While it is extremely rare to have this happen if at all, guinea pigs don’t usually eat their babies.
It seems unnatural and almost cruel to humans that some animals eat their young, though eating babies is part of some wildlife’s natural instincts. When it comes to sows (female guinea pigs) and their pups (baby guinea pigs), it’s implausible she will eat her babies.
So, what do you do if you suspect the pups have been eaten? Are there ways to protect them or prevent this from happening? Yes. Learn what to do and how to care for guinea pups in this article.
Why It’s Unlikely Mama Guinea Pigs Will Eat Their Pups
Guinea pigs are natural-born herbivores. For this reason alone, it’s an improbable chance that guinea pigs (male or female) will eat their babies. In fact, other rodents, such as mice, rats, and hamsters, are more prone to committing infanticide than guinea pigs.
Unlike other rodent pets, sows are primarily maternal. In the wild, guinea pigs huddle together and form hierarchies within a large group. Since guinea pigs are naturally pack animals, they’re known as social and affectionate creatures who choose to protect each other. After all, there is strength in numbers.
Above all though, the primary reason why it’s very unlikely that a female would eat her pups is because they are born highly independent, with open eyes and fur, and can begin eating solids when they’re as young as 2 days old. This high level of independence means the sow only has to feed them a few times each day; thereby limiting the amount of time she spends with them in the first place.
Why Some Mama Guinea Pigs Eat Their Babies
Although it’s extremely rare for sows or boars to eat their young, it can happen. However, any cause of eating young is strictly based on survival instinct. If one or more pups are stillborn, the sow may eat her pups instinctually. Since guinea pigs are prey animals, they rid their home of anything that may attract predators. This includes a dead pup.
Another case of survival infanticide is if the sow isn’t producing enough milk for all her pups, she will sacrifice the weakest to ensure the rest live. However, when they’re kept as pets, this is exceptionally rare.
Even though eating pups is a rare occasion, it can happen. The best thing you can do is to create preventative measures, such as maintaining a stress-free environment for your mama piggie.
What to Do if Your Sow Eats Her Babies
On the rare occasion that your sow does eat her pups, what do you do about it?
Firstly, pups can escape their nest and may be hiding somewhere else. If you notice one or more of your sow’s piggies gone, do a quick and gentle sweep of her enclosure to make sure she did, in fact, eat them. However, if there is specific evidence, you can skip this step.
You must begin by disposing of the carcass immediately if you notice clear evidence that a pup has been eaten or partially eaten. By removing the carcass, you remove disease caused by decomposition and the ability to continue feeding on the dead pup.
The best way to dispose of a carcass is to wear gloves, gently pick it up, place it in a sealed bag, double up the bag, and then dispose of it in the trash (outside your home). Alternatively, you can bury the carcass if you’d like, however, as plastic is not biodegradable, you should not either wrap the carcass in biodegradable material or no material at all should you opt to bury it.
Is It a Good Idea to Separate the Pups From the Sow?
Guinea pups can live without their mother with your help. If, by chance, your sow is eating her pups, you should separate them.
However, giving her and her pups space for the first few days is best. Pups should only be separated from mama if there is a sign of rejection or harm to the babies.
Pups need their mother for a minimum of 3 weeks. However, it is recommended pups stay with the sow for 6 weeks. After 6 weeks, nurturing, playing with, and combining enclosures with the piglets is okay.
Preventing a Sow From Eating Her Pups
During the mom’s pregnancy, it’s a good idea to separate all males from the enclosure and decrease as much stress as possible. Since sows can become pregnant almost immediately after birth, separating males before she delivers her pups is recommended. If your enclosure inhabits other sows, watch fighting and territorial behaviors closely. If your mama piggie becomes threatened or attacked, she will become stressed.
In her enclosure, ensure you provide unlimited grass or hay, green leafy vegetables, and a good amount of vitamin C daily. Please note that pregnant and lactating guinea pigs require more Vitamin C than adult guinea pigs in maintenance. To maintain a stress-free environment, you must ensure no significant changes to her routine or bright lights and loud noises.
Tips for Keeping Mama and Her Pups Healthy and Safe
Your sow doesn’t need much help from you to care for her young. To ensure the safest and healthiest pregnancy and aftercare, you must maintain a caring routine that provides love, enough attention, a variety of food, and fresh water.
While holding baby guinea pigs is okay, the sow must trust you first. It’s not a good idea to let strangers with unfamiliar scents handle her pups; otherwise, she may attack or reject her babies.
About a week after delivery, taking mama guinea and her pups to see a vet is a good idea. The vet will check for infection, illness, or any problems. They’ll also give you great advice on what to do next to ensure the best success for survival.
Pups should be socialized with humans when they are around 2-3 weeks old. At this age, young guinea pigs will develop bonds with humans and learn to accept being held.
So, do guinea pigs eat their babies? It is uncommon for any guinea pig to eat their young if they are well cared for, and you provide a stress-free zone for mama sows. Remember to separate boars from the sow, as he can complicate things for mama piggie.
As long as you provide a nurturing environment with fresh food and water, baby guinea pigs and their mom are safe.
Featured Image Credit: Naomi Marcin, Shutterstock