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Thread: Aloha! And need help getting old sow to bond with new one.

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    Cavy Slave
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    Aloha! And need help getting old sow to bond with new one.

    Aloha from Hawaii,

    I've been reading this forum for some time when I search online for guinea pig advice, so I want to say thanks to everyone for sharing your wisdom and experience! I'm hoping I can get some help now getting my old sow to be nice to my new one.

    My current sow, Thea, was adopted from the Humane Society about 3 1/2 years ago. She has always been very high-strung. We realized she was lonely, so we adopted a companion for her--Scout, an older boar with a very relaxed personality. They had quite a dominance struggle at first, with some all-out fighting, but after a few days they bonded and got along great. They were living in a 2.5 ft x 2.5 ft cage, which I realize is way too small, but they seemed relatively happy.

    Sadly, Scout passed away a week ago. My son was so heartbroken, I agreed to let him get a new baby guinea pig right away. He chose a sow, who I'm guessing is about 8 weeks old, and named her Teya. We realized Thea was too traumatized for a new partner immediately, so we kept them separated at first. For the first day or so, Thea would not eat or drink anything except lettuce, which I fed her by hand. She finally perked up after I gave her a very long floor time on the lanai.

    The next day we tried introducing the guinea pigs on the lanai, thinking we should let them play in a neutral area. They both started fighting (puffed fur, rattling teeth, jumping, and nipping (but no blood), so we separated them after a few minutes. The next day we tried again. After a few altercations, Thea (the older one) was running and hiding and they decided to leave each other alone. However, we still didn't feel they were ready to live together. The next day, Teya, the baby, decided to stop fighting back and just run away. Thea kept chasing her and wouldn't leave her alone. We separated them again. We had some days off school for the hurricane (I'm a teacher) so we decided to put them in the cage together Thursday morning since we would be able to watch them for several days.

    First, we used cardboard to modify the little one's house entry so the big one could not fit in and she could have a refuge. All that day, Thea chased Teya whenever she ventured out of her house, frequently rattling teeth and puffing fur. Teya behaved submissively--running, trying to hide, being very still and quiet, and sometimes squeaking. Whenever Thea caught up to Teya, she would approach slowly and look like she was grooming at first, but then Teya would squeak. at the end of the day, I got a good look at Teya's ears and saw that both of them had small wounds. My son went to visit his dad and I sent the little guinea big with him to give her a break from the big one.

    Upon researching the ear chewing behavior, I read that it can be a stress behavior and could be caused by overcrowding. Back to the cage size--ok, so I realize now that I've been keeping guinea pigs in very inhumane conditions since the cage was so small. I spent Friday building a loft for the cage to increase the living space to 8 square feet. I also added an enrichment tunnel to the lower level. Thea seemed to enjoy having all that space with only one house (previously, we had had two guinea pig houses in the main cage, and they took up a large portion of the floor space) and some other things to explore. When my son got back with Teya, we introduced them in the new top level, where Thea had never been. At first, Thea went after Teya, who froze and squeaked. Then Thea raced down the ramp and went back to her house on the lower level. She poked around down there all day, and seemed content to leave Teya alone upstairs. Teya was able to come and go from her house in the loft and eat and drink without being bothered.

    I'm glad Thea is able to leave Teya alone in the loft, but that still hasn't solved the problem. The main point of having two guinea pigs was for them to provide companionship to each other, and the one time Teya ventured downstairs, it was back to the chasing, with lots of nipping, even pulling out fur. I feel the issue goes beyond dominance, because Teya is putting up no challenge to Thea's dominance. I think the problem is probably more Thea's stress/anxiety. Does she need more time to grieve? Will she eventually accept the little one? Is there anything I can do to help the process?

    If you've gotten this far, thanks for reading my long story, and I hope someone has some ideas!

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    Moderator CavyMama's Avatar
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    Re: Aloha! And need help getting old sow to bond with new one.

    Your intro on the lanai sounded pretty normal. Short of blood being drawn, there is no reason to separate and in fact the separation and reintroduction is way more stressful for pigs than just being allowed to work it out. Each time you reintroduce after separation, they have to start over establishing dominance. Chasing, mounting, nipping, rumblestrutting are all normal dominance behaviors.

    As for the cage, guinea pigs need more space all on one level. Multiple levels do not allow them more space as they need the single level area to run laps when they get built up energy.
    Last edited by CavyMama; 09-03-18 at 03:04 pm. Reason: correcting typos

  3. "Thank you, CavyMama, for this useful post," says:


  4. #3
    Cavy Slave
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    Re: Aloha! And need help getting old sow to bond with new one.

    Thanks for your reply, CavyMama! I appreciate the explanation about why guinea pigs need the space all on one level. My next project will be building an even bigger cage!

    After a week of avoiding each other completely, with the little one refusing to come down from the loft and the big one refusing to go up, we put them together in the grass and they started interacting more calmly. We put them back into the same level of the cage, and they are now doing the normal dominance behaviors, with a lot of rumble strutting and mounting, which is a huge improvement from the constant tooth rattling and nipping that was going on before. The little one still goes upstairs when she wants a break, but she chose to come down on her own this afternoon, which is a first. I'm so glad to see them able to keep each other company now!

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