Can male and female guinea pigs be kept together? Is it better to own a male guinea pig or a female? How easy is to tell the difference anyway?
What makes the best pet – a male or female guinea pigs?
Male guinea pigs (boars) have a tendency to live a little longer than females (sows), especially if the females are having young. Both have similar temperaments although males are often a bit bolder, making them easier to handle. It can often be easier to find a suitable companion for a female guinea pig though as they tend to be more amenable with their guinea pig friends.
Male or female guinea pigs?
It is easier to tell if a guinea pig is male or female when they are a little older – as the males have swellings to indicate the presence of their testicles. In very young guinea pigs the difference is not always obvious so it is often worth checking with your vet. In the female, the genital opening is Y-shaped and in males more like an i. In reality, it’s not always that obvious, especially if you don’t have a male and female guinea pig to compare.
A female guinea pig can become pregnant very quickly from about three to four weeks of age so should be kept separate from males (unless they are neutered). They should not be bred from after 8 months of age if they haven’t previously had young as this can result in severe difficulties with birth. If you have bought a pair of guinea pigs, it’s always worth making sure you have the right combination.
Best guinea pig combination
It’s not uncommon to have two or three boars (males) in the same hutch and for them to get along as long as there is lots of space and there are no females in close vicinity. Growing up together also helps. Inexperienced pet owners may find it difficult to introduce an adult boar to two bonded boars, or even a single boar and it’s not generally recommended, although many breeders and rehoming centres do this successfully.
Any more than two or three boars to a hutch can also result in the guinea pigs fighting. An adult boar that’s been left alone – perhaps because his bonded brother has died – often accepts a baby boar more readily as a companion although the introduction needs to be done carefully.
Personality plays a big part in how boars (and sows) get along with each other and sometimes it’s about matching compatible pigs. Another option is to house pigs in sight of each other but with limited physical contact.
Females often tolerate living in larger groups but a group of two or three may be more harmonious and sometimes there can be personality clashes. Male guinea pigs can be neutered and they can then be housed with females. Some females are more compatible with a neutered male than other females and the presence of a neutered male can make a group of females friendlier towards each other.
Whatever combination you use, remember that guinea pigs are herd animals and really do need some interaction with other guinea pigs, even if it’s ensuring they are in sniffing and hearing distance.