Posted: November 24, 2014, 2:20 p.m. EST
© Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio
Guinea pigs are herd animals, but there are no guarantees that specific individuals will get along.
Q: I have two male guinea pigs that I brought together four months ago. I'm not sure how old they were, but definitely not adult. They have just recently started fighting. It began with the teeth chattering and mounting, and has escalated to all-out war with blood being drawn.
A: Male guinea pigs often react in this manner, even if they are related. Just like in human families there are no guarantees that everyone is going to get along with everyone else, especially siblings; and this is never more true than with guinea pigs. They cannot be pigeonholed and do not conform to any guaranteed formula, even those having the same DNA.
Baby guinea pigs go through three personality changes before they are locked into their adult personality.
1. From 4 weeks to approximately 4 months old, they are babies and usually are not challenging each other or their environment much. They are learning where and what everything is and how they fit into that environment.
2. At 4 months until they are sometimes as old as 8 months, they are challenging that environment and pushing those guinea pigs around them to see what they can get away with. This is the time when they can become annoying to each other — pushing each other, testing each other is what a male will do to establish his dominance in a group even if that group consists of two. This is a hard-wired behavior that can lead to all-out war if the other male does not comply.
What will guinea pigs do to show dominance? Watch for teeth chattering, yawning (to show how big their teeth are to their roommates), purr-rumble-strutting (purring and moving their back end from side to side), head butting and head butting with hair in their mouth (a sure indication that the next head butt will result in a bite).
All’s fair in the dominance game of guinea pigs. A bite of the ear, mouth or hind end can result in a nasty gash requiring weeks of wound care. Also, males will try to mark the other with grease secreted from the gland on their bottom. This can be quite smelly. Any combination of these actions can be enough to drive guinea pigs apart forever.
3. At 8 months or older, guinea pigs will have a set personality. This might be a time to try to pair your guinea pigs again, but there are no guarantees a pairing will work at any point in the relationship unless one guinea pig allows himself to be dominated.
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