Guinea pigs need friends. We’ve all heard that lots of times. But what does that really mean, in terms of how guinea pigs think and act?
When we say guinea pigs need friends, it means far more than they just like to hang out together. Guinea pigs live in herds, just like horses. You can even think of a pack or flock…there are animals who are meant to live in groups, and only thrive with group support.
When a species has been a herd animal for eons, that instinct runs deep. One individual carries with them the history of all those years. Tiny prey animals can be extremely anxious without the comfort of a group.
Guinea pigs rely on their herd for warmth, assistnace in watching for threats, and help finding food. Cavies don’t often build complicated nests, and don’t dig burrows of their own, but often take over abandoned homes of other animals. They snuggle together, staying warm and safe with other piggies. They all share the job of watching for predators, and if a predator comes around, they scatter in different directions, zig-zagging and causing confusion.
Without herd-mates to help watch for bad things (and to help deal with any threat), a guinea pig will instinctually be on high alert all the time, and will be a more nervous and high-strung piggy.
People are social too, of course. Don’t you feel safer and more relaxed with your friends and family around you? If you thought there might be danger, wouldn’t you want your group around you? And we aren’t tiny little prey animals like guinea pigs are. Imagine how much stronger that feeling is for them!
Not all pigs get along, though. Next we’ll take a look at how to introduce cavies, and what to do when the family dynamics fall apart.