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Guinea Pigs/Male Companionship

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Question
Dear Pat,

I really need some help with pairing my male baby guinea pig with another male. The vets in my area don't know a thing about guinea pigs and have generally been no use.

I rescued the pig's mum, Wilma, from a girl who kept her in a damp plastic storage box in February. She was sold as a he and had 3 lovely babies a week or so later (despite her conditions during pregnancy the babies are incredibly healthy). I have welcomed the babies with open arms and they are all now a firm part of my family. However, I put off separating my one boy from his mum and sisters, and have just now separated them 6 weeks after they were born (I know I should have done this before, but I've never owned pigs before Wilma so I am a complete novice). Anyway, long story short, Biff (the only boy in the litter) is now secluded in a cage on his own. He is still too young to get neutered (something I wouldn't do anyway unless I have no other option). So my questions are:

1) what would you recommend if I were to introduce a companion to Biff? Should the new pig be older/younger, bigger/smaller? I know not all companionship's work out but would like to give it a try so he doesn't get too upset. He still gets supervised in the pig pen with his sisters and mother so does he need a friend seeing as they spend around 1 and a half hours a day with them? All the family are sure to cuddle him 2-3 times a day.
2) Is it cruel putting them together then separating them again?
3) Is neutering something you would recommend? I am most concerned about Biff's health as well as his siblings and mother's, and do not want to put him through anything that will be too painful, stressful or worst case scenario, death.

I'd be so grateful if you would get back to me - most things I've read online begin to contradict each other and I can't find any information on a scenario like mine at all!

Kind regards,
Kristin

Answer
You can easily introduce a friend to Biff by getting another young boar. In the meantime you need to keep Biff away from the girls as he will begin developing that urge to breed in a very short time. I would not keep putting him back in, taking him out and returning him.  What you may end up with is a pregnant sister.

It's unlikely he can successfully breed his mum yet, but he certainly will try. The females come into heat every 14 to 20 days. Unlike many animals they are not predictable as to when they may come into estrus, so when breeding we usually leave a boar with his females until they are obviously pregnant. But the sow comes back into heat within a few hours of birth and the boar will breed her back if he's present.

Baby sows come into heat the first time at about 14 days old. Believe it or not they have no trouble delivering at a very young age. Cavies are very precocious as is evident by their mature development at birth. Their eyes are open, teeth fully developed and present, fur already developed and they're ready to run.

As far as neutering the male it's not a particularly difficult procedure provided you have a vet who is knowledgeable about guinea pigs. Even here in the US not many vets deal much with cavies and know little or nothing about them. So for that reason I would not recommend you take Biff to one of your vets.

He will actually be fine by himself if you choose to keep him. If you get another boar for him they will get along as long as they don't have contact with the girls. As both of the boars become sexually mature their hormones will kick in and they will begin to fight for breeding rights.  

You must remember that in all herding animals their is only one alpha male. Any males born into the herd are allowed to stay until the day they begin to challenge the alpha. A fight is going to start and will not stop until one or the other either dies or willfully gives up. Then the loser is banished from the herd.

This is just the way nature has provided animals to procreate. And try as we might we can't alter what nature has established. When we do it almost always backfires in one way or another.

As cute as they are and as tempting as it is to keep all the babies it would really make your life much easier if you found a home for Biff. If you just can't bring yourself to do that then keep him by himself.

This is decision time for you and believe me, I do understand your dilemma. Best of luck to you and your new family.

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Pat VanAllen

Expertise

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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