Male vs. Female Guinea Pigs: Pros and Cons of Each

Perhaps you’re planning your first pair of guinea pigs and trying to decide which gender to choose. Both males and females make great pets, but each gender has its pros and cons.

Having 13 guinea pigs at present, 3 males and 10 females, I’ve spent a lot of time with guinea pigs of both genders. In this article, I’ll take a deep dive into all the aspects of having each gender so you can decide which is the best choice for your family.

Let’s dive right into the pros and cons!

Pros and Cons of Male Guinea Pigs

Male guinea pigs are generally overlooked the most and take longer to adopt out from shelters. While people are often concerned about the smell or aggression of males, these factors do not play as big of a role as you may think.

The difference in smell between the two is minimal, and boars are typically friendlier towards humans due to their boisterous and outgoing personalities. They can make fantastic pets, especially if you adopt a pair that is already bonded and gets along well.

Pros of Male Guinea Pigs

Males Are Often More Confident and Outgoing

As a general rule, males are generally more confident and outgoing due to the testosterone in their system. Males often make very friendly and social pets. This is not to say that females don’t, but it can take them a little extra time to come around compared to males.

This is a pattern I have noticed with my own piggies as well. The males typically are less skittish from the start and seem to take less time to tame and bond with.

Males Are Easier to Handle

To add to the point above, males are often a little easier to handle from the start than females. This improves for both genders when they are handled more regularly and once they begin to trust you more.

However, I always find things like picking up and clipping nails easier with males. Of course, all guinea pigs tend to run when you pick them up, but the most frantic ones in my experience have been females. However, they generally improve immensely once they settle into their new home and get to know the routine.

Male Guinea Pigs Generally Live Longer Than Females

While both genders have their own set of health concerns, females tend to be prone to more serious conditions, especially once they reach 3-4 years old. This includes ovarian, mammary, and uterine cancer and tumors, which of course, don’t affect males.

Of course, a guinea pig’s lifespan is also dependent on other factors like care, diet, exercise, genetics, and general health. But overall, males have a higher chance of living longer than females.

This can sometimes translate into lower vet bills for males as well. While all guinea pigs can get sick, and being financially prepared is crucial, I’ve personally found that males tend to go longer without health problems. Out of my last 3 older males, all of them were healthy and required no vet care until 6 years old. My recent females have had issues with ovarian cysts and a mammary tumor at around 4 to 5 years old.

Cons of Male Guinea Pigs

Males Can Be Harder to Bond With Other Males

While individual compatibility is important for both male and female guinea pigs, males can be more difficult to bond with other guinea pigs. While males are just as social as females, a pairing will only work if the personalities are a good fit together.

Males are more likely to have more confident and dominant personalities, and two outgoing guinea pigs usually clash when paired together. A pairing of a passive male and an outgoing one usually makes a good pair, but passive males can be harder to find.

For this reason, it is also difficult to form groups of bonded males. While groups of 3 or more can work if the personalities match, you’re less likely to find several laidback, passive males that can all get along together.

Bonds May Break When Adolescence Hits

Males do not reach their hormonal peak until adolescence. Thus, this is when problems can arise in bonded pairs. Typically this happens when a baby turns about 6 months old. Hormones are particularly intense for males between 6 months and 1 year old, but they can affect them earlier in some cases.

Pairs bonded as babies (or a baby with an adult) may start fighting when one or both hits adolescence. This seems to come out of the blue when it happens, but you can usually tell compatibility by observing your baby guinea pigs’ personalities early on.

In order to work out, one piggy should be noticeably more shy and reserved than the other. Successful pairs usually have one super outgoing, life of the party type and one introvert who’s happy to follow along. 2 outgoing boys will likely get along when young, but often butt heads when they enter their adolescence and the hormones hit them full force.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter whether your boys are brothers, father/son, or have been together since a young age. If their personalities are not compatible, there’s a good chance their bond will break in adolescence.

Impaction and Boar Cleaning

Okay, so I have to mention this one, but don’t panic right away! Boar cleaning isn’t necessary on a regular basis or for all males. I’ve had a few males and never needed to do a boar cleaning.

Boar cleaning is referred to as the cleaning of the anal sac and grease gland. Some males get a little dirty down there and collect too much grease, hair, etc in their sac and need it cleaned out. Some people do it proactively, but I personally don’t unless there’s an issue.

Another risk with males is impaction. This happens with some seniors as they age. Their anal sac loses muscle and can’t expel waste properly, leading to the poop clumping up in the sac. When this happens, you need to gently expel it for them daily. I’ll be first in line to admit; it’s not fun. But aging is not fun for them either.

I’ve only had this happen with one male, around 6 years old. I’ve had a couple of other 6 year old males who did not have this issue, thankfully. Not all males get impacted in their lives and it generally only happens when they get older. Guinea pigs, like humans, lose muscle as they get older, and it can happen in all different parts of the body.

Males Sometimes Smell More Than Females

Unlike some types of animals, male guinea pigs don’t have a musky odor or any other significant difference in smell from females. However, they have a more active grease gland and like to scent mark more than females. They just cannot resist a perfectly clean cage (sigh).

This is not as gross as it seems though, since the scent is only detectable by other guinea pigs. When guinea pigs are spreading their scent, you may notice a smell initially. However, it fades away after a moment, kind of like a fart.

Additionally, since males are more active in scent marking, they may get slightly smelly or greasy. If you notice this, simply give them a quick bum bath in shallow water to get them smelling fresh and clean again.

Males Require More Space

A single male guinea pig does not require any more space than a single female, but the space requirements increase if you are keeping 2 or more male piggies together.

Males are more likely to fight over a lack of space or resources than females, so it’s important to add a bit of extra wiggle room to maintain a harmonious living arrangement for bonded males. Males usually grow a little bigger than females too, so it never hurts to have a bit more space.

In addition to a more spacious enclosure, it’s a good idea to provide 2 or more of everything in the cage. For example, 2 or more hidey houses, food bowls, water bottles, hay piles, etc.

Pros and Cons of Female Guinea Pigs

Compared to males, female guinea pigs are generally more agreeable and less likely to break their bonds once they are properly introduced. However, they are prone to some health conditions that you should know about prior to bringing home your new furry companions.

Pros of Female Guinea Pigs

Females Get Along Better and Can Be Kept in Large Groups

Female guinea pigs are generally easier to bond than males. You can successfully form a large herd of girls, as long as you continue to introduce passive adults or babies to the group. Pairs or groups of females are much less likely to start a serious fight once they are bonded, so you’ll experience fewer major fallouts compared to males.

However, it’s important to note that not all adult females will get along. They can be just as aggressive as males if they don’t like another guinea pig, so introducing 2 adults can still be tricky regardless of gender.

I know this firsthand as I prefer to rescue adults in need of homes, and I’ve ended up with several pairs of females that cannot be integrated into a bigger group without serious fighting.

However, females generally accept babies quite easily, and they normally adapt to each other’s personalities as the baby grows, unlike males who sometimes change their minds during adolescence.

Female Guinea Pigs Can Pass Small Bladder Stones

Another bonus to female guinea pigs is that they can sometimes pass small bladder stones if they ever develop them. Males unfortunately cannot pass any stones regardless of size and they can only be removed surgically. However, female guinea pigs also may require surgery for stones depending on how large the stone is and where it’s located.

Some guinea pigs are more prone to urinary stones than others, but in most guinea pigs, you can prevent bladder stones by feeding a low-calcium diet and ensuring your guinea pig drinks plenty of water.

Females Are Not as Humpy as Males

Most male guinea pigs are very humpy creatures and frequently take out their angst on their cagemates, stuffed animals, or piles of blankets in their cage. Some can be quite relentless, although it can vary from one individual to another.

Females do not tend to hump nearly as much, although they may occasionally do so when in heat or to sort out their pecking order.

They May Smell Less Than Males

Males do not have a noticeably stronger smell than females, but some people can be sensitive to it. Females also have a less active grease gland and less of an inclination to mark around their cage (although they do like to spread their scent a little as well.)

Some people also claim females are less messy around their cages, but personally, I’ve found that this is more of an individual trait and not tied exclusively to gender. I’ve had some males that keep a nearly spotless cage and actually seek out their litter box to use and females that end up with a messy cage hours after cleaning. I’ve also seen the opposite of course, but it seems more like a 50/50 split between the genders.

Cons of Female Guinea Pigs

Bickering Among the Herd

Adult female guinea pigs can be just as opinionated as many males and don’t necessarily get along with all other females by default. Additionally, a bit of bickering is pretty normal in female pairs. This tends to increase the bigger the group is.

Many people with larger groups of girls will add a neutered male to the herd to settle the dynamics and keep the bickering in check, as the boys tend to intercede in arguments and provide a natural leadership role.

Females Go Into Heat Every Couple of Weeks

To add to the bickering point above, female guinea pigs go into heat regularly. This typically occurs every couple of weeks and lasts for a day or two. When in heat, females often pester and chase their cagemates around, trying to mount them. It can cause quite a ruckus in the group, especially when a more passive herd member goes into heat and offends the dominant pigs.

Each female will come into heat every 2 weeks or so, and depending on how many girls you have it can seem neverending. Guinea pigs do not bleed when in heat, but they often have some temporary behavior changes.

Some guinea pigs are definitely more obnoxious than others when in heat, so it varies significantly from one individual to another. Some females have much more subtle behavior changes when in heat, while others you can tell immediately based on the way they’re acting.

Females Can Be More Timid Than Males

Generally speaking, females tend to be a little more shy and reserved compared to males as they don’t have the added hormones to help boost their ego. Of course, individual personality traits play a much bigger role than gender alone.

For example, my most outgoing guinea pig currently is a female, but my 3 males are all more confident than the majority of my girls.

This doesn’t mean that females make bad pets or are all skittish. However, they generally take a bit more time to bond with people than their male counterparts.

Females Spray Pee

While males can spray pee as well, females can spray further and generally do it more often. Males spray from underneath, and it’s usually targeted at another guinea pig close by.

Females, on the other hand, spray directly behind and they use it like a water gun. Many females won’t hesitate to squirt pee anytime another guinea pig comes close behind them or intrudes on their space.

Females Are Prone to Ovarian Cysts and Tumors

Females unfortunately are often prone to certain female-only conditions like ovarian cysts or tumors, mammary tumors, and uterine cancer. This can be a major downside, as these issues affect many females as they age.

Most of these conditions crop up when the guinea pig is 3-4+ years old. The preferred treatment for most of these is surgery, either a spay or tumor removal, which can be risky and expensive. Ovarian cysts are treatable but often come back if the guinea pig is not spayed.

Females Have a Higher Chance of Developing UTIs

In addition to the above health conditions, females are also more prone to UTIs (urinary tract infections) than males. Personally, I’ve never had an issue with UTIs and I have 10 females at present, so this certainly does not mean your guinea pig will necessarily suffer from this in their lifetime.

Oftentimes, UTIs can be prevented by keeping the cage clean and spot cleaning daily. Providing a litter box with lots of hay and bedding and changing it out regularly can help reduce the cage mess and minimize the risk of bacteria spreading to your piggies.

However, it’s a good idea to know the signs and be prepared in case your guinea pig picks up an infection. Symptoms of UTIs usually include blood in the urine, pain while urinating, lethargy, and a loss of appetite. If they do pick up an infection, they can be cured with a simple course of antibiotics from your veterinarian.

Noise Level

I have this under the female category because that has been my observation after having 7 males and 11 females.

My males have been much less vocal than my females by a long shot. From my experience, males like to purr, rumble strut, and chut quietly to themselves, while females like to exercise their vocal range with loud squealing and wheeks!

However, some people claim their males are quite vocal, so this is definitely more of an individual trait than strictly gender-based.

Which Guinea Pig Gender Should You Pick?

Based on the pros and cons listed above, you may already have a preferred gender in mind. However, if you’re still not sure, I’d urge you to go with your heart and choose the piggies that stand out to you irrespective of gender. Both males and females make great pets, and individual personality really stands out over gender for me, personally.

Males seem to get a bad rap for some reason, but they are often more outgoing and lots of fun to have around. I had exclusively males for years until switching to females because I wanted one big herd versus multiple pairs.

However, many of my girls didn’t get along and I found myself adopting a couple of males again. While I love my girls very much, the boys are just so silly and sweet and make me smile all the time.

Personally, if I were to pick based on gender alone and I only wanted 2 guinea pigs, I would go for a pair of males 6 months to a year old who are already bonded.

Many people like babies, and they are fun, but they tend to be skittish and jumpy for 6+ months. So if you’re happy to skip that stage, a 1 year old pair will be generally much calmer and their bond would be solid.

If I wanted a herd of guinea pigs in the future, I would start with a pair of girls. However, when adding to the group, I would only add in babies to grow with the herd or a very passive adult.

Maybe I have a special talent for picking opinionated girls, but I’ve had little success adopting older girls and bringing them successfully into a group. However, babies have always been well received by the adults and those bonds usually maintain into adulthood, unlike some male pairings.

In Summary

Both male and female guinea pigs have a lot of great qualities and make great companions. It’s important to take into account the pros and cons of each gender and decide which aspects you’re willing to compromise on and which you would rather avoid. This way, you can make the right choice when it comes to choosing the perfect piggies for your home.

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