Friday, May 11, 2018

Introduction Stress

Have I mentioned I hate guinea pig introductions?  I do.  Passionately.  Wedgwood being a neurotic butthead doesn't help.  If things don't work out, we've threatened to bring Wedgwood back to the shelter and keep Jewel.  We've also threatened to make sausage out of Wedgie (we're skipping Bad Pig Stew entirely).  Wedg!  Be nice!

Big pen to little pen to the cage (or being a good-sized pig, Jewel is good at hiding!).

After coming home on Sunday, the spent the day penned together on neutral territory.  I added multiple bundles of hay, the pellet dish, the hidey house stool, a tunnel and a towel thrown over a corner for spaces to hide.  Nothing with a dead end so no one could get cornered.  I slowly shrunk the pen until it was the size of the first floor of the cage and then left them there overnight.  That gave me a chance to thoroughly clean the cage, then let it air out.  I hoped a longer break from the cage would help Wedgwood be less territorial once they went in.

Wedgwood guarding hay (that Jewel can't reach anyway)
Sunday was fairly quiet:  screeching, some biting, a few chases.  Jewel was fully submissive and spent most of the time hiding under the stool.  She wasn't running scared from Wedgwood, which frustrated Wedgie.  So if Jewel didn't move after Wedg bit her three or four times, she'd turn around, stick her butt right up against Jewel and pee on her.  I laughed at the same time as being disgusted by the dampness of Jewel's fur.  Ick.  I've seen lots of guinea pigs pee at a pig that's harassing them, but never one that used it as an offensive weapon.  Especially not direct contact!  (Boadicea was so good at hitting Wedgwood in the face from several inches away, we started calling Wedg Pee-Face.)

Then Jewel discovered the tunnel.  It was love.  Best of all, Wedgwood couldn't oust her from it or get a good angle to pee on her.  I think Jewel spent the whole night in that thing.

Monday was rough.  Every time I put newly introduced pigs back into the cage, they rev up the aggression.  I block off the upper levels of the cage so no one hurts themselves.  Wedgwood  chased and bit more and even went as far as pulling hair (I wish I had gotten a good photo of the fur sticking out of her mouth - I would have labeled it #sorrynotsorry.)  Panicked running and screaming went on for 20 minutes or so.  But they settled enough after two hours together that I opened the upper level to the cages, figuring that Jewel wouldn't attempt jumping up there in a panic.  This was good, because Wedgwood took long breaks upstairs and let Jewel have the whole bottom level in (relative) peace.

Wedgwood guarding Jewel... because... she's sleeping in my spot!
I always say guinea pig introductions are not for the faint of heart.  I actually felt better when I heard Jewel cry, because that meant Wedgwood was only threatening her and nothing worse.  There was tension each time I gave them treats because Wedgwood tried to take it all away from Jewel.  But for all the harassment and guarding that Wedgie did, Jewel did not look upset.  Her weight remained fairly steady, so obviously she was eating hay and pellets unmolested at some point.  She'd protest at being picked up, but would instantly settle down and start sniffing.

By Wednesday morning, things had deescalated to mostly rumbling, whining and bickering.  Big improvement.  Made for a noisy office space, but that was okay (they stayed mostly quite for meetings).  Wedgwood is once again fascinated being near another guinea pig; she cried the first time I pulled Jewel out of the cage.  But I know part of her apparent attachment is making sure this interloper doesn't make off with the best cozy and pile of hay.  Jewel is overwhelmed.  She rarely moves about the cage and it's not because she fears Wedg.  It's so hard to be patient!  Each day I try to coax her out just a little and then leave alone to deal on her own terms.

There's progress every day, so we're getting there...

6 comments :

  1. My girls are very dominant (somehow ended up with 3 dominant piggies!) but 2 of them tolerate each other!

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  2. I have had a few girls that would pee at any pig who came close to her behind. Not all do it. The two I have now don't.

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  3. Poor Jewel. I didn't know guinea pigs were like that. I guess you can tell I've never had one. #poorpeefacenot lol

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  4. Oh do I ever empathize! Escape routes, confrontations, levels of violence, woo boy...I split the herd this Winter, and each group has their own little dust-ups but for the most part, everyone knows where they fit in and certainly everyone has access to shelter and food. (It drives me absolutely NUTS when a goat won't let another goat into a shelter!) But now it's Spring and I am currently trying to work out a way each group can have a few hours access to the browse on the Upper West Side paddock, alternating every day or two. It's tricky, because they all need to be back in their own paddock by evening. The "simplest" thing would be to blend the whole herd back together again, but honestly, I don't think I can take the strain - I'd end up pulling out the worst ruffians and then I'd be back with a split herd again anyway. Can you tell I haven't figured this out yet? Argh!
    I hope your herd continues to settle down and become friends :)

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  5. I think the more piggies you have the easier introductions go, one to one being the hardest. Our most recent was two babies into an existing herd of five adult females, and it went very smoothly indeed. Phoebe always insists on being the Matriach and makes everyone submit to her, but after a little bit of concerted wobbly-bottomed rumble strutting, she starts whimpering because no one is paying any attention - Poor old Pheobe!

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  6. Golly, hope things calm down and they get to be friends.

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