is it ok to have a single guinea pig?

Is It Okay to have a Single Guinea Pig?

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A single guinea pig, or what I sometimes call solo piggies, are single guinea pig, without a guinea pig buddy in the same habitat.

 Is it okay though? Would they still be happy? Or will they die in loneliness? Will they lead a good life, or develop health problems?

 As someone who has a guinea pig that experienced being a single piggy for half his life, and then with two more buddies after, I hope I can give an insight to you on this.

Why guinea pigs need a buddy

1. Boredom

You may have heard this many times – guinea pigs are social animals, and it’s true. In the wild, they live in groups, or herds, or 10 or more. So, from this info, having 2 piggies seems not that much.

Just like humans, we need company. And having a giant who doesn’t speak your language as your buddy isn’t the same.

We, humans, are busy too, and even if we spend 3 hours a day with a single guinea pig, they still have 21 more hours to be bored.

Think of a lifelong lockdown like during Covid-19. it’s lonely without someone to have company with. Mind you, guinea pigs don’t have phones.

Say you take your guinea pig out for cuddles and playpen every day. Still, imagine spending all your life around giants, but not someone of your species.

2. Physical and mental health

Loneliness can lead to a lot of different things. Physical health-wise, single guinea pigs are prone to obesity, heart disease, and shortened lifespan, to name a few. Mental health-wise, it can cause depression from loneliness, and yes, worst-case scenario, die.

This is no joke because even though we did play with Popcorn, who was a single piggy for half his life, every day whenever we got a chance, he was still overweight. I mean, all he did was eat and sleep when we were not playing with him, so…

This is why in Switzerland, it is illegal to have only one guinea pig.

it's illegal to have only a single guinea pig in Switzerland

3. the little things they don’t tell you

These are some things people don’t know about single guinea pigs. I noticed that when Popcorn was a solo piggy, he spoke a lot less than when he was with Mochi and Coffee. Because there’s no guinea pig to communicate with.

One time, I was searching up a sound that Popcorn made, and I came across a sound that guinea pig makes when they say “Hello, let’s play!”.

I played it and Popcorn heard it. He went bonkers. Zoomies, popcorning, happy wheeking, everything. But once he realized that no piggy was there, he looked down sadly and went back to his hay rack to eat.

Before you asked, yes, I immediately played with him in his playpen. But it’s still heartbreaking to see him getting so excited at a guinea pig sound.

When Mochi and Coffee became Popcorn’s buddies, Popcorn naturally lost weight to a healthy weight, because he was moving even more, when the “who’s the boss” and “how dare you steal my cucumber” business. He also spoke a lot more.

funny guinea pig memes comics

Now, let’s get to the other side of the coin.

Why sometimes a single guinea pig might be the right choice

Here are some reasons why having a single guinea pig might be the right choice

First, they may have an illness or condition where limited contact with another guinea pig is the best.

Or maybe one of their buddies died, and it is alone now, but neither you nor your piggy is emotionally ready for another guinea pig.

Maybe your guinea pig is elderly now and you don’t want to have any more guinea pigs and want to stop the “cycle”, but you’re attached to your current piggy and are not willing to rehome it, which I understand.

My vet has an elderly female guinea pig whose buddy has died, and she’s a solo piggy now, but the vets all agree that finding a new buddy might not be the best choice for her.

The last reason, which is also one of the most common reasons, is that you tried to match your single guinea pig with other piggies again and again, but it didn’t work.

What to do with a single guinea pig

I know that if your single guinea pig is solo because it couldn’t find a partner that it gets along with, it’s frustrating and hard, but please keep trying, because there will be a piggy or piggies that will get along with your potato-shaped furball.

Popcorn was almost 4 years old when we adopted Mochi and Coffee, who were both 1 and a half years old.

It took them 2 months of nonstop fighting, teeth chattering and chasing around until they calmed down and started being buddies. The boys still fight every so often, but overall, they get along well.

I’m telling you this because even if your single piggy is a boar, and has fully grown, there might still be a chance it can get along with a buddy. Keep trying.

Bad reasons for having a single guinea pig

Number 1 – I don’t have enough money for 2 guinea pigs.

The moment you decided you were going to have a guinea pig; you should’ve prepared for the expenses.

Number 2 – I don’t have enough time

In my experience, having a single guinea pig requires more time than having more than 1 guinea pig. That’s because I must keep Popcorn entertained and less lonely. I feel bad for your current single piggy. You should be spending a lot more time with it.

Number 3 – I don’t have enough space

I won’t go too hard on this one because I know some people must downsize their homes, and therefore not have enough space for a second piggy.

But please remember that the cages for only one guinea pig are way too small, and they can’t exercise. In my opinion, a solo pig should live in a cage that’s the size made for 2 guinea pigs, if not more.

Now, on to the answer you are all looking for:

Will a single guinea pig be happy?

The short answer is yes.

The long answer is yes, but you must prepare to work hard.

Your single piggy will need a big cage, lots of human interaction and playtime, even more exercise and so on.

Placing your piggy’s cage in an area near a window and somewhere you pass by a lot daily helps too.

Bonding with your guinea pig is also one of the most important things, in this article, you will learn how to bond with your guinea pig and tips that actually work.

But if you can do these things, your guinea pig will still be happy.

How can I keep my single guinea pig happy and entertained?

Besides the tips above, here’s a deep dive into tips and tricks to keep your single guinea pig happy for life and entertained all the time, even when you’re not there in person.

A video summary is included as well, like in this article.

guinea pig

Popcorn’s Story

I adopted Popcorn when he was around 1.5 years old from an animal shelter.

Popcorn was one of the two single piggies in the animal shelter, and his cage was placed at the front desk so there were quite a lot of people passing by during the day, to make him less bored and more comfortable with humans.

Long story short, everything clicked and adopted Popcorn. My family and I try our best to keep him entertained every day, and I would say that he was happy too.

When we moved to a bigger home, so did Popcorn’s cage. But since Popcorn only exercised his mouth when we were not playing with him, eventually he was overweight.

Don’t worry, we did help him successfully lose weight, here’s how.

During all this time, we tried pairing Popcorn with other single guinea pigs in animal shelters but failed. In August 2022, when Popcorn was 4 years old, a family was looking to rehome Mochi and Coffee (both 1.5 years old at that time), and we adopted them.

Bonding the 3

After long days of introducing, reintroducing, mind games that I didn’t think guinea pigs were capable of, and also some war scenes, the three guinea pigs finally accepted the fact that they have to breathe the same air and share the same two hay racks.

Popcorn still butts the two piggies in the face, Mochi still wheeks dramatically when Coffee steals his food, and Coffee still blocks Popcorn from coming into their hideouts. But at the end of the day, they love playing with each other very much.

Wrapping up

So, in conclusion, pretty please with a carrot on top, get two or more guinea pigs. Having only one single guinea pig can severely damage their physical and mental health.

But under certain circumstances, sometimes having a single guinea pig is the right choice, and I highly encourage you to talk to the vet.

If you’re trying to find a buddy for your single guinea pig, don’t give up!

Video

guinea pig

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One Comment

  1. Thank you for putting this together. It is well written and very helpful. All piggy owners should see this.

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