Guinea pigs are social animals that thrive on being with other piggies. However, can guinea pigs live happily alone if they have adequate human attention?
The answer to this is a little in the grey zone. Guinea pigs can live alone for a period of time, but it is dependent on their personality and age. You should never get a baby guinea pig and keep them isolated for their entire lives. However, an adult that loses their companion may be settled and comfortable enough in their home to live independently with enough love and attention from their humans.
I’ve personally had a wide range of guinea pigs of various ages and life stages, many of whom have spent time alone at one point or another. In most cases, they were perfectly fine when they lost a cagemate or had to be alone due to aggression.
However, it’s crucial to know your guinea pig and be able to recognize the signs of depression or loneliness, as all piggies are a little different in how they react to situations.
Why Should Guinea Pigs Live With Others?
Guinea pigs are social animals that live in large herds in the wild. They have evolved over many years to live amongst others and they rely on each other for security and comfort. In some places in the world, like Switzerland, it’s even illegal to own just one guinea pig due to their social nature.
Guinea pigs show much more of their true personality when they are living with others. A single guinea pig is more likely to be timid, hide a lot, or be less active. They tend to be more active and curious in pairs or groups. Guinea pigs love to follow each other around, explore together, and forage together. Some piggies form a close bond and friendship with each other, which is also adorable.
Additionally, keeping multiple guinea pigs decreases stress. Piggies are prey animals by nature and living with others helps them feel safer. Guinea pigs will frequently run to each other and comfort one another when startled by a noise. They also recover from being spooked quicker, as they can investigate the scary thing together.
My Personal Experience With 14 Guinea Pigs
I’ve found from personal experience that guinea pigs do really thrive in groups, even when they aren’t living directly together. I have 14 guinea pigs at present, and there was a definite shift in dynamics once I had about 5-6 living in the same room.
They became much more confident and outgoing, and timid guinea pigs came out of their shell much faster. All my guinea pigs are rescues, so some were pretty skittish when they first came home. However, having so many other guinea pigs around brought out their confidence immensely.
It’s hard for them to run and hide from the human when all the other pigs are wheeking excitedly at the same time! They learn much quicker from others of their kind than from humans, so taming newcomers becomes almost effortless.
Of course, not everyone is going to have more than a dozen guinea pigs! But guinea pigs get many of the same social benefits from living in a pair, just on a smaller scale. It’s especially beneficial to house a timid guinea pig with a more confident companion so they can observe and learn from their buddy.
Will a Single Guinea Pig Be Friendlier to Humans Than a Pair?
A common concern that some people have is that a pair of guinea pigs won’t bond with humans because they have each other. However, this honestly does not have an impact on their relationship with you, as their social interaction with each other is completely different from their bond with humans.
In fact, single guinea pigs are often harder to bond with because they are more likely to be stressed and timid living alone. I have many guinea pigs living together and they all recognize me over other people, wheek excitedly when I come in the room, climb up on the cage bars to greet me, follow me around, do tricks, jump on my lap, etc, so it’s certainly possible to have a great bond with your piggies while their social needs are met!
While human companionship is great, it is very different from the interaction they get from other guinea pigs. We communicate in different ways and can’t speak their language. Additionally, two guinea pigs can provide companionship for each other during times when you can’t be with them, like when you’re sleeping or at school/work.
Should You Adopt a Single Guinea Pig?
It’s possible to get a single guinea pig if you have your heart set on only one, but it takes some compromise. You should never get a baby guinea pig and keep them alone and isolated from other guinea pigs. Babies need social interaction the most at a young age to develop confidence, learn to communicate, and form social skills.
If you must have a single guinea pig, it’s important to find an adult who does not get along well with others. Often this will be a male, but occasionally you’ll find strong-willed females that don’t want to share their space either.
Look for people rehoming their single pigs on Facebook, in classified ads, or find a rescue or shelter. They will generally tell you if the piggy is best alone or if they are seeking a home with other guinea pigs. Finding a guinea pig that doesn’t get along well with others can take a little more time and patience, but they are certainly out there.
What To Do If Your Guinea Pig Doesn’t Get Along With Others
Some guinea pigs (both male and female) can have dominant and bossy personalities that don’t mesh well with other guinea pigs. If this is the case, they may need to live separately from others. However, all guinea pigs benefit from being near other guinea pigs whenever possible.
The best case scenario is to keep them in a cage that is split down the middle so they can still see and talk to other guinea pigs. If they try to bite each other through the bars, you can double up the grids between them so the holes are smaller, like the grids in the following photo. I usually do this by zip-tying some wire grids together.
If your piggies continue to be worked up just by seeing each other and they don’t settle down after a while, you may need to move the cages a bit further apart and separate them completely.
How to Find a Suitable Companion for a Bossy Guinea Pig
You can also try finding a better-matched companion for them if that’s an option. Chances are, there is a guinea pig out there somewhere that is suitable for your piggy, but some can be harder to match than others.
This isn’t an option for everyone, as you may not want to take the risk of ending up with more single guinea pigs if further attempts do not work. However, if you want to give it a shot, there are some things you can try.
The best option is to bond your opinionated adult guinea pig with a baby that grows up to have a fairly passive personality. Adults usually accept babies easily and don’t harm them because they don’t see them as a threat yet.
This method worked perfectly for my female Abyssinian, Poppy. She would attack any other adult guinea pig, even passive ones. However, she felt that a young baby posed no threat, and eventually, the little rascal grew on her and they became friends. 🙂
However, it can be hard to predict a baby’s future personality at an early age, so there’s a chance the bond could break when the little one hits adolescence (especially in the case of males.)
Another option is to reach out to a guinea pig rescue if you have one in your area. Rescues may be able to help you find a suitable match and even help you bond the two piggies, but you may have to be on a waitlist for a while to find the right one. Some rescues also allow you to foster to adopt, giving you the option to return the new piggy if the bonding doesn’t work out.
The final option is to neuter a male and house him with one or more females. Male/female pairs or groups with one male and a few females are usually the most peaceful and successful as they mimic how guinea pigs live in the wild.
If bonding your guinea pig with others isn’t an option, your guinea pig will likely be fine alone. Most dominant piggies that butt heads with others tend to have very confident and outgoing personalities that enjoy human socialization.
I’ve had a couple of independent spirits myself, and they can definitely thrive on human interaction alone. That doesn’t necessarily mean that all guinea pigs will, but the bossy, opinionated piggies usually fall into that category.
However, it’s important to give a single guinea pig extra attention and time to run around so they don’t become lonely or depressed.
Can Guinea Pigs Live Alone When Their Cagemate Dies?
It’s always difficult when one guinea pig passes away and leaves the other alone without a companion. Some guinea pigs adjust better than others when their cagemate passes. If it’s an option for you, many guinea pigs benefit from being bonded with another suitable companion after a couple of weeks. However, if you don’t want to continue the cycle of having piggies, there are a couple of other options.
If your remaining guinea pig is also older and seems to be doing okay alone, it’s fine to keep them and shower them with extra love and attention for the remainder of their life. It’s a good idea to move their cage to a central location in the home if you can, so they are a part of your daily life and routine.
When one of my boys passed away a while back, I started free roaming my remaining piggy in my bedroom so he would get extra attention and exercise. The change in routine and extra attention kept him active and happy for a few months until I found another companion for him.
If your guinea pig shows signs of being lonely or depressed, or if they are still young, you may want to consider rehoming them to someone that has another single piggy in need of a friend.
If you don’t wish to rehome your guinea pig or get a companion, fostering guinea pigs for a rescue can be a great option. Rather than housing them together, you can just keep the cages side by side. Often a lonely guinea pig will perk up just by being near other guinea pigs.
How to Tell If Your Guinea Pig Is Lonely
Guinea pigs sometimes get lonely after the passing of their cagemate, especially if they had a close bond. It’s important to look out for the signs of depression in your piggy, as they can sometimes lead to physical symptoms and illness down the line.
Signs that your guinea pig is lonely:
- Hiding a lot
- Acting more skittish than usual
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- No interest in exploring or running around during floor time
- Spending a lot of time in one spot in the cage
- Chewing excessively on cage bars or other objects in the cage
It’s a good idea to weigh your remaining guinea pig daily for a couple of weeks after their companion passes to check for weight loss, as this is often the first sign of a problem. It’s also important to know your guinea pig’s normal behavior and body language so you can read whether your piggy is happy or sad.
Guinea pigs often bounce back fine from the passing of a cagemate, but if they had a close bond, the remaining piggy can become depressed. While it is rare, it’s possible for guinea pigs to die from loneliness, so it’s a good idea to be vigilant.
Most often, this is caused by the lonely guinea pig refusing to eat or drink, leading to GI stasis where the digestive system shuts down. It’s important to keep an eye on how much your guinea pig is eating and tempt them with their favorite veggies if they start losing their appetite. You can also syringe feed them mushed food like critical care if you are concerned about them not eating or losing weight.
Can Guinea Pigs Be Happy Living Alone?
Some guinea pigs are better suited to living alone than others. Those with an independent and confident nature can often thrive with human companionship alone, especially if they are a central part of your life and daily routine. Of course, it is always best if they can have another guinea pig living with or near them, but many guinea pigs can adapt fine if this is not an option.
To keep a single guinea pig happy and healthy, keep them in an area in your home where they are getting a lot of attention and human interaction. Look out for signs that your guinea pig is happy such as popcorning, wheeking, or making little chutting noises as they explore.
It’s a good idea to let them out for floor time in a guinea-proofed space daily to keep them active and healthy. You can even take them outside to graze on grass and explore – but be sure to supervise closely and keep them in a safe enclosed exercise pen at all times.
Single guinea pigs also thrive on extra human attention. Sit with them, hand-feed them treats, and teach them tricks like running in a circle or jumping over low obstacles.
Guinea pigs do not play in a traditional sense like cats or dogs, but they are very curious and benefit from mental stimulation like running through mazes or tunnels (you can also hide treats inside!), playing with treat balls, exploring cardboard boxes with holes cut out, and foraging for treats in hay piles.
You can also find many more ideas on our guinea pig enrichment page. Keeping a single guinea pig active and giving them interesting activities to engage in is key to helping them live their best life.
Some guinea pigs like to listen to music, so playing some calming music or leaving the radio on while you’re away may also bring comfort to your piggy when they are alone.
When Is It Okay to Have a Single Guinea Pig?
While guinea pigs should be kept with others whenever possible, there are times when they may need to be alone. A guinea pig that is aggressive to other piggies cannot be housed with others, but may still be fine living in a cage side by side.
Additionally, if a bonded pair starts fighting, they need to be separated if there is any blood drawn. If there is excessive bullying going on in a pair that does not settle down over time or starts affecting the health of the bullied piggy, separation may also be necessary.
Guinea pigs that have been kept alone most of their life may lack social skills and are more likely to be aggressive toward other guinea pigs. In cases like these, the offending guinea pig may need to be housed alone.
Additionally, a guinea pig who loses their cagemate can sometimes do okay alone, as long as they are getting enough human attention and not showing signs of loneliness.
Can Female Guinea Pigs Live Alone?
Female guinea pigs are generally more social than males and live in large herds in the wild. However, both male and female guinea pigs are social animals and thrive being near other guinea pigs.
While aggression is more common in males, females can also be bossy or aggressive to their cagemates and may need to be kept alone. While females may be more likely to become depressed when alone, there is typically not a big difference between the genders. Personality often plays a bigger role. Confident and boisterous piggies of any gender usually do better alone than their more timid counterparts.
Can Guinea Pigs Live With Other Animals?
You may be wondering if guinea pigs could get their social companionship from other species of animals. While some people keep guinea pigs with rabbits, this is a dangerous idea as one accidental kick from a rabbit can paralyze a guinea pig.
Additionally, animals like hamsters are solitary and too territorial to live with guinea pigs. Guinea pigs and hamsters are very incompatible in personality and care requirements and would likely lead to aggression.
Any predatory species like ferrets, cats, and dogs are not generally suited for guinea pig playmates either. While some dogs can learn to interact calmly with guinea pigs, they should never be left alone together. Cats are a similar deal. Some cats can interact with guinea pigs with direct supervision, but the two animals have very different styles of communication and don’t have much to gain from a social relationship.
Overall, it’s best to not mix species. Guinea pigs do best with social interaction with another guinea pig or a human if it’s not possible to have a piggy friend.
While guinea pigs can live alone, they generally benefit from living with or near other guinea pigs whenever possible. However, it depends on the situation and your guinea pig’s personality. Some guinea pigs are happier staying in a familiar home with people they know when their cagemate passes versus being rehomed with other guinea pigs.
While they are social animals, some guinea pigs can live happily on their own for a period of time, as long as they receive plenty of love and attention from their favorite humans.