behaviour and therefore do not make ideal companions.
What if rabbits and guinea pigs currently live together?
If they get on well, it`s best not to separate them as this could cause welfare problems. This advice should help ensure the welfare needs of both are met:
- Guinea pigs must have constant access to safe hiding places to escape to; with an entrance large enough for the guinea pig, but too small for the rabbit to enter.
- They need different diets, so may need feeding separately, to ensure both get the correct nutrients.
- Neuter the rabbit; otherwise they may stress/injure the guinea pig with mounting behaviour/bullying.
Your vet will provide further advice about meeting animals' welfare needs.