Monday, June 4, 2012
Revy Meets Abby-Roo: A Guinea Pig Socialization Story
When we adopted Revy we had plans to socialize her with our other guinea pigs. None of our other cavies had started out living together either and getting them used to each other had been an admittedly difficult process. Peaches hated Truffle, Truffle despised Peaches, and Poof was hostile to everybody, especially the easygoing Belka. Yet we had managed to bond all four sows into living together peacefully, save for the odd quarrel. How challenging could one more piggy be? As it turned out, more difficult than expected.
Even when placed in neutral territory, Revy acted as if she had never seen another guinea pig before. She overreacted with panicked, ear-piercing squeals and continued to holler until she was removed from their presence. Her behavior caused the other pig(s) to respond with raised fur, chattering teeth, dominance posturing and nipping. To our dismay, this scenario occurred on every attempt without fail. We don't know Revy's history before she was rescued from the street but theorized from her extreme responses that she may never have had a cavy companion. Not wanting her to be completely alone, we compromised by placing her cage adjacent to the other girls' cage, giving her a window of sorts. That way she could see, smell and interact with other pigs on her own terms through the safety of the bars. As time went by, Revy picked up certain cavy attributes by watching everyone else.
By the time we stumbled upon Abby-Roo at an adoption event, Revy had spent about a year living the single life in a bachelorette pad on her own. While this seemed to suit her fine, she was more inactive and seemingly bored. Abby-Roo had been rescued from a shelter while pregnant and recently weaned her two piglets. She was still very young and had a gentle temperament, giving us hope that Revy would find her less threatening.
The introduction wasn't exactly love at first sight. Revy continued squealing whilst stuffing herself with food as Abby-Roo looked on in bewilderment. Sitting side by side under neighboring stools brought about sniffing from Abby-Roo, teeth chattering from Revy, napping, hay nibbling and more teeth chattering. On the plus side, no fur was pulled and no blood was drawn. This stalemate went on for over an hour.
At home, a similar routine continued as Revy adjusted to having a roommate. "Why is there someone else occupying the pigloo? What do you mean, food bowls and hay are communal property? Where did that tomato I was saving for later disappear to? Stop playing tug-of-war with food that is already IN MY MOUTH!" The squawking was endless. And then there was the matter of Abby-Roo's rooster tail, which was the source of great consternation. The extended fluff kept hitting Revy in the face, causing her to be constantly aggrieved. Abby-Roo quickly got used to her vocal bunkmate and learned to turn a deaf ear while puttering about their quarters. Before long, Revy's alarmed yelling downgraded into nervous complaining, which turned into occasional grumbling.
Just over a week later, both sows seem to have settled in quite well. Interestingly enough, they don't seem to have established a social hierarchy. Neither Revy nor Abby-Roo appears to be dominant over the other, whereas Poof, Truffle, Peaches and Belka have a firmly established pecking order. The occasional bicker ends with one of the two pigs beating a hasty, teeth-chattering retreat. Thankfully it doesn't escalate any further.
Revy is already more active and even exhibits a random pop here and there. Meanwhile, Abby-Roo has started to do zoomies around the perimeter. Although we don't expect to find them cuddling together in a pigloo anytime soon, both cavies seem content. Ah, the joys of piggy companionship.