How do you know if your guinea pigs are happy? Read on to find out more...
What makes a guinea pig truly happy? Is it that fresh bunch of parsley that you just gave them? Probably, as we all know that guinea pigs LOVE their food. But what else impacts their happiness? Surely there is more that excites them than just food?
While guinea pigs have their own unique personalities, there are few important things that make guinea pigs happier than others. In this article, we take a closer look at key things that can be impacting your guinea pigs happiness and overall well-being. Read on to find out more!
Signs your guinea pig is unhappy
Luckily, guinea pigs are highly expressive creatures. In fact, there are 12 noises and sounds that guinea pigs primarily make, to convey a variety of emotions. For the most part, guinea pigs are often quite content, but when something isn’t quite right or, is not meeting their needs, their happiness can be affected.
Here are a few telltale signs to indicate that your guinea pig is unhappy:
Destructive Behaviour: it is natural for your guinea pig to nibble or chew their cage from time to time. They are curious creatures after all! But when you start to notice your guinea pig is picking up bad habits, such as excessive cage bar biting, coroplast chewing, or nibbling their fleece bedding, it is important to assess the cause of this type of behaviour.
Change in Activity Levels: guinea pigs for the most part are active, bustling animals that love to scurry around. Whether they are busy munching on some hay or running around their c and c cage, they always seem to be up to something! Of course, it is all down to personality, as some guinea pigs will enjoy some down time, but, it is when there are sudden changes in your guinea pigs behaviour, alarm bells should be going off.
Unhappy Guinea Pig Sounds: guinea pigs make plenty of noise! Although we may not speak the same language, there are certainly some distinct noises and sounds that you can listen out for. If you notice a sudden shriek, lots of rumbling, or teeth chattering, your piggy may be unhappy with something. For more insight, check out our article, ‘Top 12 Guinea Pig Noises and Sounds Explained By Experts’.
Guinea Pig Fights: we all get into disagreements from time to time. However, if you start to notice your guinea pigs are frequently squabbling or fighting, it is crucial to understand where this new found aggro is coming from. If left to escalate, some guinea pigs can become injured from nasty bites or scratches.
If your guinea pigs are showing any of the above signs, it is important to search for a likely cause. To help you in your investigation, we've listed 6 key reasons why your guinea pig could be unhappy.
6 Things that Can Affect your Guinea Pig’s Happiness
Did you know that there are six main things that can have a direct effect on your guinea pigs happiness? They are:
- Overall Health
- Living Space
Read on to find out more about each factor!
Your Guinea Pig’s Diet
An opened fridge door, a crinkly bag, or even the crunches from a box opening: a symphony of excited guinea pig wheeks can be heard from a distance. Every guinea pig parent can agree that the best way to a guinea pig’s heart is through their stomach. That’s why providing a guinea pig with a balanced and high quality diet is so crucial. A poor diet can lead to a very poorly piggy so here are some things to remember:
Like humans, guinea pigs are unable to synthesize their own vitamin c so they will need to get this essential vitamin from their food. That’s why it is important that each guinea pig receives approximately 50 grams of fresh vegetables, daily.
Fresh veggies should be washed before serving in order to remove any debris or contamination. Vegetables should also be in good condition and not cold, wet or rotten, which can cause bloating.
For a comprehensive list of safe and unsafe vegetables for guinea pigs, be sure to check out our free guinea pig care sheets.
Providing good quality, unlimited hay is essential for your guinea pigs as it comprises 80% of their diet. Good hay is green (meadow hay is yellow), dry to touch, free from debris, and smells fresh. At Kavee, we offer tasty feeding hay your guinea pigs will surely love!
Check out our article, ‘Why is Hay so Important for Guinea Pigs?’ for more information on the most common types of guinea pig hay.
Fresh drinking water should be available at all times in a clean drinking dish or bottle. With little to no water, guinea pigs can quickly become dehydrated, especially in warmer temperatures.
Looking for an easier way to clean your guinea pig water bottles? Check out top 6 cleaning hacks for guinea pig owners.
It is recommended that guinea pigs are fed ⅛ cup of fresh pellets every day. Guinea pig pellets should contain little to no grain or cereal, as it puts your guinea pigs at risk of diabetes and obesity. Our range of guinea pig food and treats is among the most premium in quality. You will find no soy, corn, or wheat, and no GMO in it.
Your Guinea Pig’s Environment
Piggies can be quite timid compared to other pets such as dogs or cats. They much prefer quiet, calm environments as they are often easily startled and cautious of new surroundings. Guinea pigs can become uncomfortable and stressed out around loud noises or sudden movements, so it is important to choose an area for them that is free from noisy or startling triggers.
Here are some simple ways to make your guinea pig’s space more comfortable:
- House your guinea pigs in the quietest room of your home
- Close the door to their room where possible
- Encourage small children to use their ‘inside voice’ around your guinea pigs
- Keep television, radio, or other noisy items at lower volumes around your guinea pigs
- Minimize your guinea pig’s interaction with other pets (ie. dogs or cats sniffing or exploring around their cage)
- Provide plenty of hiding spaces for your guinea pigs to use (ie. sleep sacks or hideys)
Having a setup that is on a stand, with low cage edges, and clear panels, such as Kavee’s C&C cages, can help your guinea pigs feel more comfortable and secure in their home. Clear panels for instance allow your guinea pigs to see their environment better, while stands help guinea pigs feel less startled as they are closer to your height. This will make them less likely to mistake you for a bird of prey or predator.
Your Guinea Pig’s Overall Health
Healthy guinea pigs are happy guinea pigs. When guinea pigs are ill, their behaviour can sometimes change. For instance, when guinea pigs are in pain they can often become irritable and lash out at their cage mates. This creates a tense environment for all guinea pigs in the herd as it upsets the delicate relationships that they build.
Alternatively, guinea pigs who are ill can at times become lethargic or disinterested with their food or toys. That’s why it is important to pay close attention to your guinea pig’s health to ensure that you can seek out help from your exotic vet when necessary.
Guinea pigs are sadly good at hiding signs of illness as they attempt to appear less vulnerable to others. A defense mechanism that once served them well in the wild, creates a trickier task for small pet owners to spot warning signs early.
Cavy savvy vets recommend that guinea pig owners conduct weekly health checks on their piggies to catch any mild - moderate changes. Be sure to read our article, ‘Everything you Need to Know About Your Guinea Pig and Their Weight’.
Your Guinea Pig’s Living Space
Guinea pigs LOVE to run around! In fact, despite their small size, guinea pigs can run up to an impressive 9.6 kilometers per hour (that’s approximately 6 miles per hour)! That’s why these little busy bodies need plenty of space to stretch their legs and enjoy some much essential exercise.
Guinea pigs living in unsuitable setups such as multi-storied or cramped cages can quickly lead to unhappy piggies. Despite their small size, they require a lot more space than one might realise. Two guinea pigs need a minimum of 8 square feet of flat living space. That’s why so many piggy parents are making the switch to spacious C&C cages thanks to their modular design.
Small Cages can cause guinea pigs to fight due to lack of space and can often lead to destructive behaviours such as cage bar biting or coroplast chewing.
Not sure what size cage you should get for your guinea pigs? Check out our guinea pig cage size guide for more information.
Your Guinea Pig and Enrichment
Do you have any hobbies? Although you probably will never see a guinea pig play chess or bake up a storm, guinea pigs are intelligent creatures that will enjoy being able to explore or interact with things inside and outside their cage.
Guinea pigs require stimulation which will greatly boost their mood, and reinforce healthy natural behaviours. As mentioned, guinea pigs love to run around so providing your guinea pigs with time to explore outside of their cage during floortime, is a great way to keep them active and help boost their confidence. For an extra special floor time, why not take your guinea pigs outside on a sunny day.
In addition to physical activity, boredom busters such as willow balls to chew or hidies, such as fleece tunnels or corner curtains, to run in and out of are all great ways to keep piggies stimulated and busy.
Lack of stimulation can lead to the development of:
- Heart issues
- Destructive behaviours
- Poor appetite
Your Guinea Pig and Companionship
Imagine being in a foreign land and not being able to understand or speak the local dialect. This could be quite isolating for some and often distressing. The same applies to guinea pigs. Guinea pigs are social creatures and are often happiest when they have other piggies to socialise with. Without their own friend to live with, guinea pigs can become quite lonely and ultimately can impact their overall health.
Loneliness in guinea pigs can cause:
- Decreased or lack of appetite
- Decreased physical activity
- Behaviour issues
Why not try reaching out to your local guinea pig rescue? Many rescues often offer matchmaking services for single piggies which can be a great way to find the best match for your lonely singleton.
The wrong pairing or an unbalanced herd dynamic can also have an effect on your guinea pigs happiness. Guinea pigs can have the occasional disagreement with one another, but frequent fighting can indicate early warning signs that your guinea pigs are unhappy with one another.
If you have ruled out all other possibilities and you have noticed that your guinea pigs are still fighting, it may be an indication that your piggies’ bond has broken down.
Aggressive behaviour such as persistent chasing, facing off against each other with their noses raised, or circling are all red flags. If this is the case, be sure to read our article on everything you need to know about guinea pig fights.
How do I know if my guinea pigs are happy?
Luckily, a happy guinea pig is easy to spot and there are many things to trigger an excited piggy.
Signs of a happy guinea pig are:
- Excited wheeking sounds
- Popcorning (happy hops and twists in the air)
- Zoomies (running around with a ‘big burst of energy’)
- Good health and normal activity levels
- Purring or chutting noises
- Guinea pig kisses
- Good appetite
- Sleeps out in open despite hiding spaces
Check out our article, ‘9 Signs your Guinea Pig Really Loves You’ for more adorable indications.
How can I make my guinea pigs happier?
We know that providing your guinea pigs with the best quality of life is your top priority! Here are a few simple ways to make your guinea pigs popcorn with joy by making a few simple changes:
Expand your Guinea Pig’s Cage
As mentioned above, your guinea pigs living space can have a direct impact on your piggy’s happiness. The less room they have, the more uncomfortable and frustrated they can become. C and C cages are a popular alternative to pet shop cages as they can reliably provide plenty of living space, and can be expanded when needed. Click to see how guinea pigs cages have changed over the years!
While providing minimum cage requirements is good, more space is always better. Why not upgrade your guinea pig’s home to a guinea pig palace? If you already have a C&C cage, you can simply purchase a pack of extra C and C grids and snap in the new panels.
Switch to Fleece Bedding
While loose bedding types such as wood shavings or litter pellets are safe for guinea pigs, the reality is that they are often not very comfortable, and if we know one thing, we know that guinea pigs love their comfort!
Find out why so many guinea pig owners are making the switch from wood shavings to fleece liners. They are not only comfortable but have many added benefits of being cost effective, easier to store, and helps prevent respiratory infections.
New to fleece bedding? Read our ultimate guide to guinea pig fleece liners!
Provide Plenty of Hiding Spaces
Guinea pigs feel most comfortable when they have places to hide and feel stressed when out in the open. By adding a house in their cage, such as our fleece hidey, is a way to make them feel safe and comfortable.
Guinea pigs are not very big on sharing, so it’s important to add a variety of hiding spaces so that your piggies can run from one space to the next, without feeling uncomfortable.
Bonding Time with your Guinea Pigs
Putting some time aside to spend with your guinea pigs every day is essential to building up their confidence and strengthening your bond with them. Piggies can be quite timid to start off with, but with a little time and patience, you’ll become the best of buds.
Don’t know where to start? Check out our top 20 ways to bond with your guinea pig.
Cleaning your Guinea Pigs Home
This is often the simplest way to make guinea pigs popcorn and zoomie with glee! When you provide your guinea pigs with a freshly cleaned cage, you’re showing your guinea pigs that you want them to be comfortable in their home.
Your guinea pigs will love you for keeping their cage clean and it is also a fun bonding experience as your piggies will become comfortable seeing you interact with their cage.
Replacing your guinea pig’s bedding with a fresh new fleece liner will surely make them jump with excitement as they enjoy the new soft and fluffiness a new bedding change can bring.
Check out our C&C cage cleaning guide for the most simple and effective way to keep your guinea pigs’ home in tip top shape.
A happy guinea pig is a happy home! We hope our guide will help you identify how your piggies are feeling and ways to boost up their enjoyment. By providing them with companionship, a spacious home, good diet, and comfortable living environment, your guinea pigs will surely be at their happiest!
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