Can Guinea Pigs Be Depressed?

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Guinea pigs are naturally social animals and being alone can make them sad and depressed. 

 They may not have another guinea pig to socialize with or there is lack of socialization with the owner.  So the answer is yes, they can become depressed.  Here are ways in which you can get an idea if your guinea pig is depressed and what to do about it.

Unusual Behavior

When you first get your guinea pig, you are so excited but then you notice that your guinea pig is not exhibiting signs of a happy, healthy life.  One thing to remember is that it will take time for your guinea pig to adjust to its new home.  There are lots of strange sounds, smells, and sights.  Some of these behaviors will, over time, will go away but if they don’t, it could mean they are depressed.  

Here are some signs that can indicate something is not right with your guinea pig, that they could be depressed.

  • Hiding
  • Not making an appearance that often
  • Sleeping for a long time
  • Not grooming its fur
  • Show aggression
  • Chew on the cage bars
  • Bite your hand
  • Lethargic, unmotivated
  • Reluctance to play and eat

Giving your guinea pig time to adjust will also give you time to determine what changes you will need to make in order for your guinea pig to be happy and content.

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Why Your Guinea Pig Might Be Depressed And What to Do

Where You Bought It

Most guinea pigs are bought at pet stores but this is not the best place to get one.  It could have been sold too young and not been fully weaned or learned from its mother, typical guinea pig behavior.  It could also be depressed because it was separated from its environment or group.  To know more about your guinea pig, you should purchase it from a breeder or reputable rescue.

Loneliness

If they are taken out of a group environment your guinea pig could become bored and fearful.  This is why you should try to bond with your guinea pig, giving it attention in a quiet, calm, atmosphere.  You should also promote physical and mental stimulation.  You may also consider adopting two guinea pigs at a time.  

Guinea pigs need a lot of care and attention.  Many times, the owner will neglect their mental needs without realizing that they are doing it.  As guinea pigs are social animals, they need a lot of social interaction to be happy.  If they don’t get that, then they can become depressed.  With one guinea pig, you will need to give them floor time of two or more hours.  During some of that time you will need to interact and play with them as well.

This can mean sitting and playing with them, trying to train them, hand-feeding them, etc to provide them with plenty of physical and mental stimulation.  

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Injury or Illness

Some of the signs they may show include weeping from their nose or eyes, lethargic behavior, limping, labored movements, problems with their feet like overgrown nails.  Make sure that you look your guinea pig over before you buy it.  When getting their bedding, avoid using pine or cedar.

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If your guinea pig has been injured or was ill and required major surgery, this can also cause depression.  They may also have a change in hormonal balance.  If you decide to have them spayed or neutered, this can cause severe depression.  Although the pain may subside, their behavior and personality may remain subdued for longer.

Living Space

If they are housed in a cage that is too small, they can experience cabin fever.  For one guinea pig, they should have a minimum of 7.5 square living floor space.  This is enough room for food, nest area, and toys along with plenty of space to run around.  You should give your guinea pig a private box so they can get away from prying eyes.  Keep the cage out of direct sunlight in warmer weather and cold in the winter.

Loss Of a Mate

If you purchase two of them together and then suddenly one dies, the other will grieve.  Being social animals, they will form a strong bond with their mate, even if they are of the same sex.  When their mate dies, they can go through severe mental stress or depression.  The best thing to do is let them grieve; let them walk around the cage looking for the other one.  Guinea pigs cannot remember things for more than a few weeks so as time goes on, they will start to get better.  

When they are going through this grieving process, you can help by showering them with extra love and attention.  Also, offer them their favorite treats.  If it is possible, give them a few days to grieve and then get them another mate.  While you can give them love and attention, they still need that social interaction with another guinea pig.

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How to Cheer Up a Depressed Guinea Pig

  • Get another guinea pig for a companion
  • Provide them with toys to play with or give them a new place to hide out.  These are things that will make them feel good.
  • When setting up their enclosure, make it as large as you possibly can.  A guinea pig craves the room to eat, exercise, and play.  They can feel depressed in small areas.
  • Give them as much time as you can interacting and playing with them
  • Make sure that you are giving them a varied diet.

Conclusion

  • Unless you see some signs of injury or illness, a veterinarian cannot tell you if your guinea pig is depressed.
  • There are no therapies or medications to help a guinea pig that is depressed.
  • Make sure that you keep your guinea pig stress-free and happy.
  • If you feel your guinea pig is depressed, you should take it to the veterinarian to rule out any injuries or illnesses.  The reason is that a guinea pig can hide their illness very well.

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