You certainly recognize and love your guinea pigs, but do they recognize you? The depths of affection that a pet parent has for their fur baby run deep. I was curious to see if guinea pigs have the ability to identify one human from another, so I did a little research, and here is what I found.
After an adjustment period, guinea pigs recognize and respond to their owners. This happens if you interact with them daily. Since guinea pigs are nearsighted, they primarily recognize you from your smell and the tone and sound of your voice.
To survive in the wild, guinea pigs had to be very good at distinguishing friends from foe, which is just one of many amazing traits that guinea pigs possess. Let’s go over some ways you know your guinea pig recognizes you and I’ll also give you some tips on how to increase the familiarity between you and your cavy.
How Does Your Guinea Pig Feel About You? (Or Let’s Put Ourselves in a Guinea Pig’s Shoes)
Put yourself into the mind of a guinea pig. They’re prey animals, so they’re naturally frightened and anxious in new situations.
When you first bring them home, guinea pigs don’t understand that you love them and want the best life for them. They just see you as a strange-speaking and smelling giant, that may (or may not) devour them.
You: I will love you until the day I die!
Guinea Pig: Uh, no, thank you. *quickly scurries to a hidey*
Did You Know?
Guinea pigs aren’t strong or brave. When guinea pigs sense danger, they immediately run for the hills or they freeze in place. Guinea pigs normally don’t bite. But, biting is usually a last ditch effort for defense if the first two actions don’t work.
In 2009, a research study investigated how long it took guinea pigs to get used to a new location. The scientists measured the guinea pigs’ body temperature, their heart rate, and cage activity before and after they’d been moved. The study found that it took 10 to 12 days for guinea pigs to physiologically adjust to where they were before the move!
What does this mean?
It means that patience is the name of the game to get your guinea pigs to recognize you. Time AND Patience.
But, you’ll know that you’ve become a recognized member (and not a potential threat) of your piggie’s family when you notice these…
10 Signs That Your Guinea Pigs Recognize You
Guinea pigs let you know that they recognize you through sounds they make or their behaviors when they’re in close proximity to you.
There are a number of ways that guinea pigs let you know that they recognize you. Let’s dive into the 10 most common signs.
1. They Eat From Your Hand
Hand feeding is one of the first ways that pet parents begin socializing with their guinea pigs. Just cut up small pieces of vegetables or herbs for your little friend to enjoy.
Just make sure that you’re not overfeeding your fur baby. A guinea pig only needs 1 cup of veggies and herbs per day. Take that into consideration when you give your piggie treats.
Bell peppers (both red and green) and untreated grass are safe to give every day. Here are some other veggies that are safe for your little friend to enjoy:
- Romaine lettuce
- Zucchini (with skin)
- Green Leaf Lettuce
- Red Leaf Lettuce
- Swiss Chard
When you reach a point where your guinea pigs come right into your lap for a little treat and don’t dash away immediately afterwards, you’re good-to-go!
???? Tips & Tricks:
Go easy on the fruit treats. The high sugar content isn’t good for guinea pigs and can lead to obesity. Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries (leaves included) are good treat options.
2. They Fall Asleep Near You
On average, guinea pigs sleep 4 to 6 hours a day. And most of that sleeping is actually quick “cat” naps. This is an adaptation that they’ve kept from when living in the wild.
When you’re at the bottom of the food chain:
- You sleep lightly
- or you don’t sleep at all
A good sign that your guinea pig recognizes you as a friend is that they’re willing to catch a little shut eye when they’re around (or on) you.
Nothing shouts: “I trust you not to eat me” like taking a nap in your hooman’s presence.
Plus, it’s crazy cute.
An example of this is in the video below. Muffin is obviously relaxed and used to her owner:
3. They Play With You (or Around You)
There are a lot of different ways to play and interact with your guinea pig. Play stimulates your piggies mentally and physically.
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Each guinea pig has different likes and dislikes. Experiment with different activities and types of play to see which one she prefers.
However, your little friends won’t feel free and comfortable enough to play with you unless they recognize you.
When they do, you can attempt all kinds of interactive activities with your piggies like:
Rest assured if your fur baby is enjoying your company in this way, then she definitely recognizes you.
4. They Talk to You A.K.A. “Wheek” City
Guinea pigs love to communicate. One of the ways they do this is through “wheeking”.
Guinea pigs don’t wheek in the wild. This a sound that only domesticated guinea pigs do for their adoring pet parents.
Wheeks indicate excitement, anticipation of food, play, or something new and different. It can also be a sound of impatience. Pet parents might be greeted by wheeking if they’re late giving their fur babies breakfast or lunch!
Take a look at a video of a tiny guinea pig wheeking:
Not all guinea pigs wheek. Anecdotal evidence shows that some guinea pigs are quieter than others while others will wheek the house down around your head. It really depends on the personality of your piggie.
5. They Follow You Around
This is easily one of the cutest ways that guinea pigs let you know that they recognize you.
We’ve all been there. We bring a new guinea pig home, and he wants:
Nothing to do with you!
Boy, can that change when your guinea pigs become familiar with you. Some piggies will only follow you if you have treats in your hand and others will follow their pet parents just…because.
If you let your piggies free-roam to give them the opportunity to follow you, be sure to wear socks. Just in case! You don’t want to accidentally step on your furry little friend.
Take a look at this baby guinea pig, following her pet parent:
6. They Don’t Hide From You
As I mentioned before, hiding is the first thing that a guinea pig does when danger is lurking.
And it’s their instinct to do so, in unfamiliar circumstances, too.
You’ll know that your guinea pig recognizes you as someone friendly and caring, when she doesn’t take off running from you like you’re the Boston Strangler coming at her with a chainsaw.
This doesn’t mean that your piggie will never hide or use their hidey. Doing so is a stress-reliever for many of them.
7. They Distinguish Sounds You Make From Those Of Other People
Guinea pigs have a good sense of hearing. Some guinea pigs get really good at identifying their pet parents by certain sounds.
For example, some pet parents report that their guinea pigs know that it’s them from detecting the following sounds:
- Their footsteps
- The jangle of keys
- Clearing their throat
When your piggies recognize the sounds that you make, then they’ll often let you know by wheeking up a storm.
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Wanna test this theory? Send a stranger (or someone they’re not familiar with) walking past your guinea pigs. Then walk by the cage yourself. Note the reaction of your guinea pigs. Do they respond to you differently than the stranger? I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
8. They Lick Your Hand (Or Clothing)
Depending on the circumstances, a guinea pig licking your hand can mean that:
- Your hand is salty and your guinea pig likes the taste
- You’ve recently handled food and your piggie has gotten a whiff of it.
However, a guinea pig licking your hand can also be a sign of affection, happiness, and acceptance. It really depends on the context.
No matter the reason for the lick, it ultimately means one thing:
Your guinea pig sees you as someone that she can lick without the risk of being chewed up and spit out like a day-old burrito which means…
She recognizes you.
*Cue the happy dancing!*
9. They Yawn & Stretch Out Near You
Guinea pigs are easily one of the most uptight and anxious animals groups.
Their prey animal status often has them in a state of increased alertness called hypervigilance.
When your guinea pig recognizes you and it’s environment as safe and comfortable, he’ll start to relax a bit…
And from time to time you’ll see him let loose a yawn and a stretch, signally that he’s ready for a nap.
Or maybe a crunchy snack.
Take a look at this compilation of yawning videos. You can tell that the piggies are super relaxed and chill by their body language. Then they just let a yawn loose and follow up with a stretch or some eating:
10. They Come When You Call
This particular skill is shown after your piggie recognizes you.
It’s a mash up of teaching your guinea pig her name and what to do when her name is called. Essentially what you do it in a few simple steps:
- Say her name.
- And give her a treat.
- Do this until your piggie acknowledges you when you say her name.
This video explains the process in a little more detail:
???? Tips & Tricks:
Training a guinea pig should take place in a quiet area, free from distractions. And make sure you have her favorite veggie treats on hand for motivation.
How to Get Your Guinea Pig To Recognize You
There are certain things you can do to get your guinea pig to identify you more easily. Most of the actions involve one (or more) of the following:
1. Give Them Time to Get Used to You
Patience is the name of the game.
Even with the best intentions, most piggies will not recognize or respond to you with anything other than fear or anxiousness at first.
When it comes down to getting a guinea pig’s recognition its:
Hurry up and wait.
But, it’ll pay off in the end, if you stick with it.
2. Double Down On Destressing Their Environment
This is important. Many well-intentioned pet parents underestimate how important basic care is:
Not only to the health of their little friends, but to the development of your relationship with them.
To that end, make sure that your piggie has the following:
- A large cage (spot cleaned daily and deep cleaned weekly) with dust-free, comfortable bedding
- Appropriate amounts and types of food: including hay, fresh water and Vitamin – C enriched pellets. But be careful not to overfeed your piggie. That leads to major health issues.
- An environment that is dry, free of drafts and excessive humidity with a stable temperature of 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit
- Protection from other pets and sudden loud noises.
3. Have a Regular Feeding and Play Schedule
Piggies will respond to you positively if they see that you’re dependable with things that excite them the most:
Make feeding and playing a routine in your home to increase the odds of your piggies identifying you.
It’s a great way to become unFUNgettable to your little friends!
Okay…a little cheesy, but I had to do it.
4. Nix the Artificial Smells
Avoid wearing strong perfumes or using air fresheners and diffusers in your home.
You want your guinea pigs to be able to smell YOU and to become familiar with your scent. Any thing that gets in a way of that is a big no-no.
Guinea pigs have sensitive noses. Very strong smells can lead to upper respiratory infections and other illnesses.
5. Talk to Your Guinea Pigs (Yes, Seriously!)
Sure, it’ll be more of a one-sided conversation at first. But, it’s the best way for your piggies to familiarize themselves with your voice.
Feel silly talking out loud to your fur babies? Try one of the following:
- Read them a book or a poem
- Read a menu from your favorite restaurant
- Sing them a few lullabies or your favorite songs
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The tone of your voice matters more than the words that you say. Keep your tone soothing, friendly, and light.
6. Make Contact (Without Picking Up Your Piggies)
I’m not saying to never pick up your little friends.
But, many guinea pigs don’t want to be picked up until they’ve gotten used to you.
Instead of chasing them around the cage, try tickling their cheeks, chins and ears on a daily basis without picking them up.
Then when they get used to that, attempt the “pick up”.
Holding and cuddling a guinea pig is a lovely thing…
Just make sure that your piggie is ready.
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Some guinea pigs, even if they recognize their owner, just don’t like being picked up. The act triggers their prey animal anxiety and fear. There are a number of piggies who hate being picked up, but absolutely adore cuddles and snuggles with their owners. In those cases, it’s best to pick the guinea pig in a cuddle cup, blanket, or cozy to try to decrease the stress of the initial lift out of the cage.
7. Let Them Get Used to Your Smell
Another way to familiarize your guinea pig with your smell is to place a piece of your clothing near the enclosure.
As I stated before, guinea pigs have very sensitive noses. Leaving a piece of you nearby can work wonders for your relationship.
While your furry potatoes settle into their new home, trade it out with another piece of clothing every couple of days.
8. Stop Acting Like a Predator
The entire reason why your piggie is terrified of you is because she sees you as a potential predator.
No big deal.
You just need adjust a few habits to make yourself seem more “piggie friendly” to your little friends.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
You want your piggie to see you as a friend?
Don’t treat her like something that wants to gobble her for lunch with a side of fries.
9. If You Love Them, Let Them Go
All right, so that’s a little dramatic.
Let me explain.
Pay attention to your guinea pig’s cues. If you’re having a fun (or tender) moment with your little friend, and they start showing signs (fussiness, nibbling at your fingers and squealing) that they’d like to detach from you:
Let them go.
A study found that guinea pigs participating in animal assisted therapy were less stressed if they had the possibility to retreat from the activity. This means that when the guinea pig’s had had enough (for whatever reason) , there was an opportunity to get away from the situation and relax. The piggies were more playful and explored more. Another experiment showed that the use of hideys helped decrease the stress in guinea pigs.
So, what does all this mean?
Sometimes guinea pigs just need space.
And it’s important that you give it to them. It’s in their prey animal nature. Even if they recognize you, they’ll still have moments when they’ll need time on their own, time to hide, if necessary.
If you give your piggies the space to be who they are without fear, then they’re likelier to identify you as a friendly person and attach positive feelings to you.
Final Thoughts: Do Guinea Pigs Recognize Their Owners?
Regardless of where you are in your journey as a piggie pet parent, know that there will be highs and lows.
When you’re first starting out, you may be tempted to exhaust yourself, pour your heart and soul into every interaction, and earn your cavie’s love and recognition as quickly as possible.
Please don’t do that.
It will only burn you out and discourage you.
It’s important that you balance your optimism for what your relationship could be with your piggie and the realism that it might take a while to get there.
This will keep you going for the long haul.
And the only way to earn your guinea pig’s love is to put in the work, to be patient, and be in it for the long haul.
Implement the tips and strategies in this article to guide you on your journey. It’ll increase your odds of success!
And I hope that this article has helped you in some way.
Related Questions: Guinea Pig Owner Recognition
Can you hold a guinea pig too much?
It is possible to hold a guinea pig too much. Generally, most guinea pigs only like to be held for 10 to 15 minute intervals. This is because although guinea pigs seem uncaring about where they poop, a lot of guinea pigs tend to like to urinate in private. At the end of the day, your piggie will tell you when too much holding is too much. Just pay attention to when your piggie is behaving antsy or fussing. Then be prepared to put her down.
Do guinea pigs miss their owners?
When the bond is strong, guinea pigs miss their owners and their normal routines. Tons of anecdotal evidence shows guinea pigs wheeking or dancing for joy when their owners return after a short or extended absence.
Do guinea pigs get bored easily?
Although guinea pigs are creatures of habit, they can and do get bored easily. Boredom can lead to depression, bar chewing, and a slew of negative behaviors. That’s another reason why it’s best for each cavy to have a friend to hang out with. Pairs or herds do an excellent job of keeping each other engaged and stimulated. If your piggie is a singleton, be prepared to provide a lot of time, attention, and enrichment to keep your little friend mentally and physically stimulated.