Grieving the loss of a guinea pig

If you’ve come to The Ralph Site and our blog because you’re grieving the loss of a guinea pig, let us first say how sorry we are for your loss.

As you will have no doubt experienced first-hand, guinea pigs are wonderful animals who are packed full of personality, especially with their delightful language of ‘wheeks’ and whistles and propensity for ‘popcorning’ when they’re happy.

Losing a guinea pig is never easy.

The sudden loss of a guinea pig

Like rabbits (which we talked about in our last blog), guinea pigs are so-called ‘prey’ animals, which means that they’re hard-wired to be wary of predators. Prey species are usually highly reliant on the protection of their herd when it comes to keeping safe.

Because of this, guinea pigs will hide illness for as long as physically possible. They just can’t risk being left behind by the herd or showing their vulnerability. Sadly, this means that, by the time a guinea pig shows signs that he/she is poorly, it is often too late to save them.

While guinea pigs can live for seven or eight years, many tragically die before this. Guinea pigs are particularly vulnerable to upper respiratory infections (URIs) and pneumonia, as well as dental problems, scurvy (caused by a vitamin C deficiency) and gastrointestinal bloat.

Guilt that you missed the signs

If your guinea pig’s health deteriorated suddenly, you may be struggling with feelings of guilt. Is there anything you could have done to save them? Could you have spotted the signs sooner? Did you do something wrong? These are all questions that may be playing on your mind.

But as we’ve seen above, guinea pigs instinctively hide their illnesses. You can do everything right in terms of care and husbandry and still find yourself unable to save a precious piggy. Please be kind to yourself. Guilt seems to be a natural part of pet loss – maybe because our pets can’t tell us how they feel so they are completely reliant on us – but it can prolong the intense feelings of grief. The fact that you are grieving shows how loved your guinea pig was and that you would have saved them if you could.

Even elderly guinea pigs can decline quickly, so the loss almost invariably comes as a huge shock. Their little lives are never long enough.

Feeling unseen in your grief

It’s estimated that there are currently 400,000 pet guinea pigs in UK. Sadly, many of these live in woefully inadequate conditions where there are potential welfare issues. People often see guinea pigs as a ‘starter pet’ for their children and quickly lose interest when they realise these quirky rodents can live for the best part of a decade. This sort of attitude lends itself to seeing guinea pigs as ‘throwaway’.

For those of us who love our guinea pigs with care and devotion, losing one can be devastating. And it can be hard to express our grief due to the wider, prevailing attitudes towards guinea pigs mentioned above. You may well have had people say to you, “Can’t you just get another one?” or ‘It was only a guinea pig”. This can be hurtful. You know only too well that every guinea pig has a unique, irreplaceable personality.

Pet loss is often described as a disenfranchised grief because it isn’t necessarily recognised across our society, other than by people who have experienced their own bereavement. The Ralph Site was created to give bereaved pet carers a safe space to talk freely about their grief, whatever the species of their animal companion. Within The Ralph Site community, you’ll find plenty of people who have experienced the loss of a guinea pig and felt it keenly.

Practice self-care

At this difficult time, it’s important that you look after yourself and find space to grieve, instead of feeling like you have to pretend everything is fine.

If you have a sympathetic friend or family member, reach out to them and let them know that you’re in pain. If you don’t feel you can talk to anyone in your circle, know that The Ralph Site is here for you. You can also call the Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support Service if you want to talk to someone about your loss.

You might find other blog articles on The Ralph Site helpful. We have written about everything from pet loss memorials and grief analogies to feeling angry or depressed when a pet dies and much, much more. Many people find these resources helpful. Sometimes, it’s comforting just to know that you’re not alone.

Do you still have a surviving guinea pig?

Guinea pigs are hugely social creatures who get much of their enrichment in life from living in a bonded pair or as part of a larger group. As you will have experienced if you care for multiple guinea pigs, they have an expressive language of wheeks, squeaks, whistles and purrs and will often play with each other throughout the day.

There’s no doubt that when a guinea pig dies, their surviving companion will grieve deeply. Guinea pigs have even been known to die from grief, so it’s crucial that you keep an eye on your surviving pig(s), especially if they were half of a pair.

What can you do to help them?

  1. Give them a chance to say goodbye

If one of your guinea pigs has just passed away, you may want to leave their surviving companion with them for a little while so that they can understand their friend has gone. Some guinea pigs will move away from their deceased mate, while others will nudge, nibble and vocalise to try to encourage their companion to move. Both responses are completely normal. Just 30 minutes or so can help a guinea pig to process what has happened.

Please don’t worry though if you aren’t able to do this. In time, your surviving guinea pig should adjust to their loss.

  1. Keep an eye on your guinea pig

You may notice that your guinea pig is subdued for a while. They may seem more lethargic, lose their appetite or be less active than usual.

If your other guinea pig died of something infectious, you will need to speak to a vet about treating their cage mate. Upper respiratory infections, for example, can be easily spread between guinea pigs that share a living space.

If you’re confident that your surviving guinea pig is not unwell, the best thing you can do is give them plenty of attention. They will be used to sleeping next to their bonded friend and may feel lost without the comfort of their presence. You can help to fill this void.

Some guinea pigs benefit from being given a cuddly toy to sleep next to.

  1. Think about giving your guinea pig a new companion

If your surviving guinea pig still has years of life ahead of them or seems to be struggling alone, you may want to consider finding them a new friend. As much as we can love a guinea pig and give them attention, we can never quite live up to time spent with their own species.

There are lots of myths about keeping guinea pigs. One of the most prevalent is that boars (males) fight or can’t be bonded to someone new.

In reality, there is lots that you can do to help your surviving guinea pig find a friend. A good starting point is to find a local, reputable guinea pig rescue. They will often let potential pairs meet and help you assess the initial meeting.

If you do decide to bring a new guinea pig home, it is recommended that you quarantine them for two weeks before introducing them to your existing pig. This is to make sure that they don’t have a URI, mites or a fungal infection that might threaten your resident guinea pig’s health.

Ideally, guinea pigs should be introduced on neutral territory. If you have a guinea pig run outside of your usual cage, for example, this is perfect. Alternatively, you could shut off your kitchen or other room in your house and let your resident guinea pig meet their new friend while running around in there.

Put a huge pile of hay in the enclosure with the two guinea pigs and try to ensure that there are at least two hides, two food bowls and two water bottles – that way they won’t have to fight for resources while they get to know each other. Providing enough hay to eat, hide in and play with is often the perfect distraction.

You may notice the guinea pigs chasing, rumbling, teeth chattering or trying to mount one another; this is a typical display of dominance but doesn’t mean the friendship is doomed before it’s begun. The more space you can give the guinea pigs during their introduction, the better. Scuffles are normal, even between bonded guinea pigs, so try not to panic.

Many people find that introducing boars can be trickier than introducing sows. One of the most successful approaches is to choose a young, pre-pubescent male to join your older resident male guinea pig. The adult male will usually accept a young companion without much fuss and will have bonded with them by the time their hormones hit peak teenage attitude somewhere between six and twelve months old! 

Will your resident guinea pig be OK on their own?

One of the risks of pairing an older guinea pig with a young companion is that you can end up in a cycle where the younger pig is bereaved at a time when they still have years of life ahead of them.

For this reason, you may decide that adopting another guinea pig isn’t the right course of action. You can help your guinea pig to cope with this by giving them plenty of time and opportunities for enrichment (especially space to run about and plenty of interesting chances to forage).

If you do decide to go ahead and adopt another guinea pig, please don’t feel guilty. You are just prioritising the welfare of your resident guinea pig. The love you had for the pig you have lost remains the same, whatever the circumstances.

Whatever you decide and however you feel, know that you are not alone.

Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support

16 thoughts on “Grieving the loss of a guinea pig

  1. John

    I’m glad to have found your site. My wife and I lost our beloved pig Quinn a couple of days ago. I am 65 and was surprised at how hard I am taking this loss. My wife is also having a hard time. I cannot remember feeling so heartbroken over the loss of a pig, or other pigs or any pets passing for that matter, as I do now. Quinn was an exceptionally loving spirit. We miss her dearly. I’m sure passing time will help. We have two other pigs, Quinn’s cage mates. I’m sure they wonder about and miss Quinn.

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  2. Lauren

    I just lost one of my Guinea pigs, Sponge. I’m absolutely heartbroken as I woke up this morning and I was ready to go to work and he didn’t seem right so I picked him up and he was breathing fast and his eyes were crusty. We took him to the vet and he took a seizure in the car and died. It was so fast. The vet said there was nothing we could have done to save him. They think he had an underlying condition because he was such a healthy weight and so sweet. I really miss him

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  3. Claire

    I just lost one of my girl piggies (noisette), she was a rescue. Her and her sister came to me 5 months ago in very bad shape. They lived with my boys happily but the girls have had many health problems from being neglected. Unfortunately noisettes conditions just got the better of her and I had to put her to sleep and I’m absolutely heart broken that I didn’t get more time with her. I’m at a loss and I can’t stop crying since. Thank you for this page, hoping in time my grief will subside. My other piggies seem to do be doing ok without her, I on the other hand, am not 😢

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  4. Jill

    My sweet baby Romeo passed away today and it’s just simply heartbreaking. He was such a sweet but loud pig. I’m going to miss his squeaks so much. He had very bad constipation and we were about to get him to a vet but he passed on before we could. It really hurts to lose a precious piggy. I’m really regretting not bringing him in sooner but I guess it’s too late now. Looking at this article really let out the waterfalls, thank you.

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    1. Gemma

      We lost our lovely boy, little Freddie a couple of days ago. It was very sudden. We noticed he had stopped moving around and was eating less. Took him to vets straight away and they said his his stomach was painful and his guts weren’t moving like they shouldl. Got given pain killers but went back next day and was told GI statis. More medication. I knew he was so poorly that the following day I asked for an emergency appointment. He had an ultrasound and they found a tumor, so we sadly had him put to sleep 😥. I miss him like crazy and cry lots. He had a lovely gentle character and also very cheeky. Now I worry about his friend being on his own. Giving him loads of attention. Never knew something so small would give us such joy.

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  5. Yann

    I lost my dear Puck last night. Totally unexpected. She was the most funny, outgoing and also loudest pig I’ve ever had. She was always in a good mood and I can’t believe that she passed and left this emptyness. Her two friends have been silent the whole day and my tears are flowing.
    I have been owning rescue piggies for about 13 years now. Every loss makes me feel, like I wanna stop, but also I cannot imagine a life without those charming fellows.
    Rock heaven Puck and say cheers to all our lost furry companions.

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  6. Jessica Vianello

    This site has brought me some comfort after greiving my baby boy. I’m 23, and he has been my baby since the day I had moved away from home and it was always him and I against the world 🌍

    There are no words to describe how I feel , and how I connected to some of the content on this page. It’s been the hardest 48 hours of my life and I feel the pain will never end , and won’t ease for quite some time .

    I just wanted to thankyou , for being one of my comforts at this time , I just want my boy home for his endless cuddles and loving 😔 I gave him a beautiful send off ,fit for a king 👑 .

    I sincerely hope he is happy and he knows how much I miss him . 😔🌈 💔

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  7. Ali

    We had two adorable guinea pigs we lost naughtiness to bladder stones it was so upsetting we miss him so much he was a big part of our family and we adored him we are lost without him that was a few month ago then recently our other guinea pig elli who we loved so much too started been poorly we rushed her to the vets immediately , she had lymphoma and was very poorly we lost her it was so sudden for both of them and far far too soon for them to be taken from us they was both 2 and ahalf we are all heartbroken it’s so quiet at home and empty without them we will never forget them they was a big part of our family and will be forever loved and missed .

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  8. Denise

    We just lost our beloved Petunia the other night. She just turned 5 this summer and seemed fine then she started to eat and drink less and so quickly went downhill so fast! I couldn’t believe how fast it happened. My daughter and I took turns holding her the other night as she was going through the dying process while playing relaxing music in the background. It was so very heartbreaking, especially the moment she drew her last breath and we couldn’t fill her breathing anymore. I’m so sad she’s gone and wish I could have done more to save her. I’ll never forget how she looked at us while going through the process. She even tried to keep her sense of humor to the end. It hurts so much to see her gone. She really loved her big cage, throwing her hide a house around at times, moving it a lot and she had this wooden toy I used to play with her with and it was her favorite and she loved to be petted. I miss her already

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  9. Batel

    We lost our Pheobs last night. She had a reproductive cancer that we only found out about a week ago. I thought we had more time to treat her, but then we found a wound. Our options were to put her down/do an emergency surgery ( with very little chances of success) or let her die. We chose the surgery and she did not survive.
    It was hard to stop crying since. I feel so sad and guilty and keep wondering if we made the right choice for her.
    This article was so comforting to read. Thank you so much! Pheobs was a beautiful, hungry ( very food motivated, even up to her last hour) sweet and trusting guinea pig. She was truly a pleasure to raise. She was 5 years old (almost exactly) when she passed. A real princess.
    I feel for all of you here and greatful for a supportive guinea loving community.

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  10. Michaela H

    I just lost my baby 2 days ago… I noticed him barely eating his hay, pellets and not drinking.. I then noticed blood stains in this cage.. he ended up having a bladder stone. The vet gave us the option but did not recommend surgery because his chances of survival were so slim and he was a senior boy.. I took him home for a few more days since he was still happy. Once I noticed him crying more with every pee or bm and no longer picking at his food I felt like it was time to help him so he wouldn’t suffer longer.. I still question but I know there was nothing I could do.. heart broken and gut wrenching to say the least.. he was always by my side for the 3-1/2 years I was able to love him! I’m glad I have him an amazing spoiled rest of his life when I rescued him.. he ruled the roost. This heartache is so deep. He was my everything. Ty for this site and for others being open about their loss. It helps to not feel so alone. He was absolutely incredible

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  11. Pauline

    Yesterday sep 7, 2022 at 7pm, I lost my baby Lola, she was my everything, I loved her with all my guts, I’m crying my eyes out, she was my whole family, and also my first pet at 42yo, I took care of her for 6 years, to my eyes she was the most beautiful creature in the world, always feisty but sweet and so glamorous, she was an Abyssinian with 6 rosettes, she gave me so much love, and I adored her through her last breath. She changed my life forever, she was the reason to hurry to home after work. I’ll miss her always and forever, I do miss her scent, and the smoothness of her hair when I used to kissed her. Her name was Lola Terrazas 💔😔

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  12. joslyn

    lost my guinea pig waffles this morning, i came upstairs around 5 AM to make sure his and his brothers water was full and that they had food. he was laying there spread out so i called his name, shook his food bag and nudged him. i almost yelled but i was shaking super bad and ran to my moms roomto get her. we found out he had a stroke and so i held him for 15 minutes as he was passing. he went cold and i was crying and shaking so hard and still cry right now typing this. we barried him in out backyard with a orange bell pepper and 3 carrots, i miss him and i love him so much and his brother loves him too.

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  13. Jamie

    We lost our baby Margaret today. We aren’t sure what happened and it was so sudden. Margaret wasn’t the most friendly pig, she preferred to keep to herself or with her sister. However, for the last couple weeks Margaret had really craved being held. She was eating normally and silly as ever. Her sister is so sad and I feel helpless to do anything to make her feel better.

    Thank you for making this post, it brought me some much needed peace.

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  14. Leona

    I lost my baby boy on Monday afternoon. He had been feeling unwell since Thursday. I took him to the vets on Friday, as he completely stopped eating and drinking. It was a suspected UTI with possiblity of a bladder stone. We took him home and syringe fed him with water and powdered food the vet gave us, as well as antibiotics. Things went downhill during the early hours of Sunday morning, where he was shaking in pain. We took him to the emergency vet, who was less than helpful, claiming we should “lower our expectations on what a vet can do for a guinea pig, since they mainly know about cats and dogs”. She gave him a painkiller and sent us on our way to find an exotic vet during opening hours. We found a much better vet who gave my boy a scan. She found no bladder stones but thought he may have gastrointestinal bloat. She prescribed more medicine and painkillers. My baby did so well over the course of the weekend and was so strong until the end, still showing his personality throughout it all. On Monday, I think he must have been having a siezure. We rushed him to the vets once more, but he sadly died in the waiting room. I’m struggling with how much pain he was in when he passed, and wish I could have taken it away from him. He was a fighter until the end and died just before his 3rd birthday. I will never forget him and his cheeky personality and will mourn and love him forever. But deep down, I know he’ll always be with me. Miss you forever, Otis 💖

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