If you’re thinking of bringing guinea pigs into your home for the first time, one of the questions you may ask is whether to choose male or female guinea pigs. The short answer? It depends! (And, there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer either way.) In this article, we’ll compare some of the differences between male and female guinea pigs and highlight some scenarios where one sex or the other may be a better fit for your family.
Male guinea pigs may be slightly larger than female guinea pigs
If you are thinking of bringing younger guinea pigs into your home, just remember that these guinea pigs will be larger as adults. There are many factors that go into how large or small individuals will be, including genetics and nutrition. Click here to learn about the specific needs of guinea pigs at different life stages.
Generally speaking, male guinea pigs (sometimes called boars) tend to be a little larger than female guinea pigs (sometimes called sows). Weights for sows can range from 1.5 – 2.25 pounds, while weights for boars can range from 2 – 2.5 pounds. Depending on genetics, males can even weigh around 3 pounds in some cases.
Male guinea pigs and female guinea pigs may have different social dynamics
If you’re hoping to have a larger herd, female guinea pigs may be more amicable to living in larger groups. Another option is to have one neutered male with one or more females. While sows may “bicker” a little more to reinforce their social standing with one another, guinea pig pet parents have relayed that female guinea pigs tend to have fewer fallouts that require separation.
If you’re looking to provide a forever home to only 2 or 3 guinea pigs at most, an all-male duo (or on occasion a trio!) may be a better option. Anecdotes suggest that males don’t always do as well in larger herds, so having an all-male duo or trio will automatically limit how many guinea pigs you can welcome under one roof. This may especially be beneficial if you’re worried about a larger herd becoming too much work later on!
Reading up on introductions and bonding regardless of your pet’s sex is beneficial, and even necessary in the eyes of some. It’s ideal for prospective pet parents who have never had guinea pigs before to adopt a duo or trio that has already been bonded. That way the guesswork and the intricacies that go along with the bonding process have been taken out for you. Working with a small animal rescue for future bonding needs e.g. the decision to expand your herd) can also yield great long-term results for the health and happiness of your pets.
It cannot be overemphasized how important it is to provide adequate living square footage for your pets. If your habitat is too small, it will be more difficult for your guinea pigs to live together. Regardless of how much they may enjoy each other’s company, fallouts or fights due to stress are more likely to occur from small habitat sizes.
Male guinea pigs are a little more confident than female guinea pigs
Generally speaking, guinea pig pet parents have found that male guinea pigs tend to be a little more confident or bolder than females. This can sometimes lead to training males and being able to handle them a little easier than their shyer counterparts. This may also mean that boars are more inquisitive and more willing to explore their surroundings than sows.
Boars and sows have different health concerns, especially as they age
Unaltered male guinea pigs tend to deal with a condition called impaction more often than altered males or females. Impaction is essentially a build-up of fecal material in a guinea pig’s anal sack, as over time their muscles may weaken, making it harder to fully empty their bowels while defecating. With some additional maintenance on the part of the pet parent, impaction in older males can be a manageable condition, and male senior guinea pigs can otherwise live a normal life.
On the other side of the spectrum, unaltered female guinea pigs tend to have a higher risk of mammary, ovarian, and uterine cancer than altered female guinea pigs. While this is the case in both male and female guinea pigs if they are kept in unhygienic conditions, sows appear to be at a slightly higher risk of developing urinary tract infections (UTIs) than boars. Learn about how to properly maintain your guinea pig’s enclosure here.
While spaying and neutering guinea pigs in the US is not as common of a practice as it may be in Australia or the UK, it’s still worth having a conversation about this type of surgery with your cavy-savvy vet—regardless of which sex you decide to bring into your home!
Male guinea pigs are sometimes overlooked more at shelters and rescues
Some small animal rescues encounter the misconception that males guinea pigs are aggressive, which may lead some new pet parents to choose sows over boars. If this misconception is prevalent enough in a community, it can be more difficult to find forever homes for male guinea pigs.
It’s important to remember that while males and females can and sometimes do have the different social dynamics mentioned above, this does not necessarily mean that males are more aggressive. This perceived aggression also is not usually directed towards humans. Male guinea pigs simply have different social needs that the pet parent should anticipate!
While male guinea pigs and female guinea pigs have some different social and medical needs, pet parents of both sexes can agree that once guinea pigs are provided with everything they need to thrive, they can be incredibly loving and humorous characters.