Keeping Guinea Pigs and Rabbits Together

bunny and guinea pigImage courtesy of Chris Nystrom
Being as guinea pigs are herd animals it’s always preferable not to keep them on their own. In fact, in certain countries of the world it’s actually illegal to keep a guinea pig on its own.

However, the common practice of keeping a rabbit and a guinea pig together for company is not ideal – for a number of reasons. It’s likely that the habit of keeping the two together came about because there used to be some issues about the safety of neutering rabbits. So rather than keep them on their own, guinea pigs were used as company.

But guinea pigs certainly got the raw end of the deal in this situation, and now that neutering is more common, it’s far better to keep animals with company of their own kind.

As well as that, the following are reasons why rabbits don’t make good housemates for our beloved guinea pigs:

  • Rabbits are far bigger and more powerful than guinea pigs. With their strong back legs, a kick from a rabbit can prove extremely damaging, even fatal. A rabbit might not intentionally kick out at a piggie, but whether they mean it or not, one kick can be disastrous.
  • Rabbits carry the bacteria, Bordetalla bronchisetica – a common cause of respiratory disease that guinea pigs are extremely susceptible to. This, along with the risk of kicks is the two strongest reasons why the two different species shouldn’t be kept together.

There are a few other reasons why guinea pigs draw the short straw if they’re kept with rabbits.

  • The behavior of the two different animals is rather different. They communicate in different ways and act differently. This means that they don’t really understand each other, and this can lead to a rabbit bullying a smaller guinea pig. And this in turn causes unnecessary stress to the pig.
  • They both have rather different needs in their diet. Sure, they both eat unlimited hay, along with fresh vegetables. But guinea pigs need to have vitamin C on a daily basis, whereas rabbits don’t. Whether you feed this by adding vitamin C to their food, through pellets or in any other way, rabbits don’t need it.
  • A rabbit can injure a guinea pig during play or bullying by biting him on the back of the neck.

As you can see, there are rather a lot of reasons why the two don’t make the best of companions. Of course, there’s always the exception to any rule – you only need look at many of the weird and wonderful playmates that are posted all over the internet to see that. But the evidence against keeping rabbits and guinea pigs together is pretty overwhelming, and if possible should be avoided, for the sake of our gorgeous little guinea pigs.

If you have a great idea for an article about guinea pigs, please let us know. Guinea Pig Today is a network of guinea pig lovers and we’re always looking for the next great story. View our submissions page for more information on how to submit your idea.

Jacki, Author of Small Pet Select

Jacki has shared her life with small pets and other animals for, well – pretty much forever! Always keen to absorb as much knowledge as possible about animal care, Jacki enjoys sharing her years of experience with like-minded people, and helping to ensure that pets and animals everywhere are healthy, happy and bring as much joy as possible to their owners.

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3 Responses to “Keeping Guinea Pigs and Rabbits Together”
  1. VeganWheekers says:

    My rabbit and guinea pigs have their own cages/pen but they have daily floor time together. Bunny knew the guinea pigs were here first and was submissive to them from the start. The only bullying came from our female pig, who didn’t like it when the bunny tried to groom her and would give a warning nip to stay out of her personal space. 🙂

    I am keeping a close eye on any signs of respiratory infection though but so far so good. 🙂

  2. Cassandra says:

    Personally, the risks far outweigh any potential benefits. I don’t want to risk the life of my guinea pig. Ever.

  3. Rose says:

    I have had a male cavie and a male fuzzy lop that have lived well together for 3 years, I feed them both guinea pig food so the cavie does not miss out on the vit. c he needs and the pair is all but inseparable..if I take one or the other out of the cage, even for just a minute without taking the other out as well the one left in the cage makes a fuss until his ‘brother’ is back in the cage, They play together all the time, when they were babies Buna *the rabbit* was a little rough but it only took Tribble *the GP* giving a loud squeak and walking away to make him stop and after a few moments Buna would go over and groom his brother in what i can only assume was an “I’m sorry” but that rough play only lasted a week or so before Buna and Tribble learned their mutual limits. I agree that not every pairing will work out so well but I do not think everyone gets along with everyone else.If the introduction is made under close supervision and the dietary and other needs of BOTH animals are met a GP and a rabbit can be very well bonded.

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March 2012
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