Guinea Pig Relationship Ups and Downs
Vicky and Athena had the strongest bond I’ve seen between any of my guinea pigs. Bertie and Pinniped are also well matched. But like any close couple, they have their off days and spats. When they do, they can really dish it out.
Vicky and Athena were masters of this. Vicky loved to hassle Athena to the point where Athena would show her teeth and hiss like a pressure cooker. These two very rarely came to blows, but it was a little unnerving to see Athena puff out and sound so angry when she was such a laid back pig. This pair usually stopped at the posturing. Once Athena showed her teeth, Vicky would stop pestering her, and they’d go off and stuff themselves in the hidey house for a nap.
Bertie and Pinniped tend to go for the lunge/bite/snap at each other. Have you ever seen two kids slap each other on the arm saying “you’re it!” “No, you’re it!” back and forth? I’ve seen these two do this – except they use their teeth. It’s most often when they want the same cozy or piece of food. The exchange is lightning-fast and stops after a round or two.
They also caterwaul at each other worse than a pair of fishwives. When the screaming is at its worst, it’s enough to make me lose my mind. The hollering usually starts when one or the other is in heat, so it can last as long as two days. All. Day. Long. It is often accompanied by chasing, humping, biting and occasionally peeing on each other (which gives new meaning to the phrase “pissed off”). I’ve had people ask how they can stop their guinea pigs from peeing on each other. You can’t. Gross as it may seem to you, it’s a basic part of their vocabulary to warn off another pig.
I waver between yelling at them to stop it and shut up or sitting down with popcorn to watch the show. I have yet to get a good video of an all-out screaming match, because they stop by the time I get the camera set up. However, I did managed to catch one of their more subdued displays of vexation:
This is their basic bickering, complete with constant grousing, humping and peeved popcorning. Imagine this, much louder, with a bit more chasing and lasting for hours, and you’ve got a feeling for what they’re like at their worst.
In the end, after the dust settles, things go back to their normal routine. Well, at least until they find something else to disagree about. I am curious, though, if boars have screaming matches like this, or if it’s just a sow thing.
So the biting and the bickering may look vicious, but there’s more posturing to the attack than brute force. First, guinea pig skin is really tough to puncture. In addition, guinea pigs are prey animals and no one wins (except the predators) if there are serious injuries from a fight. In my experience, battles tend to look a whole lot scarier than they truly are.
That’s not to say pigs can’t have a serious falling out. If your pigs are biting each other hard enough to draw blood or becomes a true battle that looks like a whirling ball of fur, then your pigs have a severe clash of personalities and they need to be separated. Separation can be temporary or permanent, depending on a bunch of factors, including age, health, and living quarters.
There is a good overview of guinea pig social interactions on CavySpirit’s website called Social Life. I review it every time I do guinea pig introductions.
After all this, you must wonder why I insist that these girls are happily bonded? With all they do to each other, how can they be best friends? Because life is generally peaceful. Athena and Vicky were nearly joined at the hip and Vicky was seriously depressed when Athena passed (she had no one to hassle). Bertie and Pinniped do things together more often than not. Unlike Athena and Vicky, they are not cuddlers; I do not find them snuggled up with each other by choice. However, even with three levels of living quarters, they are often sleep within a handsbreadth of each other. It’s a small thing, but clearly indicates two pigs that are happy together.
Any good friendship will have it’s ups and downs. And sometimes it’s not easy see how deep the bonds are in a couple, especially when it appears at first glance that they don’t get along. Relationships are rarely simple, even with guinea pigs.
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