WHAT IS MY GUINEA PIG SAYING?
Happy guinea pigs touch noses when they meet each other, followed by nuzzling the mouth, rather like a social kiss. They leap in the air in a “frisky hop” when they are playing – like binkying in a rabbit. Some people call this “popcorning”. If they are friends they sniff each other or just spend time close to each other. Friends also groom each other but if they go too far and leave bald patches, it means they are stressed.
Guinea pig also sometimes leap into the air or run around in a panic when they are frightened. Or they play dead – they literally freeze with terror or lie on their back as if unconscious. They stand upright on their back legs when they are ready to fight each other.
There are a wide range of guinea pig calls. These are described differently by different experts (see the reference list below) so the best way may be to listen to some of them recorded here or here. More research is needed. Guinea pigs can hear ultrasound so may also make calls in ultrasound which we cannot hear. Here are some of the sounds.
Chuttering. This is a kind of muttering noise made while the guinea pig is going about its daily life or exploring.
Purring, bubbling or chortling A happy relaxed guinea pig makes this noise, when it is being groomed by another guinea pig or asking for grooming. They may also make it if they are happy being stroked by a human.
Whistling or wheeking. Guinea pigs make this noise when they are excited about something. They also make it when they want to locate or call to another guinea pig if they are separated.
Drrr. A sort of rumble and a sign of annoyance. Rather like a short purr or like a growl in short bursts.
Teeth chattering. This noise warns people or other guinea pigs to stay away. May also be a sign of frustration.
Chirruping, chirping. These are a series of high pitched noises like a bird chirping. Some say this is a sign of stress or discomfort. We probably don’t yet know what it means.
Scream or squeal. This means the animal is in pain or it occurs when it has just lost a fight with another guinea pig.
The information comes from these papers and books listed below. There is a helpful website here.
Lee Y., (2010), ‘Guinea Pigs,’, ed Tyner, V. V., Behavior of Exotic Pets, Chichester, UK, Blackwell-Wiley, 78-90.
McBride, A., (2011), Guinea Pigs. Understanding and caring for your pet, Magnet & Steel.
Kaiser, S., Kruger, C. & Sachser, N, (2010), ‘The Guinea Pig,’ in eds Hubrecht & Kirkwood, J., The UFAW Handbook on Care and Management of Laboratory and other Research Animals, Eight Edition, Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, UK, 381-398