If you are looking to breed your guinea pigs or if your guinea pigs are expecting, then it’s good to acquire some knowledge in advance. One such question is how an adult guinea pig responds to its offspring. It is known that some animals eat their babies, but what about guinea pigs? Do they partake in this nasty and upsetting behavior? Here is what the research says.
So, do guinea pig eat their babies? It is not common for guinea pigs to eat their young. However, in certain contexts, it can and does happen. The most common of circumstances is usually due to extreme hunger or when a male (boar) suspects the baby is not one of his own.
Thankfully three are a number of things you can do to stop this unfortunate event from happening.
Let us now take a deeper look into the topic before we turn to prevention strategies and subsequent care of baby guinea pigs.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Eat Their Babies?
The two main reasons why Guinea pigs may eat their babies is a result of hunger, or insufficient feeding. Sometimes, male Guinea pigs will eat pups if they were fathered by another cavy.
Having a guinea pig as a pet is a wonderful experience.
Most people find that, when it comes to guinea pigs at least, babies are the cutest.
With their little bodies and big eyes, it’s hard not to find them cute.
We tend to anthropomorphize animal behaviors. We tend to hold animals to the same standards and expectations when it comes to their interactions and instincts.
This can be a very wrong assumption – especially when it comes to maternity and rodents.
It is not uncommon for many rodents to eat their young. Hamsters and mice are notorious for such a practice.
Guinea pigs eating babies isn’t such a common occurrence. However, it is something that could happen.
Males may eat the babies if they don’t believe they fathered them.
For this reason, it is a good idea to keep a male out of the cage after mating anyways unless he is neutered (never leave them alone though, they like having friends so long as they are not aggressive)!
Guinea pigs need a lot of food and nutrition. This need gets larger during pregnancy as there are building little babies inside of them.
Childbirth is also an excruciating activity that will require a lot of extra nutrition.
When a mother guinea pig is not getting enough food, she may resort to eating her young babies.
If she ends up pregnant back-to-back, it also might enhance the chances that she is suffering from a few deficiencies that entice her to eat her young.
How Can I Prevent My Guinea Pig From Eating Their Babies?
With males it’s pretty straightforward – keep them away from the babies when they are young and vulnerable. If you have a friendly male, you can feel free to introduce the babies when they are of age into the same cage.
When you decide to do so, follow protocol like any other (monitor them for aggression before you leave them unattended) and be nearby and quick to react. This is also an important practice for reasons we will get into a little later on.
When it comes to females, you just need to take care of them. A normal female will not just kill and eat her babies for no reason.
The best thing you can do is provide enough of, and the right amount of nutrition. When she is carrying babies, you need to give her extra.
A food shortage is the main reason why any animal eats their young, and this is something that is easily preventable for pets that are kept in the home.
They need at least 1/8 cup of pellets per day, per guinea pig normally. When they are pregnant – bump that amount up. She will need the extra energy.
Keep this extra food going until after she stops suckling her young.
Make sure to give her extra access to fresh fruits and veggies as well. She deserves a treat and she needs the nutrition.
When fed properly, you never really have to worry that she will eat her babies.
The Kaytee Timothy complete is one of the most popular brands with guinea pig owners due to its balanced formulation, the inclusion of hay (fiber), vitamin C, and ability to purchase it in different sizes
- Made from hand selected Timothy Hay
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- Prebiotics and probiotics to support digestive health
- Added vitamins and minerals
How To Care For Baby Guinea Pigs
Caring for baby guinea pigs will not take much of your own attention. For the most part, the mothers take care of the hard part so long as they are there.
Unlike many other animals in the animal kingdom, guinea pigs are born rather self-sufficient.
They need to stay with the mother and suckle for a bit, but they are already born with fur and soon begin to actively run around.
Nevertheless, the following best practices will ensure you take sufficient care of any baby guinea pigs you may own:
Handle them early and often. Don’t separate them from their mothers too early, but you don’t need to worry about the mother rejecting her young.
The earlier and more regularly you handle them, the more likely they are to warm up to you as they are adults.
Guinea pigs are rather peaceful creatures and, if you handled and cared for the mother regularly, it is unlikely she will get defensive with you for touching her babies.
Space and Comfort
The next thing you need to care for is that their cages are spacious, comfortable, and of course not escapable.
Baby guinea pigs are much smaller than their parents, so the cage you have may not be suited to prevent their escape.
So long as the enclosure is secure and the bars are tight, you should be fine.
A cage that has a deeper pan will make it more difficult for your guinea pigs to escape from, but it is not necessary.
You do also need to take into consideration that these babies are coming out of the womb ready to run around the cage and have fun fairly quickly.
They will also reach their adult size very quickly. Consider getting a bigger cage that is enough for them to turn around in.
It is better to have a cage that is too big than a cage that is too small.
The benefits of opting for the Midwest Habitat plus is that it is very affordable and you can move your male guinea pig into a separate section in the early days following birth.
It provides up to 8 square feet of space and is approved by vegetarians too.
- Provides 8 square feet of living area for guinea pigs as recommended by veterinarians and breeders; Assembled product dimensions (Length x Width x Height): 47 x 24 x 14 inches
- Fully removable wire mesh top to protect your guinea pig from predators; The multi access folding top and divider panel with hinged "lock in place" ramps/doors separate play and care areas
- Durable, leak proof, washable and easily removable PVC lined canvas bottom allows for easy care and maintenance while providing traction and protection for guinea pig's sensitive feet
- 14 inches high sides provide for secure and convenient access to guinea pigs; Great guinea pig cage for Indoor or outdoor use; Sets up in minutes, no tools required for assembly
- Durable and sturdy extra-deep base keeps bedding contained
What Do Young Guinea Pups Eat?
Young pups eat pretty much the same thing as adult guinea pigs. They don’t need to have a special diet that is formulated for pups – just give them what you are feeding their mother and father!
The one thing they do need that is slightly different than their parents is extra calcium.
During the first few weeks of life, the extra calcium will help them grow big and strong. You may already be feeding your guinea pigs a calcium-rich diet.
Alfalfa hay is one thing that is rich in calcium. It is not uncommon for that to be the hay that you are already providing your guinea pigs.
It is also quite possible the adult pellets you have been infused with Alfalfa.
It should be mentioned right on the label of the food. If you do not see it, consider swapping to alfalfa hay/ pellets for your guinea pig pups for the first few months of their life.
Just be sure not to overfeed your adult guinea pig’s Alfafa hay as this can come with unwanted health implications due to its high calcium content.
When it comes to water, like their adult counterparts, it can be a risky and messy idea to keep a water bowl in the cage.
They have a lot of built-up energy and will likely spill it everywhere. Plus, bowls add an extra risk of drowning.
Water bottles are a much safer option (and they are generally easier to manage).
Your pups are going to be short for quite some time. So, while they are still short, make sure to lower the water bottle to accommodate them.
You should also not forget mom in these moments.
Make sure that you don’t drop the water bottle too low.
It can be a great idea to just invest in two water bottles and set them at different heights.
How Long Do Guinea Pig Pups Have To Stay With Mom?
Guinea Pig pups have to stay with mom for 3-4 weeks, depending on the gender. Males generally can be separated sooner than female pups.
How long they stay with their mother will have to depend on gender.
It is easy to discern between guinea pig sexes (males will develop a budge where their testes are and a clear penis).
If you have a male, he needs to be separated at 3 weeks.
This will give him enough time to stay with his mom and prevent him from being there too long which poses a risk of him impregnating his mother or sisters (yes, they will do that).
Females should be kept in the same cage for at least one more week since you don’t need to worry about them copulating.
Taking them away too soon can be stressful for both mother and pup.
If the males or neutered and you have enough space, it can be safe to keep them all with each other.
So, guinea pigs can eat their babies. It is however unlikely if take proactive measures to keep them well-fed and separate the male adults in the beginning.
It’s better to be safe than sorry, so if this means investing in a bigger cage, or an extra one, where you can house your male guinea pigs(s) during this time, you should.
Other than that follow the tips and recommendations in this article and you, your guinea pigs and their pups will be in good stead.
And if you are looking to learn even more about guinea pigs, and their behaviors traits, and tendencies, my following guides may be of interest to you:
- Do Guinea Pigs Sneeze?
- Do Guinea Pigs Cry?
- Do Guinea Pigs Like Music?
- Do Guinea Pigs Get Cold?
- Do Guinea Pigs Hibernate?
- Do Guinea Pigs Have Tongues?
- Do Guinea Pigs Need Sunlight?
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.