Nothing is more exciting than bringing a new guinea pig home. Yet nothing could be more disappointing than finding out your new pet is not exhibiting the signs of a healthy and happy life. Learn the various causes for guinea pig depression and how to put corrections into place.
Identifying Unusual Behavior
While the guinea pig will need time to adjust to its new surroundings, with all the strange sights, sounds and smells, some behaviors should subside over time or never be exhibited at all. Your new pet may hide, rarely making an appearance. It could show its depression by sleeping for long periods of time or neglect to groom its fur. On the other hand, it could chew on the cage bars, bite your hand or show aggression. Observing the guinea pig often, while giving it space and time to adapt, will allow you to determine what changes need to be made.
Where Guinea Pig was Purchased
Pet stores can be very convenient in picking up a guinea pig along with its supplies. However, this is not the best way to purchase a pet. You cannot learn about the guinea pig's past experiences which influence its current behavior. For example, when sold too young, a guinea pig may not be fully weaned or has not learned typical guinea pig behavior from his mother. Reputable rescues and breeders have a plethora of knowledge about the breed you purchase as well as its specific history and personality, helping to identify the perfect guinea pig for you. Still, your guinea pig may become depressed when separated from its group and environment.
These prey animals are social by nature, thriving in the company of other guinea pigs. When taken out of a group environment, the lone guinea pig can easily grow fearful and bored. It is important to bond with your single guinea pig, devoting time and attention in a calm and quiet atmosphere, while offering toys that promote mental and physical stimulation. It is best to purchase at least two guinea pigs from the same group to make the transition easier.
A guinea pig can experience cabin fever when trapped in cage that is too small. Many commercial cages do not offer enough room, as one or two guinea pigs should have a minimum floor space of 7.5 square feet. This is enough to keep the nest area, food and toys somewhat separate while providing plenty of room to run around. Allow the guinea pig a private box within the cage as a retreat from prying eyes, and especially limit other household pets' access to the cage. The cage should be kept out of the cold in the winter and out of direct sunlight in warmer weather.
Illness or Injury
It is unfortunate, though not uncommon, to discover your new guinea pig is depressed due to illness or injury. This can range from lethargic behavior, weeping from the eyes or nose, labored movements, limping and problems with the feet, such as Bumblefoot or overgrown nails. Prevent purchasing a sick or injured guinea pig by taking time to observe it. It is also important to avoid using cedar or pine bedding. The best course of action is to take the guinea pig to a veterinarian.
Pam Smith has been writing since 2005. In addition to her work for Demand Media, her articles have been published online at CBS Local. She also wrote for the Pennsylvania Center for the Book's Literary Map while earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in English at the Pennsylvania State University. She is currently an editorial assistant for Circulation Research.