Guinea pigs often make a variety of noises when being petted. A short, high-pitched squeal usually means they’re hungry. If they purr while being held, it means they are content. A low-pitched purr (might sound like a growl) means they feel threatened.
You finally got your guinea pig, and you’re so in love with it. But while you are petting your piggy, it starts making a weird noise. It sounds kind of strange, and many thoughts go through your head, such as:
- Am I hurting my guinea pig?
- Does it like me?
- Is my guinea piggie sick?
It is difficult for many people to identify what kind of communication is negative and what kind is positive when they first get a guinea pig.
Like human communication, guinea pigs have certain tones and sounds that communicate different things. Just like when we say things like “uh-huh” or “nu-uh,” our tonality changes significantly. “Uh-huh” begins low and ends in a high tone, while “nu-uh” does the opposite.
That tonal shift is how we know what is negative and positive. Guinea pigs work the same way with different kinds of noises. They are very vocal and will let you know when they change their minds about something. They will let you know their perceptions of different people and situations. You just have to listen carefully to them and understand what the different noises mean.
Possible Sounds A Guinea Pig Will Make While Being Held
The first noise happens when the guinea pig is hungry, or around the time you usually feed it. It is called “wheeking” for its short and high pitch. Guinea pigs typically do this around humans. It’s rare to hear this noise in the wild. If you’re holding your guinea pig and they begin wheeking, they may be asking you to put them back so they can eat.
Another noise is a purr, which is something most of us expect from guinea pigs when petted. But a guinea pig’s purr is unlike any other purr you’ve probably ever heard. A guinea pig purr is a low-pitched, repeating sound that seems like a mix between a growl of a dog and a purr of a cat. If you hear your piggie purring when you hold them, it means they are happy and content.
If you have a male and a female pig, a rumble happens when they are ready to mate. When trying to woo the female, the male makes a rumble sound and struts around her; people have termed this as “the rumble strut.” The female also does it when telling the male she is in the season to mate. So why would a guinea pig do this when you’re holding them? Because they’re letting you know now might not be the best time to hold them. They have other business to tend to!
Guinea pigs have a growling sound as well. It is lower-pitched than the purr, and the guinea pig’s body language will tell you it feels threatened. This usually happens when drastic changes are made in its environment or something potentially threatening is around them. You can calm your pig’s nerves by either removing them from the seemingly threatening situation or gently petting them. If you don’t hold your guinea pig often, they may make this noise because they view being held as a threat.
Chattering happens when pigs feel angry or agitated. Most of the time, this doesn’t happen when they are interacting with humans but with other guinea pigs. Especially when two males try to establish dominance over the other, and this chattering means it’s time to fight. When this happens, remove one pig from the situation (more effectively the newest resident) and slowly introduce them repeatedly. Over time, the anger will subside, and they will learn how to coexist. When this sound happens in human interactions, it usually means there is mishandling going on. It is best to withdraw frequent contact during this time of threatening sounds until the piggy calms down. Otherwise, guinea pigs nip or bite at people, objects, or other piggies they feel threatened by.
When in immediate discomfort, pain, or danger, your guinea pig will shriek. It sounds like a loud yell for help. This often happens if another pig bites your guinea pig or your pig is being held or petted with too much force. They are tiny animals and need a gentle touch. If you are too rough with your pig, eventually, it will feel that you are a danger to them instead of just what you are doing at the moment. You want to be the caregiver for your guinea pig, so make sure your interactions are about care, love, and help.
The last noise sounds much like a shriek but is a high-pitched, longer-lasting sound. This means they feel smothered, disturbed, or bothered by something happening around them. The best thing to do in this situation is just to step away and give the piggy some space to recuperate.
Guiding Principles of Understanding Your Guinea Pig
Make sure you pay close attention to what your guinea pig is saying to you. You will be surprised about how much it communicates with you. Just listen and be sensitive to how a small animal might be feeling. The amazing part about having a guinea pig is that they are so vocal that you can quickly learn their personality if you listen. Guinea pigs are easy to build relationships with, but it takes time and focused effort to do so.
When your piggy makes negative sounds, be respectful to their space and perception of situations. To us humans, it may seem that everything is fine because nothing is threatening to us, but if we were six inches tall, we would probably be threatened by a lot more than what we are now. Most situations that involve a bite or violence from a guinea pig begin with a pig not listened to or not respected and end with a piggie protecting itself.
If your pig becomes violent with you, don’t think all is lost or that you have to get rid of it. Similar to a relationship between humans, with a bit of forgiveness, love, and the right kind of attention, a guinea pig will do the same.
The piggie will warm up to you eventually if it feels loved by you. If you have to get rid of your pig in the end, please find a home best suited for them to live in instead of taking them to the animal shelter. Guinea pigs will do well as pets in the right environment with the right attention.