How To Tell If Your Guinea Pigs Are Playing Or Fighting (9 Simple Tips)

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They’re herd animals, but guinea pigs can sometimes be aggressive with each other. Unfortunately, guinea pig fighting and playing can look very similar. So, it’s difficult to tell the difference. So, how can you tell if your guinea pigs are playing or fighting?

Humping, light chasing, and sniffing are all signs that your guinea pigs are playing. But, persistent, loud teeth chatter and rearing up on hind legs is a sign of fighting. Other signs of fighting include: circling each other, biting, lunging at each other, and any other activity that could lead to bloodshed. This is your cue to separate your guinea pigs immediately.

guinea pigs joking about whether they were playing or fighting

Guinea pigs can be difficult to understand, but if you’re patient and learn how to read their body language, you’ll be able to figure out what they’re trying to say.

This article will help you understand the difference between when they’re playing and when they’re fighting. So, if you ever see your guinea pigs acting up, you’ll know what to do.

1. Rearing Up On Hind Legs

The next time you see your guinea pigs standing on their hind legs, don’t think they’re trying to do a little dance. Guinea pigs often stand with their hind legs to make themselves appear larger than the other. This might be an early sign that they’re getting ready for a fight.

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But again, standing on hind legs is not always an act of aggression. Sometimes it’s for other reasons like:

  • They want to see what’s going on.
  • A way to to get your attention for petting or food purposes
  • For excitement. Your little friends might stand on their hind legs and reach out toward you in excitement.

Always watch your pig friends closely to get figure out why they’re behaving a certain way. If they’re doing something threatening (like with bared teeth), things are about to get serious.

2. Raised Hackles

Raised hackles signify that your guinea pigs are getting ready to fight. The word “hackles” refers to the hair on the back of an animal’s neck. Typically, it stands up when they feel threatened. It’s designed to make them seem bigger than they are to another piggie – a form of intimidation.

When you see their hackles raised, find out what else is happening. Are their teeth bared? Are they making any aggressive noises? If so, then it’s likely that they’re getting ready to fight.

But, a fluffy piggie sometimes means that they’re scared or excited. Especially if there’s no other signs of aggressive behavior. It depends on the context of the behavior.

3. Biting (Not Nips)

When guinea pigs play, they’ll often nip at each other’s fur. This is normal behavior and not something you need to worry about.

Now if you see one of your little friends bite the other, you definitely have something to worry about.

Or if you see actual bite marks on your guinea pig’s body, then this is a sign that they’ve been in a fight. These bite marks are usually red and bloody. There might even be missing patches of fur.

If you see bite marks, it’s important to take your guinea pigs to the vet as soon as possible. The wound needs cleaning. Bite wounds can easily become infected. So, they’ll need treatment from a professional.

an infographic that explains how to tell if guinea pigs are playing or fighting

4. Yawning To Show Teeth

Sometimes when guinea pigs yawn, they’re tired and need a nap. But, sometimes they’ll yawn to show their teeth. It’s a warning to the other piggies. “Back off, buddy!” is what the yawn says.

In this case, it’s their way to establish dominance over another guinea pig. This behavior is usually followed by aggression behavior and fighting.

If you see your guinea pigs yawning and showing their teeth (combined with other aggressive behaviors), separate them for a bit. They’ll need a cooling off period. And then you can try to introduce them again.

Otherwise, a fight is likely to break out, especially when neither fur baby is backing down.

5. Loud Teeth Chattering

When guinea pigs chatter their teeth, it’s often a sign that they are unhappy or angry about something. This is their way of saying “Yeah, I’m mad. Watch out!” You’re likely to see other aggressive behaviors with this like charging, biting, and fighting.

If you see your guinea pigs chattering their teeth, try to figure out what’s making them to be unhappy. Is there something in their cage that’s making them uncomfortable? Are they angry at one another?

Once you figure out the cause, you can take steps to solve the problem.

6. Circling Each Other

You may have noticed that your guinea pigs sometimes circle each other. You might even see this during initial bonding introductions. This behavior is often seen as a way to establish dominance over the other guinea pigs. It can lead to fighting if neither guinea pig backs down and submits to the other.

If you see your guinea pigs circling one other, separate them into different cages. I’d do this if you see your little friends diving into other aggressive behaviors, too – like snapping at each other, loud teeth chattering, etc.

It might not begin as anything serious, but it can explode into a full-blown fight in no time at all.

But, sometimes circling behavior could mean that the pigs want to mate. That’s especially true if the two are of the opposite gender.

7. Battle Ball Of Fur

When two guinea pigs start fighting, it can look like a big ball of fur rolling around on the ground. That’s because when piggie fight, they go all out.

And I do mean. All. Out.

Pet parents who’ve seen their little friends fighting say that they can’t even tell where one piggie ends and the other begins. Just squeals and fur flying and tumbling everywhere.

If you see your guinea pigs fighting like this, it’s important to break them up as soon as possible. Otherwise, they could seriously injure each other.

Additionally, take steps to prevent future fights from happening. That may include separating the pigs into different cages. Or finding out what is causing them to fight in the first place.

8. Lunging At Each Other

Lunging is more common in cats and dogs, but it can also happen with guinea pigs. It occurs when one pig will suddenly charge at the other in an attempt to start a fight.

Lunging is often seen as a sign of aggression and can lead to actual fighting. If you see your guinea pigs lunging at each other, then know what you are seeing is likely that your fur babies are fighting – not playing.

Instead, it’s a sign that they are unhappy with each other. If this is the case, you might need to separate them.

Then you can reintroduce them later (as long as there’s been no bloody injuries, that is). Otherwise, a full-blown fight could break out, leading to severe injuries for both pigs.

9. Blood Spillage

The sight of blood is never a good sign – especially with guinea pigs. If you see one of your pigs bleeding, that’s a sure sign that whatever they are doing isn’t play.

At this point, take immediate action to break up the fight and clean the wound. If the bleeding is severe, take your guinea pig to the vet for treatment. Much like with humans, losing a lot of blood is dangerous for your fur babies.

Additionally, it’s also wise to find out what caused the fight in the first place. That way you can, take steps to prevent it from happening again.

It’s a hard thing. But, once blood spills in a fight, those two guinea pigs can’t live with each other again. They’ll have to live in separate cages (as neighbors, perhaps?) Because piggies hold grudges and they’ll definitely end up fighting again.

What’s Normal Bonding and Dominance Behavior?

So, there’s a slight difference between playing and fighting when it comes to guinea pigs. And it can be pretty tricky to figure out the difference between playing and fighting.

The moment you introduce a new guinea pig into your home, the two will need to establish a bond. And they’ll need to figure out whose the “boss piggie” before they can first begin to share a cage.

The problem is that you’re not always sure when to step and when to let them work it out on their own. After all, the two processes can look quite similar on the surface.

Signs Of Normal Dominant Behavior Include:

  • One pig sitting on top of the other
  • Humping
  • Chasing
  • Nipping
  • Spraying with pee
  • Rumblestrutting
  • Circling each other

Notice any of these behaviors? Then know that it’s just the pigs trying to establish their dominance over each other.

But, these behaviors can sometimes pass without you noticing. You’re less likely to notice if one of your piggies is very submissive.

Once they’ve figured out who’s the boss, things will calm down. The two (or three or four) will usually settle into a comfortable routine with each other.

Signs Of Bonding Include:

  • Grooming each other
  • Sleeping next to each other
  • Eating from the same bowl
  • Playing together

If you see these behaviors, then it’s a good sign that your guinea pigs are bonding with each other. And while there may be the occasional scuffle, it’s nothing to worry about and is perfectly normal.

Here’s a video of guinea pig fight:

Yep, this isn’t pretty.

Why Does Bonding Seem Like Fighting?

a guinea pig joking around about playing or fighting with other guinea pigs
Piggies are just like us. They like some piggies. And other…well, not so much.

When guinea pigs first meet, it may seem like they are fighting when they are actually just trying to bond. Behaviors like circling each other and nipping cut across at least the two behaviors. That may leave you confused. Are your little friends actually fighting bonding.

So, why is this the case?

Well, we don’t always understand the body language and hierarchy of guinea pig life.

It’s important that you know how your little friends communicate with each other. That way you’ll be able to read their body cues. And you’ll understand the meanings behind them depending on the context.

Wanna (correctly) interpret what your fuzz spuds are doing? Watch and interpret their behavior within the entire context of their interactions.

Here’s an example.

If you see two guinea pigs circling each other, that doesn’t always mean they’re about to fight. They could be trying to test each other out or playing a game.

On the other hand, if you see one guinea pig standing on its hind legs and fluffing up while circling another guinea pig, that’s usually a sign of aggression. The standing guinea pig is trying to intimidate the other into submission.

Why Do Guinea Pigs Need To Establish Dominance? 

Guinea pigs establish dominance over each other to create a social hierarchy. This avoids future fights. When a guinea pigs declares himself the boss, the other piggies have to agree. They agree by backing down from him (or her). Then that piggie becomes the leader of the herd (or pair).

The advantage of having a leader is that it helps avoid future fights. The leader whips everyone into shape. He keeps them in check and reminds them of their place in the hierarchy.

A good way to understand this is by looking at the wild ancestors of our domesticated guinea pigs. In the wild, guinea pigs lived in small families – or herds – of three to ten members.

Here’s some other facts about this set up:

  • The herd usually consists of one dominant male, several females, and their babies.
  • The dominant male serves as the leader and protector of the herd.
  • The females form a hierarchy among themselves – in this case. Yep, there’s a “boss” girl piggie, too.

The young ones are usually at the bottom of the hierarchy. They’re too young and small to establish dominance over the older piggies.

Whenever you see one guinea pig trying to dominate the other, know that it’s instinct. All piggies need to create a hierarchy in their social interactions.

Should I Separate My Guinea Pigs If They’re Fighting?

Yes, you definitely should separate guinea pigs if they’re fighting. If you don’t, there’s a good chance that your guinea pigs could get seriously hurt – or even killed.

When guinea pigs fight, they usually do so by biting each other. And while a single bite may not cause much damage, many bites can lead to severe injuries. In some cases, cavies have killed each other during fights.

You definitely aren’t willing to see your guinea pig suffer in pain, let alone die from a fight. So, if you see your guinea pigs fighting, the best thing you can do is separate them immediately.

Remember, if a fight results in a bloody wound, then you need to separate the piggies. The fights will keep coming if you don’t.

Investing in a new cage is far better than losing either of your fur babies.

How Do You Know If Your Guinea Pigs Are Getting Along?

a tip that talks about guinea pigs playing or fighting
This HAS to happen. Don’t try to stop it.

To know if your guinea pigs are getting along, look at their behavior towards each other. Signs such as squeaking, playing, sleeping close to each other, and popcorning show all is well. Mutual grooming, and cuddling are all indicators of a good relationship.

Even though squabbles happen, it’s still possible for these pocket friends to live well. In fact, the majority of guinea pigs get along fine. That’s if they’re introduced correctly and placed with a compatible partner.

If getting along, you’ll definitely tell from the pigs’ behavior. For instance, they’ll spend most of their time close to each other. And they’ll groom and cuddle frequently.

This doesn’t meant that there won’t be any disagreements. Of course there will be. But, they should be short-lived (some nipping and chasing) and not too serious.

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How Do I Make My Guinea Pigs Get Along?

You can make guinea pigs get along by addressing any possible cause of conflict – BEFORE IT HAPPENS. Some of the ways make sure your fur babies get along well include:

1. Give Them A Lot of Space

It’s not only human that have land disputes. Guinea pigs fight over space, too – especially when they don’t have enough of it.

More space decreases the chance of cavies fighting over it. A single guinea pig should have at least 7.5 square feet of living space. But if you are keeping many guinea pigs together they’ll need more of it.

Check out the table below for more information on how much space your piggies need:

# of Guinea PigsSize Of Cage
1 piggie10.5 square feet 
2 piggies10.5 square feet 
3 piggies13 square feet
4 piggies16 square feet

As much as possible, avoid overcrowding guinea pigs in one cage, as it’s a sure recipe for disaster.

2. Give First Attention To The Dominant Piggie

Yes, the issue of dominance doesn’t only affect the guinea pigs themselves. It’ll also impact you the owner.

You see, guinea pigs tend to be very possessive, and that includes being possessive of you. When you greet your piggies, it’s best to give attention to the “boss piggie” first.

You: “Dude, you’re the boss piggie. And you’re the best guinea pig in the world.”

Boss pig: “Yeah, I know. Facts.”

Otherwise, your “lack of respect” for your dominant piggie might start some trouble. Your dominant piggie will start doing things to assert dominance – again.

So, greet the dominant piggie first. Then you can avoid the rumble strutting and aggressive behaviors that might lead to a fight.

2. Two of Every Toy, Hut, and Food Bowl 

Yes, guinea pigs will fight for just about anything, including their toys, huts, and food bowls. So, to avoid such fights, make sure that each guinea pig has its own of everything.

When you only have one of something, there’s bound to be issues. Like with kids, your fur babies will want to use it at the same time. Next thing you know, it’s flying fur and chattering teeth.

Some people say that you only need to worry about this with male guinea pigs. But, the same is true for females (sows). Depending on the situation, females will fight, too.

3. Small Portions of Food To Prevent Food Hogging

Food is another common reason why guinea pigs fight. So, to avoid such fights, make sure that you offer small portions of food several times a day.

That way, they’ll have enough for them to eat but none left to fight or claim ownership over.

Put food bowls are in different cage corners to cut out fighting over food.

4. Avoid Changes In Territory Size 

Last but not least, make sure that you avoid any drastic change in territory size. Guinea pigs are territorial. So, making any changes would impact their social structure and peace. They’ll have to start the whole “let’s figure out who’s boss pig” process again.

If you have to make any changes, do it gradually to give them time to adjust. That way the whole social hierarchy they’ve established isn’t wrecked.

You do something similar with you make guinea pig introductions.

When you introduce a new guinea pig to one you already have, you do it gradually (more on this later).

By following these tips, you can decrease the chances of piggie fights.

How Long Does It Take For Guinea Pigs To Bond With Each Other? 

a fact about guinea pigs bonding and how to know if they're playing or fighting
If you feel like you’re not up to the task, you might want to see if a guinea pig rescue near you offers bonding services.

Guinea pigs bonding with each other may take hours to days to happen. It’ll all depend on the personalities of your guinea pigs. But, you should know whether they’re able to get along within 24 hours.

Some guinea pigs will take a few hours to get used to each other while others may need days, weeks, or even months. So, don’t get too worried if they don’t seem to be getting along right away. Give them some time, and they’ll bond with each other.

Plus, avoid making any sudden changes in their environment. And avoid separating them and reintroducing them several times. That only stresses them out and delays the bonding process.

Yep, each separation means that the whole rumble strutting, chattering process starts again. All. Over. Again.

So, do your best to set the stage and not interfere (unless there’s fighting) the first time around.

What’s The Best Way To Get Guinea Pigs To Bond With Each Other? 

The best way to get guinea pigs to bond with each other is by doing the introduction methodically. It requires a lot of patience and nerves of steel.

Let’s face it:

It’s not easy watching your piggies nip and chase at each other as they work things out. You feel like you need to rush in and save your little friend. But, you might make things worse if you do it at the wrong time or misread the situation.

Choose the right friend for your existing piggie and play your role well. And your little friends will bond with each other eventually.

So much depends on how you do things. (No pressure right?)

First, ensure that you choose the right pig friend for your existing guinea pig. You do not want to bring in a new pet with personality clashes with the existing one.

Tips On Choosing The Right Friend For Your Pig

  • Choose another guinea pig. Yes, that’s right. The best friend for your guinea pig is another guinea pig. Piggies and bunnies don’t get along, so please avoid this combination.
  • Choose the right sex. It’s best to choose guinea pigs of the same sex. If you have a male, bring in another male. The same applies to females. Father-son or mother-daughter combinations can work.
  • The male-female combination is ideal. A male-female combo can work out fine. Only plan to get them spayed or neutered. Otherwise, this combination can lead to pregnancy, and you may end up with too many guinea pigs.
  • Be careful introducing a new male to a bonded pair. Trios can be tricky and often end in disaster – particularly if newbies are introducing them. You could end up with all three of them falling out with each other. Or the bond between the first pair being completely broken.
  • Personalities matter. More than anything, your little friends have to connect with their personalities. Your piggies have to like each other or everything will end in disaster.

Now that you know some of the basics of choosing the right friend for your piggie. Let’s look at how to make them bond with each other.

Guinea Pig Bonding – Step By Step

There’s four important steps you need to follow when introducing guinea pigs. Let’s go through each one in detail.

Step 1: Seeing Each Other

Yes, it begins with just seeing each other. Place the two close to each other with a barrier between. You can have each remain in their enclosure.

Help them get used to each other’s scent by swapping beddings, toys, and other items.

If you don’t want all this hassle, switch the guinea pigs between the two homes. They’ll start scent marking like crazy. And when you put them back in their original locations, they’ll smell each other.

Step 2: Make It Closer

After the first step, it’s time to move to the next step. Here, you’ll need to bring the two enclosures closer. Make it close enough that they can smell one another.

At this point, you don’t have to be around the entire time. You’re still doing the initial piggie-what’s-going-on-I-smell-someone stage. The goal here is to make them more aware of each other.

Step 3: Make It Face To Face

Enough of seeing and smelling each other through the wires and bars. It’s time to let them see each other face to face.

Use a “neutral” territory. By neutral I mean that everything is clean and doesn’t smell like either one of them. Make sure the space is:

  • large and quiet
  • free of distractions (like kids running around or TVs)
  • have plenty of hay together

This is when things get interesting. And it’s also the time when you you have to watch them like a wolf watches a steak.

They’ve been smelling each other this entire time. But, will they like each other? Will they get along?

At this point, you’ll start to see them trying to work out who’s in charge. Get ready for a bunch of rumble strutting, squealing, nipping, and chasing.

Try to stay calm.

(And yes, it’ll be harder to stay calm than you think)

If you don’t see blood spilt or any other serious fighting behaviors, don’t separate them.

Let your little friends work it out.

If all goes well, they’ll settle down within 24 hours (and you’ll have a bonded pair on your hands – yay!)

Step 4: Time To Live Together

Your guinea pigs have been seeing, smelling, and interacting with each other for some time now. So, it’s time to let them share a cage. Here, use the new enclosure to avoid territorial conflicts.

To help with the transition, do one (or more) of the following:

  • Get a completely brand new cage. Toss some of their old things in it, so that it smells like them. That way, the “who’s the boss” process won’t start up again.
  • Combine the two old cages. Clean them out completely. Then toss something inside that smells like the both of them.
  • Continue to keep a close eye on their budding relationship for 1 to 2 weeks. That way you can make sure everything is continuing to go well.

Here’s a video that describes the bonding process in more detail:

Playing Or Fighting Guinea Pigs? Things To Remember 

  • Guinea pigs are social beings and will often get along well when you do your part well.
  • Sometimes fighting and playing can look very similar. Always view the context and other body language cues to understand what’s happening.
  • Fights and conflicts can erupt from the most innocent things. Make sure you have two of EVERYTHING for your fur babies.
  • Dominance behaviors in guinea pigs is normal. It lasts as long as the other guinea pig takes to become submissive.
  • Choose the right friends for your fuzz spuds. Seek help from a good guinea pig rescue if you can.
  • Always separate your guinea pigs when fighting.

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Final Verdict

It’s important to understand that guinea pigs will have their little squabbles. One piggies nips and the other goes flying. This is normal and natural – especially with boys. But, if you notice that things are starting to heat up, separate your piggies. You can separate the cages or take other necessary measures depending on the cause of the fight.

Animal Humane Society (n.d.). Guinea Pig Bonding Basics. https://www.animalhumanesociety.org/behavior/guinea-pig-bonding-basics 

Animal Welfare Victoria (n.d.). Caring For Your Pet Guinea Pig. https://agriculture.vic.gov.au/livestock-and-animals/animal-welfare-victoria/other-pets/caring-for-your-pet-guinea-pig

Blue Cross. (2019, October 9). How To Introduce Guinea Pigs. https://www.bluecross.org.uk/advice/guinea-pig/how-to-introduce-guinea-pigs

Four Paws International. (2019, July 29).  A NATURAL LIFE FOR A GUINEA PIG Interesting background facts about these lovely rodents.  https://www.four-paws.org/our-stories/publications-guides/a-natural-life-for-a-guinea-pig 

Four Paws International. (2019, July 29). PUTTING GUINEA PIGS TOGETHER. Guide for pet owners: How do you get a harmonic group? https://www.four-paws.org/our-stories/publications-guides/putting-guinea-pigs-together-in-a-group

Guinea Dad. (2022, March 2). What to Do When Your Guinea Pigs Fight. https://guineadad.com/blogs/news/what-to-do-when-your-guinea-pigs-fight 

PDSA (n.d.). How To Introduce Guinea Pigs. https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/looking-after-your-pet/small-pets/introducing-guinea-pigs 

RSPCA. (2019, October 9). What companionship do my guinea pigs need? https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-companionship-do-my-guinea-pigs-need/

Saurav. (n.d.). Guinea Pigs Running In Circles? (Why What Does It Mean & What To Do?). https://guineapig101.com/guinea-pigs-running-in-circles/ 

The Humane Society Of The United States. (n.d.). Guinea Pig Housing. https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/guinea-pig-housing 

Veterian Key. (2016, August 21). Guinea Pig Behavior. https://veteriankey.com/guinea-pig-behavior/  

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