Small Pets

How Many Guinea Pigs Should You Get?

If you’re looking to adopt guinea pigs, you may have heard that they’re herd animals. This may leave you wondering: how many guinea pigs should you get?

As a beginner, a bonded pair of guinea pigs is the perfect fit! You could also go for a trio if you’d like three, but you should likely avoid having four or more until you have the experience to know that you can care for them properly. Don’t adopt a single guinea pig unless you plan to bond them with another guinea pig quickly.

In this article, we’ll discuss what it’s like to adopt pairs, trios, and herds of guinea pigs to help you decide how many piggies are right for you.

Can You Keep a Solo Guinea Pig?

Guinea pigs are herd animals. In the wild, they live in large groups consisting of a boar and many sows. Keeping a solo guinea pig is not ethical.

Humans cannot meet all of a guinea pig’s social needs. Just like we need to talk to other humans, they need other guinea pigs to keep them company!

Solo guinea pigs become stressed and may develop depression. They should only be kept alone in their cage if they’ve had many failed bondings with other guinea pigs. Even then, they shouldn’t be the only guinea pig in your household! They should be kept side-by-side with another pair or group of guinea pigs so that they can socialize safely. This has been shown to reduce stress in single piggies.

Can Guinea Pigs Live With Other Animals?

Like humans, other animals such as rabbits cannot meet a guinea pig’s social needs. It’s also dangerous to keep guinea pigs with other pets.

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Rabbits, cats, and dogs can be asymptomatic carriers of Bordetella, which is one of the leading causes of upper respiratory infections in guinea pigs. URIs can be deadly, especially if they’re not treated promptly.

These animals can also hurt guinea pigs. Dogs and cats may see them as prey, or even hurt them by mistake while trying to play. Rabbits often bully guinea pigs and their strong kicks can cause injuries.

Keeping Two Guinea Pigs

Two guinea pigs

Guinea pig pairs can consist of two males, two females, or a neutered male and a female. A spayed female and a male are also fine, but this isn’t typical since spays are more risky than neuters.

Most people begin with two guinea pigs, and it’s a good starting point if you’re unsure of how many you’d like to adopt. You can always adopt more in the future if you decide to!

The minimum cage size for two guinea pigs is 7.5 square feet, but the ideal cage size is 10.5 square feet or more. Bigger is always better, and males often require more space to keep their bond intact.

Keeping Three Guinea Pigs

Three guinea pigs

Guinea pig trios can consist of three females or one neutered male with two females.

Male guinea pig trios rarely work out. They need a ton of space and all of the boys need to be incredibly docile.

Two males will very likely fight over a female, so this is also not a good match!

Guinea pig trios require at least 10.5 square feet, and preferably 13 square feet or more.

Keeping Four Guinea Pigs

Four guinea pigs

Once you have four guinea pigs, it’s officially a herd! Like trios, herds can consist of all females or one neutered male and several females.

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Keeping four guinea pigs is a lot of work and can be expensive. Make sure you have at least 13 square feet for their cage (but preferably 15 square feet or more), are ready to clean up a lot of poop, and can afford vet bills if they all get sick.

If this is your first time caring for guinea pigs, I strongly advise starting with two or three first.

Keeping Five or More Guinea Pigs

Five guinea pigs

Herds of five or more piggies aren’t for most people. They’re messy, expensive, and take up a lot of space in your home–at least 16-19 square feet, to be exact!

Remember that even if you can keep up with their day-to-day needs, veterinary expenses add up quickly, especially as your piggies age. My guinea pig, Baby, needed medication for the last year of his life, which was a monthly expense. While I was fortunate not to run into surgeries or emergency vet visits, these can easily cost over $500.

This isn’t to discourage you from adopting a large herd if you’re passionate about guinea pigs and can care for them right! Just remember that it’s a big commitment to keep this many, and the decision shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Bonding Guinea Pigs

You can’t just bring a new guinea pig home and put them into your resident piggy’s cage, as this will often end in fighting between the two! It’s important to learn how to bond your guinea pigs, starting with a neutral territory.

This should be someplace they haven’t been before with either new or cleaned items, so neither of their scents are in the area. This reduces the chances of them getting territorial.

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You’ll want to avoid hides at first and leave only a hay pile in the center of the bonding area. Once you’re comfortable with how they’re getting along, you can add double-entrance hides such as tunnels.

Learn about bonding behavior before introducing your piggies to one another as well. Humping, rumble strutting, and a bit of chasing are all normal. “Tornadoes” where they attack each other while spinning are not, and should be broken up. Make sure you wear an oven mitt or keep an item on hand to get between them so you don’t get bitten by mistake!

If your guinea pigs draw blood, it’s time to end the bond.

Conclusion – How Many Guinea Pigs Are Right for You?

While it depends on the person, most people should start their guinea pig care journey by adopting two to three guinea pigs. Any more than this can be overwhelming for a beginner!

If you have the space, time, and finances to care for more piggies, it’s never wrong to adopt more down the line. Just remember that caring for a large herd is like a full-time job, and not doable for most people.

It’s also important to remember that you don’t necessarily need the maximum amount of guinea pigs that can fit in your space. It’s better to have a cage that well exceeds the minimum and gives your piggies plenty of room to run around and popcorn to their hearts’ content!

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