If you have a neutered guinea pig at home and want a companion for them, we offer a bonding service here at the rescue centre, where you can leave your guinea pig with us whilst we bond them.
How does it work?
Our specialised bonding pen has a middle partition consisting of a mesh barrier through which the guinea pigs can see and smell each other but the mesh is not wide enough for any teeth to get through. It has two separate doors at the front so that each side can be accessed independently. The middle barrier can be pushed back to make one larger area for when the guinea pigs are ready to begin mixing.
When the visiting guinea pig has arrived we place the prospective suitor in the bonding pen at the same time as the new guinea pig, so that neither guinea pig has a chance to view the new area as their own.
We then generally leave the guinea pigs in this set-up for a couple of days, swapping them over into the each other’s pen a couple of times so that they will get used to each other’s scent. We will be watching the guinea pigs’ behaviour in this time and looking for positive behaviours such as mirroring and whether the guinea pigs are choosing to lie next to each other next to the middle partition.
After a couple of days we will do a supervised meet. We generally have two people present, each armed with a towel in case we have to intervene. We open the middle partition and watch the guinea pigs. Normally one guinea pig will start to go around scenting and they may go up to each other. There may be a little chasing, but we tend to step in if the chasing is too frantic. We calm both guinea pigs down and normally stroke both guinea pigs side by side allowing them to see each other, we transfer our hand between the guinea pigs, so transferring each guinea pig’s scent to the other one. The initial meet can be as little as a few minutes to half an hour, depending on the guinea pigs’ behaviour with each other. We try to end each meet on a high.
During the coming days we try to increase the amount of time the guinea pigs spend with each other gradually. If the guinea pigs are quite calm in each other’s company, we will feed them together and allow them more space to explore together. We normally add toys in the pen at this point. We choose toys with bells in. When we are happy that they can be left for short periods, the bell toys are useful, as if there is a commotion such as chasing, we are alerted by the bells in the toys and we can come back into the room to calm things down if needed.
Once the guinea pigs are spending the majority of the day together and they seem content in each other’s company and there has been no chasing or aggression shown, we then let them stay together overnight. Generally once the guinea pigs have stayed together overnight with no problems, they are bonded enough to go home.
We tend to keep them at the rescue centre for the next couple of days just to make sure they are okay. We recommend that the new owners watch the guinea pigs closely once they take them home. We ask that the guinea pigs are given two feeding bowls and water bowls so that there is no competition. We also ask the owners to check that one guinea pig isn’t able to guard entrances or exits and if they ever require veterinary treatment, both guinea pigs are taken to the vets in the same box, to protect their bond.
There is no set rule for how long the bonding process can take to work. It can be as quick as a couple of days to about a month. Also if it does not work out with one suitor, we will sometimes try another. If we do have to try another suitor, we use our other bonding pen so it is still a neutral space for both guinea pigs to begin with. We will also try to match the two guinea pigs’ personalities more carefully. We initially allow potential owners to pick their preferred choice, however they are informed at the start of the bonding process that normally their guinea pig will ultimately choose their own companion.
Bonding at home
Alternatively you can arrange to take one of our guinea pigs for a short term trial in the home, as long as you have the right facilities, space and experience to manage the bonding process yourself.
To talk to us about bonding your guinea pig with a new friend, call us on 01803 812121 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be happy to help if we can. Please note that we currently have a waiting list for bonding.