Guinea pigs bring smiles and joy to pet parents everywhere. And of course, pet parents want their guinea pigs to be happy. But, guinea pigs can’t talk. So, how do you really know how they feel?
Last week, I was watching a bunch of hilarious guinea pig compilations videos. In between chuckles, I started wondering “How do you know if your guinea pigs are happy?” So, I did a little investigating.
Typically, your guinea pigs are happy if they:
- Socialize with companions
- Have a good appetite
- Sleep anywhere
- Are energetic and active
- Greet you
- Yawn & stretch
As pet parents, it’s important to understand how your cavy is feeling so that you can respond appropriately if something is wrong. Use the helpful tips below to help you better understand if your cavy is happy, if she’s miserable, and what you can do about it.
Happy Guinea Pig Sounds
If you really want to know if your guinea pig is feeling cheerful, just listen.
Guinea pigs often use sound to convey their opinions and emotions. As you get to know your piggie pal, you’ll be able to easily identify her sounds and what they mean.
Below you’ll find some of the most common sounds that guinea pigs make when they are happy.
A wheeking sound is probably the most common sound your cavy makes when it’s happy. The sound also indicates excitement and delight.
It sounds like a mixture of a squeak and windows being repeatedly squeegeed.
Listen to a guinea pig wheeking here:
Guinea pigs will wheek when they see a new toy that they really like. But, you’ll often hear wheeking when it’s time for your guinea pigs to be fed-especially if you have them on a regular feeding schedule.
Also, you’ll be bombarded with wheeking if your cavies think they stand a chance at getting some food-when they hear the refrigerator door open or a plastic bag rustling.
Wheeking is a sound reserved for humans. Scientists say that guinea pigs don’t make that sound in the wild.
Cats aren’t the only animals that purr when they’re happy. Generally, when your guinea pig purrs, he is happy and content.
You’re likelier to hear your guinea pig purr while you’re petting him. This will only happen if you’ve bonded with your guinea pig and he feels safe and comfortable with you.
Some people say that the “purring” sound a guinea pig makes sounds like a pigeon’s cooing or a mixture of a cat purring and low, dog rumble.
Listen to some guinea pigs purring in this video here.
Another positive sound that guinea pigs make is chutting.
It’s a series of short sounds that almost sound something like squeaky bubbles popping or a mixture of wheeks and grunts. It’s a bunch of short sounds, separated from each other.
Take a little listen:
Guinea pigs will chut when they’re exploring a new environment-usually during floor time if they’re feeling safe and calm. Occasionally, might hear your piggie chutting when she’s being groomed, or enjoying a good meal.
And sometimes cavies will chut to each other. It almost seems like they’re having a conversation!
It’s quite rare to hear a guinea pig chut. Some go crazy with it, and others couldn’t be bothered. At any rate, if you hear your guinea pig chutting, know that she’s delighted.
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Happy Guinea Pig Behavior
Along with sound, taking note of a guinea pig’s behavior will help you determine if your guinea pig is happy or not.
4. Socialize with Companions
One of the things that cavies love is the company of another cavy. In the wild, guinea pigs live in small groups together.
They really do each other’s company…most of the time.
A guinea pig who is unhappy with his roommates will definitely keep his distance and will probably do some growling and teeth chattering to let you know how he feels.
That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to be very thoughtful and carefully introduce new cavies when you’re expanding your guinea pig family.
Don’t be alarmed if you notice your piggies squabbling from time to time. Just like siblings, they’ll sometimes get on each other’s nerves. It’s normal guinea pig behavior. As long as it doesn’t descend into brawling (balls of fury!) or bullying, then there’s no need to worry.
5. Has a Good Appetite
Cavy’s are eating machines. They’re very active animals and spend a lot of their time eating, munching, and snacking.
A healthy appetite is a sign of happiness in a guinea pig.
If your fur baby seems to have lost her regular appetite for food, it could be a sign of depression, anxiety, illness or discomfort.
So, as long as your cavy possesses her usual enthusiasm for food, then it’s definitely a sign that things are good-to-go.
6. Sleep in the Open
As prey animals, guinea pigs tend to prefer to sleep in covered places. That’s why they like cozies and hidey spots so much. It makes them feel protected and safe.
Sleeping “unprotected” is a very good sign of happiness in a piggie.
Does your cavy fall asleep (or nap) out in the open? Or better yet, does your cavy fall asleep on you during lap time?
If so, then it’s a sign that you have one happy cavy on your hands. High five to you!
Most guinea pigs are active and alert to some extent for about 20 hours of the day. They’re very busy, little creatures.
Of course each cavy is unique and will occupy herself in different ways; however….
…a happy cavy won’t just sit like a lump in her enclosure or slog through the day with little to no energy.
Happy guinea pigs have a serious playful streak and are intelligent, curious creatures. They gnaw, play, explore, sniff, run, and shuffle around like it’s the best thing in the world, which to a cavy…it is!
They enjoy their floor time and toys and anything that stimulates them mentally and physically…as long as they feel safe.
If you want some tips on how to build a better relationship with your guinea pigs or how they relate to each other, check out these posts: 15 Wonderful Ways To Entertain Your Guinea Pig (Right Now) and 10 Shocking Mistakes That Make Your Guinea Pig Hate You
8. Greet You
It’s frustrating and deflating when your guinea pig hides from you. This happens especially during the “get-to-know-you” stage when you’ve just brought your guinea pig home.
Some guinea pigs will never approach their owners. And if your guinea pig doesn’t approach you, don’t take it personally. It’s part of a guinea pig’s nature to want to run and hide.
It can take weeks or even months of bonding for a guinea pig to relax and feel confident enough to greet you…
…but, when she does, it’s a wonderful thing.
If you’ve taken the time to properly bond with your cavy (and your cavy is agreeable to it), then one of the ultimate acts of trust and happiness is if your cavy approaches you-for a hug, a cuddle, or a treat.
If you’ve never seen a popcorning guinea pig, you’re missing out on one of life’s greatest experiences.
Guinea pigs popcorn when they’re extremely happy. The act of popcorning got the name because the way the guinea pig acts is sort of like a popcorn kernel popping.
When a guinea pig popcorns, she’ll dash around, leap into the air – twisting her body and bucking her legs in complete excitement and happiness. It’s so adorable! Each guinea pig brings her own flare to popcorning.
Young guinea pigs are much more likely to popcorn than older ones. It must be that youthful exuberance.
But older guinea pigs will popcorn, too-the jumps will be less high and the running will be slower.
Take a peek at the video below to get a glimpse of popcorning in action:
10. Yawn & stretch
Depending on the circumstances, a yawn by itself can mean that your guinea pig is stressed or feels threatened.
Add a stretch to that yawn?
Now you’re talking happy cavy magic.
The stretch with the yawn means that your guinea pig is happy and relaxed…and possibly ready for a nice, little nap.
Sometimes guinea pigs will yawn (which displays their teeth) to show aggression or dominance – usually towards another guinea pit. If you see a yawn, followed by raised hackles, then get ready to separate your piggies, because a fight will probably soon follow.
5 Signs That Your Guinea Pig is Sad, Afraid, or Upset
Stay observant and patient and you’ll be able to figure out if your guinea pig is unhappy as well. Become familiar with guinea pig behaviors and sounds. They’ll help you notice when something might be wrong with your cavy, so you can make corrections if necessary.
Now, everyone feels down now and again. Even guinea pigs. So, seeing certain behaviors every now and then really isn’t a big deal.
But, if you notice the things below happening frequently, you might want to get your guinea pig checked out by a veterinarian or play closer attention to him to see what might be going on.
1. Detached or Indifferent
If you notice that your cavy isn’t showing his usual enthusiasm for his food, companions, or toys, then your fur baby is acting very much out of character.
It’s not normal for a guinea pig to be listless and indifferent to his environment.
Guinea pigs like interacting with each other and their surroundings. Not to be interested in what gives him joy, probably means that your cavy is stressed, depressed, or scared.
When you hear any of those noises coming from your cavy, it can mean a couple different things:
- A warning.
Either way, you’ll want to diagnose the cause and see if it can be neutralized in some way.
This is when your guinea pig is terrified or anxious if it seems like she is frozen in place.
It’s your piggie pal’s equivalent of “playing dead”, to confuse the predator (in the case you) that she’s not worth messing with.
New pet parents will sometimes confuse this behavior with that of a contented, friendly guinea pig. It’s an understandable mistake.
One way you can tell if you’re dealing with a “freeze” situation is if the guinea pig is completely silent while you hold her. No purring, no chuttin….nothing.
Always remember that it’s very rare for a newly introduced cavy to be instantly comfortable with being held. Since guinea pigs are prey animals, they’re naturally skittish. It takes them time to warm up to people.
4. Running Away or Fidgeting
Trying to escape or intense fidgeting are signs of an anxious or unhappy cavy. Running away is your cavy’s first line of defense.
Unless it’s a medical checkup or a matter of life-or-death, use treats and patience to win over your piggie pal instead of force. Don’t make him do something that he doesn’t want to do-especially if he’s a new addition to your household.
Eventually, your guinea pig will come around. It just takes time.
5. Biting (or Very Hard Nipping)
It’s alarming when a guinea pig bites. But, if your cavy does bite, it means that they’re unhappy with something or someone.
However, most guinea pigs aren’t biters. When scared or distressed, they’d prefer to run away more than anything else.
But, if they can’t run away…
…well, they go to their next line of defense, which is biting.
If that happens, it’s important that you take a closer look at why your guinea pig bit you and how you can prevent it from happening again.
If you notice your piggie showing signs of unhappiness consistently, consider a visit to a vet to get your little one checked out. You want to make sure there aren’t any underlying health issues. Also, pay closer attention to your piggie to see if you can figure out what might the underlying problem might be. Sometimes it’s as simple as providing a new cage or increasing enrichment time with some toys or hanging treats.
How to Make Your Guinea Pig Happy
It’s really not difficult to make a guinea pig happy.
A few ideas to make your piggie happy include make sure that your cavy’s environment is as comfortable as possible, provide entertainment, bride them, and bond with them to look after their health and win his more easily. This is not an all-inclusive list. But, it’s a good place to start.
Make sure that your cavy’s environment is as comfortable as possible.
Part of the reason why cavies get stressed out, depressed and unhappy is because the environment where they’re leaving is inadequate in one (or many ways). That means that you should:
- Choose an appropriate location for your cavy’s cage. It should be somewhere that’s away from loud noises like other pets and rowdy kids.
- Place the cage at table-height, in an area with a stable temperature (from 65 – 75 degrees Fahrenheit is the perfect range)
- Make sure the cage is large enough for your cavies. Guinea pigs are active and having no space to spread out and be by themselves is stressful for them.
- Find a convenient location for your cavy’s enclosure. Be sure that wherever you put them, it’s a spot that is easy to get to, so that you’re motivated to give attention and care to your cavies.
Guinea pigs need to be physically and mentally stimulated, because they’re such active creatures.
Boredom will soon lead to stress and depression-and you don’t want that for your fur baby.
So, provide your guinea pig with toys to play with. Cozies, pigloos, and other hiding places are also welcome additions to a guinea pig’s enclosure as well.
Bribe Them (Yes! Bribe them!)
One of the quickest ways to a cavy’s heart is through her stomach. Cavy’s are walking garbage disposals when it comes to fruits and vegetables.
Green, leafy vegetables and small amounts of fruit will go a long way towards growing your cavy’s trust and happiness. Cavies enjoy eating the following vegetables and fruits (in the appropriate amounts):
- Romaine Lettuce (never iceberg)
- Collard Greens
- Carrots & carrot tops
And of course all cavies have their favorites. But, consult your veterinarian to make sure that you’re not overfeeding your guinea pig with your treats and go easy on the fruit; too much sugar isn’t good for your piggie pal.
Guinea pigs enjoy veggies as a special treat. You don’t have to give them fruit. Some piggies enjoy a sprig of parsley or cilantro. Over time, you’ll get a better idea of what your little friend likes the most
Bond With Your Fur Baby
Time, patience, and consistency will work wonders for the overall mood of your guinea pigs. The more time you spend with them, the more comfortable they’ll be around you.
And the more secure they feel and the more comfortable they are….
…they happier they are.
Happily, you’ll get more practice with interpreting their moods. And it will also give you a chance to groom and inspect your cavies to make sure that they’re physical health is good-to-go.
Your guinea pig will not be cheerful if he’s in pain or feeling sick. A guinea pig’s health and happiness go hand-in-hand.
Spend a set amount of time with them every day. Even a short amount of time can help with the bonding.
Start with a minute or two of bonding time and then slowly increase the time. Your guinea pigs confidence in and comfort with you will increase.
Final Things to Remember About Guinea Pig Happiness
Success with a guinea pig as a companion depends on the same things as any other relationship…
If you want your guinea pig to be healthy, happy, and a delight, you have to figure out what she’s saying to you through her sounds and behavior.
And now you have the information that you need to do just that.
Get out there and put a smile on your piggie’s face!