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Question
Hello,
I have two guinea pigs called Poppy and Roxie who are sisters and 5 months old. Although they lived together before I got them a few months ago, I've noticed that they don't seem to get on very well. Roxie (who is 50 grams heavier) often nips at Poppy and makes it clear she doesn't like Poppy to come too close to her. When they approach one another, they both put their noses high into the air which usually results in Roxie giving Poppy a nip. Roxie also tends to warn Poppy away from the food if she's eating or will use the back end of her body as a barrier to keep Poppy away from it. I've also noticed Roxie Rumblestrutting when she's around Poppy and she in turn seems very nervous of Roxie. I haven't once seen them grooming or choosing to sit close to one another in their hutch. Is this behaviour normal from two sows? I guessed that they may just be establishing their own hierarchy but I feel like Poppy's getting quite a raw deal. Is there anything I can do to improve it? I should probably also mention that I've also noticed that Roxie doesn't seem to like being touched by me either. When I stroke her, she often uses her hind legs to kick me off or will squeak and flinch away from me. Poppy on the other hand loves to be stroked and will happily curl up in a ball on my lap. Thanks.

Answer
Guinea pigs have different personalities just as we do. It's not unusual for the sows to occasionally not get along. This usually happens when the crabby one is in heat. And it sounds like Roxie is doing just that.

There isn't really anything you can do about it, and as long as there's nothing more than nose pushing and an occasional nip I wouldn't worry about it. In every cage there is always a 'boss hog.' It sounds like Roxie has made it clear that's her role, she is the alpha female.

Typically the herd accepts this kind of thing and life goes on. Poppy sounds like she's accepted the role of being the slave to Roxie's insistence that she wants to be boss. If there's no bloodshed they will get over it. A sow is usually in heat every two to three weeks, but it only lasts for a few days.

Poppy isn't getting a raw deal. Animals don't view their place in life that way. So don't worry about her, she's fine. And Miss Roxie will probably continue to show her inner self every couple of weeks for a few days, then she will settle down.

As humans we always feel we need to intervene with animal behavior, but that's not always necessary. Roxie and Poppy are just behaving the way two sows living together behave.

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Pat VanAllen

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As is sometimes the case, people in urgent need of information have a higher degree of expectation than those of us as experts are able to give. The experts on this site do their best to give the most accurate and responsible answers possible. We ask that you remember that it is not our intention nor place to criticize the professional advice given by your veterinarian, nor is it appropriate for us to comment on the correctness of a diagnosis made by a licensed physician. Our knowledge is experience based. Although many years of breeding and showing cavies gives me a wealth of experience it cannot change the fact that we as experts are not veterinarians and therefore may occasionally have to reject questions that appear to be asking us to criticize advice given by the licensed professional. Having raised and exhibited cavies for many years I have extensive experience in cavy care and husbandry. I currently have an active breeding program for pedigreed show animals but do not encourage backyard breeding for inexperienced owners. Although I don't encourage breeding for fun I'm always happy to answer any questions from an owner who is in sincere need of help. Pet owners wanting to breed should understand that even experienced breeders have litter losses. The mortality rate is high in cavies. The chance for losing both sow and pups is always present, even with experience. Although this is a site for experts to assist owners, there is no expert in any field who has all the answers. The wisest thing a good expert can know is their limitations. Not having an answer does not diminish one's ability or knowledge. It simply shows that we recognize our limitations and operate within them.

Experience

Raised and shown cavies for many years, having aquired my first cavies in the early 1970's as pets. My caviary currently handles 65 + animals in two different breeds and several varieties. Having been in the health care industry as a licensed nurse for 35 years I have hands on experience with care and needs in both humans and cavies. Member of American Rabbit Breeders Association and American Cavy Breeders Association.

Organizations
Awarded Lifetime Membership in of one of the oldest cavy clubs in the United States, on whose Board I served as Sec/Treas for six years and currently serving as President. Also editor/publisher of the club's quarterly newsletter. We are strong supporters of our youth exhibitors, most of whom are 4H members who are working on cavy projects. Through these projects they become good responsible citizens. We deal with all aspects of showing, breeding, caring for and sharing experiences in the fancy. The cavy fancy is not a new one but in some areas is still relatively unknown. Our goal is to inspire interest in high quality, responsible breeding to improve the species, not just the reproduction of guinea pigs. Our job is to educate owners to help them make the right decisions and choices in the care of their cavies.

Education/Credentials
Graduate in nursing. Certified in emergency medicine.

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