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.

Guinea Pig Nutritional Requirements

It can seem rather overwhelming when you do a simple online search for what to feed your guinea pig. We remember when we first researched guinea pig nutritional requirements. We were fairly shocked to read you feed them three times a day. It seems like a huge amount but after owning guinea pigs a numerous years now you can see why they need it!

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Guinea pigs do not eat meat, high amounts of carbohydrates or fatty foods. They are very strict herbivores.They should never be fed meat or diary products! When it comes to feeding your guinea pig, its useful to remember that in the wild they live in the hills and mountains of the Andes, Peru. They spend their days grazing on fresh grass and other plant materials. 

We will cover the basics of guinea pigs nutritional requirements in this article.

Vitamin C

Guinea pigs are rather like humans in the sense that we both can not make our own vitamin C. Guinea pigs, like us rely on getting their daily recommended allowance of vitamin C from their food alone. In order for a guinea pig to intake vitamin C you need to provide suitable vegetables and a small amount of pellet food to ensure they do not suffer from disease.  Most experts agree that at least five milligrams per kilogram of body weight is the requirement on Vitamin C for your guinea pig but as a rule of thumb twenty milligrams a day is preferred. 

Whilst this may sound a large quantity in comparison to your fairly small guinea pig, it is actually easily obtained by feeding your piggie a supply of fresh vegetables (along with the occasional sweet fruity treat.) Liquid drops of Vitamin C are also available to be added to water. We recommended speaking to a vet before administrating to your pet. 

Grass and Hay

Guinea pigs LOVE grass and hay! If your guinea pig lives outside or has access to an outside space then you are safe to let them graze on it all day! A word of caution: if your guinea pig does live outside, remember they shouldn’t be kept on wet grass. Guinea pigs little furry bellies lie close next to the ground. If walking on wet grass, it will make their tummy wet and can cause colds and pneumonia. 

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If your guinea pig doesn’t live outside, don’t worry as there are still ways of providing them with grass. We cut our lawn with a pair of scissors and bring it in for them. We place it in hay racks and various containers for them to graze on.

Grass hay can also be purchased. Hay is such an important part of a guinea pigs diet and it is crucial for  their survival. Guinea pigs love hay – sleeping in it, eating it, digging in it and of course leaving their droppings in it too.  It provides a nutritional requirement as well as being good fun for guinea pigs. Grass hay aids proper digestion along with the constant chewing action serving to wear down teeth ensuring they don’t become overgrown. The best type of hay is Timothy hay.

Guinea pigs should have hay on the floor of their cage for sleeping in. Since they do leave droppings in it, it is also essential to get a hay rack to ensure they are eating clean hay. A guinea pig will often refuse to eat hay that has been soiled on. A hay rack is really important to ensure they are eating enough hay. A constant supply of clean hay should be provided daily. 

A cost effective way to manage your money whilst also providing unlimited hay for your guinea pigs is to buy a cheaper hay for ground cover and the more expensive Timothy Hay to put into various racks around the cage. This also saves on wastage.

Pellets

Guinea pigs also need to eat dry pellets as part of their daily nutritional needs. It is important to buy pellets that are made specifically for guinea pigs. Do not to use those intended for rabbits as they do not have the same nutritional needs. Guinea pig pellets have Vitamin C added to them. Avoid feeding your guinea pig brightly colored pellets as these rarely contain any nutritional benefits. Guinea pigs tend to leave the most nutritious pellets to the end. 

Guinea pig pellets often come fortified with vitamins, minerals and calcium.  Calcium is required to keep teeth and bones healthy, however too much can be dangerous to your guinea pig. Its useful to watch out for any white deposits in your piggies urine. This can be a sign that the food has too much calcium in it. A high intake in calcium can lead to formation of bladder stones. 

According to the RSPCA, the recommended amount of guinea pig pellets per day is one handful.

Vegetables 

Guinea pigs love vegetables! Vegetables are a crucial part  to a guinea pigs diet. The best type of vegetables are romaine lettuce and spring greens. Ensure you feed your guinea pig a variety of vegetables daily to ensure they have a good mixture to snack on all day. Guinea pigs can also eat small quantities of fruit and herbs as a treat but due to the high sugar content of fruit, this shouldn’t be happening daily. The RSPCA have a wonderful food chart that helps form the basis of your guinea pigs meal plan:

Water

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Its important to ensure your guinea pig has a constant supply of fresh, clean water. It can be provided in with a water bowl or water bottle. Ensure you clean the water and bottle / bowl daily to prevent the build up of bacteria that could make your piggy ill.

Cecotropes (soft feces)

Yeah unfortunately we are talking droppings! You may have noticed that your guinea pig produces two types of dropping: A hard type and a dark, shiny one. The latter is the one they eat and usually straight from the source (IE their bottom.) Whilst its slightly odd to us humans, guinea pigs practice coprophagy which is the eating of this special type of dropping. 

These special types of droppings are actually full of Vitamin B and Vitamin K which is essential to a guinea pig’s good  health. Studies have shown that guinea pigs prevented from eating these special droppings develop malnutrition and die. 

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Bringing your guinea pig home for the first time

Once you’ve chosen your piggy (or piggies) you’ll be counting down the days until you can bring your new fury pals home! Its a very exciting time to welcome your new addition into your home but it can be very scary for guinea pigs to leave their known environment and adjust to a new place. This article will help ease the transition to help keep your piggy happy!

Make sure you have their home set up before you leave

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The first and possibly most important thing is their home. Will they be living inside or outside? If they are going to be living outside then they will need a suitable hutch or if they are to be inside then they will need a good sized cage. The cage or hutch needs setting up before you leave to collect your new guinea pig(s). Ensure there is plenty of hay in the sleeping area and that hay racks are also full of fresh hay. The hay rack, clipped to the bars of the hutch or cage, ensures that this hay stays clean for eating. The bedding also needs to be put down ideally on top of sheets of newspaper. We have always used shredded paper in the main area of the cage/hutch for our guinea pigs. There are plenty of pre-shredded paper available to buy and we have been known to spend a good few hours shredding our own! Its very time consuming but as long as you have a good quality shredder, it can be similar to those you can buy. You do need plenty of paper though! Remember never to use sawdust as it can irritate them and get stuck in their eyes. We have seen several pet shops use sawdust simply because its easy to spot clean but please don’t use it as it can make your little piggies ill.

Your guinea pigs will also need some hidey holes since they will run for cover as soon as you put them in their new home. This helps them feel settled so is an important part of making your piggys feel comfortable. If you’ve done your homework you’ll already know what they are used to. Otherwise you can’t go wrong with some plastic ice cream tubs turned over with a hole cut out or even better a pigloo!

Ensure you have bought the dry food they are already eating or buy it when you collect them. Big changes to their diet can cause tummy upsets. After they have settled down you can change it to a different brand over a period of seven to ten days buy adding a little of the new food into their current one to help them get used to it. Remember guinea pigs are like humans and cant make their own vitamin C so choose a high quality dry mix like this one for them. Remember to get a solid bowl they can’t tip over as well as guinea pigs love to play. You will also need plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables to feed them.  Include a water bottle or bowl for them as guinea pigs need constant access to fresh, clean water.

A guinea pigs teeth constantly grow so some form of chew sticks or edible huts make a great addition to their home, plus it gives them something to do since a guinea pig don’t like to be bored. Its also a good idea to put some things of interest in their home such a crumpled paper, specially designed balls and cardboard tubes / boxes. We also love this fun guinea pig treat maze! 

Pet Proof your house

Guinea pigs generally spend the majority of their time inside their cages or hutch however out of habitat play is important too so its important to have an easy to clean area inside your house for them to run around in along with providing places to hide. We love using this pen that’s perfect for our little piggies to run about in. If you choose to let them run around in a carpeted room then its important to ensure that all cables are covered as guinea pigs love chewing!  Also make sure to pick up anything off the floor that could be a potential choking hazard. 

If you have other pets ensure you keep them away from your guinea pigs cage and in another room. No matter how friendly your existing pets are the scent of them will frighten your new guinea pigs. Not so long ago pet stores were advocating keeping guinea pigs and rabbits stating that they made very good companions for one another. Please DO NOT keep guinea pigs and rabbits together, recent studies have shown that guinea pigs can easily be bullied by rabbits and can become injured by them. Rabbits also pass on disease to guinea pigs and guinea pigs and rabbits have different nutrition needs so they shouldn’t be kept together.

Bringing them home

Its important to be prepared to bring your guinea pigs home in a safe and suitable manner. The majority of people will be bringing their guinea pigs back to their new home in the car so its important to ensure you have a suitable pet carrier to bring them home in or to ensure that the place you are getting your pets from provide a suitable container (ours was a cardboard pet carrier filled with hay.) If you purchase a pet carrier then it should be big enough for your guinea pigs to turn around, stand up and lay down in.You should ensure you put some hay in there as well as a carrot or similar healthy treat to hep ease their travelling anxiety. If you are travelling long distances then it is advisable to also attach a water bottle to the pet carrier so a cardboard one would not be suitable for this since the cardboard would get wet and become soggy.

Another thing to be mindful of is the temperature of the car, ensure that it is not too hot or too cold remember that a guinea pigs ideal temperature is sixteen to twenty four degree. If you are putting more than one guinea pig in the same carrier ensure that they both have enough space and check on them frequently to ensure they are getting along together. Make sure that the guinea pig carrier is placed securely in your car and avoid putting the radio or music on since guinea pigs have very sensitive hearing and it may also startle them. 

What to expect

Usually the instant you put your guinea pigs in their new home they will run for the nearest place to hide! This is OK and is part of the guinea pigs nature to hide. Another normal part of their behaviour is to freeze and not to move. Both of these instinctive behaviours are perfectly normal for timid guinea pigs especially when placed in an unfamiliar place for the first time. We remember when we first bought our piggies home and they hide and didn’t appear to eat or drink for days. It turned out they just sneaked out to play when we were asleep until they were used to us and their new home. Guinea pigs will remain skittish for a good few days until you gain their trust. We recommend not handling them for the first few days and instead attempting to feed them treats through their cages/hutch instead. This means they will gradually trust you and associate you with them getting a treat which will help for future handling. Although you are not handling them and they are staying the cage for the first few days its important to check they are eating, drinking and passing droppings normally. 

Its important to remember that if you have rescue guinea pigs then they take longer to settle in than pet shop bought guinea pigs (according to the RSPCA.) 

We hope you enjoy bringing your guinea pigs home. Being patient with your them will provide a solid base for you to enjoy your new pets.