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Guinea Pigs & Rabbits: Why Not To Co-habitate!

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Guinea Pigs & Rabbits: Why Not To Co-habitate! Empty Guinea Pigs & Rabbits: Why Not To Co-habitate!

Post by Happy Hoppers on Mon Jun 23, 2008 10:23 pm

Why Rabbits & Guinea Pigs Don't Mix

For a long time it has been a traditional belief that a guinea pig is an excellent companion to a rabbit company and until recently this was the myth pedalled by petshops who kept and sold the two together. Over the last few years it has become apparent that there are issue's arising from this pairing and people are starting to realise that keeping these two entirely different species as companions is no longer a sensible idea. Here are the main reasons why it is no longer advisable.

Rabbits and guinea pigs have very different dietary requirements. It is often assumed that because they are both herbivores who eat hay and fresh vegatables, they will therefore eat the same mix or pellets because they appear to share the same dietary requirements. What is not often considered is that guinea pigs need a large intake of vitamin C because they cannot synthesise their own and that they also require a higher protein diet. On the other hand rabbits can produce their own Vitamin C and require a low protein diet to prevent them overproducing rich ceacal pelets which can lead to problems with 'sticky bottom syndrome' and flystrike. Rabbits on high protein diets also tend to become overweight putting their health at risk.

In terms of quantity guinea pigs require more readily available pellets, whereas it is advised that rabbits have limited amounts per day in order to promote good dental wear through forage consumption. It is also worth considering it is not unknown for rabbits to bully guinea pigs over food and thus deprive them of sustainance leaving the rabbit overfed and the cavy in danger of starvation. It would be impossible to balance these two diets effectively if you were to house the two species together without compromising the needs, and health, of one.

Body Language & Communication
When you have seen it first hand you will know that there is nothing like watching two rabbits snuggling up together grooming one another, it's a sign of a very contented rabbit but one you will never see this with a rabbit and a guinea pig together. This is because both species communicate in very different ways both verbally and through body language and will never properly understand each other. Rabbit's communacte mainly through body language and behaviour and use this to build up relationships and hierachys with each other, they are not highly vocal animals unless they are frightened or in pain.

An important part of communication for a rabbit is grooming another which helps cement a friendship and establish their role within the group yet guinea pigs do not use grooming in their social interaction with one another nor do they rely on body language as strongly as rabbits do, being quite vocal animals. Guinea pigs generally prefer their own space and can often begin to feel harassed by a rabbit who repeatedly tries to cuddle up. In turn, this then leaves the rabbit feeling very lonely and there is nothing worse than seeing the look on a rabbits face when he has dilligently groomed his guinea pig companion, put his head down to be groomed in return and then gets totally ignored by a puzzled cavy.

Some guinea pigs develope a habit called “barbering” where by they chew away the fur of an animal that they feel superior to and it is very difficult to stop once it has started. The rabbit will end up with bald patches where their fur has literally been eaten away.

Damage & Injury
Rabbits are generally a lot larger than guinea pigs and even the smallest bun, such as a Netherland Dwarf, can do a lot of damage to a guinea pig either deliberately or accidentally. As part of a rabbit’s natural communication system, they use their strong back legs to convey messages, usually related to danger. They are also prone to performing wild, mid-air jumps and twists known as 'binkies' in which they are propelled by their hind legs. A powerful thump or kick from a rabbit can do serious damage to a cavy with the most common injury being broken legs. Whilst this may be repairable by a good veterinarian it is a needless and avoidable injury, should the guinea pig be so lucky as to survive.

There is also the concern that a sexually frustrated rabbit will hump the guinea pig companion beause a common reason for not keeping two rabbits together is to avoid paying for a neuter. This puts the cavy at serious risk of damage and injury, especially from a large or heavy rabbit, and can lead to arthritis, muscle damage and even hip displasia, all of which are extremely painful.

Both species are often bitten by each other and these bites can become infected and pose life threatening problems for both species, such as abcesses, which are notoriously hard to treat in rabbits. The chance of a bite in a rabbit/guinea pig relationship is higher than a same species relationship, owing to the fact that they can’t fully understand one anothers body language leaving them liable to get more frustrated and aggressive with each other.

Bordetella & Respiratory Tract Infections
Rabbits often carry organisms that are often not harmful to themselves but can pose a threat to others and one such bacteria of note is Bordetella Bronchiseptica. Many rabbits are asymptomatic carriers of this illness and it rarely causes them a problem. It is, however, extremely dangerous to guinea pigs and can lead to nasty respiratory tract infections which may track to the lungs causing pneumonia and even death.

As an airborne bacterium it is easily transmitted form one animal to another and as the rabbit breathes it out and the guinea pig may breathe it in. Close contact with a rabbit which has not been swab tested for Bordetella is therefeor not advised for guinea pigs, if they are to avoid possible infection.

We often here of owners stating that they have kept cavys and rabbits together for years without injury or bullying and to some extent this may well be true but often bullying goes unnoticed until it's too late. The guinea pig is just found dead one day and assumed to have died of natural causes when it may have been the result of something more sinister. These are avoidable losses which stem purely from us being unwilling to house both species as naure intended. The best companion for a rabbit is another neutered rabbit and the best companion for a cavy is another cavy, there is no contest for the health and happiness of both.

Don't wait until it's too late, learn from other people experiences and save a life: Do not keep rabbits and cavys together!





This Document is Copyright © Charlotte Drew, HappyHoppers Forums Uk . June 2008.UK. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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