Understanding Your New Guinea Pig's Behavior

Guinea pigs are plucky little critters with some fascinating mannerisms. So after bringing home your new guinea pig, you might be wondering what their behavior means or what they’re trying to tell you! 

While we’ll touch on the body language of guinea pigs, we’ll start with the sounds they make…because those squeaks and squawks often tell us exactly what we need to know.

guinea pig talking

Guinea Pig Noises and What They Mean

Why Guinea Pigs Squeal 

The trademark guinea pig squeal is something most guinea pig moms and pops will be able to identify…it kind of sticks with you.  

Often called wheeking, this sound is a high-pitched whistle or squeal. In most cases, it’s a squeal of delight because your little cavy is excited.  

Usually, guinea pigs wheek when supper is about to be served! 

Purring 

Guinea pigs aren’t just cute and fun to watch, they’re also lovable cuddle bugs (at least some of them).  

Like cats, guinea pigs enjoy being petted and some may even emit a purring sound when they’re loving the attention and feeling great.  

Purring is also referred to as chutting in the guinea pig world.  

Rumbling 

Not to be confused with purring, rumbling is a vocalization guinea pigs make when they’re in heat or ready to breed. Most of the time, it’s the males that emit this sound to get a special lady’s attention.  

With that being said, some females rumble when love is in the air as well. 

hissing guinea pig

Hissing 

Simply put, a hissing guinea pig is a displeased guinea pig.  

If your cavy opens wide and makes a gurgly hissing sound, you might want to give your little fluffer a break.  

Guinea pigs may hiss when they’re in the presence of strangers (both guinea pigs and humans) when they feel threatened, or just want to be left alone.  

Sometimes guinea pigs hiss when they’re in pain. So if your cavy doesn’t normally hiss at your presence but seems to be warning you to stay away today, they might be in pain and a visit to the vet might be in order.  

Chirping Guinea Pig 

If your guinea pig suddenly sounds like a bird and looks to be in a trance, well, your guess is as good as ours.  

Short chirping sounds, accompanied by the “stares,” is a noise we humans just can’t get a handle on.  

Some believe that guinea pigs chirp when calling for a loved one or when they’re grieving the loss of a partner. Others say their guinea pigs chirp when something is off…perhaps a routine, displeasure of new feed, or something else that’s completely unsatisfactory.  

guinea pig snuggled in shirt

Guinea Pig Body Language 

Along with all the interesting noises our guinea pigs make, there’s often some telling body language behind it all.  

Here’s what our piggies want us to know… 

When Guinea Pigs Bite 

It’s pretty obvious that when we’re bitten by any of our fur babies that something has upset them.  

And guinea pigs are no exception to the rule.  

Usually, when a guinea pig bites, it’s for one of the following reasons: 

  1. Fear - of something new, of being held, of a predator.  
  2. Pain - “don’t pick me up because it hurts.” 
  3. Territorial behavior - this is my house, my food, my girlfriend, etc.  

If you’ve never been bitten by a guinea pig, you’re probably wondering if it hurts, and unfortunately, yes it can. So always be on the lookout for signs of aggression from your guinea pig. But more importantly, look for the underlying causes so you can alleviate the stress behind the behavior.  

Head Tossing 

Guinea pigs throw their noggins around when they're attempting to show their dominance. Depending on the situation, head tossing can also be their way of telling you they're done with being doted on.  

In other words, “stop petting me, it’s time to go home.” 

Moping 

Guinea pigs have bad days too. A piggy who is less active, or less vocal, than normal may be depressed.  

Guinea pigs are curious and social, and if they aren’t kept busy, they can become depressed. If your guinea pig seems a little under the weather, think about taking them out to play with them. Maybe give them some new toys, or bring home a new cavy friend! 

With that being said, depression can also be a sign of an underlying illness, so if none of the above perks your piggy up, perhaps it’s time to see the vet to rule out any problems.  

sad guinea pig

Freezing 

When a guinea pig stops in mid trot and doesn’t move a muscle, they’re watching, listening, and smelling for…something.  

Perhaps they got a whiff of something tasty. Maybe they heard a new sound. Or…maybe they’re on the lookout for predators. In most cases, guinea pigs freeze to become invisible to something they think might be a threat. 

Popcorn, Anyone? 

One of our favorite guinea pig behaviors is what is lovingly referred to as popcorning. You may have witnessed a popcorning piggy if you’ve seen hopping, frolicking, and jumping that looks a little bit like a bowl of stovetop popcorn being popped.  

And just like our beloved bunnies who binky when they’re feeling great, happy guinea pigs popcorn! 

Licking  

Guinea pigs often lick to clean themselves, but when they lick their humans it’s because they’re happy, content, and showing affection. This is exactly what they do for each other when they’re showing love.  

So take it in, because your guinea pig really did just give you a kiss! 

Got a cute video of your guinea pig? Post it to our Facebook account! We love to see those crazy cavies being goofy! 

Amanda is an accomplished freelance agricultural writer who owns and operates a small farm in Wisconsin with her husband and spunky border collie. Amanda is laser-focused on raising healthy rabbits, goats, and pasture-raised poultry.