Are Guinea Pigs Smart? A Complete Guide To Guinea Pig Intelligence

Are guinea pigs smart? Guinea pigs have been kept as companions in households since the 16th Century. Whilst domestication has resulted in a reduction in brain size, our pet guinea pigs are as clever as their wild cavy cousins!

Guinea pig intelligence is easy to spot as they are naturally very curious and don’t like to be bored. A bored guinea pig actually gets depressed and can die.

Cats and dogs are best trained when they are just a few weeks old however, guinea pigs need to learn later. The best time for guinea pigs to learn is when they are 6 months or older. Guinea pigs have excellent spatial awareness which can be put to the test by creating a maze and using signposts for directions!

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Measuring Guinea Pig Intelligence

Are guinea pigs smart

So are guinea pigs smart? Measuring guinea pig intelligence has been well documented in various studies since simply watching our own isn’t scientific enough. This article will draw reference from The Journal of Animal Cognition and Animal Intelligence: Experimental Studies

Within the above studies, several factors are identified in order to measure guinea pig intelligence such as memory and recognition, social behaviours plus the ability to learn.

Guinea Pig Memory and Recognition

Memory Magic

Guinea pigs have excellent memories! Scientists carried out a test specifically to test a guinea pig’s memory. The areas they focused on were the ability to remember and retrace steps. voice recognition, identifying symbols and gestures, and overall memory capacity.

Remembering Their Steps


Do you often make mazes for your guinea pigs? We do and it’s such fun to watch them explore and popcorn with excitement! (Not sure what popcorning is? Find out more here) The amazing thing is guinea pigs actually remember the way through to the end of the maze.

We hide treats in certain corners for them to find. After several run-throughs, we place obstacles such as tunnels in the way. Our clever piggies remember exactly where the treats are and strive to get there.

Have you ever been a bit late serving your guinea pig a meal? You might have forgotten but they haven’t! Wheeking and cage chewing is their helpful way of reminding you it’s feeding time! If this happens a lot then try an automatic feeder!

Voice Recognition

Games to play with your guinea pig

Do your guinea pigs begin to squeak at the sound of your voice? I know ours do! In the morning the slightest hint of my voice outside their room causes a chorus of squeaks, whistles and wheeks! It’s amazing to know that we create that magnitude of happiness for our piggies.

Guinea pigs are smart enough to be able to learn and recognize their own names as well. It’s easy to teach your guinea pig their name, start by feeding them a treat and repeating their name whilst they eat it. Perform this daily and after a while, your guinea pigs will not only know their name they will also run over to you when called!

Guinea pigs also have a great capacity for general recognition. Wild cavies will run away from even the smallest hint of danger so it’s no surprise to know they won’t be eager to be held by humans. Domesticated guinea pigs’ power of recognition is so great that they will not only be held by us, humans, but they will also snuggle into us, encourage stroking (that gentle yet powerful head but on your hand) plus they lick us as a sign of love.

Licking is how guinea pigs express affection to each other so it’s sweet they also share it with us.

Identifying And Recognizing Symbols

why do guinea pigs need hay

Guinea pigs can recognize colours and symbols. An experiment was carried out by Horst Bielfeld in his book Guinea Pigs — A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual where he uses coloured food bowls to distinguish whether a guinea pig could see colours. He proved that they could.

Similar studies have taken place where guinea pigs have been placed in mazes. Signs and symbols have been provided for the guinea pigs in order to navigate the maze. The results showed that guinea pigs could learn what the symbols/signs meant in relation to specific situations. They could also hold this information for several hours.

Memory Capacity

Guinea pigs overall have an excellent memory. Most guinea pig owners are surprised that guinea pigs can be trained to perform tricks and also litter trained! (find out more on potty training your guinea pig here!)

Tricks are best kept simple and safe since guinea pigs have delicate bones, but this doesn’t mean they can’t be fun!

The trick we love the most is jumping through a hoop! We make a simple one out of cardboard. Start by placing the hoop in front of your guinea pig to let them get used to it. Next place a treat at the other end of the hoop. It’s doubtful your guinea pig will go through it straight away but reward each and every attempt they make to go towards the hoop.

Eventually, they will walk through the hoop in order to get the treat.

Are Guinea Pigs the Smartest Rodent?

can you have a clever guinea pig

A study was carried out in order to test which rodent was the smartest. It is detailed in the Journal of Animal Cognition. They concluded that guinea pigs are smarter than other rodents in many different ways.

Guinea pigs were able to grasp new learning quicker plus they were also able to apply it to new situations. This is fascinating since they actually have smaller brains than most other rodents.

Other findings from the study concluded that guinea pigs are far more cautious than other rodents. When foreign objects were placed in multiple rodent cages, guinea pigs took by far longer to approach them than other rodents.

Contrastingly, guinea pigs actually adapted to new surroundings faster than other rodents. This also explains why guinea pigs can get bored quickly since they adapt faster.

Constantly changing their cage will ease boredom. Introducing new toys, tunnels and hiding places is a great way to keep them entertained.

Cute, Clever, and Cuddly

It’s amazing to think how smart guinea pigs really are! They have adapted well to domestication and have kept their natural intelligence. What smart things do your guinea pigs do? Comment below to let us know.

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