Can a Guinea Pig Thrive Solo?

Just like shoes and earrings, guinea pigs do better in pairs. In fact, it is so essential for cavies to have a companion that living on their own can negatively impact their health. The case for keeping them in groups is so strong that Switzerland and Sweden have made it illegal to keep a solitary piggy. Sometimes owning a single guinea pig is unavoidable, which leaves owners wondering if it is okay.

It is not okay to just have one guinea pig, but sometimes it is unavoidable. Having only one requires a time commitment of at least two hours every day to prevent the animal from becoming depressed and developing serious health issues. Always try to keep cavies in pairs or small groups.

Keeping a piggy on its own is like a human being stranded in a foreign country without a phone. While some small pets, like hamsters, prefer their own space, cavies are the ultimate social butterflies and crave attention from their own kind.

Can I Keep Just One Guinea Pig?

Pets are expensive, and the sensible thing to do before adopting a new family member is to draw up a budget. Taking on two animals usually means two of everything, including food and vet bills, so savvy pet parents may prefer to keep a single pet.

Guinea pigs may be the exception to the one-pet rule. Cavies are highly social animals, and keeping one on its own is highly likely to cost more in treating anxiety-related issues than keeping two little companion piggies from the start.

A well-cared-for cavy will survive but may not enjoy the same quality of life as a piggy with a companion. In the same way, you are unlikely to see a single sheep grazing contently in isolation, cavies are prey animals, so they feel uneasy and lonely on their own.

Keeping a solitary guinea pig healthy and active requires a considerable commitment from its owner. If you must keep one piggy, there are some things you can do to make it feel less lonely:

  • Devote at least two hours per day to spend interacting with your pet. These little pets usually chatter, eat, and run around with a companion throughout the day, so a solitary piggy needs a lot of one-on-one attention from its owner.
  • Add environmental stimulation. Of course, you can’t spend every moment with your piggy, so making its cage more interesting can help to keep it entertained.
  • Try adding a pet-safe mirror. Although cavy eyesight is notoriously poor at close range, the moving reflection of a piggy each time it passes may be comforting.
  • Include plenty of toys in the cage, and change them around regularly to keep it interested.
  • Use a heated cuddle sack so it feels like a warm companion.
  • Give the pet plenty of time out of its cage each day to explore.

According to Merck Veterinary Manual, solitary guinea pigs are highly susceptible to environmental stressors. These may include small things like a change in feed or moving the cage. When two animals are kept together, they are far more likely to cope with change, so it is always advisable to keep at least two.

If you have a lonely cavy, the best solution is to adopt a companion. Contact local rescues to see if they have a suitable piggy available that can join your pet.

How Can I Tell That My Guinea Pig Is Lonely?

When a guinea pig doesn’t have a companion to communicate, snuggle and play with, they may develop behavioral and health issues. Despite their human owner’s best efforts, some cavies struggle to cope as solitary pets.

Signs that a solitary piggy is lonely can include:

  • Not eating, resulting in weight loss
  • Inactivity, which may lead to obesity.
  • They may become skittish and hide more than usual.
  • Aggressive or unwanted behavior like chewing the cage bars or making excessive noise as it tries to attract attention.

The best way to remedy the situation is to adopt another lonely piggy. Even if they don’t get along as cage mates straight away, placing a divider into a good-sized cage will allow them to interact safely and give them the companionship they crave.

What Should I Do If One Guinea Pig Dies?

Sometimes having only one guinea pig is inevitable, which is often the case when one of a pair crosses the rainbow bridge. While it is sad to lose a pet, owners must act quickly to minimize the psychological and physical effects of loneliness on the remaining piggy.

Losing a cage mate is a huge stressor, so finding another suitable guinea pig companion as soon as possible is advisable. In the meantime, try to spend more time with the remaining animal and provide plenty of environmental enrichment and toys.

Do not change the remaining piggy’s routine, diet, or environment. Although a group of cavies can cope with changes, a solitary animal will become highly stressed.

Can A Guinea Pig Die Of Loneliness?

When a guinea pig is kept on its own, it is more likely to become depressed than an animal with a companion. A depressed piggy may not eat or exercise as much as it should, which will negatively impact its health and can lead to death.

Guinea pigs, like horses, must eat dry grass fodder almost continuously to maintain good gut health. Long breaks or lack of movement can quickly result in conditions like guinea pig bloat, which can be fatal. So while the actual cause of death may not be loneliness, a lonely cavy is far more likely to develop life-threatening conditions than one with a cage buddy.

What Animal Can I Put With A Guinea Pig?

If you have a solitary guinea pig, it may be tempting to find it a small furry companion of another species. No matter how well-meaning, it is never a good idea to team a guinea pig up with anything other than his own breed.

Guinea pigs are highly social animals that communicate with each other in their own specialized piggy-lingo. They have a specific diet and characteristics that are unique to the way that they have evolved.

Adding a rabbit or hamster to a guinea pig cage would be like a human being stuck inside a car with a grumpy raccoon. Just because it’s a similar size does not mean that they will be able to get along. In fact, a highly territorial hamster may very well attack your furry friend, even though it is much smaller.

The only animal that should share a cage with your guinea pig is another cavy. If it is impossible to get another, owners need to spend as much time as possible with their guinea pig.

Conclusion

Cavies should always be kept in pairs or small groups. Although it is not impossible to keep a solitary animal, it will require a large daily time commitment from the owner, and it is not the best option for the animal. As highly social herd animals, guinea pigs enjoy interacting with each other. Keeping two means your piggies will have companionship 24/7 and never feel lonely, even when you aren’t home.