Guinea pigs have an extensive behavioral repertoire. They communicate through their spoken and body language. In this way, they can signal to each other, but also to people, how they are feeling at the moment. Read how to understand your guinea pigs here.
If you keep a close eye on your guinea pigs, you will notice how “talkative” these sociable rodents are. The animals show the most diverse (social) behavior in larger and mixed-gender groups. There is a complex, hierarchical social system within the association and the genders.
Unlike many other social mammals, guinea pigs do not groom each other and usually do not cuddle with each other. The everyday life of the group is mainly determined by the most diverse vocalizations:
The spoken language of guinea pigs
Guinea pigs can use a wide variety of sounds to express whether they are feeling good or whether they are afraid or want to issue a warning. If you as the owner can interpret these sounds correctly, you can best meet the needs of your guinea pigs.
- Humming (bumbling): When a male courts a rutting female, he makes a humming or cooing noises. The buck moves slowly, rocking, usually slightly sideways with its head lowered and the hair on the back of its neck raised, towards the female. This courting behavior is called “rumba”.
- Chirping: This sound resembles a bird’s chirping and is emitted in a rhythmic sequence when the animals are tense, e.g. when there are differences in their hierarchy or when they are frightened.
- Squeak: Hatchlings squeak when calling for their mother. Older animals also sometimes utter this lamentation.
- Grunts: Guinea pigs grunt in a friendly manner when greeting others of their own species.
- Chuckling: Guinea pigs that are comfortable will chuckle and mumble with satisfaction.
- Cooing: With this vocalization, the rodents try to calm each other down.
- Whistles: In case of danger, the animals warn each other with a loud, choppy whistle, whereupon the other group members hide in their burrows.
- Demanding Squeaks: Guinea pigs begging for food will squeak loudly and demandingly. The animals can associate certain sounds, such as the rustling of a bag or the opening of a cupboard door, with being fed something tasty. They then squeak loudly in anticipation of the treat.
- Squeak, high-pitched: A high-pitched squeak is a sign of fear, pain, or severe discomfort. You should take these sounds seriously, as they could also indicate an illness.
- The chattering of teeth: Loud gnashing of teeth serves as a demeanor and warning sound in the event of differences in rank.
The body language of guinea pigs
- Harming: A female who feels harassed by a male willing to mate fends off the buck with a targeted stream of urine.
- Standing up: An alert guinea pig stands up with its front legs, stretches out its head, and sniffs excitedly.
- Sniffing: To establish contact, guinea pigs sniff each other’s nose and anus. The animals recognize their group affiliation by their smell.
- Freeze: If the rodents feel threatened but cannot run away or hide, they will freeze in terror. They remain completely motionless. The eyes seem to bulge.
- Cuddling: Hatchlings snuggle together when they seek protection and keep each other warm. Older guinea pigs usually only cuddle together when they are afraid or the protective houses are too small.
- Popcorn: The so-called popcorn in guinea pigs is usually a sign that they feel really good. Younger guinea pigs do this most often. They then jump around wildly in their enclosure, which is a bit reminiscent of the corn in a popcorn machine. However, if these jumps in the air are accompanied by a high-pitched squeak, it can also be a sign of pain or parasite infestation.
- Rumba: A male courts a rutting female by slowly swaying towards his chosen mate. With this showmanship, there are humming sounds.