|By Remy Alexandre|
Growing up, my good friend had a guinea pig named Dudley. Whenever I called my friend, I would hear a constant squeaking in the background. I naturally assumed that Dudley was either competing for my friend’s attention or that he was a friendly fellow, trying to say hello. Either way, he caused quite a ruckus.
Guinea pigs may not oink like their namesakes, but that’s because they’re not pigs at all. They’re classified as rodents and, like many other animals, they can be quite vocal about what they are feeling. While to me it seemed like Dudley made only one sound – a constant squeak – guinea pigs can actually express themselves in a variety of ways. Here are the meanings behind some common guinea pig sounds.
Wheeking. This is the sound most people associate with the little piggies. It’s a loud, high-pitched squeak and it usually means that they are excited or are trying to get some attention. There may be some sort of danger approaching, but it’s more likely that they can hear you getting their food ready.
Shrieking. Both higher and louder than wheeking, this sound signals that a guinea pig is scared or in pain. Shrieking can also be a call for help or a warning that danger is near.
Teeth Chattering. If there is ever a time to avoid snuggling your furry friend, it’s when he’s chattering his teeth. This means that he is upset or angry, and he will usually also raise his neck fur (to appear as large as possible) and start rocking back and forth. That is one angry little piggy.
Whining. If you wanted to be left alone – or were just generally annoyed – you’d probably start whining too. Guinea pigs will whine when another pig is harassing them or if a human is petting them in a way that they don’t like. Yes, apparently even guinea pigs aren’t above whining.
Muttering. Sometimes when they run along the floor, guinea pigs sound almost like they are muttering to themselves. This just means that they are happy, and are enjoying doing their own thing.
Purring. As you would expect, purring means that a guinea pig is content. He may purr when he is enjoying your affection, or even just when grooming himself.
Rumbling. This is a deeper sort of purr and means that your guinea pig has one thing on his mind. That’s right, he’s in heat! To impress another pig, they will also sway their hips and walk around the object of their affection. Ooh-la-la! Watch out if they learn to bat their eyelashes!
Chirping. This may be the most mysterious of all guinea pig sounds. Some owners will never hear chirping, and some guinea pigs will never chirp. As the name implies, it sounds just like a bird’s chirping. While chirping, a guinea pig will appear to be almost in a trance. All of the other piggies will stop to listen, but once the song ends, they will all return to their activities as if nothing happened. No one knows for sure why guinea pigs chirp, but some owners believe they do it just for fun!
Of course, body language also plays a big role in guinea pig communication. When guinea pigs are stretched out on the floor or cage bottom, they are completely relaxed, much like us on the couch. They will touch noses to greet each other, or if the meeting isn’t as friendly, they will try to demonstrate dominance by stiffening their legs.
If you are petting your rodent chum and he isn’t enjoying it, he will throw his head back, as if throwing your hand away. A final amusing behaviour, and my personal favorite, is ‘popcorning’, when a guinea pig is just so happy that he jumps straight up in the air, like a kernel of corn in a hot pan. It’s like he just can’t contain all the happiness he is feeling!
Much like any other relationship, if you pay attention to what your guinea pig is telling you, it will improve both of your lives. Had I paid more attention to dear Dudley back in the day, maybe, just maybe, I would’ve heard the elusive chirping of the guinea pig. Now that would’ve been something.
By Allison Vorstenbosch