Maybe you’re thinking about buying a new surround sound system for your TV. But will the sounds of warfare blaring from your new upgrade, stress out your piggie? If the sound stresses your guinea pig out, what is the worst that could happen?
“Can my guinea pig die from stress?” might definitely be a worry that comes to mind.
Yes, your guinea pigs can die from stress. Consistent stress causes behavior changes like being withdrawn and refusal to eat that can kill guinea pigs overtime. Sudden, stressful events like being attacked by a predator can send guinea pigs into shock that can kill them as well.
But before we sign up your piggies for a well-deserved spa day, (or a new treat and toy) let’s read on to find out what causes our cavies so much stress in the first place.
Can A Guinea Pig Die From Stress?
Guinea pigs can die from stress. The impact that stress has on their bodies can cause them to lose their appetite, cause their delicate hearts to overwork, or even lead to a stroke.
Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain that can be caused by difficult or dangerous situations. In people, psychological stress show up in the form of anxiety, irritability, or depression.
In guinea pigs, you see the effects of stress primarily through changes in behavior. A guinea pig might hunch over, hide away, refuse to eat, or become withdrawn when they’re stressed (and I know from personal experience that a guinea pig who isn’t eating is a piggie that’s in trouble).
You see, stress can become a very serious problem for guinea pigs and can have a serious impact on their health. Guinea pigs are prey animals. This means they are skittish and nervous by nature. Extra stress just isn’t something their little bodies can handle.
In the wild, (3000 years before they became pets) they stayed away from large open spaces. When they get scared they would run quickly and hide. These little animals were constantly on the go, searching for food, and living with their herd mates.
They created their own social hierarchy and spent their time together finding the best vegetation, and digging and burrowing for holes to hide in.
But in a home, in a cage with nowhere to go, and unable to protect themselves, they’re easily overwhelmed (poor, little things).
Basically, your piggies depend on you completely for safety, comfort and socialization. Knowing what kind of environment to provide for them and what to avoid can prevent your guinea pigs from dying from stress.
What Can Cause Stress In Guinea Pigs?
Several things can cause stress in guinea pigs, including sudden, loud noises, not enough space to live, or bullying from a cage mate. Lack of mental stimulation and loneliness can also cause stress in guinea pigs.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these stressors in a little more detail.
1. Sudden, Loud Noises
I know I just told you that guinea pigs have really sensitive ears and we both know it’s really difficult to get rid of all loud noises. I’m not asking you to soundproof your house, don’t worry. There are ways, however, to minimize sudden, loud sounds.
Guinea pigs are creatures of habit. They like consistency. If your house is full of children running and laughing every day, your piggies might consider that normal background noise. The same with television sounds and music.
Car alarms, fireworks, your second snooze alarm are sounds that are surprising and startling.
Remember, sudden loud sounds mean danger to guinea pigs. Their instinct to run away from predators and danger is still strong even though they’re not wild animals anymore.
To keep your furry friend safe from loud sounds, try to place their cage in the quietest part of your house. This is a spot normally away from windows and maybe closer to the center of the home.
On days where this is not enough to keep out the noise, like for holiday fireworks, or a loud thunderstorm, you can play music, or turn on a fan to help block out some of the sounds. Shutting windows and doors, and closing curtains can help muffle the noise too.
Now that you’ve created a calmer environment for your cavies, let’s dive into giving them the most comfortable home.
2. Cage Is Too Small
Guinea pigs are roaming animals. They are not climbers, but love to “zoom” around. It’s so important for them to have the space to run, explore, hide and play.
With cavies, the bigger the cage, the better. Especially if you have more than one. Each piggy will need space to roam and play, eat, sleep and go potty. Social animals love to spend time together, but there is such a thing as too much.
Your piggies need to have separate areas in their cage to go to.
Close quarters means more fighting, either for space, food, toys, or just boredom.
Cages that are too small and don’t have enough room for your piggies to comfortably live, play and eat will cause them to become depressed and stressed.
Happy piggie cage sizes are shown below:
|# of Guinea Pigs||Size Of Cage|
|1 piggie||10.5 square feet|
|2 piggies||10.5 square feet|
|3 piggies||13 square feet|
|4 piggies||16 square feet|
Most commercial guinea pig cages are too small. Check the measurements before you buy one to make sure you’re getting one big enough for your piggies and their needs.
Guinea pigs are social animals, yes. But socializing comes with its challenges. Piggies are unique personalities, and some just might not get along.
Fighting and bullying one another is hugely stressful for all of your piggies, even the ones not involved in the fight. They could be injured by just being close by.
How to pick herd mates can be difficult, but there are some things you can try to do to help your piggies get along.
- To help your piggies get along with each other, they need multiple hideys, toys, and space to run and play with each other.
- I’ll say it again (for the people in the back), bigger is better when it comes to guinea pig cages. This gives each piggie their own space to roam and explore without being in another’s way.
- It can also help if they each have their own food and water bowls so they don’t fight over eating and drinking from the same place.
Chasing and general romping around is normal for cavies. (Hide and seek, anyone?) So is establishing a social order. There will normally be a more dominant piggie and more submissive ones.
If there are two dominant personalities together, they might keep fighting and bullying each other. It might be best to separate them so they don’t injure each other and cause each other too much stress.
Check regularly for signs of fighting and bullying on your cavies.
Bite marks, hiding, or any weight loss? Time for a “time out!” Separate them as quickly as possible.
If one of your guinea pigs is bullying the other from eating and drinking, the stress from the fighting and lack of nutrition is very bad news for your bullied piggie.
4. Not Enough Mental Stimulation
Can your guinea pig actually die of boredom? Not right away, but the lack of stimulation can cause your piggie stress that can make them more likely to have heart and health problems.
Boredom can lead to fighting, over barbering, or loss of appetite. How can you keep your little fur baby entertained? Here’s a list of ideas to help you get started:
- Lots of toys. Keep toys on a rotation. That way, when they get tired of their toys you can switch them out and it gives you a chance to clean them.
- Spend time with them. Guinea pigs are so smart. Set up an obstacle course with cardboard and watch them figure it out!
- Play food forage games. Let them search their cage and sniff out treats and food for fun.
- And last but not least, they need companionship. Guinea pigs live in herds. They need constant social interaction for affection, attention and playtime.
5. Living Alone
Guinea pigs are herd animals. It is not normal for a guinea pig to live alone. They instinctively depend on numbers for safety and companionship.
Piggies have their own type of communication and often express themselves in wonderful and fun ways for you to see. Loneliness can stress out a single piggie, leading to depression and other health issues.
There’s actually a lot of perks to having two or more guinea pigs, like:
- They can keep each other entertained and won’t get bored as easily.
- A pair (or more) of piggies are more active than a single guinea pig.
- They can groom each other, which helps to reduce stress. It can even calm them down and reduce anxiety.
- It’s easier to teach them to try new foods. By watching a companion enjoy a tasty, new veggie, a guinea pig will be curious enough to snatch their buddy’s food away.
With all that being said, there are some times when it’s just not possible to have two piggies. If that’s the case, please make sure you are giving your piggie lots of love, attention, and enrichment activities to help reduce their stress levels
Symptoms of Guinea Pig Stress
With all of this stressing about stress, how can you know if your piggy is in fact, stressed? No worries my friend. We will go through the signs together
Let’s take a closer look:
Irritated and grumpy piggies act like they don’t want to be bothered. They vocalize this by whining, which sounds kind of like a high pitched moan. Whining when they are picked up or pet is a sound saying they’re annoyed.
They may toss their head up when you try to pet them, like they’re pushing your hand off. They can also hiss and growl. Instead of making happy wheeking sounds when they see you, (and the treats you bring) you might hear a high pitched purr and a stiff posture – there might even be teeth chattering.
This means your little friend isn’t happy, and is giving you a clear sign to stay away.
2. Hiding All the Time
Hiding is a behavioral instinct for staying safe from predators. Although it may be normal for your guinea pig to hide when you first bring them home, refusing to come out after being familiar with you and their new cage means they’re too scared and don’t feel secure in coming out.
Running and hiding anytime you come around is a big sign of stress. Staying inside a hidey, or refusing to come out even when being offered a treat is alarming (they love treats!) and a clear indication they’re unhappy.
Baring and chattering their teeth is saying, “I’m mad! Stay away!” Some signs of aggression can be seen when your guinea pigs are figuring out who’s the most dominant one.
But signs of aggression towards you and other piggies constantly might mean there’s more bothering them than normal.
Having raised fur, growling and hissing are other ways of showing they’re mad (hair raising, isn’t it?). Hissing is a warning to stay away, biting could be next.
If your fur baby is constantly showing you aggressive behavior, it’s a big sign they’re stressed to the point of anger.
4. Hair Loss From Overbarbering
Guinea pigs will often groom themselves and others to keep clean. It is a method of staying safe from predators, staying healthy, and bonding.
Overbarbering can look like grooming, but instead of cleaning their fur, they chew it and pull it out. This results in bald patches and red skin.
Barbering is what happens when cavies are stressed, either from boredom, aggression with other guinea pigs, or a health issue.
Barbering between guinea pigs aggressively fighting for dominance is not only a sign of stress, but can cause more stress for the piggie losing its fur.
A lone guinea pig can overbarber itself from boredom and loneliness. A bald, inflamed red v shaped form on your piggy’s back is from your piggy pulling and chewing his fur out. This behavior definitely means your fur baby is stressed out.
5. Lack of Appetite
Guinea pigs have a well-known reputation for loving to eat. If your piggy is refusing food and treats, this is a big problem. Guinea pigs need to eat and can lose nutrition quickly and that can cause more health issues.
If your fur baby is showing little interest in their food (inappetence), the stress causing this. It can also be because they don’t have clean water, not being able to chew their food, or they could be either too hot or too cold.
If you notice that your guinea pig isn’t eating or drinking, please get your little friend to the vet as soon as possible.
6. Refuses To Move
Guinea pigs are constantly on the go. In the wild they roamed and ran around looking for food and shelter. Staying still for too long meant less chances for different food and exposing themselves to nearby predators.
A cavy that refuses to move is a symptom of stress. If your guinea pigs aren’t moving, they could also not be eating or getting any exercise.
This strange change in behavior is your fur baby hinting at you that something is wrong, and they don’t feel comfortable or safe.
7. Doesn’t Want To Be Held
If your piggy goes from being lovable to aggressive, or nervous when you pick them up, your piggy is saying they’re too stressed out to be held.
They might lift up their heads pushing you away, or hiss and chatter their teeth at you in warning. (ugh, yeah…stay away)
8. Overly Skittish
Even though skittish behavior is totally normal for them, being skittish and fearful all the time means they’re not comfortable and don’t feel safe.
There’s lot of things that can make your piggie skittish: a loud noise, movement too fast, or something they’re not used to seeing.
But often stress is the reason for this constant fearfulness. Your fur baby feels like they’re in danger and are trying to protect themselves.
Being constantly startled and afraid is terrible for anyone! Imagine being trapped in a horror film without being able to get out… yeeesh.
How To Help A Stressed Out Guinea Pig (Piggie Parents Weigh In)
Hang tight, my friend. There’s several tips and tricks that you can try to help your fuzz spuds calm down.
There’s something wonderful about getting advice from someone who understands the struggle.
So to find out what works best, I did some manual research.
I surveyed 148 guinea pig parents to find out the biggest things that stressed out their piggies AND what worked best for each situation.
Here’s what I found out:
- Fireworks and loud noise was the top complaint for 58 pet parents (38%).
- New homes were a stress concern for piggies and 47 (about 31%) new parents. Lots of helpful tips were shared from more seasoned owners (more on that later)
- 23 pet parents mentioned that loneliness was a big cause of stress for some piggies.
- Bullying caused by hormones or bad pairing was another concern for 20 parents.
- Only 2 mentioned had stressed piggies that were lethargic and not eating. Concern for this was sky high.
Now, the awesome tips and tricks from the other 142 owners.
- If loud noise is an issue, then drown out the sound with fan, a white noise machine, or soft music. That takes care of fireworks and other sudden sounds of a noisy household. Moving the cage to a room where the noise wasn’t as loud also worked for some.
- If your piggie is showing signs of stress, vet care is always a good idea to rule out any health problems.
- Trying to create a hiding place or using a tunnel can help some timid piggies feel more secure. One parent said that her piggy liked to burrow in her fleece bedding so she would make a little “cave” for her to hide in.
- If you are introducing a new piggy to the home, give them time to get used to each other and their new surroundings before bringing them home. If you have more than one cage, house them next to each other so they can see, smell, and touch each other, but not be in the same cage.
- Food is a great way to calm down a stressed out guinea pig. (Or course, right?) A healthy and balanced diet with treats reassured scared guinea pigs and let them know this new home isn’t so bad after all.
- Getting a new friend and playmate was the best way to lessen the stress of a lonely guinea pig. Same sex pairs have the best luck in becoming the best of friends and having a happier lifestyle.
- In case your piggies are fighting and stressing each other out, the best way to calm them was for parents to get a bigger cage. Sometimes separating them worked if they just couldn’t get along. Letting their piggies figure out who’s the boss boar in their group (while making sure there are no injuries) eventually lead to calmer cavies for some parents too.
Whatever the reason for your little friend’s the stress, you need to figure it out and remove (or neutralize) it. With proper care and attention, even the most stressed out piggies can live long, happy lives.
Do Guinea Pigs Cry?
Yes, guinea pigs cry. They produce tears, but not necessarily for emotional reasons. They “cry” to lubricate their eyes, keeping them clean and moist. They don’t blink like we do. Guinea pigs produce a milky liquid that sometimes can get stuck under their eyes when it dries.
They have a wide range of emotions as social animals, but show sadness by behaving in a stressed out and irritated way.
What Does A Depressed Guinea Pig Look Like?
Depressed guinea pigs sit in the corner of their cage and not move. They may stop eating and grooming themselves. Their fur may become matted and they may start to lose weight. Plus, they can hide and run away when approached.
Depressed guinea pigs don’t show interest in toys or food, and can also have patches of bald spots from over barbering. Over barbering means they chew and eat their fur excessively. Sometimes, this is due to a nutritional deficiency, dominance behavior, stress, or pain that they’re not telling you about.
Some depressed guinea pigs act out aggressively. They push their heads up, or can growl, hiss and chatter their teeth.
Things To Remember About Guinea Pigs And Stress
Having a stressed out guinea pig is terribly stressful for you too! We always want what is best for our little fur babies, and knowing something is wrong is scary.
It is important to remember that our guinea pigs are prey animals that do their best to hide that they’re sick or stressed. They do this to protect themselves from predators who might see them as an easy catch.
This can make it hard for us to know when they’re not ok. (It would be so much easier if we could just speak piggie, right?)
The best thing for guinea pig parents is to have the right cage, food, hideys, toys and activities to keep them stress free and healthy.
It’s worth it to note that prevention is the best thing we can do as piggie parents.
Thanks for reading this article! Please share if you found it useful. I hope it helps you keep up the good work you’re doing to make sure your guinea pig is stress free and happy.