In order to be the best owner you can possibly be, you need to understand what and how your guinea pig is feeling at all times. Unfortunately for us human owners, our little friends can’t speak to us in our native tongue, which is why it’s important to understand guinea pigs through the sounds and noises they make.
Many owners don’t take the time to learn these sounds, so they never really know whether their pet is in distress, hungry, content or just excited to see you and/or food. Miscommunication between the pet and owner may potentially cause the pet’s health and happiness to suffer, which is the last thing we want. It’s surprising what a little effort in understanding guinea pig noises can do for your relationship with your cavy.
Are you convinced yet? Good. In this article, we will identify some of the most common sounds and explain what these “mysterious” guinea pig sounds actually mean.
Wheeking is an example of an onomatopoeia, meaning it sounds like how it’s spelled. Don’t let that long, foreign word scare you. It’s easier to understand than you think. Let’s look at an example.
Example: If a dog will “roof,” a guinea pig will “wheek.”
This common wheeking noise is usually associated with hunger or a desire to eat food. If you have a specific time that you normally feed your guinea pig, you will usually hear them wheek loudest at this time of the day. Also, if they see you approaching them with food, expect them to wheek out of excitement in anticipation. Sometimes, you’ll even start to see their ears become really animated while producing such a sound. Other times, you can see guinea pig “popcorning” while producing such a sound. It’s really a cute thing to watch.
Wheeking is something that’s exclusively directed towards humans. How do we know this? It’s because scientists have concluded that guinea pigs never made these noises in the wild, probably because they never had humans hand feeding them pellets and treats. So through domestication, wheeking was learned.
This occurs when the guinea pig is vocalizing a low, constant sound. Whenever I would tell people guinea pigs “purr,” the consensus response is: They purr? …Like a cat? No, not like a cat.
The cavy’s purr isn’t the same as a cat’s high-pitched purr. In fact, it’s sort of a hybrid of a grumble of a dog and a low purr of a cat. The reason why it’s so difficult to describe is because this noise is unique and can only be made by the throat of a guinea pig. See the video below to hear for yourself.
Purring is usually associated with being content or happy. You will most likely hear it when you are gently petting your pig. However, sometimes when they hear a startling noise or suddenly feel threatened, they will vocalize this same noise but in short spurts. Depending on the situation and/or environment of your guinea pig, you can probably figure what kind of purring is happening.
The rumble is similar to the purr, except with a vibrating effect and lower pitch. Owners with a single cavy will not likely get the opportunity to hear this; however, if you have a male and female, you may hear this frequently.
The male uses this sound when he is wooing the female to mate. In a way, it’s his mating call. He will start to wiggle his hips and walk around the female in a seemingly arbitrary pattern. This is often called the “rumble strut.” It’s really a funny, yet fascinating process to watch. And if you ever get the chance to see it, just leave them alone and appreciate this natural occurence.
When the male isn’t trying to romance the female, the female may use the rumble to signal to the male that she’s in season and ready to mate. This noise isn’t exclusive to male cavys.
The Cavy’s growl sounds like “drrr, drrr.” Like with most animals, growling is the sound of distress, usually from being threatened by something nearby. This can also happen when there is suddenly a drastic change in their environment. Remember that guinea pigs don’t like changes, both in their diet schedules and surroundings.
If you hear the growl from your guinea pig, just start petting them very gently to calm him or her down. In no time, the growl may turn into a deighted purr.
Sometimes, the growling can be directed towards another guinea pig in the cage. If that’s the case, then you may want to examine guinea pig cage requirements to see if there is too little space for two guinea pigs.
This is when your guinea pig releases a rapid streak of squeaks. And, it usually means that they are angry, unhappy or agitated at a certain situation.
It’s common for chattering to occur when you first introduce a guinea pig to another, especially in a cage. They are simply warning each other not to interfere with each other’s territory or personal space. If chattering happens, separate the two before they start fighting and slowly reintroduce them after they’ve calmed down. Keep doing this until the chattering eventually goes away.
But if you plan to raise two males, chattering will without a doubt happen as they try to figure out some sort of cage dominance. Just try your best to keep them from fighting, since they have to eventually learn to co-exist with one another.
Also an example of onomatopoeia, chutting is a repeated streak of “chut” sounds. Now, this is a noise that you may or may not hear your guinea pigs make. As for some reason, only certain ones will make such a sound. And I don’t mean certain breeds, but rather individual cavys. Of the many guinea pigs i’ve raised, only my Abyssinian and baby teddy (she stopped after a few years) would chut.
Like the purr, chutting happens when your guinea pig is relaxed, happy or content.Sometimes, while you’re petting your pet, you may hear them purr with some chutting in-between. Keep in mind, some guinea pigs live their whole lives only purring (no chutting) when they feel these happy emotions.
So if you do happen to have one that makes this rare noise, don’t be put off by it. Sit back and take a moment to appreciate this sound not too many owners get to hear.
Hearing a loud shriek may be distressing to you, but more importantly to your pet. It usually means your guinea pig is sensing immediate danger or is feeling pain and discomfort. If you’re doing a good job keeping an eye on them, this sound should be extremely rare. But it does happen. For example, if one of your guinea pigs bites another, you will likely hear a shriek. It’s important to immediately attend to the situation and figure out what caused such a sound.
Side note: if you’re taking them to the vet for the first time to get shots, expect to hear shrieking. I know it isn’t pleasant hearing your cavy make this sound, but the only thing you can do is be there to comfort them. They will eventually get used to the vet and stop shrieking if you go freqeuntly enough.
A guinea pig’s whining sounds like a high-pitched moan. This noise is vocalized when the piggy is being disturbed or bothered. If you or a fellow cage mate interrupts his or her nap, you may hear this noise. Just step away, and let them be.
They can also use this sound to tell us if we are doing something they don’t enjoy. For example, sometimes when I hold and pet my silkie cavy, she would whine to tell me she wants to roam free. Pretty much, it’s the sound they use to complain to us.
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I also want to note that no matter what you bring home, all guinea pig breeds will make these sounds. None of these are exclusive to a certain species.
There have also been several cases of guinea pig noises not on this list, although it is very rare. Several owners have even claimed to hear them chirping a melody like a bird. Regardless, it’s very important to listen to the noises that your pet makes, so you can take away any threats and satisfy their needs to the best of your abilities. Remember, communication is key to raising a healthy little piggy.
If you are a guinea pig owner like myself, i strongly urge you to take some time to learn these guinea pig sounds and understand their meaning. It will truly go a long way in how you interact with them and I promise it will benefit both sides and enhance your relationship with your cavy in the short and long term. Happy cavy raising!