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Introductions How to introduce two bonded pairs - each separately?

Chloe_s_mom

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Hi, we have a bonded pair of Abby sows, approximately 9 months old (possibly 10) and recently acquired another bonded pair of girls (I checked gender to make sure that if nothing else, all four 'looked' alike ha!), approximately 6 months old.

The first pair have been with us since they were babies and have been housed in a variety of homemade C&C cages. The new pair were in a small rabbit (or so the pet store says is suitable for a rabbit) cage.

After some quarantine, I split the cage in half, giving each pair 2 x 3 with an offset, low 1.5 x 2 patio/loft area. Gosh, 2 x 3 seems soooo small for our original girls, but my hopes were that all would be together in a 2 x 6 with two 1.5 x 2 patios.

I've tried some light introductions when holding the guineas, and it went very well between the lesser dominate ones of each pair. I slowly removed the tall coro barrier between the cages, keeping the grids only. Both sets were always quite interested in each other, with the most dominate of the bunch doing a bunch of bum wagging, rumbling etc. I put a second hay rack for each cage on either side of the barrier, and everyone eats near each other.

Tonight, after rearranging the cage, I decided to see about letting them all meet at once, and it was chaos (in my eyes, at least). Each puffed up to double their sizes, I saw a lot of nose battles, rumbling, chattering but finally decided to separate everyone when I saw massive yawning on the behalf of two of them, after some chasing.

My question is, should I be introducing both pairs at once? Or should I try to be introducing one new one to the other pair? Or one on one?

Interesting to note that each pig became so annoyed/wound up that they had spats with their own buddy, after they were separated :( Reminded me of seeing a cat become so upset that when they accidentally bump into a wall, they hiss at it.

It took a few minutes, but eventually everyone settled back down, those the more dominate of the new pair was busy sticking her nose through the barrier, and the least dominate of the original pair was still pissed off at everyone and took her piece of cucumber to eat it alone in her hidey hut (she puffed up so big that I couldn't tell which end was which, as she has crazy rosettes on either end - looked like a porcupine).

Thank you in advance for any suggestions! Also, I'm running out of space re. making the cage much longer, as the offset lofts/patios make the cage 2 x 8 in length - my couch is getting in the way, wall blocking expansion in the other direction. My thoughts were to make a very low loft so that there are two entrances and exits from each loft (ramp and a step) so that a piggy can't become trapped.
 

Bodhi

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So they met in their original cage? Was it just cleaned? Was it completely cleared of objects? Who was chasing who when they bared their teeth? Give us a rundown of the names, ages, and personalities...
 

Chloe_s_mom

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Yes, they met in a redesigned but still the original, divide cage (they have been bugging each other thru the grids for a week). They originally met individually on the couch, but only two got near each other (and actually snuggled together), then all loose in the kitchen (they ignored each other).

Buttercup is the biggest, most outgoing and dominate of the girls. Part of the original pair. Approx. 10 months old. She barred her teeth, but oddly, no one was near her and it was after much posturing, puffing up. She was on 'their' side, eating cucumber when I saw her do it (first time that I've ever seen her teeth). No noise, no reaction from the others bec I was the only one looking??

Anna is the other girl from the original pair, timid. Despite being less dominate, she will not let her sister (Buttercup) push her around and will sometimes nip (doesn't seem to make contact) and drive Buttercup out of her space. Anna barred her teeth, in her loft, at Gracie, who continued to eat happily at a bowl about 6 inches away. Anna was still puffed up and annoyed at the world. She was the one that cuddled up to Teddy during the couch introduction, after bum sniffing and nudging.

Gracie is the most outgoing and good humoured of the second pair. She is incredibly curious, not sure that she understands guinea pig behaviour (we have a dog that doesn't seem to understand doggy etiquette). She is forever trying to shove her nose through the barrier. And when they met on the couch, she rushed over and bugged the crap out of the others, seemed surprised that they weren't impressed.

Teddy is the more timid of the two new girls, but I'm not sure that it is non-dominance per se. She often gets annoyed at her sister, Gracie, when Gracie has rushed up behind her, etc. They do get along for the most part, and love to do zoomies in the early morning.

I didn't clear hidey huts out of the way, but in hind sight, a single entrance/exit wasn't a good idea. The cage had been cleaned, with extra hay placed in a total of 4 spots. The newly installed lofts/patios were done in a way that they are quite low and have two exits - a ramp and a step/jump down, but I noticed that Anna guarded both. I also spotted trouble with ramps, when I saw a new girl 'trapped' on a ramp, with the older pair at either end. In that instance, Buttercup found something else to do.

The two more outgoing of each pair rushed past each other into the other side and immediately explored everything, snacked in between puffing up etc. Of the four, the two older girls did the biggest displays of puffing, rumbling, and at the end, 'yawing'.

Gracie was the least alarmed of the bunch, had a great time and spent a lot of time trying to get through the barrier one put back up. Anna and Teddy (more timid of each pair) were slower to recover from the event.

The cage felt tight, with too many problem spots (ramps, hidey huts). The energy before this introduction might have been a bit high due to the rearranging/cleaning, but it was an excited high. Over the past two weeks, I have regularly 'traded' items between the two cages, like hidey huts, hammocks, etc
 

Chloe_s_mom

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I tried to post photos of the divided cage, the guineas in question and a photo of the four of them munching away on either side of the divider, but no luck with attaching photos tonight.

Had a very busy day, stripped down the cage fully, washed it, the bowls, the water bottles, the hidey huts and two loads of laundry for all of the fleece. While I cleaned the cage, I had all four in a newly cleaned playpen area, but still divided. Then, once progress was made on the main cage, I gave them each a bath (first time!) and put them back into the playpen, but without the divider. Much quieter than yesterday's intro as they were busy recovering from the indignity of being washed. Lots of hay, plus 5 food bowls. Also, no hidey huts but rather I draped a towel over a tent (upside down V) made from two grids, which they liked as it allowed more than one guinea in at one time, but also had a second, large exit.

Once the main cage was cleaned and set up, I put all four back in, and spent the evening watching, changing furnishing to eliminate any tight spots/trouble spots. It is the second in command piggy, Anna, that has turned out to be more challenging than any of the others. She has chased both of the younger girls (though one chased her right back) a few times and even challenged her dominant sister. The cage looks like a mountain range covered in fleece as I have two upside down V tents with covers over top as well as strips of fleece hanging in the front. And, on each loft/patio (complete with two exits for each loft), there's a hidey corner with fleece strips around it, which is turning out to be a big hit. Several water bottles, hay racks and food dishes.
I'm also trying out Spirit Essences on the guineas - bought it for two dualling cats and figured that I have nothing to lose. Essentially, it is a herbal/floral essence that can be massaged onto/misted onto the animals in question. I spritzed the cage with Peacemaker and the two older girls took a quick nap almost immediately.....Alas, I'd have to soak Anna in it to keep her happy for any length of time....Fingers crossed that it works out well - there seems to be quite a few safe spots as well as escape routes.

If it doesn't work out fully and I need to divide the cage for the night/or a day, can I simply lift the barrier the next day or do I need to strip the cage again? I spent hours on it today, as I don't have a spare fleece set, and can't quite imagine doing it again tomorrow...
 

Bodhi

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It sounds like they are doing fine. No need for a barrier unless two of them absolutely don't get along. It doesn't sound like much real fighting has gone on. It sounds like you did everything possible for them to get along. Just be careful with the scents, guinea pigs have a good sense of smell.
 

Chloe_s_mom

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The Spirit Essences aren't essential oils, but rather holistic remedies that use energy infused into mineral water. Basically, I was desperate to get my two cats to stop fighting and would have hopped around the world on one leg, if told that it would stop the fighting. My holistic vet suggested flower essences (again, no essential oils) and I found Spirit Essences, founded by Jackson Galaxy, the cat guru that appears on My Cat from Hell, Animal Plant (ever spot dark blue glass bottles inside his guitar case? those are his company's Spirit Essences). Anyway, for whatever reason, the cats stopped fighting, and when introducing the guineas, I spotted those bottles at the back of my cabinet, and thought, why not!

My husband was saying how much improvement each day is bringing. Still squabbles between Anna and both of the younger girls, though I've seen Teddie chase Anna. Buttercup has decided to love everyone, feels secure in her position, and is often spotted napping, usually in the path of the others.

My daughters have been spending time with each piggy, trying to make each feel special.

Gosh, all sorts of leafy green treats (this week includes kale and mini cucumbers) is making the cage quite the poop zone, but mostly concentrated in the litter/hay rack areas.

Some of my lessons that I've learned:
a) keep a keen eye out for areas where a guinea could get cornered by one or more other guineas, and fix the area before it becomes a problem
b) lots of fleece dangly strips - interestingly, tense guineas feel more comfortable passing each other in a tighter spot if one can break the view of the other - seems to stop staring, leading to increased tension
c) two exits for lofts
d) extra food dishes, water bottles, and hay racks/piles/stuffed into grids

Thank you for your help!
 

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