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Guinea Pigs Suddenly Battle For Dominance

Should guinea pigs that are battling for dominance be left to work it out?

By Shannon Cauthen
Posted: November 13, 2010, 5 a.m. EST

Q: I have a trio of boars that I adopted from a friend that have been together since they were babies. They are about 2 1/2 years old now and had always gotten along until recently. Lately, they've been mounting each other and making noises throughout the night, and I don't know what to do. It appears that the largest of them keeps mounting the smallest, and then the medium-sized one gets upset and mounts the largest one, and they continue this battle for dominance almost constantly until they're worn out. I have separated the largest from the other two, and they have all calmed down, but they're almost brothers, and I really don't want to have to separate them permanently unless it becomes necessary. Please help if you can!
A: Some guinea pigs are amazing at how quickly their loyalties can change. Often males will demonstrate this behavior when a change has been made in their environment. They are reestablishing dominance. Unfortunately allowing such a situation to work out does not work.

If the two lesser male guinea pigs let the largest one be the dominant, then things will be fine; but it sounds like separating the largest male has solved the problem.

Even though they have lived together, sickness, an extended stay at the veterinarian’s, even moving or moving to a new family, disturbed the dynamics that the guinea pigs originally had — possibly to the point that they just cannot get along together ever again.

It is said that brothers, father or sons are always pairs that will get along forever, but I have had a threesome of brothers that developed a violent behavior toward each other and subsequently had to live next to each other but separate. I also had father and son guinea pigs that hated each other and had to live separately. I don't know what was said between them but not all human families remain close or together, and so it is with guinea pigs.

Lesser guinea pig family members become stressed out in a dominance battle and may suffer severe injury or be stressed to the point of death. Housing them next to each other but separate is the most humane thing to insure the safety of all.

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Reader Comments
This all makes sense now.

I adopted 3 boars from a family a few weeks ago who had them for 3 years since they were babies (not sure if they are brothers or not). They told me when I got them that they squabble every once in a while, but they would get along fine. Gus, the youngest, considered himself the alpha and would show dominance to the older two, Barley and Carlos.

When I brought them into my home they fought loud enough to keep me awake at night (they stay in my room) so I made them a C&C cage with multiple levels so they had more room to run around and such (their previous cage was too small for guinea pigs their size and age). Most of the fighting lessened the first few days (Gus - and sometimes Carlos - tried to do the mounting thing, which everyone in my family found amusing to watch) and now they have somewhat claimed their own areas of the large 3 leveled cage (Barely likes the "penthouse" as I call it as it is very high up and somewhat isolated from the other levels).

But now if Barely and Gus are on the same level they jump at each other and start fighting, and I think Gus has had some fur ripped off him. Thankfully there is no blood, but if I can't find a way to get them to stop fighting I will set up dividers on the second level so that they still have room to move around yet are separated (I currently have the ramps blocked off but that only gives Barley a little room to move around, despite how lazy and anti-social he is being now).

Weirdly Gus and Carlos are fine a majority of the time (they yawn, chatter, chase each other around, and do the "Purr, Rumble, Strut" routine, but they have done nothing as bad as Gus and Barley), so I will keep them together and have Barley on his own, as he has also tried to fight Carlos who just runs away from him. I won't even try getting another cage mate for Barely so he won't be on his own (I think he likes it that way now) as my parents won't let me get another one.
Natalie, Grand Prairie, TX
Posted: 6/25/2015 8:43:52 PM
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