Five tips for helping your piggy slot right in!
If you’re an animal lover who already has a dog or cat (or both), you may well want to grow your family by getting another pet. But it can be hard to know which new furry friend would fit best into your family.
Well, we’re here to tell you that your search might just be over!
Adding a smaller pet like a guinea pig or rabbit into your household can be a great way to add to your crew without the commitment of a larger animal.
It’s also ideal if you live in a smaller space such as an apartment.
Then there’s the benefit to your kids. Caring for a little furry friend provides the perfect opportunity for your child to learn about responsibility and compassion. Why not have a look at our small pet care tips for parents for more advice?
You’ve probably noticed that, here at Kavee, we think guinea pigs are ideal pets. They’re sweet, easy going companions who love human company once they’ve been tamed. They may even end up bonding with your cat or dog.
But it’s important to understand how and when to safely introduce your guinea pig to your dog or cat to avoid potential accidents. Here at Kavee, our top priority is ALWAYS animal safety. Never forget that guinea pigs are prey animals - this means that they’re vulnerable to attacks from bigger animals and will be initially very nervous around ‘predators’ such as dogs or cats.
The truth is that keeping a guinea pig in the same home as a bigger animal is never completely without risk. A dog or cat could easily harm or even kill a guinea pig - either intentionally or accidentally through ‘rough play’.
As a guinea pig parent, it’s your job to protect your guinea pig from harm. Always introduce your animals to each other in a responsible, well-prepared manner and never take your eyes off them when they’re together - not even for one second.
And if the introductions don’t work out and you decide that your pets cannot live safely alongside each other, you will need a Plan B. This means that your piggy must be kept in a separate safe space within your home away from bigger animals.
With all this in mind, here are our top 5 tips for introducing your guinea pig to your dog or cat.
TIP 1. START GUINEA PIG INTRODUCTIONS WITH THE SENSES
Animals rely on their senses to navigate through new situations and experiences. Structuring your introductions around your animals’ senses will help ease them all into the new arrangement.
Before introducing your guinea pig to your bigger animals, take an item that has been in your guinea pig’s cage, such as a pee pad, sleep sack or cuddle cup and allow your dog or cat to smell it. Monitor their reaction. Are they overly excitable when they smell it? Are they biting the object or are they calm and disinterested? Try this a few times to get them adjusted to the new smells. If your dog or cat continues to bite the object, this is a clear sign that introductions should not yet be made.
Guinea pigs have very sensitive hearing. New sounds, such as loud barking or meowing can really startle them. When your guinea pigs first arrive, keep them away from your other animals, in another room with a closed door. Allow them to settle into their environment and gradually grow accustomed to the new sounds from afar.
At first, allow your guinea pigs to see your dog or cat from a distance - and vice versa - before they have any closer contact. You can do this by holding your dog or cat and allowing them to see the guinea pig cage but not letting them go near it. Alternatively, sit on one side of the room with your piggy safely in your arms whilst a friend holds your dog or cat securely on the other side of the room.
It’s important never to rush this stage and to wait until both your animals are ready. Once your guinea pig and your dog or cat seem relaxed and comfortable, you can bring them closer to each other. Holding your guinea pig securely away from your dog or cat, slowly and calmly allow them to approach. Allow them to smell your guinea pig up close. If they get too forceful or excited, move them away from your guinea pig.
TIP 2. READ THE SIGNS OF YOUR GUINEA PIGS AND PETS
Know how to gauge both your animals’ behaviour during their first close-up introduction.
- During the face to face introduction, carefully take note of both your animals’ reactions. Remember that your guinea pig is likely to feel uneasy at meeting a larger animal but if they try to hide or become really panicky and skittish, it’s time to take a break.
- You should also know and understand your dog or cat’s behaviour and, in the case of dogs, consider their breed. For instance, is your dog’s breed known for hunting or herding? Bear in mind that terrier breeds have, in the past, been specifically bred for ‘ratting’ which means hunting rodents. Likewise, for domestic cats, hunting prey is an innate part of their nature. Remember that age and size can also play a role in how well your animals will adjust to meeting a new, smaller animal.
- If your dog or cat becomes too excitable or aggressive, pause the introduction.
TIP 3. GIVE YOUR GUINEA PIGS THEIR OWN SPACE
- Give each animal their own distinct territory within your home and create physical barriers between them in order to keep everyone safe. This means keeping dogs and cats in a separate room from your guinea pigs as they get settled into their new home. Keep your guinea pigs safe in a cage with a lid to prevent other animals climbing in.
- Always supervise closely whenever you allow your dog or cat to observe or sniff your guinea pig cage. Even once your animals are comfortable with each other, it’s wise for each animal to continue to have their own distinct space in your home. You may also want to maintain the barriers between these spaces, such as keeping your guinea pigs in a room with a closed door and keeping your larger animals in a separate area.
TIP 4. LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD FOR YOUR GUINEA PIGS
- Cats and dogs tend to have more energy than guinea pigs and like to play. But if your piggy sees them leaping about, it’s likely that they will feel even more anxious. For this reason, it’s wise to try to keep your larger animals’ energy to a minimum when you introduce them to your guinea pig. Simply put, tire them out! If you have a dog, take them for a long walk with plenty of stimulation. The same principle applies to cats. Give them plenty of play time to keep them occupied and busy before the introduction.
TIP 5. PATIENCE IS KEY WITH GUINEA PIGS
- Yes, you may be excited about getting your pets used to each other. But it’s never a good idea to rush introductions. If your animals’ first meeting is chaotic and badly organised, it could heighten the sense of stress and fear on both sides and set an unhealthy pattern that will be hard to undo in the future. For the sake of a harmonious household, resist the urge to take things too fast. As the old saying goes, ‘slow and steady wins the race’. And okay, so this may be referring to a hare and a tortoise but we’re pretty sure that it also applies to guinea pigs, cats and dogs!