Cannibal Guinea Pigs? Separating Fact from Fiction

If you find that one of your guinea pigs has suddenly vanished without a trace, you may wonder if a cage mate could have eaten it. After all, most pet owners have heard gruesome accounts of hamsters eating their young, and since guinea pigs are also rodents, it is natural to wonder if guinea pigs could eat each other.

Guinea pigs will not eat each other. They are strict herbivores. The exception is when female guinea pigs consume the placenta and any stillborn pups after giving birth. This behavior is to keep predators away. Piggies can inflict serious injuries on one another but are unlikely to eat each other.

Fortunately, your guinea pig cage is unlikely ever to resemble a live game of Pacman. Piggies prefer eating healthy hay and veggies over munching their companions. Although it is not impossible, cavies are unlikely to eat each other. Let’s find out why.

Will Guinea Pigs Eat Each Other?

Although most rodents are omnivores, our gentle guinea pigs are strict herbivores. That means cavies’ digestive systems are adapted to process plant material exclusively, unlike hamsters or rats, which will happily consume other small animals and insects.

It is highly unlikely that adult guinea pigs will eat each other, but that does not mean they won’t fight. Although cavies do best when kept in herds of two or more, introductions and dominance hierarchy dynamics must be carefully monitored.

Sparing piggies can cause severe injuries to one another, and in some cases, fighting can result in death, especially if one is much larger than the other. However, even if one piggy does succumb to injuries inflicted on it by a cage mate, the aggressor is highly unlikely to eat it.

There are accounts of piggies nibbling or chewing on deceased companions, but this is extremely rare. The only time this may occur is when the animals are experiencing extreme deprivation of food or water or are under tremendous stress from factors like overcrowding or noise.

Some piggies may nibble on the faces or around the ears of deceased piggies shortly after passing. This could be interpreted as cannibalism, but a far more likely explanation is that they are confused by their companion’s lack of interaction and trying to rouse it.

Piggies are highly social animals and frequently interact with one another by licking around the face and ears. If one animal becomes unresponsive, the living piggy may continue to groom and interact with the body, which may appear as if it is being eaten.

Do Guinea Pigs Eat Their Babies?

Although rare, female guinea pigs occasionally consume small or weak pups shortly after birth. Theories about this peculiar behavior include:

  • The mother may mistake the pup for part of the placenta.
  • There are predators in the vicinity, and the mother is not able to protect the weak pup.
  • The environment is not conducive to raising pups. If there is a lot of stress or food shortages, the mother may eat the pups in these extreme circumstances.
  • The pup was stillborn, in which case it is likely to be consumed along with the afterbirth.

Although filial cannibalism (the practice of eating their own babies) is more common among hamsters than guinea pigs, it is relatively common in many species. The main causes for this phenomenon are:

  • Stress can include a lack of food, overcrowding, and an unsafe environment.
  • To satisfy energy and nutritional requirements
  • To eliminate a youngster that is sick or small
  • Make themselves more attractive to potential mates.

Do Guinea Pigs Eat The Placenta?

Almost every mammal on earth has evolved to consume the placenta after delivering infants. The exceptions are the camel family, humans, and sea mammals like dolphins. That means that even strict herbivores like horses, sheep, cows, and rhinos may consume the nutrient-rich afterbirth.

New guinea pig mothers fall into the same category, and although they never seek out meat of any sort, they quickly eat the placenta after giving birth. They may also consume stillborn or tiny pups, which can be upsetting, but there is a good reason for this behavior.

Besides being a rich source of valuable nutrients for mammals, consuming the placenta has been shown to strengthen maternal instincts in rats. The mother piggy may also eat any bloodstained bedding to eliminate smells that could attract predators.

If your piggy has given birth, allow the new mother to consume the placenta, but you can help by removing any soiled bedding. This will give her time to bond with the babies and eat healthy and nutritious food rather than cleaning up contaminated bedding.

Are Guinea Pigs Cannibals?

Cannibalism among guinea pigs is extremely rare. Like most creatures, when placed under extreme stress and severe deprivation, piggies may exhibit uncharacteristic behavior, which could include cannibalism.

Severe hunger, thirst, or maternal stress are the most likely causes piggies may turn on one another. Overcrowding leads to extreme competition for available space, and in dire circumstances, some adult cavies may resort to cannibalism to reduce competition for resources.

It is highly unlikely that caring guinea pig owners would ever witness cannibalistic behavior as it only occurs in the most extreme conditions of stress or deprivation. In addition to always ensuring that your piggies have plenty of space and a balanced diet, cannibalism can be prevented by removing male piggies from areas where there are young pups and promptly removing stillborn animals from the cage.

What Happens If You Feed A Guinea Pig Meat?

Since female guinea pigs consume the placenta after giving birth, and adult piggies, in cases of extreme deprivation of stress, may resort to cannibalism, it may sound as though cavies can tolerate some types of meat. This is not the case, and they must never be offered any animal-based protein, including dog pellets, as it can make them sick or even be fatal.

Guinea pigs, like horses, don’t have digestive tracts set up to process meat. They are peaceful prey animals that evolved to live quietly in grazing herds, so offering them meat would cause havoc in their gut.

In most instances, a guinea pig would avoid meat products as they are attracted to high-fiber plant products like hay and vegetables. Since they don’t have the necessary enzymes in their gut to digest meat, consuming it serves no purpose.

Some of the expected outcomes, if a cavy consumes meat products include:

  • Damage to vital organs
  • Upset stomach – Including life-threatening conditions like guinea pig bloat and gastrointestinal stasis.
  • Heart disease and obesity – Meat contains fat and cholesterol that cavies cannot process.
  • Liver disease – The high iron content in meat is too much for small herbivores and can result in liver conditions.

Conclusion

If one of your piggies is missing from the cage, it is much more likely that it escaped, is hiding, or has been taken by a predator than that its cage mates ate it. It is extremely rare for guinea pigs to eat each other. This behavior is almost entirely limited to female piggies consuming stillborn infants along with the placenta to clean up the nest and stave off predators.

Live pups may be in danger in extreme food or water deprivation cases or if the mother feels unsafe. Piggies occasionally nibble or chew deceased companions, but the reason is more likely an attempt to groom or rouse the animal rather than to eat it.