Guinea pig communication isn’t hard to understand. Cavies are big conversationalists. Talk talk talk all day long, and they use not only noises but their body language to communicate. They tell us how they feel and what they want, and they don’t hold back. Of course, each guinea pig is an individual and has their own particular ways of communicating, so it is up to us to really get to know each one of our friends. One mutters all day, every day, and another one purrs. One head tosses after a few minutes in our arms, the other popcorns for affection. The big key is this: we all like to be noticed, heard, and understood…so if you pay attention, they will interact with you, and you can have a deeper, fuller friendship.
PURRING is a nice low vibration sound. It is a relaxed, content sound…much like when a cat purrs. Like this. If the PURRING comes in short bursts, and is higher pitched, it is a sign of confusion or uncertainty – your piggy is looking for reassurance.
The WHEEK is a short, squeaky noise and often happens at dinner time, when the cavie hears the hay coming. WHEEKING is often accompanied by some POPCORNING, and the whole scene is pretty darn adorable. Here’s an example.
CHIRPING sounds just like a bird chirping. (Take a listen here). This is not a well understood sound, and isn’t heard often. It has been heard at several unrelated times including interest in something new, uncertainty in a new environment, and may also have something to do with sows feeding baby piggies. If your piggy has chirped, tell us about it!
Piggies do WHINE, and usually that whine is directed at another pig who is annoying them. You can translate the whine to: “Stoooooooppppp iiiiitttttttt”.
Clacking teeth together is called CHATTERING, and is a sign of annoyance. (Listen to some chattering here.) Maybe your piggy has had enough of being held, or is done with being stroked. Whatever is going on, they are ready to stop. This may be accompanied by the HEAD TOSS. Chattering can become louder and more angry, and at its worst, is accompanied by raised hackles, rumblestrutting, and the pig may raise up on his hind legs, ready for attack.
Another noise you may hear from an angry or threatened piggy is HISSING. TEETH BARING and HISSING often go together, and you may even notice your guinea pig’s fur is fluffed up and poofy – your friend is trying to look bigger and more threatening (as far as guinea pigs can look big and threatening). The head may be tossed up, and the front legs in a wide stance. A fight is brewing – separate those piggies! (More on dominant body language in the next post.)
If you ever hear a SHRIEK, run to your friend with phone in hand and be ready to go to the vet. Your guinea pig has been injured, through accident or attack, and needs help immediately. A SHRIEK is an emergency – don’t wait to find out what has happened.
In the next post, we’ll learn about guinea pig body language. Stay tuned!
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