Piggy behavior

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cellymelly

Post   » Thu Apr 15, 2021 7:09 pm


It's been a while, since I am lurker by nature, but I can't seem to find answers to this nagging question I have.

TL;DR: I don't know if I have an anti-social pig or if there is a problem.

I started with 2 piggies, Niamh and Aoife, then we got a third, Nollaig, because 1) she was a lone baby pig that needed a home and 2) we had a bullying issue with the first two and we wanted to disrupt the balance of power (separation was not an option for these two, they're extremely bonded to the point of codependence.) We always assumed Nollaig was maybe a little slow, she was never that quick on the uptake and she kinda just spaces out and stares at walls, took her a long time to understand her name... Just a little dumb, maybe. But she acted weird enough for me to be concerned over months of observations. She ate/drank/pooped normally, but most of her time was spent chilling in one of the houses or fleece forests, only ever coming out for breakfast, food, hay, water, and treats. Then she stopped coming to eat breakfast unless there was a forest or house for her to hide in while she ate. Then she stopped coming out for treats, we had to bring it to her because she seemed catatonic in the house.

I took her to the vet, concerned that maybe there was some underlying problem, but the vet said she was perfectly healthy. Nothing out of the ordinary in anyway. He did ask if she had a bondmate, though, and I hadn't seen her be affectionate towards either of the other girls. Aoife's a big sweetie and will groom literally anything, so I had seen Nollaig receiving affection, but she never returned any. He suggested that maybe she was lonely and perhaps had a mild piggy depression. Since we had the space, time, and money, we waited for our local pet store to have a lone baby girl to initiate Project Bonding.

We got Fiadh (affectionately called crackhead), and made sure when it came time for introductions that Nollaig met her first. Fast forward almost a year in time and Nollaig. Hasn't. Changed. She still chills in the house by herself, only being "social" at breakfast and while in the hay. Fiadh loves all of the girls, she'll attempt to snuggle with any of them, just a big ball of energy who loves other guinea pigs and hates fingers, so there's no bad blood between any of the girls.

Is Nollaig okay? Do I just have an anti-social herd animal? Any suggestions are appreciated, I cannot make sense of this weird, squeaky potato.

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ItsaZoo
Supporter in 2020

Post   » Thu Apr 15, 2021 9:36 pm


Is there any sign that she is being pushed around, blocked from food, or would otherwise have a reason to seek shelter? Have you tried housing her on her own and giving her something interactive to do that would stimulate her mind? Maybe hiding favorite foods around the cage, or trying a toy like a cat treat ball, that dispenses food when she rolls it around?

cellymelly

Post   » Thu Apr 15, 2021 10:03 pm


I haven't tried to house her by herself, but no one is mean to her as far as I can tell. The cruelest thing I've seen is a little rumbling and head tilting, but that's only when one of them is in heat. She doesn't get pushed out of the houses either, unless I sneeze or drop something and they scatter to take shelter. Food wise, morning breakfast can be a little hectic because they have an affinity for the crunchier lettuce leaves from the heart, but I spread them all out to avoid anyone trying to bogart the good stuff.

I buy lots of little interactive things like timothy hay balls, hay rings, crinkle "surprise toys", etc (I used to give them paper towel or toilet paper rolls that I'd stuff with hay to give them something fun until I thought that there might be unhealthy glue on it). and she loves to interact with them, but she usually takes the toys and runs right into the house and guards it like a furry dragon. She's not aggressive, either, I should add. We do have to keep a strict treat order, though, because if she gets fed before one of the older girls she starts attempting to display dominance, and it's stressful for the other pig. She always gets her treat third in line.

We have a 1Br apartment and they live in a large CC cage that takes up a good portion of our living room, so someone is usually always with them and watching them. I tried to position the cage so if we're sitting on the couch we can see them well, so we generally can watch them being when they're playing or running around. She seems to come out more often when my husband and I are both in the room talking to one another, which happened a lot until we moved his "office" to the bedroom because it was distracting for both of us to be working from home in such close proximity... Maybe because we used to both be in the same place for her life up until last year when the pandemic hit us, she thinks something is wrong?

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ItsaZoo
Supporter in 2020

Post   » Fri Apr 16, 2021 10:19 pm


That's a puzzler. It sounds like you have a great space for your guinea pigs with plenty of toys for enrichment, and opportunities for interaction with you and your husband.

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Lynx
Celebrate!!!

Post   » Sat Apr 17, 2021 10:49 am


I was going to ask if you made sure she had all her senses (vision, hearing especially). I think of a pig that can't interact with the world normally could behave this way. It appears hearing is okay?

cellymelly

Post   » Sat Apr 17, 2021 11:19 am


We don't think she's completely deaf and she's not blind (even though it's pretty difficult to determine that anyway since a normal piggy's eyesight is so bad), but thinking about it, she is an albino! So maybe, like most albinos, her senses are dulled? It would make sense that she responds to my husband more than me, then, because lower voices are easier to hear (which honestly may be an incorrect statement, I just remember my dad telling me that when I was a kid as to why our partially deaf cat wouldn't listen to me or mom. It's entirely possible the cat could've been a jerk.) I'll try talking a little louder to get her attention and see if she seems more responsive. Man, that's a really good point! I didn't even consider that!

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Lynx
Celebrate!!!

Post   » Sat Apr 17, 2021 11:41 am


Just to clear up something, it is pretty rare to really have an albino guinea pig.

White guinea pigs with pink eyes are actually referred to as pink eyed whites and not considered albino.

cellymelly

Post   » Sat Apr 17, 2021 12:52 pm


Oh, I didn't know that! I just assumed, so it's nice to know she's not a true albino since there's a lot of health issues that come with them. Based on the interactions I've had this morning, she does seem to come more often when we talk louder, which I'll continue to try and monitor. She comes out to us when we call for her, but doesn't recognize the shake of treat bag or a crinkle of a plastic bag (which the other girls come running and screaming for). I'm hopeful it is just that she's hard of hearing and there's not some bigger issue.

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Renonvsparky

Post   » Sat Apr 17, 2021 4:41 pm


How much do you handle your guinea pigs? Do they like being held or to run around on the floor? How about taking them outside if you have a grassy spot that is free of fertilizers, insecticides, threats from predators and waste from other animals? What I'm getting at is foraging. I highly encourage my guinea pigs to forage. It is a natural thing for them to do. It keeps them happy and healthy as well as active. If you can take them outside, you must be extremely watchful and careful. You can't take your eyes off them even for a second. You have to make sure you use a pen they can't get out of and don't let them stay exposed to direct sun. An overhead cover on at least half of the outside pen will give them shade and a place to feel secure. It's a lot to do to take them outside, but well worth it if you can make it happen.

If you can't take them outside, there are other ways to encourage them to forage for their food. If you feed them pellets, you can spread the pellets around the cage vs putting them in a bowl. You can do the same with their hay, treats and pretty much everything you feed them. If you do floor time, spread small bits of food around the pen. I use wheat grass or shredded bits of veggie treats. You don't want to overfeed them treats, so you don't want to spread around a whole lot. Just enough to encourage them to forage around. Hay is also a good thing to spread around since they are supposed to get an unlimited amount of it. The only thing is that it makes such a mess. I don't mind having to clean it up though. My piggies are worth it.

cellymelly

Post   » Sat Apr 17, 2021 5:48 pm


Yeah, unfortunately I live in an apartment complex, so foraging outside is not a good idea on many, many levels. Lots of dogs, cats, landscaping guys, etc. I'm toying with the idea of planting grass in a box planter or something on my balcony to get some fresh grass to scatter, because I know they love it. (Last time I ordered timothy grass seeds and the soil was almost immediately infested with some type of insect, I guess from wherever the seed was collected from). I can promise you they do not like to be held, but during floor time they don't mind using us as climbing obstacles, so long as we don't touch them (we obviously pick them up if we think they're being too risky and put them back down for more floor fun), so usually floor time with some veggies around the safe zone for eating. Nollaig and Niamh are usually chill during those times, just trying to find the foods and pushing on us to lift our knees for a human canopy. I've tried the hay scattering, but they seem more into it being in a big pile so they can burrow around in it. Haven't had any haypokes yet(knock on wood). If I so much as look at the treats they're demanding we hand it to them because they're royalty and will not eat it off the floor like peasants (this is only true of treats, apparently. Everything else, including if they place the treats down, is fine - we just have to hand it to them or they throw a fit). I'll also report that Nollaig is more active when we talk louder, especially to them directly, so I'm leaning towards her being hard-of-hearing. Thanks so much for all the advice!

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Renonvsparky

Post   » Sat Apr 17, 2021 7:20 pm


I get you about outside grazing. It's a challenge even under the best circumstances and it's better for them not to be outside than it is to put them at risk. There's no need to try and grow grass for them. You can get wheat grass from the organic section of just about any grocery store. It's every bit as good as grass from the lawn, if not better. Anything you can do to encourage them to be active is good.

Mr Bubbles was overweight from inactivity and overfeeding. Once we were made aware of the error in our ways, we got him out more and used many enticements to make him want to run around. We finally ended up having to goose his butt to get him to move around. It took a few times of doing that before he started moving around more on his own. It was the foraging behavior we encouraged that got him to be active and he's been at his proper weight and in great shape ever since.

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ItsaZoo
Supporter in 2020

Post   » Sun Apr 18, 2021 2:00 am


If you're looking for grass to plant, you might try rye grass. I bought a little bag of seed at the local seed store. They were selling it as Easter grass seed, since lots of people like to grow grass for Easter displays instead of using the plastic or paper grass. I asked if it was treated with anything and it wasn't. It grew to about 5" in less than 10 days. I just grew a patch in a little planter dish, but a small window box would be nice.

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