Ever wished you could understand guinea pig behaviour? 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 behavioural patterns, learning their different types of body language is equally as useful.
Guinea pigs are not only very vocal creatures, but they are also very expressive in other ways. From the simple nose nudge to the back of your hand to encourage you to keep stroking them, to the more obvious paw slap when they have had enough attention and are ready for adventuring.
This guide will help cement the bond you are forming with your guinea pig and help you both get the best out of your relationship.
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.
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 it’s to show their affection.
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. It’s 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.
Try not to take it personally when your guinea pig turns to stone the moment you are around. This is normal instinctive behaviour 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. It’s 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 there are young children in the house.
Guinea pigs show their dominance over 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.
It can be rather alarming to see your guinea pigs mounting each other especially if they are the same sex. When we first saw this behaviour, 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 behaviour 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 it’s rumble strutting.
Rumble strutting is a sign of aggression and is common in groups of guinea pigs when dominance is being established. It’s important to be observant during this behaviour 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 about finding a 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 nature’s 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 lap time 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 defence mechanisms 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.
The bond of friendship
The knowledge of your guinea pigs behaviour is wonderful for enjoying your time with your guinea pig. It is also essential in ensuring your guinea pig stays in good health. Once you’re familiar with their usual behavioural patterns, it becomes easy to discover when something is wrong. Ill health in guinea pigs can be fatal so acting fast is the key.
What behaviours from above does your guinea pig display? I would love for you to comment below with any funny things your guinea pig does!