Behaviour

It is extremely important that we understand what our guinea pigs are trying to tell us for a variety of reasons, the most important of which being signs of ill health and also indications of aggressive behaviour that could lead to injury.

However, it is also beneficial to identify when your guinea pig is happy so that you can tailor your care routine to maintain and improve their happiness. They can't speak to us and tell us how they feel, so we need to learn and understand them through the wide range of behaviours they use on an everyday basis.

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Happy and Contented Behaviour

A relaxed and contented guinea pig will go about their daily business and show their happiness to anyone who cares to watch.

  • Popcorning
  • Rummaging
  • Squeaking - Happy
  • Vibrating
  • Whistling

See the A-Z Glossary of Behaviours below for detailed explanations.

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Companion Behaviour

Guinea pigs will display companion behaviour toward both human and guinea pig if they are happy and comfortable.

  • Grooming
  • Licking
  • Squeaking - Happy
  • Vibrating

See the A-Z Glossary of Behaviours below for detailed explanations.


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Dominant Behaviour

You will see dominant behaviour present in all pairs and herds, and from both sows and boars. Dominance is usually displayed between boars because they are territorial creatures by nature, however a particularly bossy sow will also make a show of dominance toward other guinea pigs.

  • Circling
  • Facing off
  • Mounting
  • Nose in the air
  • Rumblestrutting
  • Squeaking - Agitated
  • Scent marking
  • Teeth chattering

See the A-Z Glossary of Behaviours below for detailed explanations.

Separating Angry Pigs

The separation of angry guinea pigs should be done quickly and carefully to stop the guinea pigs from fighting, and to avoid being bitten yourself.

Guinea pig bites are extremely painful and they can be quite serious, such as the time I was bitten in the palm of my hand and had to see the doctor. He gave me a tetanus injection and put my arm in a sling for a week.

You should use a blanket or towel to quickly place over one of the guinea pigs, and then once the guinea pigs have disengaged, swiftly pick up the guinea pig in the towel to remove them from the situation. Once this point has been reached it is highly unlikely the guinea pigs will live together again.

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A-Z Glossary of Behaviours

Chirping

This is an extremely rare sound that very few of us have ever had the pleasure of hearing. Also known as "the guinea pig song", the sound is very similar to the chirp of a bird. The chirping pig will sit quietly and gently make a huffing motion, while other guinea pigs in the vacinity usually stop completely and listen intently. The reason behind chirping is currently unknown, although theories range from fear to a spiritual connection.

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Circling

Two angry guinea pigs, often male, will circle one another, usually with mouths open, heads raised, and accompanied by chattering teeth and agitated squeaking. A fight often comes after a bout of circling, so once a circling match has been initiated the separation of the guinea pigs is a wise move.

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Grooming

Guinea pigs groom one another as a sign of affection and is characterised by licking and nibbling the ears, sniffing and licking around the mouth, and rummaging around in the fur with their noses. You may also sometimes see a guinea pig grooming one that is unwell or in the last stages of life.

Watch: Tegyd lovingly grooms Taffy
Thanks to forum member Yodelpig for this wonderful video

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Licking

Guinea pigs sometimes lick our fingers (or our faces and anywhere else!), probably as a sign of affection by grooming us. Another theory is they enjoy the taste of the salt present on skin.

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Nose in the air

The guinea pigs face one another and raise their noses into the air and dominance is determined by the guinea pig raising their nose the highest. This behaviour is a common method of settling minor disputes and usually lasts only a few seconds.

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Pain

When in pain, guinea pigs will sometimes voice their discomfort with a high pitched and agitated squeak. The sound clip is of a guinea pig in great pain while attempting to pass bladder stones, and any squeaking on this magnitude means an urgent trip to see the vet. Another type of squeaking in pain can come in the form of a short but loud high pitched squeal, something you may hear if your guinea pig is given in injection by the vet for example.

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Popcorning

When an excited guinea pig jumps vertically into the air or gallops around with happiness, this is called popcorning. When leaping into the air, they can do it once or even several times in a row. This is a great way to tell if your guinea pig is happy.

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Rumblestrutting

The entire body vibrates while the guinea pig makes a rumbling sound and steps up and down with both rear legs alternately. Male to female, this is a mating routine performed by the male. Between same genders, rumblestrutting is a show of dominance and is usually followed by the mounting of the subordinate pig.

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Rummaging

Given the opportunity, guinea pigs enjoy rummaging in their hay, bedding and anything else they can get their paws on!

Watch: Hywel gleefully rummages in his hay
Thanks to forum member Yodelpig for this wonderful video

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Scent marking

When marking their territory guinea pigs drag their bottoms along the ground. Both boars and sows take part in scent marking and this is a good way to determine who wears the trousers in a pair or herd.

Watch: Ffowlyn marks her territory
Thanks to forum member Yodelpig for this wonderful video

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Squeaking - Happy

Guinea pigs make a repetitive but gentle squeaking sound when happy on the lap of their owner. The squeaking is often accompanied by purring, a soft vibrating of the body similar to that of a happy cat but without the purring sound. Guinea pigs love to be stroked with an open hand from head to bottom.

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Squeaking - Agitated

During disputes over who wears the trousers, the squeaking is loud and agitated, often accompanied by an open mouth and "sniping" at other guinea pigs.

Watch: Hywel defends his bowl of grass!
Thanks to forum member Yodelpig for this wonderful video

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Teeth chattering

You will usually hear this sound when two guinea pigs dislike one another's company. Chattering teeth is a sure sign of aggression and annoyance, and generally speaking the quicker and louder the chattering, the angrier the guinea pig. Chattering teeth is common, and as with "nose in the air" competitions, is often used to settle minor disputes. You should be wary if it becomes loud, aggressive and persistent because this is usually a prelude to a fight, and is a sign that maybe it's time to separate them.

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Upper respiratory infection

An upper respiratory infection is characterised by a distinct crackle in the chest and can be treated with antibiotics from your vet. The crackle can be quite loud and is sometimes accompanied by discharge from the nose. The crackle of an upper respiratory infection can be confused with the gurgle of congestive heart failure which is fatal, however the gurgle is very obvious and wet sounding and almost definately accompanied by liquid coming from the nose and/or mouth. If in doubt always check with your vet.

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Vibrating

Guinea pigs vibrate to show they are happy, usually from being stroked, cuddled and rubbed dry after a bath. The whole body vibrates and you can see the vibration in their ears!

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Whistling

A whistling guinea pig is high pitched and loud, and usually aimed at you at dinner time! Guinea pigs often learn what time of day their meals usually arrive and anticipate it with lots of whistling before you've even made it to the fridge!

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