Chloe is a hermit pig. She wasn't always this bad.

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Post   » Mon May 02, 2011 11:35 pm

Chloe's a 2 year old girl who is grouchy, fussy, and the sweetest little thing when she points her little pink nose at you. Her cagemate Daisy passed away in November, but Chloe hasn't seemed to feel lonely. She's actually gained a bit of weight.

She's always been a bit of a tunneler, and that got a little worse after Daisy passed. I think it's because Daisy used to hide under the best stuff. Chloe is very adept at flipping cuddle cups, boxes, pigloos, and anything else. If she can't hide under it, she works at it until she can. She is extraordinarily skilled at moving these items around the cage; she can get from pellet bowl to water bottle to litterbox without exposing a centimeter of fur!

Until recently, this was just an odd quirk. In the mornings she'd leave her bed before I woke up and give me the stink eye until I finally fed her. At suppertime, the hidey holes would be abandoned in favor of the begging corner. If I so much as gestured towards the kitchen I could hear thumping feet as she scrambled to the corner.

Lately, it's gotten worse. I think something spooked her, and she's not recovering. Most mornings she stays in her bed even if I'm a cruel daddy and make her watch me eat breakfast with no noms of her own. For a brief amount of time this would agitate her enough she'd leave the bed and demand food. Now she just stares. When I break down and bring her lettuce, she usually freezes and brrrrs as if she's seen something really frightening. I've seen her sit for 10 minutes with a piece of lettuce balanced on her head. Sometimes she just sits and brrrrrs. When that happens I hold her, but she *hates* that and I think it probably makes things worse.

It's not just breakfast; she does this at supper too. She doesn't even leave her hiding spot to wheek anymore; if we're lucky she pokes her head out of the pigloo/bed/box. I can sort of lure her out by holding the food where she can't get it, but as soon as she has it she sprints back into hiding. Sometimes nighttime cilantro is *real* scary and she brrrrs as she's running it into her cozy sak.

Make no mistakes, she's eating. If I leave her be for long enough the lettuce disappears. Sometimes she saves her bell peppers for later (I don't think she really likes them.) Her weight has been stable around 1110g for 2 weeks, with only one weird outlier day where she was 908g.

I'm only worried because if I don't actively work to get her out of her bed I don't think she leaves it. Sometimes I let her keep her cozy sack all day as a treat; when I do that both the bed and Chloe end up soaked in urine. I haven't done it in a while. Same with if I leave her box or pigloo in the cage too long; when I change the cage it's obvious she's been a lump in certain spots.

So it's a puzzle to me. If it wasn't for the brrrring I'd say she was lonely. That would be a tough one to fix. But I'm not convinced. There are times when she's sweet and seems like she wants attention, but most of the time if she sees The Hand coming she starts fussing like there's no tomorrow. When I hold her, she looks like about the unhappiest little creature on the planet. The brrrring makes me think she's scared of something, but nothing's changed in the apartment. No other pets. No loud TV. No music. And it's certainly more quiet now that the elephants upstairs are gone.

I had no ideas but I might have cracked this nut while having a staring contest with Chloe at suppertime (she won because she's a dirty cheater and can sleep with her eyes open.) I can't remember if it's exactly when it started, but we recently got her some new fleece. She's always lived on a solid color, but this pattern has cute forest animals on it. I noticed they all have big eyes and I'm curious if she feels like some creepy animals are in the cage with her. Has anyone else experienced something like this?

Maybe she's just a nervous piggy, but if there's something I could do I'd love to do it. Any advice?

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Post   » Tue May 03, 2011 12:03 am

I wouldn't dismiss being lonely. That's how Snickers showed it too -- just hanging out in one spot, not moving. Although he did really want MY attention in the interim (he could care less now that he has a friend again).

Do you have a rescue nearby you could take her to for a playdate to see how she acts? Snickers was a different pig the moment we entered SlaveToFuzzy's house and he heard the other pigs.


Post   » Tue May 03, 2011 4:59 am

I would bet on something being up too, probably loneliness. One of the first signs that something is amiss with mine is the reticence to come out before the food comes. This happens even before tey lose any weight and is usually very subtle.

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Post   » Tue May 03, 2011 6:01 am

I would ditto loneliness. My single pig acted normally at first, but after a couple of months, he stopped coming out for me to hold him. He ate like there was no tomorrow, but he just wasn't active. There was no reason for him to be.

Once we found him a friend, there was chasing, brrring, chattering...He became alive again.

Take him to a shelter if you can, and introduce him to another guinea pig.


Post   » Tue May 03, 2011 8:37 am

I would rule out loneliness. She seriously might be missing Daisy. She might have also needed another guinea pig to make her 'brave.' She might not be so much spooked as feeling insecure. She might feel she is the 'only guinea pig left in the big scary world' and just want to hide all the time.

I know when I feel depressed I don't want to leave my bed. Chloe might be feeling the same way. Being a guinea pig she can piddle in her bed, hence the wet spot and her being soaked. With her getting wet you must make sure to keep her bottom clean and dry. Otherwise she can get urine scald. If so use some Desitin(sp?) powder - it's in the pharmacy baby aisle on her irritated area.

Take Chloe to a rescue/shelter or find someone with a guinea pig and see how she reacts. She really just might need a friend.


Post   » Tue May 03, 2011 8:43 am

I have one pig who is just antisocial. She doesn't particularly like people or other pigs, either. While the other ones munch their veggies, she snatches her lettuce and pulls it into a pigloo or a hiding place as quickly as she can. The others come for scritches and treats; she hides until I put the blueberry just outside of her door, then she'll sneak out and grab it before darting back in. She spends most of laptime with her head buried in the crook of my elbow.

She's always been like that. I wish she was less nervous and afraid of everything, but we've had her for five years and we've come accept that that's just who she is. She came from a huge hoarder raid, and we think her first six months must have been hell; she's never gotten over it.

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Post   » Tue May 03, 2011 10:56 am

Has her coat changed at all? Her body shape? Does she smell okay? There may also be a medical reason for the change in her behavior (I hope not). I bet a companion would cheer her up.


Look over Pigjes thread in Cavy Chronicles. She has some fantastic housing changes that encourage exploration. Food, as you know, is a powerful motivator. Maybe make her work for her food so she gets more exercise and fees better?

Let Sleeping Pigs Lie

Post   » Tue May 03, 2011 11:22 am

"I can't remember if it's exactly when it started, but we recently got her some new fleece. She's always lived on a solid color, but this pattern has cute forest animals on it. I noticed they all have big eyes and I'm curious if she feels like some creepy animals are in the cage with her. Has anyone else experienced something like this?"

You may have already done this, but have you tried switching back to a solid color of fleece?

I have a shy guinea pig. Strange shadows that appear on the sunscreen on a windy day can make her nervous and spooked. We have to close the blinds.

If Chloe spends all day in her cozy sack, you might want to remove it. Sitting in urine can lead to a urinary tract infection, which might lead to more serious issues, like bladder stones and infection.

(If she loves her cozy sack and someone in your home is handy with sewing, the cozy sack can be turned into a cozy tunnel. That is what I do.)


Post   » Thu Jun 09, 2011 8:56 am

I'm finally back with an update! Work's been rough.

Solid fleece didn't change things, Chloe was still nervous as ever. We tried some toys, more food, more floor time, and it all just seemed to stress her out. Then we stumbled upon something that works by accident.

We're dog-sitting for some friends next month, and I arranged a visit date to gauge how the dogs behaved around Chloe to see if we needed to put Chloe in our spare room to keep her safe. In preparation for the visit, I fortified the cage with extra zip ties and added a grid roof in case the dog was enthusiastic about getting to Chloe.

It turns out a roof is just what Chloe needed. She still likes to be in a pigloo most of the time, but now if I come to the cage she pops out to see what's up. The funny part is I now leave the grids near the hayrack off (the dog's gone and it makes it easier to get to the hay) and she'll walk right up to the edge of the covered part of the cage to see me but only leaves if I have a clear food bribe! I guess she felt vulnerable in the cage and having grids above her makes her feel safer. She's been an absolute terror the past few days because she seems to have decided there's a meal after supper that we're neglecting. It's much more fun to have her too loud rather than too secluded!

It's just grids, so I never would have thought it'd work. But I guess Chloe's never seen a guinea pig get through grids so she assumes they're some kind of human magic that won't let animals in or out. Fair enough. Now I'm looking for something easier to get on and off.

I'm still working my way through pigjes' thread and getting some ideas for new Chloe toys. I'm pretty sure she'll hate any hidey she can't scoot around but we'll see how the roof changes this landscape.

(Curious how the dog thing turned out? It was kind of cute. Turns out the dog was *real* interested in Chloe but felt like the grid was a fence and he knows dogs get in trouble if they try to get through fences. So he just kind of wandered around the cage whimpering and sniffing at Chloe. Chloe seemed to think he was a big guinea pig and started sniffing back and following him around the perimeter of the cage; this seemed to unsettle the dog because small things are supposed to run! Confused the heck out of him. She started popcorning after a while. I was sort of worried she was scared but she wasn't breathing heavy and was downright sociable so long as The Hand was out of sight.

So The Hand is scarier than a terrier. Good to know. I still don't trust the dog unsupervised so I'll keep the roof and pen the dog in the bathroom when we have to leave. No way am I trying shared floor time.)

Let Sleeping Pigs Lie

Post   » Fri Jun 10, 2011 7:35 pm

So glad to read that you found a solution for Chloe!

I hope she continues to do well. :)

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