January 22, 2021
Guinea Pig Sounds and Their Meanings
Have you ever wondered what your guinea pig is trying to tell you? We have compiled this list of guinea pig vocalizations to help pet parents become guinea pig whisperers!
Important Reminders About Guinea Pig Sounds
One of the most important things to remember about guinea pig sounds is that you must factor in both the sound and the body language your guinea pig expresses while making the sound. Without the context of your pet’s body language and the knowledge of what is happening in your pet’s surroundings, guinea pig sounds cannot always be accurately deciphered.
Another note is that some guinea pigs might not make all of these sounds. Some guinea pigs don’t whole-heartedly wheek in the morning for their breakfast, and some might not bubble as they’re relaxing on your lap, but the lack of these vocalizations doesn’t mean they’re unhappy!
AKA “I ordered 5 minutes ago, where’s my meal?"
Sometimes called whistling, this is the classic sound people think of when they think “guinea pig.” It can be deciphered as begging—they really want something (and that something is usually food!). The amount of wheeking a guinea pig does really depends on the individual—some guinea pigs wheek incessantly every time they hear a bag crinkle, while other times they may only wheek once or twice a day, when it’s time for breakfast or dinner greens.
Listen to clip
AKA “I’m having fun!”
Sometimes referred to as a “clucking” sound (like a mother hen would make), this is a sound of contentment. Guinea pigs may make this sound towards you when you’re interacting with them, or toward their cage mates, when they’re enjoying the moment. Guinea pigs may also make this sound when they’re curious and exploring their surroundings. Guinea pigs that are chutting are loving life!
In this video from finnleythepig, there’s a great example of Gilbert chutting (mixed in with rumble strutting!). Listen closely for the little repeated “chuts” in-between rumbles!
AKA “This is the life!”
Compared to the other sounds our piggy pals make, bubbling is a very quiet sound and can be difficult to hear. It is ultimately a sign of happiness. “Pancaking,” where your pet lays down flat with their eyes closed and relaxed, frequently accompanies this sound. Many pet owners find that bubbling only occurs between cage mates who deeply enjoy one another’s company, or during a particularly cozy lap time.
Listen to clip
There are two types of rumbling that guinea pig parents should be aware of.
- One is often accompanied by “rumble strutting,” which is a behavior guinea pigs do to display dominance. The guinea pig shifts their weight side-to-side while walking, and sometimes their fur may be a little puffed up to make themselves look larger. It can be interpreted as “I’m the big boss pig.” Rumbling accompanied by rumble strutting is not overtly a sign of aggression, but it can bring out disagreements between two pigs if they both believe themselves to be boss and neither will back down. Listen to clip
- The second type can be interpreted to mean “Uh-oh!” This type of rumbling is often heard while the guinea pig is also frozen and/or wide-eyed—it’s a sign that they’re startled. Being a prey species, guinea pigs sometimes panic and run for cover after freezing and rumbling for a moment. If your pig makes this type of rumbling sound, you might need to hold onto your pig if they are not securely on the ground so they don’t bolt and risk a fall (such as if they’re on the couch with you). In this recording, the guinea pig is eating a treat but is still a little unsure of his surroundings (made apparent by his short rumbles). Listen to clip
AKA “Stop that!”
Chattering is a sound made by guinea pigs when they clack their teeth together. It’s generally a sound of annoyance or anxiety. Context is very important with this sound. Sometimes chattering is innocuous—some guinea pigs chatter if they are anxiously awaiting food and growing impatient with their human, who may be giving them attention instead of giving them a meal. In other cases, chattering can be a clue that your pet is seriously irritated and emotionally uncomfortable with the situation they find themselves in. Chattering can sometimes occur during introductions. Chattering that occurs between two guinea pigs (especially during introductions) is a sign that you should be on alert and ready to step in before aggressive behaviors escalate.
Listen to clip
AKA “I don’t like this."
Whining is one of the “negative” sounds a guinea pig can make. It can roughly mean “I’m not a fan of what’s happening right now!” This audio was captured when an Oxbow employee picked up their very vocal guinea pig (the guinea pig is perfectly fine—he just protests quite a bit whenever he’s being picked up!).
Listen to clip
In some cases, a softer variation of this sound can be a sign that your guinea pig is in pain. If you hear your guinea pig whining while they are in their habitat, something may be wrong, including but not limited to bladder sludge or stones. Be sure to watch them closely to see if the whining occurs again, and what they are doing when the whining is taking place. For more information on symptoms and what to do about bladder sludge, visit our blog.
AKA “Something is UP and I don’t know what to do about it.”
This is one of the more mysterious sounds guinea pigs can make! Not all guinea pigs chirp, so when chirping does occur it can be jarring. True to the name for the sound, chirping sounds more like a vocalization a bird would make than a rodent. Not everyone agrees on the meaning of chirping, but generally it’s considered an alert signal—something has caused your guinea pig to be deeply concerned. An Oxbow employee’s guinea pig chirped once when he was very young—she decided to sleep in on the weekend only to be woken up by a sudden bird-like sound in the living room. Upon investigation, her piggie was waiting at the front of his enclosure for (his very late) breakfast, with nothing amiss. That was the only time her guinea pigs have chirped!
Here’s a video of Fionna from ponyopigletofthesea chirping. We wonder why they’re sounding the alarm!
AKA “This is awful.”
This is a very loud sound that can also be considered squealing. It can sometimes be confused with wheeking if body language or context is not apparent, but it truly could not be any more different. It tends to be very loud and less enthusiastic. This sound with the context of body language or surroundings is an unmistakable sign of pain or fear in guinea pigs. If you hear this sound, make sure your guinea pig is okay! Make sure they have a space where they can safely hide after you check on them.
Clicking, Crackling, Wheezing, or Hooting
AKA “I don’t feel too great.”
If your guinea pig is making a clicking, crackling, wheezing, or “hooting” sound while they take breaths, it is essential to quickly see a exotics veterinarian. None of these sounds are considered normal in guinea pigs. All four of these sounds can be symptoms ranging from respiratory or nasal pathway irritation, to more serious respiratory or cardiac issues. These sounds need the professional ear of a cavy-savvy veterinarian to help determine if the issue is situational or chronic. At an appointment with your vet it can be determined if your pet would benefit from medicine to help treat the underlying issues that are causing these sounds. These sounds are also something to keep an ear on after an appointment to help monitor your pig’s health and to determine if follow up appointments are needed.
A note on Purring: Purring is a phrase that’s interpreted to be an inherently positive sound, partially due to its connotations with cat vocalizations. There is some disagreement about what constitutes a “purr” in guinea pigs, and ultimately what it means. Due to the vagueness and confusion that surrounds this word, we have omitted it in favor of other phrases that we think more accurately describe the array of sounds your guinea pig uses to communicate.