A guide to guinea pig body language

Guinea pigs are able to communicate in a variety of ways to help us understand what they are thinking and feeling. The most obvious form of communication is verbal which means that the subtle body language clues they provide are often overlooked.

Whilst its vital to understand your guinea pigs verbal behavioral patterns, learning their different types of body language is equally as useful.

Popcorning

The most amazing of sights is to see your guinea pig leap into the air (sometimes continuously!) This is also the easiest to spot. This is more common in younger guinea pigs although older piggies can often be seen leaping for joy – just not as high as their young counterparts.

Popcorning indicates pure joy and happiness, your guinea pig is literally so happy they are jumping for joy.

Our guinea pigs can frequently be found popcorning over all sorts of things – a new toy for their cage, giving them hay and even when we come in and have a chat with them.

Licking

Not only do guinea pigs purr like cats they also lick like them too! Licking is thought of as another friendly gesture that our guinea pigs do to show us how much they care.

There is some debate as to whether guinea pigs are simply tasting the skin for salt – but we like to think its to show their affection.

Snifffing

Have you ever really watched your piggie and wondered why they sniff everything so much? Ours sniff each other, the hay for eating, the hay for sleeping in, the carpet….

Sniffing is an excellent way for guinea pigs to discover what is going on and whose about. Its a very normal activity!

Rubbing / touching noses

This is a friendly greeting often exchanged between cage buddies. Our guinea pig Orange though will happily touch noses with us to show us how happy she is.

Freezing

Try not to take it personally when your guinea pig turns to stone the moment your around. This is a normal instinctive behavior that keeps wild cavies alive. In the wild, cavies will freeze in the hope that predators will find it harder to spot them.

Our domestic friends often freeze when startled or are uncertain about something. Its more common for new and young guinea pigs as they are still trying to get used to their new environments.

Our guinea pigs frequently froze when we brought them home but after a few weeks they stopped. They rarely do it now unless they are surprised or their are young children in the house.

Scent marking

Guinea pigs show their dominance to other guinea pigs through scent marking. This involves rubbing their cheeks, chins and back end on items they have claimed as their own.

Urination can also be used to the same effect to show their dominance.

Mounting

It can rather alarming to see your guinea pigs mounting each other especially if they are the same sex. When we first saw this behavior, we were convinced the pet shop had given us piggies of the opposite sex.

In same sex guinea pigs, mounting is a way of exerting dominance among the group and is very common in females.

In opposite sex piggies, mounting is to initiate breeding behavior so ensure you are fully prepared for any new arrivals.

Strutting / rumble strutting

If you spot your guinea pig shifting its weight from side to side, wiggling its hips and making a low rumbling sound then its rumble strutting.

Rumble strutting is a sign of aggression and is common in groups of guinea pigs when dominance is being established. Its important to be observant during this behavior as your piggies may end up fighting.

To calm fighting guinea pigs, the safest and most effective way is to carefully place a blanket over the top of them. This calms them down and distracts them as they become more concerned over finding the way out.

If you have fighting guinea pigs then it may be necessary to separate them either for a short time or permanently.

Fidgeting and/or running away from being picked up

Fidgeting whilst being held is common in young and new piggies. It can be an indication that they are simply fed up or being held. It may also need they need to answer natures call.

If you find that your guinea pigs fidget frequently whilst being held, it could be a sign that you need to reduce the amount of laptime and then increase it slowly.

Running away from being held is a normal guinea pig instinct and should not be taken personally. Guinea pigs are prey animals and so have defense mechanisns in place, such as running away in order to keep them safe.

Slowly, over time your guinea pigs will no longer feel the need to run away from you and will welcome the chance to be held.

Guinea pig happiness : 10 ways to tell you have a happy guinea pig

There is no better feeling in the world than knowing you have a happy guinea pig. Its conformation that all the love, attention and care you show your guinea pig is paying off. I believe every guinea pig owner’s first priority is to strive to have a healthy and happy guinea pig.

If you’re a new guinea pig owner, it can feel very overwhelming in the beginning. Uncertainly creeps in and it can be tough working out what your guinea pigs signs and body language means.

That’s why we have put together the top ten signs that you have a happy guinea pig! Its important to remember that all guinea pigs are different and your guinea pig may not show the same signs as someone elses guinea pig. Your guinea pig doesn’t have to be showing ten out of ten of this checklist. One or two shows they are perfectly happy and healthy!

1. Popcorning

There is nothing more amazing than seeing your guinea pig literally jump for joy due to sheer happiness! Popcorning is the guinea pig dance move of happiness! It is when a guinea pig runs, jumps into the air and then does it again.

It is is normally more common in younger guinea pigs. Older piggies have still been known to perform the odd popcorn however it is less noticeable. The jumps are less high and the running is slower.

Guinea pigs have many reasons to popcorn – Their favorite hay, getting fed pellets and even socialising. We have found that if a guinea pig is in a cage that is too small then they are unable to popcorn. Happy guinea pigs require plenty of space in order to popcorn. Ours when they were younger popcorned in their cage. They are older now and popcorn when they are running free during indoor playtime.

2. Wheeking

The most common of guinea pig sounds! Its hard to miss this amazing sound. Happy guinea pigs will wheek at even the mere chance of food – plastic rustling, the fridge opening and even the sight of their favorite hay.

Did you know that wild cavies do not wheek in the wild? Our domestic piggies have created this special sound just for us humans. Its their way of gently encouraging us to feed them and often works. Its hard to resist a wheeking piggie! Ours often wheek as we walk up the stairs in the hope of a little treat. We feed our happy guinea pigs chunks of cucumber and the occasional strawberry as their treats.

3. Approching

The most frustrating thing when you first bring your guinea pig home is their frequent hiding. Its nothing personal they are just made that way! Being prey animals they are the natural instinct to hide when they sense danger or are unsure of their surroundings. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing your little guinea pig emerging out of their hidey hole and exploring the world!

The next step from this is when during indoor playtime, they start coming over to you to explore. Our happy guinea pigs will even sit on our feet and play with our socks! You will find your guinea pig will approach you more and more as they gain confidence in their surroundings. Some guinea pigs will never fully approach you and will maintain a safe distance away. They may frequently run back to the nearest tunnel or shelter as well. That’s normal and natural behavior.

4. Signs of good health

A happy guinea pig is a healthy guinea pig! Happiness and healthiness go hand in hand for our little piggie friends. Ensuring your guinea pigs health is vital to a happy guinea pig. The best to perform a health check (Check out our guide to learn how) is during laptime.

The signs of a happy and healthy guinea pig are:

  • Energetic and not lethargic or limping.
  • Their normal appetite and enthusiasm for food.
  • Clear nose, dry eyes and the body free from sores / bumps
  • Lots of their usual vocal and physical signs.

If you think your guinea pig is unwell, then its best to consult a vet immediately.

5. Chilling out

A happy guinea pig can often be sign stretched out and lying down. We have special guinea pig fleece and our guinea pigs love to lay down on it. Chocolate often wraps herself up in it and has a little nap.

Guinea pigs can take a while to get to the “stretching out” point. They usually start with standing still and rather stiff. Next they move onto resting their head nearer to the ground. Finally comes the chill out! Our guinea pig orange isn’t a big fan of lying down but Chocolate adores it.

6.Licking

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A happy guinea pig likes to share the happiness in the form of some licking. Similaraly to a cat, happy guinea pigs will show their happiness by licking your hand.

There is some thought that this behavior is due to guinea pigs liking the salty taste of human skin but we like to think of the licks as kisses! Plus unhappy guinea pigs have not been known to lick their owners.

7.Purring

Another cat likeness. A happy guinea pig will purr whilst enjoying laptime! A purring guinea pig indicates they are relaxed, calm and comfortable.

Its useful to beware that there are two different types of purring sounds that guinea pigs make. A low and deep grumble is the happy purr. It will be obvious as your guinea pig will exhibit other types of happy behavior (such as a relaxed posture or lying down)

A high pitch purr indicates something is wrong.

8.A big burst of energy.

Have you ever noticed your guinea pig suddently run around a space as fast as possible? Yes this is the sign of a happy guinea pig. Similarily to hamsters, guinea pigs do get a build up of energy. Wheels are unsafe for guinea pigs and a happy guinea pig will delight in running around at high speed. Our guinea pigs have a whole room to themselves and often chase and play with each other during this energy burst.

9.The stretch and yawn.

This is fairly uncommon behavior. We thought for the longest time that yawning was associated with aggressive behavior. Luckily after a serious amount of research we learned that if the yawn is accompanied with a stretch then it means to opposite. Both our guinea pigs stretch and yawn during lap time. They are obviously happy guinea pigs and want to show us.

10.Chutting.

A fairly rare sound made by guinea pigs. The name reflects the sound that is made by your piggie. Chutting mainly occurs during laptime and is thought to be a behavior reserved for those under two years.

Our happy guinea pigs only chut when they are out of their cage and exploring their room.

What do guinea pig sounds mean?

When we purchased our first guinea pigs and brought them home, we remember being really surprised about all the different sounds they made. We tried for many months to try to learn their sounds and what they mean’t. There isn’t a lot of information around the different sounds that guinea pigs make and even what they mean.

Similarly to cats and dogs, the sounds that guinea pigs make provide an indication of how they are feeling and if there is an issue. Guinea pigs can communicate in many different and unique ways and it’s important to discover what they mean. This will help you react quickly if your guinea pig is hurt or feeling threatened.

Understanding the different sounds your guinea pig makes will also help you build a closer relationship with them. This ensures a closer bond and helps you both get the most out of your time together. When you have a Happy Guinea pig, they will often spend all their day making a variety of sounds such as purring, wheeking and chortling.

Wheeking

This is probably the most common of the guinea pig sounds! Every guinea pig owner has heard this when opening the fridge or opening their hay. Guinea pigs also use it when they are asking for attention so its important to get familiar with this sound.

We keep our guinea pigs in their own room upstairs and anytime someone goes upstairs, our little piggies wheek loudly asking for us to come and play with them. They also wheek when they wish to be let out of their cage and to enjoy some floor time.

The best way to describe wheeking is it is a high pitched sound that is often repeated and comes in short, sharp, fast bursts. This sound is used to express excitement and anticipation.

A fun fact about wheeking – Wild cavies do not wheek! Wheeking is directed exclusively to humans and never happens in the wild. Guinea pigs developed this new sound as a way to express to humans that they wish to be fed – clever piggies!

Click here to listen to what wheeking sounds like.

Purring

Purring isn’t just for cats! Guinea pigs have a few different types of purr depending upon the situation they are in. A deep purring sounds usually comes during laptime and means they are relaxed, calm and comfortable.

A guinea pigs happy purr is a low and deep grumble type of purr. It will be easy to tell it’s the happy purr as your piggie will appear content and relaxed.

If your guinea pig makes a higher pitched purr, similar to a cat then this is not a happy purr. In fact its their way of telling you they are annoyed. We have found our guinea pigs tend to make this sound if they are happy and relaxed and something (or someone!) startles them.

This annoyed purr will be shorter than the happy purr and will be presented in short bursts opposed to the happy continuous rumble.

Rumbling

Rumbling is best described as a low and more active purr. A rumbling guinea pig will often walk slowly towards other guinea pigs and appear to be swinging their hips from side to side.

Rumbling is a sign of dominance used typically towards other guinea pigs. It can also be used by male guinea pigs when courting females.

A rumbling guinea pig appears to almost vibrate whilst making this sounds. A low rumble whilst the guinea pig making the sounds is walking away, indicates that the piggie is showing passive resistance to the more dominant guinea pig.

Click here to listen to what rumbling sounds like.

Chutting

This noise is fairly rare among guinea pigs so do not feel offended if your guinea pig never chuts. Chutting sound a lot like purring although your piggie will make a distinctive “chut” sounds repeatedly.

Chutting occurs during stroking mainly, however our guinea pigs chut happily whilst they explore their room. We change their room up repeatedly and they “chut” their approval. Chocolate even chuts when we fill the hay rack with her favorite hay!

Shrieking

My least favorite guinea pig sound as this one means they are sensing imminent danger or are in pain. We are lucky that we have never heard this sound from any of our guinea pigs however its definitely one to be aware of.

If you have to take your guinea pig to the vet for the first time, its common to hear this sounds from them unfortunately. If you keep a large amount of guinea pigs you also may hear this sound which is signaling that their is trouble between them.

This sounds exactly how you would think – a loud high pitch shriek similar to a shout for help.

Teeth chattering

This sound often sounds like the quick succession of teeth grinding and is a fairly common sounds. Your guinea pig will make this sound when they are feeling unhappy or agitated.

Our guinea pigs make this sound if your too playful after their nap or if they have finished their laptime before you have.

Growling

Another noise that isn’t very common. This sounds is pretty self explanatory and your guinea pig will make it when they feel distressed or threatened.

This sound is particularly important when you introduce a new piggie into the mix.

Whining

This sound is an indication that your pet is distressed or in trouble. If your guinea pig makes this sounds continoulsly then its bet to seek medical attention from a vet.

Its important to remember that all guinea pigs are individuals and yours wont make all these noises. Enjoy and celebrate the sounds they make when they are happy.