Where guinea pig pregnancy appears to be the sweetest and cutest experience for guinea pig lovers, it is very difficult and stressful for guinea pigs. It could even become overwhelming and horrifying for guinea pig owners as well.
For instance, the fear of your pregnant guinea pig experiencing pregnancy issues like dystocia or toxemia is horrifying. And the thought of the mama guinea pig eating its own babies is just terrifying.
Guinea pigs are smart creatures. They have feelings and emotions. So, you must be thinking that guinea pigs would never eat their babies. While there is no doubt that guinea pigs are emotional and smart creatures, it is a reality (harsh) that guinea pigs often eat their babies.
Guinea Pigs do eat their babies but it is very uncommon. You should note that mama guinea pigs would never kill their babies just to eat them. However, a mama guinea pig might eat a guinea pup if she is malnourished and stressed and the guinea pup is malformed, or stillborn. On the other hand, territorial male guinea pigs might seriously injure or even kill their own babies when they feel intimidated.
Do Guinea Pigs Eat Their Babies?
It is very uncommon but yes, guinea pigs often eat their babies. Guinea pigs are herbivores and do not eat meat at all, however, certain factors may make your cavy resort to cannibalism—filial cannibalism (killing and ingestion of their offspring). In certain cases, mama guinea pig might eat the baby accidentally.
Each guinea pig is packed in an amniotic sac and there is one placenta for each pup. The mama guinea pig has to tear apart the sac and consume it and the placenta. In certain cases, when the mama guinea pig is too exhausted with parturition, she may mistake a guinea pig for a placenta and eat it.
If you are astonished to learn that your pregnant guinea pig might eat her babies after delivering them, stay with us. In this article, we are going to discuss the potential reasons underlying filial cannibalism in guinea pigs. Besides reasons, we are also going to discuss how to take care of a pregnant guinea pig and what to do to prevent your guinea pig from eating her babies.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Eat Their Babies?
It is very uncommon for guinea pigs to eat their babies. But if they are malnourished, stressed, and anxious during pregnancy and birth, they might kill and eat their babies. It is very very uncommon for guinea pigs to kill and eat their healthy babies. In most cases of filial cannibalism, guinea pigs eat either stillborn guinea pigs or those that die soon after delivery.
One of the most common reasons guinea pigs might eat their babies is extreme malnourishment. As the pregnancy progresses, the nutritional requirements of guinea pigs continue to increase as they have to provide for the baby guinea pigs growing inside of them. This is the reason that owners are advised to switch from normal hay to Alfalfa hay and offer extra vitamin C supplements.
So, when a pregnant guinea pig is not given ample alfalfa hay, pellets, and vitamin C supplements, she may experience malnourishment. When a guinea pig is not getting ample nutrients, she may even experience toxemia.
Labor and birth may seem like short and sweet events in guinea pig pregnancy, but know that these are very exhausting events. So, a guinea pig may feel even more malnourished after giving birth, which could make her eat a baby guinea pig to make sure that she survives to take care of the rest of her babies.
Guinea pigs usually eat the placenta to compensate for the energy expended during birth. But sometimes, when a guinea pig is malnourished, there is a good chance that she may mistake a baby guinea (especially if it is stillborn) for a placenta and eat it.
In other cases, when the mama guinea pigs assess that resources are scarce, she may make the difficult decision of sacrificing one of her babies (mostly the runt of the litter) to ensure that she could nourish the others.
2. Stress And Anxiety
Guinea pigs are prey animals. Thus, they get stressed and scared very easily. Guinea pigs are very sensitive to changes in their environments, loud noises, change in temperature, etc. So, a sudden change in environment, routine, and temperature could make your guinea pig stressed. Similarly, over-handling, a noisy environment, and potential predators roaming around could make your guinea pigs anxious and stressed.
Too small of a hutch, where mama guinea pigs feel overcrowded with babies, might also add to her stress. Extreme anxiety and stress, that the tiny mind of our guinea pigs fail to handle, could trigger guinea pigs to eat their babies.
3. Stillborn Baby
Stillbirth is a tragedy and is very common in guinea pigs. When the number of guinea pigs in the litter is over five, the gestation period is longer or shorter than the average, there is a huge risk of stillbirths.
Sometimes, guinea pigs eat their stillborn babies accidentally—mistaking them for placentas. In other cases, mama guinea pigs eat them intentionally to ensure that there is nothing around that would attract predators. By eating the stillborn guinea pigs, mama guinea pigs are trying to ensure that predators in the vicinity are unable to track down their scent.
4. Baby Dies Shortly After Delivery
Many times, baby guinea pigs that come into this world underdeveloped or malformed die very shortly. In such cases, mama guinea pigs may eat their dead babies to prevent predators from tracking their scent.
If the mother guinea pig has not eaten any pup from her litter within 24 hours of birth, it is highly unlikely that she will eat one after that.
Why Do Male Guinea Pigs Eat Their Babies?
In domestication, male guinea pigs are rarely heard of eating their young ones. This is because responsible breeders remove dad guinea pigs from the cage once they find out that the guinea pig is pregnant. This is because male guinea pigs keep getting on the nerves of the female guinea pigs. And as we do not want anything or anyone stressing the pregnant guinea pig, we remove the male guinea pigs from the cage.
That said, male guinea pigs might eat their babies if they think that babies are not theirs. Besides that, the strong territorial instincts of male guinea pigs could also make them hurt their babies and in certain cases even eat them.
How to Prevent My Guinea Pig From Eating Her Babies?
Take good care of your guinea pigs and there will be little to no risk of her eating the babies. First thing first, make sure that her increased nutritional needs are being met. Secondly, provide her with a stress-free environment with minimum noise, crowd, commotion, and changes in routine.
To best ensure that your guinea pig does not eat her babies take the following preventive measures:
- A balanced diet is not only essential for a normal and healthy pregnancy but is also essential to ensure that the guinea pig does not eat her babies. Besides switching from normal timothy hay to Alfalfa hay, you should also increase the amount of pellets and vitamin C supplements for your guinea pig during the pregnancy period, parturition, and lactation.
- Provide a stress-free environment to your guinea pig throughout the pregnancy, during parturition, and lactation. There should be minimal noise and traffic and no sudden change in the surroundings.
- Do not handle your pregnant guinea pig, unless it is absolutely necessary, during three to four weeks before they give birth. If you have to take your guinea pig to a vet for a checkup, use a pet carrier or a box.
- Remove the male guinea pig from the cage once pregnancy is confirmed. Do not allow male guinea pigs to come near the mama guinea pig at least until she is done lactating and baby guinea pigs are weaned. Also do not provide male guinea pig access to babies as they might try to hurt them if he feels threatened.
- Remove stillborn guinea pups immediately. If you think that any of the pups is not showing any movement, you should immediately intervene, try to revive the pup, and remove it from the cage if it is stillborn.
- Similarly, immediately remove the guinea pup that dies shortly after coming into this world. Because if you don’t, the guinea pig may try to eat it to prevent predators from tracking its scent.
- Observe the birthing process and be there to immediately intervene if the mother guinea pig seems to be mistaking the pup for the placenta.
|Why Do Guinea Pigs Eat Their Babies?||What Can You Do to Prevent It?|
|Malnourishment||Provide balanced diet|
|Stress and anxiety||Avoid stress during pregnancy, birth, and lactation|
|Stillborn baby||Immediately remove stillborn babies|
|Baby dies shortly after delivery||Immediately remove babies that may die|
Do Guinea Pigs Eat (Kill/Reject) Their Babies Because They Were Handled by a Human?
No! Many people believe that guinea pigs often reject their babies or even attack and kill them when they are touched by humans. It is argued that when the mama guinea pig is cleaning her babies, she is leaving a scent on them but when a human handles them that scent is gone. So, the mama guinea pig might think that the pup is not from her litter as it does not have that scent.
Contrary, it is argued that a mama guinea pig, who is familiar with your scent, will feel relieved when she finds your scent on its babies. It is because guinea pigs recognize their owners as their primary caregivers and thus they feel relieved that their caregiver is around to look after them and their babies.
That being said, it is strongly advised that you leave baby guinea pigs alone with their mother for a couple of days after birth. You should only intervene when you feel it is absolutely necessary.
What Should I Do If My Guinea Pig Eats Her Babies?
If your guinea pig seems to have eaten her babies, do not panic, and do not blame yourself. First of all, you should look around in the cage and make sure that they are not hiding in some corner or they have not escaped. Once you are sure that the mama guinea pig has eaten her babies, you should sit down by the cage and look if you can find any remaining body parts of the guinea pups.
You should remove the body parts (if you find any) and remove hay that might have blood on it and dump it carefully. If you find any dead guinea pup body in the cage, you should immediately remove it as well.
If you were providing a stress-free environment to your guinea pig and taking care of all of her nutritional needs, and still she ate the babies, then you should consider preventing future pregnancies in the guinea pig.
Do Other Rodents Eat Their Young Ones as well?
Yes, it is very common in many species to eat their babies. For instance, it is considered very normal for hamsters to eat their babies. In guinea pigs, it is a rare occurrence because baby guinea pigs are very well-developed at the time of birth. They are comparatively large in size and have hair on their bodies. So, it would be practically difficult for parent guinea pigs to ingest them.