Keeping guinea pigs and rabbits together?
For a while it was taken for granted that guinea pigs and rabbits could be kept together. However, this assumption was based on misunderstandings caused by a wrong interpretation of animal behavior, as is now known. Here you can find out why this is the case and how you can offer your little squeaky balls and cuddly noses a species-appropriate home.
Guinea pigs and rabbits communicate in very different ways – Shutterstock / photos2013
Humans may find it cute and harmonious when their rabbit and guinea pig snuggle up together. In fact, however, the animals only do this out of necessity, if they don’t have a conspecific to cuddle with and cannot avoid unwanted expressions of affection.
Guinea pigs and rabbits don’t get along
While guinea pigs belong to the rodent family and are related to porcupines, rabbits belong to the lagomorph family. They are therefore two fundamentally different species, even if there are a few similarities in terms of nutrition and husbandry. In their communication and their need for closeness, however, the small animals could hardly be more different. The little Meerlis communicate a lot via sounds, while the hopping paws communicate primarily via body language. This is also evident in the expressions of affection. The little pigs “chat” with each other, squeaking, cooing, humming, squeaking and chirping like crazy. They only cuddle when they are cold or scared. If they feel good, they scurry about happily or rest within sight, but without close physical contact, in their shelters. The following video offers a little insight:
Rabbits, on the other hand, are largely silent, only hissing or growling in exceptional cases when they feel threatened. For this, the long-eared cats are real cuddly balls and need physical closeness, mutual grooming and cuddling hours with their fellow dogs. They like to snuggle up and groom each other, as seen in the next video:
If guinea pigs and rabbits live together, they “talk” past each other all the time. For example, the mummelschnute put their heads under the pig’s chin because they would like to be cleaned and hugged. Meerlis, however, raise their heads as a kind of threatening gesture when they want to be left alone. If the guinea pigs chatter their teeth as a warning, the next misunderstanding occurs. Instead of the bunnies understanding the rejection, they think their fellow guinea pigs would be pleased, since they grind their teeth themselves when they’re comfortable.
Guinea pigs are afraid of rabbits
In addition, guinea pigs are afraid of rabbits because the long-eared ones are physically superior to them. So it happens that the rodents, resigned to fate, let their roommate clean and cuddle them against their will because they realize that they are weaker and cannot defend themselves anyway. The soft cooing they then make is for reassurance and is not a sign of well-being. The rabbit, on the other hand, is unhappy because the guinea pig is so distant towards him. The fear of the guinea pig is not entirely unfounded, because the rabbit can also accidentally hurt her when he tries to play and shows affection.
So you can still keep the small animals together
In theory, you can still keep both species together, but then you need an extra large enclosure. There must be a partitioned off area that is only accessible through small openings through which the guinea pigs but not the rabbits can fit. So the little squeakers can retreat when the bunnies’ cuddle attacks become too intrusive. So that the rabbits are also happy and have their own places, elevated platforms and pedestals that are too high for the Meerlis make sense. There the rabbits can jump up and observe the surroundings. In addition, both animals absolutely need conspecifics, otherwise they become lonely. However, the question arises whether you really have to keep the animals together in one enclosure, or whether two separate enclosures from the outset would do.
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