The secret language of guinea pigs!
Well actually, that’s far from the case!
Guinea pigs emit many different types of sounds, some of which are so subtle you might not have even noticed them. Many of their noises are used for communicating with other piggies but some sounds are involuntary noises they may make to themselves- whilst other specific noises are aimed at the humans in their life - yes, you!
Now do you understand why you should never underestimate your piggy’s vocal range?
It can all be a bit mysterious though. Your guinea pig may squeak and wheek and chutter and chip…but what exactly do their noises mean?
Sad? Hungry? Scared? Here’s how to work out what your noisy little pal is really saying….
It's all about guinea pig body language!
The main thing to remember when you’re trying to decipher your guinea pig’s vocalisations is that it’s all about the context of the situation. Ask yourself, what exactly is your guinea pig doing? What is their body language indicating about their mood and what they could be communicating?
For instance, puffed up fur can indicate anger or defensiveness. In contrast, a frolicking, popcorning guinea pig is clearly happy and excited about something.
Here’s a run down of the most common guinea pig noises - and how their body language might look when they’re making them.
Top 12 Guinea Pig Noises Explained
Guinea Pig Noise #1 Wheeking
Anyone who’s ever had a guinea pig in the vicinity of a fridge door or an enticing food packet will recognise this noise. As soon as you open the door or rustle that packet, it will start; a crazy, excited ‘I’m going to be fed soon and I need to wheeeeeeeek about it’ noise.
It doesn’t matter if you were only opening the fridge door to reach for a pint of milk or were opening a packet of crisps for yourself rather than your guinea pig’s bag of salad leaves. Just the mere anticipation of food will get your piggies wheeking.
Even more fun than one wheeking guinea pig? A whole chorus of wheeking guinea pigs. It’s a truly joyful - and also sometimes ear shattering - sound that indicates how easily excited guinea pigs are when it comes to food.
Your pigs may also wheek and dash to the side of their cage when they see you passing. Do you want the truth? They’re probably just investigating whether you're approaching them with food. Still, isn’t it lovely to know that your furry pals are still genuinely excited to see you? Not all piggy parents get that kind of star treatment, you know!
Check out this very adorable example of a baby guinea pig wheeking from Kona & Suba.
Guinea Pig Noise #2: Chutting or Clucking
Do you ever talk to yourself when you’re on your own and are busily getting on with tasks? Don’t worry - most of us do it at some point and so it appears that guinea pigs do the same! When piggies chat to themselves, it’s called ‘chuttering’. A low to medium chirruping sound, this is a noise which indicates that your piggy is feeling happy with life.
Your furball may make sweet little chuttering noises to other piggies - don’t worry, they’re just making conversation!
But the absolute best time to hear chuttering? When you’re enjoying some special lap time with your piggy. It’s a lovely sound which means everything is fine and dandy in your guinea pig’s world. So if you notice your guinea pig chuttering when you’re stroking them, savour the moment and know that your piggy feels happy in your arms.
For an example of a guinea pig chutting, check out this YouTube video by The Guinea Herd.
Guinea Pig Noise #3: Bubbling or Purring
Whilst some people call this noise ‘purring’, many piggy parents reckon that guinea pig ‘purrs’ aren’t particularly like the sound made by cats. So to avoid confusion, we’d prefer to call this noise ‘bubbling’. What is certain is that guinea pigs make this low, prolonged sound when they’re feeling super relaxed and safe.
What guinea pig body language should you look out for? Well, if your piggy is having some ‘me time’ in their cage, they may ‘pancake’, which means they lie stretched out flat on their fleece liner with their chin resting on the ground.
If you’re enjoying cuddle time with your fluffball, they may stretch out flat on their fleece pee pad as you stroke their fur or feed them a tasty piece of parsley or lettuce. When they feel 100 percent safe, they may even close their eyes. Considering guinea pigs often sleep with their eyes wide open, to lookout for predators, if you see your piggy with its eyes closed as it bubbles, you know that you have one contented little cavy.
Guinea Pig Noise #4: Whining or Moaning
Moaning is pretty similar to chuttering but it’s louder and higher-pitched and means the opposite of chuttering. A whining, complaining noise, it indicates that your guinea pig is far from happy about something.
It may be that you’ve let lap time carry on too long and they’re itching to stretch their legs or go for a wee (most piggies dislike peeing during lap time and will try to hang on until they return to the privacy and security of their cage).
Moaning indicates that your piggy feels scared or uncomfortable about something and may be curled up or puffed up defensively. Their eyes may be open wide - another sign that they’re feeling anxious. If you notice your guinea pig moaning for quite a long time, it could indicate that they’re unwell.
Guinea Pig Noise #5: Teeth Grinding
This is a quiet, subtle noise which you may only notice if you’re pretty close to your piggy. It sounds pretty much like human teeth grinding and you may also notice your piggy’s mouth moving slightly.
Just as us humans sometimes grind our teeth during stressful situations, so do piggies. If your guinea pig is grinding their teeth then it’s an indication that they’re anxious or unsure about something especially if they stop moving and freeze in fear. Perhaps you’ve picked them up when they weren’t ready for cuddle time.
Thankfully, teeth grinding is often pretty short-lived. One tip is to relax and distract your piggy with some tasty munchable treats during cuddle time so they can put those teeth to better use! But if you notice them continuously grinding their teeth during floortime or in their cage, something else may be bothering them. Some guinea pigs grind their teeth in response to pain or perhaps a cage mate is encroaching on their space.
Here is a quick example of teeth grinding as well as some teeth chattering from Kona & Suba.
Guinea Pig Noise #6: Teeth Chattering
Not to be confused with teeth grinding, teeth chattering sounds dramatic and aggressive and with good reason. It indicates that your guinea pig is seriously displeased and sounds exactly as you’d expect when your guinea pig is gnashing their teeth together. Teeth chattering may also be accompanied by foot stomping and fluffed up fur.
It’s loud and unnerving to witness but teeth chattering is actually pretty common guinea pig behaviour and is often seen when two piggies meet for the first time. When a guinea pig chatters their teeth at another guinea pig, it’s far from welcoming - it means ‘stay away’ or ‘get off my territory’.
It’s also a common tactic used by both male and female piggies when they’re establishing a hierarchy in a pair or a herd. If you see two guinea pigs teeth chattering and rocking stiffly towards each other, it’s usually a precursor to a physical clash.
If your guinea pigs look like they are about to get physical, separate the piggies quickly and safely by dropping a towel over them to momentarily confuse them. That way you can carefully scoop them up without getting scratched or bitten. Never put your bare hands in between fighting guinea pigs, as you may be accidentally nipped by their strong teeth!
If your guinea pig teeth chatters at you then give them some space until they feel more relaxed.
Here is an example of two guinea pigs teeth chattering at one another from My Popcorn Piggies on YouTube.
Guinea Pig Noise #7: Rumbling
This low-pitched, prolonged or repeated noise is often accompanied by hostile body language such as puffed up fur and angry snorting. Just like teeth chattering, rumbling is an aggressive sound made towards other guinea pigs of either the same or the opposite sex.
You may also notice your guinea pig walking slowly and swaying from left to right as they rumble. This action is known as ‘rumble strutting’ - sometimes referred to as a guinea pig ‘war dance’ - it’s hard to think of your fluff ball of anything less than peaceful, but trust us!
Just like teeth chattering, when a guinea pig emits a deep rumbling sound, they are trying to assert dominance - often during hierarchy struggles between a pair or herd. When boars rumble strut, they may circle each other and attempt to spray one another with urine. This less than pleasant act is another way guinea pigs try to assert dominance over one another.
Rumble strutting usually is temporary, but it may also indicate that piggies are about to fight so keep a close eye on them and be ready to step in.
Rumble strutting is not always a sign of aggression as it also depends on context. It can also be part of a courting display in both male and female guinea pigs!
A good example of guinea pig rumbling can be see in this video by buttboopers.
Guinea Pig Noise #8: Hissing
You might assume that only snakes and geese hiss. Well, actually, guinea pigs can hiss too. Now, whilst this isn’t a common guinea pig noise, it can happen. And it’s worth knowing that if your guinea pig hisses at you or another piggy, then one thing is certain - they are 100 percent not happy!
When piggies hiss, they’re letting you, or their cage mate, know that they’re angry and want to be left alone. By bothering a hissing guinea pig you risk getting scratched or bitten so it’s best to stay away until they’re feeling more relaxed.
Check out this video by It's Pigs!
Guinea Pig Noise #9: Shrieking or Guinea Pig Screaming
Not to be confused with happy wheeking, shrieking or screaming is not good news.
If you do hear a distressed shriek or scream coming from your guinea pig’s cage then you need to check it out immediately because they generally only make this sound when they’re scared or injured. Observe your guinea pig for any signs of distress such as puffed out fur, limping, repeated blinking, or cuts.
If you are unable to determine what was the cause of your guinea pig's yelp, and they continue to appear distressed or uncomfortable, the best thing to do is to contact your vet for further assistance. Consult our free vet maps for a list of UK (or US) cavy savvy exotic vets.
In this YouTube video by Renny Shih, a guinea pig can be seen shrieking during their vet visit.
Guinea Pig Noise #10: Chirping
Chirping sounds exactly as you’d expect - and, yes, guinea pigs really can chirp like birds! Body language wise, they may look like they’re in something of a trance-like state when they’re making this sound.
So why on earth do guinea pigs chirp like our feathered friends?
Well, actually no one knows. Chirping remains a bit of a mystery although some owners report hearing their guinea pig chirping after losing a cage mate whilst some experts say that it indicates fear.
Some piggy parents also believe that female guinea pigs chirp when calling for a mate when she is in season.
Here is a good example of guinea pig chirping from hughug a guineapig's YouTube channel.
Guinea Pig Noise #11: Sneezing
Guinea pigs can sneeze a few times a day - it’s super cute to hear, believe us! You may hear your guinea pigs emit a tiny sneeze or two when you give them a mound of lovely fresh hay because they’ve inhaled a tiny bit of hay dust. Just like us humans would do, piggies sneeze to clear their nasal passage.
However, if your piggy is sneezing a lot and their sneezes are accompanied by runny eyes your guinea pig may suffer with allergies.
Allergies in guinea pigs can also be caused by dust from wood shavings, which is why fleece liners for guinea pigs make an ideal hypoallergenic bedding option.
Guinea Pig Noise #12: Wheezing, Clicking or Crackling
Guinea pigs are susceptible to respiratory illnesses so it’s wise to be able to recognise the noises they may make if they’re ill.
Generally, you wouldn’t normally hear a healthy guinea pig taking breaths as they’re so quiet. You might barely even notice their nostrils slightly flaring or their midriff moving with each breath!
However, if you hear your guinea pig making unexpected sounds when they take breaths, such as wheezing, clicking or clacking, then it’s a real cause for concern. Any of these sounds could indicate health issues including nasal irritation, respiratory infections, or heart problems.
Look out for physical signs of illness such as your guinea pig’s midriff moving dramatically, as if it was ‘fluttering’, or their head is dropping or body is rocking with each breath, indicating that their breathing is laboured or painful. Other signs that your piggy may be ill include low energy and being quieter than usual.
Needless to say, you should take your guinea pig to see your local cavy savvy vet if you suspect they’re ill.
For more advice on guinea pigs and breathing, check out this helpful video from Saskia at LA Guinea Pig Rescue.
Hopefully you now feel more in tune with your guinea pig’s wonderful range of vocabulary. From happy wheeks to angry rumbles, teeth chattering or unusual breathing sounds, it’s good to know the variety of noises your guinea pig may emit - and what they may mean. Spend as much time with your piggy pal as you can, holding them, observing them and - above all - listening to them.
You’ll be speaking ‘guinea pig’ in no time, we promise!