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Guinea pig communication: talk with your cavy!

Guinea pig communication: talk with your cavy!
guinea pig mouth open

Cavies are big conversationalists.  Talk talk talk all day long.  They tell us how they feel and what they want, and they don’t hold back.  Of course, each guinea pig is an individual and has their own particular ways of communicating, so it is up to us to really get to know each one of our friends.  One mutters all day, every day, and another one purrs.  One head tosses after a few minutes in our arms, the other stands on hind legs and begs for attention.  The big key is this: we all like to be noticed, heard, and understood…so if you pay attention, they will interact with you, and you can have a deeper, fuller friendship.


MUTTERING is pretty common when your piggy is just happy with life.  These noises sound just like you would think – a more or less constant low level of what might be spelled as whwfffwhstwhhfffwihhh.  We’ve asked for guinea pig proofreading on this, and they tell us that is pretty close.  These sounds are not really in anticipation of anything, just expressions of a great mood.


PURRING is a nice low vibration sound.  It is a relaxed, content sound…much like when a cat purrs.  If the PURRING comes in short bursts, and is higher pitched, it is a sign of confusion or uncertainty – your piggy is looking for reassurance.


POPCORNING is that quick hopping up and down, and happens when your friend is in a state of happy excitement.  This is one of the cutest behaviors ever, ever, ever. 


The WHEEK is a short, squeaky noise and often happens at dinner time, when the cavie hears the hay coming. WHEEKING is often accompanied by some POPCORNING, and the whole scene is pretty darn adorable.


A NOSE BUMP is a friendly hello, between piggies or even between guinea pig and human.  This is the piggy version of the air kiss or the handshake.


If your friend wants your attention, or wants a treat, you might see him standing on his hind legs.  This is a blatant and unapologetic plea for you to forget the work you are doing, drop the cleaning supplies, hang up the phone, and go spend quality time with your piggy.  We think that’s a great idea.


Clacking teeth together is called CHATTERING, and is a sign of annoyance.  Maybe your piggy has had enough of being held, or is done with being stroked.  Whatever is going on, they are ready to stop.  This may be accompanied by the HEAD TOSS.


The HEAD TOSS is a way of saying “back off, I’m not angry yet but I don’t feel comfortable”. 


Piggies do WHINE, and usually that whine is directed at another pig who is annoying them.  You can translate the whine to: “Stoooooooppppp iiiiitttttttt”. 


Oh my.  Something is very upsetting – either your guinea pig is facing a threat, or is very angry.  Guinea pigs are gentle and patient little beings, so the baring of teeth is a serious gesture.  A time out is in order.


Another noise you may hear from an angry or threatened piggy is HISSING.  TEETH BARING and HISSING often go together, and you may even notice your guinea pig’s fur is fluffed up and poofy – your friend is trying to look bigger and more threatening (as far as guinea pigs can look big and threatening).  The head may be tossed up, and the front legs in a wide stance.  A fight is brewing – separate those piggies!


If your friend feels that there is a threat around, she may FREEZE.  For a little animal of prey, this is a way of becoming invisible to any predators.  You may or may not hear a low vibration during a FREEZE – this is your piggy’s way of telling other guinea pigs in the area that there is a predator.


If you ever hear a SHRIEK, run to your friend with phone in hand and be ready to go to the vet.  Your guinea pig has been injured, through accident or attack, and needs help immediately.  A SHRIEK is an emergency – don’t wait to find out what has happened.

There are some other vocalizations, like cooing and rumbling, that you will not hear because they are part of mating behaviors, and all our animals are spayed and neutered, right?

Now you can enjoy your friendship with your guinea pig on a whole new level.  You may even learn some cool surprising things about your friend, now that you speak piggy!

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