Strangely, I would never have chosen Herbert myself, as I’ve never really liked all white animals. Yet somehow this little ball of fluff was instantly loved by the whole family, even my husband and younger son who aren’t really bothered about the guinea pigs. He really is the sweetest little thing.
At first, he and Henry seemed so happy together. Yes, Henry chased him around quite a lot. But guinea pigs like to play and that’s what they do. They would also sit quietly at the bowl together, and Henry didn’t push him away from the food. Henry didn’t even seem to mind when Herbert walked in the bowl. So I felt that they had done what guinea pigs always do – bonded immediately.
But after we’d had Herbert for about 10 days, I noticed a small cut under his eye. It wasn’t nice and I was slightly concerned, but I didn’t think too much of it. A couple of days later, he had a larger cut on his nose. Then I was worried. Henry was clearly attacking him. What could I do? I couldn’t put him back in the hutch with Henry.
Then my eldest said he’d obviously done it himself while he was washing. Had I felt how sharp his claws are? I had! They are absolutely tiny, but very sharp indeed. He didn’t have any cuts anywhere apart from his face, so I believed it. I believed it because I wanted to, and happily put Herbert back in the hutch with Henry.
The eye healed completely and the nose was starting to heal. Then I noticed another, smaller cut on his nose.
I decided to take him to the vet. I was worried that the cuts would become infected. And maybe the vet could cut his tiny claws. I always cut the guinea pigs’ claws myself, but not when they are that tiny.
Sadly, the vet concluded it wasn’t him and his tiny claws. It was Henry who was attacking him.
I was devastated. They had seemed to be getting along so well. I’d been so happy that Henry had a friend at last. I felt very sorry for poor Herbert, but I felt sorry for Henry too.
The vet said it was because Henry is only an adolescent himself – he was a year old at the end of October.
She said we had to separate them and gradually reintroduce them on neutral territory for a few minutes a day. She suggested two indoor hutches would be good, so they can sit looking at each other. But we don’t even have one indoor hutch! My husband has always been adamant that the guinea pigs have to live outside, even in winter. The vet said that once the guinea pigs are sitting next to each in their neighbouring hutches, they will be ready to live together again.
Julie, a friend on social media, very kindly offered to let me have an indoor hutch. But that would have meant one guinea pig living indoors and one living outdoors. I knew we had an old outdoor hutch under shelter at the back of the garden, so I got that one out and gave it a clean. Apart from spiders and a broken door, it wasn’t in bad condition. Obviously we couldn’t put the hutches directly opposite each other, or we would be unable to get to them for feeding and cleaning. So we put the new/ old hutch at right angles to the main hutch.
I put Henry and Herbert together for a few minutes a day, and they just chase each other around. They don’t seem ready to be together just yet. Julie also suggested I swap their possessions, so that they can pick up the scent of each other. They both have a tube in their hutches, so I’ve swapped those over.
Every time I go outside, the guinea pigs are squeaking loudly to each other. I feel that they would like to be together, but obviously it isn’t safe just yet. I feel sorry for them that they are both on their own, when they are sociable animals who need company. I don’t know whether being next door to each other is enough company for sociable animals. It has even briefly crossed my mind to get at least one other guinea pig, to keep Herbert company, but of course I could end up with even more separate hutches.
I would certainly prefer them to be together, as I think ultimately they would be happier like that. (And from a practical point of view, it would be less cleaning!) It may take a few weeks for Henry to get through his adolescence, but I really hope I will have two guinea pigs who are best friends soon.