Usually people talk about how frequently boars fight. But, I recently learned that although it’s uncommon for guinea pig girls to get into fights or to become aggressive, they sometimes do.
This got me wondering, and maybe you’re wondering this, too: Why do girl guinea pigs fight?
So, I did some research, and this is what I found.
Female guinea pigs fight and become aggressive for the following reasons:
- Got a New Roommate
- Not Enough Space
- Hormonal Issues
- Stressful Environment
- Changes in the Season
- Various Illnesses
- Traumatic Past
- Battle for Resources
- Improper Pairing
Now that we have listed some reasons why female guinea pigs don’t get along (or have bit of scuffle), let’s have a closer look at the causes of this aggression. Additionally, we’re going to examine possible solutions, and other frequently asked questions about guinea pig fights.
Take a Look at the Players
To truly understand why girl guinea pigs fight, it’s important to have a basic understanding of how the social hierarchy of guinea pigs work. Let’s dive in.
Dominant or Submissive?
Typically, guinea pigs are laid back and easy-going. That being said, most guinea pigs (both male and female) fall into one of two categories: dominant or submissive.
- The most dominant guinea pig is the alpha (or the one in charge) and is often the most aggressive guinea pig in the group.
- The submissive (or subordinate) guinea pig usually defers to the dominant guinea pig.
There can be multiple submissive guinea pigs in a group that might be dominant over other individual guinea pigs within the group.
Sometimes concerned piggie parents confuse fighting with natural dominance behavior.
It can be difficult to tell the difference.
If blood has been drawn, the guinea pigs should be separated immediately. Please don’t use your hands, so that you don’t get bitten. Instead use oven mitts or a towel to separate your piggies.
To set your mind at ease, the table below lists normal dominance behaviors and aggressive behaviors that could lead to a fight.
|Dominance Behaviors||Fighting Behaviors|
|Butt sniffing||Lunges, followed up by bites|
|Squeaking||Battle time – A big, frenzied ball of fur rolling around|
|Nipping (not hard enough to draw blood)||Rearing up on their hind legs (attack position)|
|Mounting (boars & sows do this)||Missing fur after an encounter|
|Some light teeth chattering||Raised hackles – a way to make yourself look bigger & scarier to other guinea pigs|
|Chasing or Rumblestrutting||Blood is drawn|
|Butt dragging (to mark their territory)||Bite marks|
|Spraying each other with urine||Weight loss (due to being denied food from the stronger, dominant guinea pig)|
So, Which Female Gets to Be the Alpha?
Note, that there is only one dominant (alpha) female in a group. She’s the female that’s in charge of everyone.
How does a female become the alpha?
By getting the other females to submit to her authority.
If they don’t…
Then the dominance behaviors increase, which could quickly escalate into a bloody fight.
(Picture a thrashing, shrieking ball of fur. Yep…that kind of bloody fight).
Fortunately, our little friends typically do a good job of quickly sorting this out themselves without bloodshed.
Do not separate your guinea pigs every time you see typical dominance behaviors. It’s normal guinea pig behavior. Keep an eye out for the fighting behaviors (e.g. fur pulling, blood, bite marks, weight loss) and then separate.
But, this hierarchy must be established whenever you have two or more guinea pigs living together.
It’s something that’s done in the wild.
And it’s behavior that cavies are wired to carry out even though they’re domesticated.
The more guinea pigs you have sharing the same space, the more complex the hierarchy becomes.
And each time a new guinea pig is introduced to the group, a reshuffling or reestablishment of this hierarchy takes place, which brings us to the first reason why guinea pigs fight…
1. Got a New Roommate
Whenever guinea pigs are placed together in a shared space, competing for space, food, resources, or mates, they have to establish one thing:
Who’s in charge?
Newly introduced guinea pigs spend flexing their guinea pig muscles at each other. It’s a meeting of minds and wills – a test of dominance.
If someone doesn’t back down, it’s going to escalate…usually pretty quickly.
So, be sure to keep a close eye on the situation when you’re introducing a new guinea pig to your piggie family.
Make sure that you’re conducting a proper introduction. There are some helpful tips on how to do that from Blue Cross for Pets.
2. Not Enough Space
This can’t be stressed enough. Guinea pigs need to be housed in a large enclosure; it’s the best way to safely and healthily house your cavy.
Bigger enclosures allow your little friend the change to exercise, play, and roam around. This helps decrease health issues, such as obesity and diabetes.
Piggie pals that don’t have enough room to be active become anxious and stressed, which can lead to some vicious brawling.
|Number of Guinea Pigs||Cage Size|
|1 Guinea Pig||7.5 ft2 (minimum) but more is better|
|2 Guinea Pigs||7.5 ft2 (minimum), but more is better|
|3 Guinea Pigs||10.5 ft2 (minimum), but more is better|
|4 Guinea Pigs||13 ft2 (minimum), but more is better|
If you measure your cage and notice that it’s too small, invest in a bigger enclosure.
And doing so, doesn’t have to break the bank.
C & C (or coroplast) cages can be DIYed to whichever size you’d like for an affordable price. The only cost is a little time and sweat.
If it’s in your budget, you can always order a Midwest Guinea Pig Cage (Amazon). It provides around 8 square feet of living area, which is ideal for 2 guinea pigs.
If you have more guinea pigs, you’ll need to extend the cage or invest in a bigger one.
3. Hormonal Issues
There are two hormonal issues that might cause female guinea pigs to fight. They include the following:
- Your furry friend might be in heat. Being in heat means that the female is open to mating with a male. Guinea pig females can breed year-round in captivity. And females are in heat for 14 to 19 days! During this time, your piggie pal can be extra cranky and snappy, which might lead to disturbances with her roommates.
- She might have become a teenager. In guinea pig time, the teenage period begins at around 4 months. Just like with human teenagers, piggie pal teenagers like to push boundaries and attempt to exert their independence over their elders. This often disturbs the dominance hierarchy that guinea pigs establish when they first meet each other.
If this is the case, wait it out. There’s nothing you can actively do if your guinea pig is grumpy because she’s in heat or if she’s in a whirlwind of growing pains. In these cases, time will pass and the problem will often resolve itself.
4. Stressful Environment
Since cavies are prey animals (chased and eaten by predators) they’re wired to be anxious and hypervigilant. Putting them in a stressful situation only aggravates those behaviors and might start a fight between otherwise pleasant cagemates.
Whenever possible, protect your piggie pals from the following:
- Loud, sudden noises like a loud television or music; noisy family members
- The presence of a perceived predator. Perhaps other pets that might frighten her? Such as a dog or a cat.
- A dirty cage. Be sure to spot clean your guinea pig’s cage at least every other and to deep clean at least once a week – if not more.
5. Changes in the Season
There have been reports of increased aggression in female guinea pigs during warmer seasons of the year such as spring and summer. Intense heat makes humans grouchy, and the same goes for guinea pigs.
Help keep your little friends cool and hopefully calm by doing one (or more) of the following:
- Use a fan or air-conditioner. But make sure the air isn’t blowing directly on your piggie pal, so she doesn’t get an upper respiratory infection.
- Provide lots of clean, fresh water
- Wipe your guinea pig down with a cool, damp cloth
- Just wrap an ice pack in cloth to make it pet-friendly and place it in the enclosure.
6. Various Illnesses
There are a few illnesses that might cause fighting amongst females. These illnesses make females very aggressive toward their cage mates.
Ovarian cysts are common among girl guinea pigs. The cysts are very painful. Mite infestations and ringworm are typical in all guinea pigs. They itch terribly.
Take precautions against sickness by:
- Maintain a clean environment. Don’t skimp on spot cleaning or weekly deep cleaning your piggie pal’s enclosure. Remove leftover food, so that it doesn’t attract flies and other pests. A lot of health issues come from a filthy cage and many can be avoided with consistent, conscientious cleaning.
- Monitoring your little friend’s health. Weigh her weekly because large fluctuations in weight can indicate illness. Examine her eyes, feet, ears, and skin for unusual changes during lap time.
Take a look at the list below. If you notice any of the following symptoms, take your lfur baby to the vet right away.
- anal discharge
- bald patches
- cloudy or red eyes
- blood stains on bedding
- shortness of breath or wheezing
- wounded feet
- excessive shivering
- lumps or bumps on ears
If you feel like something is wrong, don’t hesitate to contact your furry friend’s veterinarian.
Just make sure that your vet is one that specializes in exotic animals.
If you don’t provide mental stimulation for your girls, then they’ll easily be at each other’s throats. Guinea pigs are intelligent and need activities to keep their minds active and engaged.
Make sure that your furry potatoes have opportunities for floor time. Take them out of their enclosure and let them roam around a safe area (free from dangers such as toxic house plants and electric wires). Also, make sure that you make the area escape-proff.
If you’re feeling adventurous, train your girls to do tricks. There are some courses available that show you how to do it in a safe and engaging way.
Have an assortment of toys available for your guinea pigs to enjoy. And you don’t have to break the bank.
Most guinea pigs are ecstatic playing with toys like ping pong balls, clean socks and toilet paper rolls (glue-removed) stuffed with hay.
Some of the very best toys for guinea pigs involve items that they can chew or items that forage through for little treats.
If you want some tips on how to build a better relationship with your guinea pigs or how they relate to each other, check out these posts: 15 Wonderful Ways To Entertain Your Guinea Pig (Right Now) and 10 Shocking Mistakes That Make Your Guinea Pig Hate You
8. Traumatic Past
As a while, most guinea pigs prefer being with a group and enjoy socializing with each other. In the wild, that’s what they do.
However, each guinea pig is unique in terms of personality and if you adopt (or rescue) a guinea pig they’ll have come from different situations.
If your little piggie has been through traumatic situations, it might have made her unusually aggressive to other guinea pigs as well as to you.
In this case, it doesn’t matter whether or not the guinea pig has a dominant or submissive personality, she’s basically in defense mode – which makes her aggressive.
This situation is tricky.
You want to give your little friend every opportunity to have a pleasant home with other friendly guinea pigs, but…
You also don’t want blood drawn during every encounter and you don’t want your subordinate little friends bullied and living in fear either.
If you’ve tried properly introducing your more aggressive guinea pigs to others in neutral territory, and it honestly hasn’t worked, you can always:
- Get a separate cage and place it next to the original. Many guinea pigs who couldn’t share a cage are perfectly happy living in close proximity to each other.
- With a large enough guinea pig cage you can divide it and have let your females live separately.
- Invite another guinea pig into your home to introduce to your more aggressive female. Some guinea pig rescue centers will allow supervised “play dates” to see if the match might be a positive one. It’s fully possible that she just doesn’t like the guinea pigs that are already in your home; sometimes guinea pigs just need to find the right match.
- If that’s not a possibility, you could always consider rehoming her. But, that should be a last resort.
9. The Battle for Resources
Cavies are very territorial about their possessions. A dominant female will literally start a brawl over a food bowl or a pile of spinach. Things can get pretty seriously, pretty quickly.
To avoid this, make sure that you have two of everything: water bottles, toys, kitchen areas, etc.
Be certain that you’re providing enough food, too. Have two food bowls or place piles of food away from each other, so that all your furry friends can enjoy their meal in peace.
Also, make sure that you have plenty of hideaways and pigloos for all of your guinea pig friends.
Preferably with two exits, so that the subordinate guinea pigs have a way to escape if they dominant female is feeling grumpy.
10. Improper Pairing
Whenever possible, try to match a dominant female with a submissive female. If you’re adopting from a rescue center, it helps to have a conversation with the staff to get a feel for the newcomer’s personality.
Usually pairing an older guinea pig with a younger one is a good option – the younger one normally submits to the elder. However, fights could occur in the future when the younger guinea pig reaches her teenage years-when piggies typically challenge the alpha for dominance over the group.
Experiencing your first guinea pig fight is difficult and upsetting.
But, it does get easier the more experience that you have with your piggie pals.
With the tips in this post, you’re now armed with knowledge.
You know what steps you need to take in order to be prepared for aggressive female behavior, you know what behavior is normal versus concerning, and you have a sizable list of fight prevention actionable tips from which to choose.
All that’s left is for you to take action.
And you can do it. I know you can.