Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Piggie Girl Friendships
By Joanne Colangelo
Joanne Colangelo volunteers for a number of animal rescue organizations. She shares her experiences and stories of guinea pig interaction.
Photo Courtesy Joanne Colangelo
Guinea pigs Abbie (left) and Annie playing "train" where they follow one another during free time.
It was one of the most heart-wrenching finds of my life when I woke up to total silence one cool November morning. Usually my guinea pigs, Annie and Abbie, would be wheeking with excitement the minute they heard me rise, but this day was eerily different. I knew something was wrong but never expected what I saw.
There in their cage rested Annie; so quiet, so still. She looked at me as if to say, “It’s OK. I’m taking care of her.” Leaning her head gently on Annie’s side was Abbie; her eyes were dull and unfocused. Her body was failing her as she lay dying. Annie didn’t move a muscle, and it was as if I was losing them both. I know that I will never forget that sight, as it simultaneously exuded both the beauty and the sadness of true friendship.
There is no doubt that guinea pigs bond with one another. Annie and Abbie brought one another much joy during their years together, and Annie provided the comfort that Abbie needed as she departed this world. In life they would cuddle and play and although they shared their home with Annie’s baby, Monkee, they were still the closest of friends.
As herd animals, guinea pigs are happiest living with other guinea pigs. Most sows, or females, can easily live together once they establish who rules the roost. In my current female herd of four, the dominating pig clearly is Spicy, and the others accept it without quarrel. Spicy is always the first to eat and claims the coziest spot in the cage. Merri, Macie and Sweetie are calm and easy going and know that they eventually get their share, too. They don’t seem to mind giving Spicy such power.
Guinea pigs are social little beings. When I look at my crew, I can’t imagine them not having one another. In fact, Sweetie was my foster piggie and during the quarantine period, she had to be sequestered to a separate room. She was quiet and frightfully shy. There were no wheeks or whistles coming from her cage no matter how much time and attention my daughter and I gave her. However, Sweetie became a totally different pig when I integrated her with my girls. In fact, she has learned their piggie ways and joyfully follows them as they play or eat together.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. Some sows don’t get along well with other females, but eagerly accept a neutered boar, or male. It’s most important that the boar is indeed neutered to prevent producing a litter. There are also female guinea pigs that prefer living alone. In that case, I would hope that the single female pig is placed in the middle of where the action takes place in the home.
The bottom line is that when it comes to compatible living arrangements, it has everything to do with individual personalities. However, when piggie girls form friendships with other guinea pigs, it’s just so sweet and sure to warm your heart.
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