If you own a herd of guinea pigs or have recently introduced some together, you might have noticed that they do not appear to be getting along. Especially as closely as you might have initially hoped or expected. This is common and it often occurs, even if it is not nice to see and not easy to deal with. This resistance has been termed ‘guinea pig dominance’ and can become a real issue if it is not addressed. But how long does it typically go on for and what can you do about it? This is all you need to know.
So, how long does guinea pig dominance last? Guinea pig dominance can last anywhere between two days and several months. The total time depends on several factors, including the personalities of the guinea pigs, their age, the habitat set up, the total number of guinea pigs kept together, how long they have been housed together, and the current social status.
Guinea pig dominance can pose a real problem to a harmonious cage, so it must be addressed.
Thankfully, there are a few simple steps to take, which can help manage and reduce this standoffish behavior.
We’ll be getting into that shortly.
But first and foremost you are likely concerned.
Besides, these are very social animals and actually need companionship to be truly happy and live a fulfilled life.
Seems at odds right?
So let us now take a closer look at what actually guinea pig dominance is, so that you can confirm that this is actually happening and not something else.
We will then look at what it looks like, before turning to those most important topics such as, how do you stop dominance.
We will finish up answering the questions of how long it typically takes for guinea pigs to bond and the signs that they are starting to get along.
So, be sure to keep on reading to get all the information you need and to keep your guinea pigs safe and the environment more relaxed!
What Is Guinea Pig Dominance?
Guinea pig dominance refers to the phenomena where one or more guinea pigs get aggressive with their roommates. Although guinea pigs seem to be very timid and innocent creatures, there are many cases where one tries to establish that they are in fact, the “alpha.”
Why does a pet guinea pig need to establish an alpha among the group? It’s honestly just the circle of life.
Its how all animals naturally live in a society. They establish a pecking order, and there are leaders and those whom are more ‘in control’.
As such, some animals like to be number one, and its clear that some guinea pigs prefer to have a higher status.
Higher status means better access to whatever resources are available.
If you’ve had a long-term pair before, you may notice how one of the guinea pigs is more “confident” than the others.
Being able to get the exact food they want without facing any guinea-pig consequences is one of the main advantages of being an alpha.
While this is less intense while they are living in a cage where an owner provides them everything they need, this is just how nature works.
In the wild, the alpha would have a preferential choice for everything. They would be the ones who get better mates and better food.
Most animals have some sort of hierarchy among them.
Establishing this hierarchy predetermines the outcome of squabbles, so they don’t have to have a batter every time someone wants to have the last carrot or the best female.
The point of being dominant over the others isn’t to hurt everyone. Instead, they go through various strategies to display dominance.
What Does Guinea Pig Dominance Look Like?
Guinea pig dominance looks just as it sounds. Its where a guinea pig clearly showing others that they are not to be messed with. It entails the wannabe-alpha trying to show off how big and strong they are.
They want to show their cage mates that they are the leader. In many cases, this doesn’t even have to be a harmful or aggressive event, just a time for them to shine and put their other companions down or back in their place.
With guinea pigs, this is most commonly demonstrated by teeth chattering. Teeth chattering is just a way for a guinea pig to let everyone know that they are not happy with the present situation.
To compare it to a more common example, this is akin to a dog growling at another dog or a cat hissing.
The teeth sounds are meant to be “scary” to warn others to stay away from them. This isn’t the only sign that they are trying to let their position be known. Have you ever noticed your guinea pigs humping one another? This is not always a sexual thing.
Purring and mounting may also be guinea pigs trying to show the other who is in charge. The top guinea pig is the dominant one.
It’s their way to show off that they are the stronger one who is in a position of power. It can be seen in guinea pigs regardless of their sex.
While any guinea pigs can turn to demonstrating dominance or wanting to be an alpha, this is a common and notorious problem among males.
When you have several males living in one environment, it is not uncommon for them to fight.
The thing is – no one wants to be seen as the lesser male. If the others do not submit to the guinea pig trying to establish dominance, fighting can break out!
When fighting breaks out among your guinea pigs, things can get a little rough.
Little guinea pigs can really cause some damage to one another when they feel like it.
They have sharp teeth and are a decent enough size compared to one another to really hurt each other.
If you have a bunch of males fighting for dominance, it can get pretty messy. In some cases, it can even be fatal.
An important thing to keep in mind is that there are sometimes weaker, innocent animals caught in the crossfire of their rage.
It’s crucial that you do not allow the situation to escalate to this level of intensity.
How Do I Stop My Guinea Pig From Being Dominant?
It’s a pretty complicated situation to get your guinea pigs to not be dominant. If they want to try, they will continue to try. In the best cases, the dominance is established, and the guinea pigs go on to live their normal happy lives.
Monitor The Situation
Still, you really need to make sure that the situation doesn’t escalate to something beyond your control.
To do this, simply observe your guinea pigs often, especially when you first put a new guinea pig into the habitat.
You will often have nothing to worry about if these are just harmless demonstrations.
In these cases, it is best to just wait it out and see what happens.
Be sure to always monitor the situation so you can intervene if things get too intense.
If the guinea pigs get to the point where they are actively engaging in aggressive fights with each other, you need to separate them.
Putting them in an entirely separate cage is better than a divider so they can’t hurt each other through the bars.
Plus, being around someone you want to constantly attack is pretty stressful.
It is more relaxing for everyone if they don’t have to be surrounded by another creature who they want to beat up (or that wants to beat them up!)
Of course, while you can’t totally stop this course of nature, there are a few things you can try to do to prevent this from happening.
Optimize Your Existing Habitat
An animal may feel the need to establish their rank if they feel there is not an adequate number of resources available.
If your guinea pigs ever feel as though they are in a position where they need to fight for food or space, they are more likely to fight for dominance.
Instead of making them feel like they need the upper hand to survive, keep their living conditions up to speed.
Have a habitat that is big enough for all the inhabitants to live in comfortably.
Also, make sure that there are enough hiding places for everyone to tuck themselves away in carefully.
More Food, More Water
Also, make sure that there is more than enough food and water for everyone to share – especially if there are treats.
Like people, guinea pigs also have favorite pieces of food they’d be willing to fight over so they wouldn’t have to only eat pellets.
Keep The Habitat Clean
Finally, be sure that the cage is clean, and your guinea pigs are healthy.
Living in a dirty cage can be stressful and aggravating.
A guinea pig may simply be irritated and snap at their roommates.
Sick guinea pigs may also be more easily agitated than others.
If your guinea pig is expressing prolonged periods of dominance or is seemingly aggressive out of nowhere, it could be a sign of an underlying medical problem.
Ovarian cancer specifically is one problem that is associated with prolonged dominance in female guinea pigs.
How Long Does It Take Guinea Pigs To Bond?
Like dominance, bonding periods are something that varies between individuals. It can be a matter of days, or much longer stretching weeks and in some cases months.
Just like human children in a classroom, some guinea pigs warm up faster to each other than others.
Guinea pigs have their own personalities, which influence how they engage with other members of their cage.
It’s crucial to keep this in mind. Some personalities simply mix better, and they will get along right from the get-go.
Then again, if you have two guinea pigs with strong personalities who want to battle for dominance, you may be looking at a longer time.
Just be sure to keep an eye on your cavies and look out for any important signs of things going wrong.
How Do You Know If Your Guinea Pigs Are Getting Along?
Although guinea pigs will sometimes get aggressive trying to establish dominance, they did earn their reputation as cute, cuddly and social animals.
When your guinea pigs are bonded, they will act as you would imagine – as friends.
Eventually, any signs of dominance, such as mounting or chattering, will pretty much disappear.
Bonded guinea pigs will gleefully squeak at each other, follow one another around, and even sleep next to each other.
Of course, as with any companionship, they may encounter some off days every once in a while.
For the most part, bonded guinea pigs will remain unseperable.
Remember, guinea pigs are social animals who need to be around another companion.
Otherwise, they risk suffering from the animal equivalent of loneliness and depression.
Some owners report guinea pig dominance lasting a couple of days; others find themselves in a more difficult situation whereby it can go on for much longer.
Either way, the safety and wellbeing of all of your guinea pigs is prime importance.
Whether this means that you need to split up your cavies for a period of time, or introduce them to one another more slowly, is ultimately going to depend on your own circumstances and set up.
Thankfully, these are social creatures whom love to live next to and among other guinea pigs.
One final thing to remember is that dominance is a natural social phenomena among all in the animal kingdom and part of life; its part of a social structure.
With this in mind, some amount of dominance will always occur, and its impossible to stop or control without separating your guinea pigs altogether (which is not advised).
So long as your guinea pigs are safe, and that the hierarchy is established with all guinea pigs being content in their role, there should be nothing to worry about.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.