The death of a pet is a hard blow for anyone, including other pets in the house. As social animals, guinea pigs do best when they live with a companion and will form close bonds with other guinea pigs that they live with. Guinea pigs definitely understand when their friend dies and will grieve the loss just like you do.
Understanding how your guinea pig reacts to the death of their companion will help you determine how to aid their recovery. Supporting your surviving guinea pig can also help ease your pain too.
Do Guinea Pigs Grieve the Loss of Their Friend?
If you’ve never lost a guinea pig before, you’re probably not familiar with how other guinea pigs will react to the loss of their friend. You might also be wondering whether they grieve the loss themselves. Depending on how strong the bond between the guinea pigs is, the surviving guinea pig will miss their companion and grieve for them in different ways.
For example, if you have a group of guinea pigs, the loss might be tempered by the presence of the others, though some individuals that were closer to the lost guinea pig might feel the loss more. If you only have two guinea pigs, the death of one can be a hard blow to the remaining guinea pig, and they might show a much stronger reaction.
How to Tell If Your Guinea Pig Is Grieving
Since they can’t speak, understanding what your guinea pig is feeling can be tough. If you’re not familiar with the signs of a guinea pig’s grieving process, it can be easy to project your devastation onto them or even assume that they don’t care at all, especially if they continue as usual. Like us, though, individual guinea pigs have unique ways of dealing with loss.
Your guinea pig will show their grief in several ways. Some will lose their appetite, stare into space for long periods, or refuse to play, while others will search relentlessly for their missing friend.
You must monitor your guinea pig closely after the death of their companion. Sudden changes in their environment, like the loss of a friend, can stress them out and put them off their food. If they don’t eat for a long time due to their grief, it can lead to liver problems.
Tips for Helping Your Guinea Pig Grieve
Part of the recovery process for you and your guinea pig is helping them accept the loss of their companion. Helping them grieve will allow you both to process and adjust to the absence. Here are a few ways to help you and your guinea pig grieve.
1. Let Them Say Goodbye
Although it might seem strange, placing the deceased guinea pig back in their cage for a while can help your remaining guinea pigs adjust. If the death happened overnight, your other guinea pigs likely already interacted with their companion’s body, and you can remove it.
However, if the guinea pig dies when they’re outside of the cage due to an accident or during a trip to the vet, your remaining pets will miss out on this time to say goodbye. By placing the dead guinea pig back in the cage for a few minutes, you’ll be giving your remaining guinea pigs the time that they need to start grieving.
Some guinea pigs will ignore the body, while others will interact with it by sniffing, licking, or trying to rouse them. While this can be heartbreaking to watch—especially when you’re dealing with the loss yourself—it’s an essential part of helping your guinea pig understand and begin healing from the loss.
2. Clean Out the Cage
Some guinea pig owners will thoroughly clean the cage after the death of one of their pets. This will remove the lingering scent of your lost guinea pig and make it easier for your surviving guinea pig to understand their absence.
If your guinea pig can still smell the presence of their friend, it might confuse them and encourage them to spend longer searching for their companion rather than dealing with the loss. Completely replace the bedding and toys, and clean any bowls used by the other guinea pig.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to remove the scent of their friend completely—especially if you have a timid guinea pig that gets stressed easily—give your guinea pig something new instead. Introduce new toys to play with, or make a new cardboard house for them to explore.
3. Spend Quality Time Together
Guinea pigs are social animals, and if they’re on their own after losing a companion, loneliness can make their recovery process longer. This makes it even more important for you to set aside time to socialize with your guinea pig.
Even if they live in a group, your guinea pigs can still benefit from spending quality time with you. By interacting with them, you can help prevent them from dwelling on their lost companion by giving them something else to focus on. They’ll still miss their friend, but they’ll also be distracted by the comfort that you offer them. Spending time with them can also help build a bond.
4. Give Them Time
Above all else, the most important thing about dealing with bereavement is allowing for time. The death of a companion—whether it’s a friend or a beloved pet—is devastating for everyone, even if the animal is as small as your guinea pig. Neither you nor your guinea pig is expected to recover from the loss immediately.
While some guinea pigs might only need a few days or a week, others might miss their friend for several weeks. No matter how long it takes or how heartbreaking their sadness is, giving them the time they need is essential to help their recovery.
Should You Get Another Guinea Pig?
The pain of losing your guinea pig can make the prospect of adopting another one daunting. This is something to seriously consider, though, particularly if your remaining guinea pig is on their own. You don’t need to jump straight into adopting a new pe, of course. Give yourself and your guinea pig a few weeks to get over the loss before looking into adoption.
Introducing a new guinea pig can help your surviving guinea pig by giving them another companion to bond with. Unfortunately, we can’t spend all day with our guinea pig, but another furry friend will provide comfort through their presence.
We recommended adoption over buying a new guinea pig. This way, you’ll be helping another animal. Remember to introduce the guinea pigs slowly by keeping them in separate cages before gradually increasing the time that they spend together.
Although small, guinea pigs take up a large amount of space in our hearts. Losing one can be devastating. It’s not just you who will grieve the death of a guinea pig, though; the surviving guinea pig—or pigs, if you have more than one—will grieve the loss too.
To help your guinea pig adjust, give them time to say goodbye and spend plenty of time with them. Also, consider introducing a new guinea pig for them to bond with once they’ve recovered from the initial loss.
Featured Image Credit: Charleen Magne, Shutterstock