Guinea pigs are prey in the wild and must be constantly on the lookout for hunters and other dangers. Therefore, the rodents quickly experience fear and stress when they cannot assess a situation correctly. However, people often misinterpret the Meeris' fearful reactions because the signals are very subtle.
How does guinea pig stress?
Guinea pigs feel most at home in a familiar environment, in a harmonious group with other species. You also need the opportunity to hide or escape at any time if necessary. Stress in guinea pigs arises when they get scared but do not know how to evade this situation and how to get to safety. This is the case, for example, in a foreign environment, such as in a new enclosure.
It is also difficult for the rodents if the ranking in the group has not been clarified, a new member has been added or a member of the same species has left the guinea pig family. Bullying can sometimes occur among the animals: A pig is denied access to the shelters or feed, for example. Extreme temperatures, diseases and pain also cause stress in guinea pigs.
Typical symptoms of anxiety in guinea pigs
Most of the time, frightened guinea pigs react with either flight or numbness. The so-called freezing (English literally "freezing") can often be observed when, for example, a Meeri is placed in an unknown room or taken on the arm, although it feels uncomfortable there. It then stays calm and does not budge a millimeter. However, this is not because the animal feels so comfortable that it doesn't want to leave. But because it sees no way to escape or to retreat, and surrenders quietly to its fate. Most of the time, the eyes are wide open and the fur is smooth. Sometimes, however, it can hang very limply and stops any attempt to defend itself.
On the other hand, if there is the option to escape or to hide, the piggy will usually choose to do so. Sometimes the rodents alternate between escaping and freezing at short intervals. It is also possible that the animal is in a conflict, for example when it is sitting in a new enclosure and cannot decide whether it should explore the new location curiously or rather flee. Then you can usually observe how it moves slowly, almost creeping forward, while dragging its belly close to the ground.
Anxiety in guinea pigs occasionally causes the animals to nestle close together. This so-called stress cuddle looks cute, but it is not common for relaxed sea urchins - this leads to problems if you keep it together with rabbits. They prefer to lie next to each other without physical contact or in line of sight. Aggression and threatening gestures in scared pigs is rare, but it can happen. This includes gnashing of teeth or attacks on fellow species. Stress can also cause indigestion, loss of appetite and, as a result, weight loss in guinea pigs. Sometimes chronic stress is also manifested by frequent scratching, severe dandruff and an increased susceptibility to diseases and parasites such as mites. Stressed rodents are sometimes noticeable by chirping, chirping noises.
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Summary: Pay attention to these stress symptoms
● Wide eyes
● Close-fitting fur
● Sagging body
● Escape / hide
● "Stress cuddle" with other people or with people
● indigestion such as diarrhea
● Loss of appetite and weight loss
● Severe itching with no physical cause
● Increased susceptibility to infections
● chirping and chirping
● Teething and aggression
So you can save your guinea pigs stress
Try to gently and slowly get your guinea pig used to new situations. You can find out how to introduce a new member to a group, for example, in our guide "Socializing guinea pigs: how it works". The animals must also be introduced to the new enclosure and to be picked up in small steps and carefully.
If you notice that your Meeri is getting scared, gently take it out of the situation. In addition, a sufficiently large enclosure with plenty of shelters, shelters, accessories and employment opportunities as well as a harmonious group are the best prerequisites to avoid stress in guinea pigs.