Some people might consider guinea pig speak just random sounds or noises, but people who share their lives with guinea pigs know better. Guinea pig vocalizations are part of their communication tools. A well-placed wheek, squeal, or other sound give clues about a guinea pig’s needs and feelings.
Yes, Guinea Pigs Speak
Dogs bark and cats meow. Most people know this. But some people might not know that small mammal pets like guinea pigs also make sounds. The good thing is that the noises guinea pigs make usually never disturb neighbors. They’re only loud enough to let their roommates (you), know that they have an “opinion” they want to share. Important opinions, like “Time to get me some food,” “Shouldn’t you be giving me pets right now?” or “A strange object has arrived in the room. Keep it away!”
Listing Guinea Pig Sounds
The range of noises guinea pigs make varies. It depends on who is listening and how sounds are differentiated, and it can also depend on the guinea pigs. After all, no two guinea pigs are alike, so while most guinea pigs make several of the same sounds, nuances can change the total repertoire.
One scientific study places the number of guinea pigs sounds at 11. A guinea pig rescue includes 9 guinea pigs sounds on its website. A YouTube video catalogs 13 sounds. The book “Exotic Pet Behavior: Birds, Reptiles, And Small Mammals” by Bays, Lightfoot, and Mayer lists 9 categories of guinea pig vocalizations. These are:
- Purring or gurgling
- Weeping, wheeking, or whistling
- Teeth clatter, clacking, or hissing
The Meaning Behind Guinea Pig Sounds
Observation is key to determining the meaning of guinea pig sounds. Guinea pigs are social animals, and they can be talking to you, other guinea pigs, or both when making noises. Watch for body language and actions to clue you in to the meanings.
As a general guide, start with the following guinea pig basic sound symbolism. Hunger might be behind wheeking, squealing, or even grunting. Fear, pain, or a warning can be signaled by squealing, drr, or whining. Contentment, happiness, and curiosity are associated with purring, chutting, or wheeking. Teeth clattering, clicking, or hissing signal aggression. Give that guinea pig some space!
Noticing A New Sound
If a guinea pig suddenly develops a new sound, it might be cause to consult your veterinarian. Labored breathing, wheezing, clicking, coughing, and hooting are some of the sounds you don’t want to hear. The Guinea Lynx forum had a discussion about hooting guinea pigs, which could indicate a heart problem. Be sure to contact your guinea pig-savvy veterinarian for advice. Guinea pig savvy means that the veterinarian regularly treats guinea pigs.
Quiet Guinea Pigs
If you happen to have a guinea pig who isn’t very vocal, don’t stress about it. Some guinea pigs just “talk” more than others. The only time to be concerned is if your guinea pig suddenly changes his or her routine. A guinea pig who is usually vocal but suddenly becomes quiet, or vice versa, might be signaling that there’s a problem. Perhaps he or she isn’t feeling well.