GUINEA PIGS & RABBITS?

Can rabbits and guinea pigs live together?

It is important that we remember that the best companion for a rabbit is another rabbit, and the best companion for a guinea pig is another guinea pig. I know some people who house a guinea pig and rabbit together - so what is my opinion on this? I know there are some cases where just one rabbit and guinea pig living together cannot be separated as they develop a strong bond - this is not unheard of, and separating the two animals can potentially cause welfare issues if they are very close to one another.

 

Basic guidelines for housing the animals together:

  1. Provide an area that the guinea pigs can access, where the rabbits can not get to, and a good idea would be to include an area where the rabbits can also get away from the guinea pigs.

  2. Ensure you have two of each animal (with the exception of some cases where the animals develop a strong bond and are very happily living with one another).

  3. Make sure the guinea pigs are receiving enough Vitamin C. Guinea pigs can not synthesise their own Vitamin C, therefore they have a higher requirement for this in the source of food. For example broccoli and bell peppers as these are a great source of Vitamin C, though there are many other fresh foods containing high amounts of this.

  4. They must have a spacious accommodation - this is necessary if you are housing them together.

  5. The rabbits must be neutered to prevent or reduce aggression and dominant behaviour

 

People often worry that rabbits can injure guinea pigs as they have powerful back legs. Guinea pigs have a very dense bone structure, so bone fractures and injuries from rabbits are not really worth worrying about. It really depends on the temperaments of the animals as to wether or not they can live together. Some rabbits may try to chase or 'attack' guinea pigs which can lead to stress, and because stress can cause illness in guinea pigs it is best to keep them separate. On the other hand, if the rabbits are well behaved around the guinea pigs and the guinea pigs are content in their company, then housing them together can be successful (providing you follow the guidelines above).

 

Another concern people have is that both animals can not communicate with each other, and that they can not understand the different body language. An example of this is that rabbits thump when they feel they are in danger, to warn the other rabbits - however, guinea pig do not do this (though the thought of a thumping guinea pig is quite hilarious!). Guinea pigs also have a very vast vocabulary, whereas rabbits do not generally make many sounds. Overall, guinea pigs and rabbits can not communicate very easily, as they would with companions of their own kind, though I do believe that they do have other ways of interacting and understanding each other to a certain extent. 

 

Rabbits, dogs and cats carry the bacteria bordetella bronchiseptica. There are widespread beliefs that housing the animals together can cause respiratory disease in guinea pigs, however this is actually very rare and should not be cause for concern. Guinea pigs with healthy functioning immune systems decline this bacteria and it does not cause problems. If the guinea pigs have a weakened immune system, there is a slight risk that they may not be able to reject the bacteria as efficiently as they should (for example, very young guinea pigs, ill guinea pigs etc). Either way, the severity of this is highly exaggerated across many websites, and it rarely causes problems.

Please note: I am not promoting housing the animals together, but just explaining some of the myths and misconceptions in regards to guinea pigs and rabbits being kept with each other in pet ownership. I have had success with supervised playtime with both the rabbits and guinea pigs, however decided that it was best to keep them separated.