Guinea pigs are generally happy animals, but sometimes, they may appear lonely, depressed, and weak.
Disease, losing a partner, or neglect from their owners are some of the reasons your pet may appear stressed.
Please keep reading to find out the signs of depression in guinea pigs and the best ways to deal with a stressed cavy.
6 Signs of Depression in Guinea Pigs
Now let’s discuss each sign in detail.
A stressed guinea pig will appear lethargic/lazy. They will not be as excited as they always are when they see you.
And they may not be playing as much as they do with their cage mates. Most of them are active and playful in nature, so if they’re inactive, something’s wrong.
#2 They are Hiding All The Time
When they’re scared or unaware of their environment, a guinea pig’s first instinct is to hide.
But depression and loneliness can also make them hide in the corner of the cage, and they’ll barely move.
#3 No Social interaction
Besides hiding and acting lethargic, a depressed guinea pig will also cease communicating with its owners.
Guinea pigs have different vocalizations to communicate with their owners when they’re happy or need something.
Stressed guinea pigs tend to be highly irritable and aggressive to their owners and even their cage mates.
You’ll also notice teeth chattering, fidgeting, head tossing, which are all signs that you should “back off” or stop what you’re doing to them.
They may also resort to chewing their toys, food bowls, and any other chewable items in their cages.
According to pamper those piggies, overgrooming in guinea pigs often occurs when they’re bored or depressed.
Depressed guinea pigs will excessively groom themselves or over-groom their cage partners. Some signs of overgrooming include some bald sections on their bodies and fur dropped all-around their cages.
#6 Loss of Appetite
Another sign of depression is the loss of appetite. they will often be munching guinea pig foods in your presence or when you’re not around.
But if they’re depressed, you’ll observe that they don’t want to, even when you feed them their favorite treats.
Another way to know that they’re not eating is overall weakness and weight loss.
If they don’t eat for too long, they’ll develop Scurvy, a condition caused by a lack of Vitamin C in their bodies.
Guinea pigs get Vitamin C solely from their diet since their bodies can’t synthesize these vitamins.
Scurvy is characterized by immobility issues, weakness, and bleeding.
They could also lose appetite and act lethargic due to a bacterial infection that could lead to diarrhea, dental issues, respiratory issues, and other health issues.
Here is a video recap of those signs. Make sure to watch it
What Causes Guinea Pig Depression?
Below are some reasons why your piggies are stressed.
#1 Losing a Partner
Naturally, a guinea pig is a social animal. They exist in herds when in the wild, and they fare batter when there are two more in the cages.
Bonding between guinea pigs takes time. So, when they’re separated due to death or any other reason, the remaining cavies will be depressed.
After a few days, they’ll be fine, so you can try introducing a new cage mate and observe how they react.
If they’re still aggressive, give them some time to “grieve” the lost partner.
Treats and you being there for them by showing them affection can help them get through the grieving process.
Remember, they have feelings too, and they’ll appreciate it when their owner is there for them.
#2 Guinea Pig Loneliness
As mentioned earlier, these pets are social animals. If they don’t get enough social interaction from you or another guinea pig, they end up getting depressed.
You need to set aside some time to pet, cuddle, train, and play with your pet, especially when you only have one guinea pig.
But I strongly advise you have at least two guinea pigs in a cage or a number of them in open cages where they can see each other.
When partnering guinea pigs, make sure you do it appropriately. Don’t place two aggressive or dominant guinea pigs in the same cage.
And if you’re going to partner a male and female (this is one of the best combinations), make sure the male is neutered or the female is spayed unless you want to breed them.
#3 Stress after surgery
Just like people do, guinea pigs may develop stress and depression after depression. This may be accompanied by loss of appetite and lethargy.
The most common surgeries that occur in guinea pigs include neutering and spaying.
Their bodies may be reacting to the removed organ, leading to hormonal imbalances.
The best thing you do is make sure your pet is as comfortable as possible to ease the pain.
#4 Health Issues
Guinea pigs are generally healthy animals. However, they do suffer from a wide range of health issues that may affect their happiness and overall way of life.
I mentioned Scurvy earlier, which results from a deficiency in Vitamin C.
They may also suffer from bumblefoot, which are sores caused by untidy cages. Other issues include parasites, skin infections, urinary issues, tumors, etc.
#5 Cage Space
Your pet may be insecure or depressed if the guinea pig cage is too small or too large or lacks necessary items such as toys, food bowls, and other items.
The ideal cage size for one guinea pig is 7.5 square feet, while two guinea pigs will do well in a 10.5 square feet cage.
If you don’t want them to be in the same cage, separate them into two cages, but place a grid wall where they can still see and interact with each other.
Check out this video “4 Ways You Could Be Harming Your Guinea Pig – Without Realizing It!“
How to help and Cheer up a Depressed Guinea Pig
I know I have already highlighted some of the things you can do to alleviate depression in guinea pigs, but below is a brief overview to make your guinea pig happy.
#1 Get them a cage mate
It’s best to have more than one guinea pig. As much as you’d want to, you can’t be with them all day.
A mate will provide the necessary interaction, grooming, and companionship.
#2 Schedule more time
Some owners worry that if they get their piggies cage mates, they’ll bond with their companions too much and forget their owners.
That’s not the case. They need human attention as much as it needs a companion.
So, make sure you give them the attention they need by playing with them, teaching them tricks, grooming them, and just spending time with them.
Here are some great tips on how to bond with your pet.
#3 Feed them the correct diet
Feed your piggy a balanced diet of veggies, supplements, and treats.
#4 Ample cage space
Make sure they have enough cage space to roam around (preferably 7.5 sq. ft to 10.5 sq. ft), and the cage should have all the necessary toys, a place where they can hide when they need some time for themselves.
#5 Provide enriching activities
Keep your guinea pig busy by providing boredom buster items such as filling paper tubes with hay for them to gnaw on all day.
You can also roll the hay into balls to make it more entertaining or provide mental stimulation games such as treats and puzzles.
WATCH this video below and try one of these fun exercises for Guinea pigs
Signs of Depression FAQs
How do you know if your guinea pig is sad?
Some signs of depression in guinea pigs include hiding all the time, lethargy, lack of appetite, overgrooming, teeth chattering, and irritability.
Can guinea pigs die of depression?
Yes, they can. Depression occurs when their living conditions are not ideal for their mental and physical health. They could also die of starvation/Scurvy when they fail to eat for a long time.
Do guinea pigs get depressed by themselves?
Yes. When a guinea pig is raised alone, with no companion to spend time with when you’re away, they’ll quickly fall into depression. Since they’re herd animals, it’s best to keep at least two guinea pigs.
Depression can be very detrimental to guinea pigs and their owners. Luckily, unless they are suffering from a medical condition (in which case you should visit a vet), you can alleviate the stress with a few tweaks.
Just get them a partner if they lost a partner, build bigger cages, spend time with them, and get them enriching toys.
What other signs of depression in guinea pigs do you know? Can you share it with us below?
Barry Stingmore is a British content writer living in Fuerteventura, Spain. An animal lover at heart, he shares his home with a dog and four rescue cats and has a passion for writing about animals big and small.
Barry loves finding answers to your animal-related questions, the more research involved the better! You can rely on him to find the facts.