Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Rodent Relations III: Stealing

I've covered Biting and Bickering.  The last bit in this series is stealing.  I'm sure there are more types of bad behavior between bonded pigs.  These are just what sprang to mind when Pinni and Bertie's actions upset The Girls Next Door.

Guinea pigs are willful little creatures.  Pinni loves to oust Bertie from some good sleeping spot or force her to move to some other spot in the cage.  Abercrombie loved to pull the treat bowl into the hidey house and block the entrance so she could eat all the treat by herself.  And all guinea pigs, even the most bonded pair, will steal food from each other.  Often it's straight out from the other's mouth.  Some people view this as being mean, but it's really just par for the course for any herd of guinea pigs.  Obviously, what one pig is eating must taste better than anything else in the cage, so why should that pig get to eat it all?  If it's a really good morsel, then the idea is to snatch it from the one eating it, and high-tail it to another corner of the cage to eat as much as possible before the first pig (or some other pig) comes to take it.  I used this piggy attitude when Willow was on her own to entice her to eat more hay (Healthy Competition).

Occasionally, there's enough good food to go around, and the urge to steal food approaches the appearance of sharing.  In this video, Pinniped initially warns Bertie that this is her territory, which includes a lunge and nip.  She doesn't want Bertie intruding or taking the hay that she's already claimed (all tubes of hay, for whatever reason, are Pinni's property).  Bertie blithely ignores Pinni's warnings and they eventually settle in and spent the next 10 minutes peacefully sharing hay.

After all of biting, screaming, lunging, stealing and peeing that I've told you about my girls, you must wonder why I insist that they are happily bonded?  With all they do to each other, how can they be best friends?  Because life is generally peaceful.  Athena and Vicky were nearly joined at the hip and Vicky was seriously depressed when Athena passed (she had no one to hassle).  Pippin hated to be separated from Willow and once breached a grid wall in order to be with Willow (I had separated them, briefly, in an effort to get Willow to bond with Vicky, which obviously didn't work).

A typical bonded pair
Bertie and Pinni do things together more often than not.  They'll eat together.  They go exploring together.  With three levels of living quarters, they are often sleep within a handsbreadth of each other.  Unlike Athena and Vicky, they are not cuddlers; I do not find them snuggled up with each other by choice.  Although we did find them the other night, sleeping so close together they nearly touched.  It appears that when Bertie isn't feeling well, Pinni watches over her.  Such a small thing speaks volumes about two pigs that are happy together.

Any good friendship will have it's ups and downs.  And sometimes it's not easy see how deep the bonds are in a couple, especially when it appears at first glance that they don't get along.  Relationships are rarely simple, even with guinea pigs.


  1. I have noticed that competition with cagemates discourages picky eating. Good for making sure each pig eats their share!

  2. Thanks for sharing all of these tips :) I have 3 pigs - 2 adopted as a bonded pair, the third adopted later. At first the new comer, Fergie, was tolerated more than loved but they are all quite bonded now. And despite Fergie always lifting her head as high as possible to maintain her dominance, she is always there to groom my other two pigs' faces, help them pull the cage liner back and burrow under it (even though she, herself, is not a burrower) and she has also spent a lot of time cuddling with Wendy this past week as Wendy recovers from a UTI. It's so sweet to watch them in the nice moments, it almost makes me forget all the naughty ones full of head-butting, rumbling and stealing! At least I am not the only one sometimes confused by their back-and-forth, love-hate relationships.

  3. Excellent stories Sally! And great replies detailing and describing piggie behavior. You all have made a passionate arguments why piggies should not be kept alone (unless, off course they really do not get along with others - but even then, they should have close contacts to other peegs, separated by a divider for example).
    Pigs are social, period. And if you want to observe their full palette of behavioral facets, its only possible in a small herd of two (minimum).
    I know, I am preaching to the choir, but I thought it can't hurt to state this important requirement for piggie mental and physical health again.



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