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Error-Free Guinea Pig Raising

by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS/P

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What is that noise?!?!

Let's go over a few of the sounds you will hear over the life of your Pet. Most Pet Parents find the sounds of their guinea pigs endearing and over time, as you and your new Pet become acquainted, you will also find the sounds to be a joyful addition to your life.

  • Purring You will notice two distinct types of purrs come from your little guinea pig. The first purr is a higher pitched purr which is accompanied by a stiff body. This purr indicates your guinea pig is frightened or scared. A lower pitched purred accompanied by a fully relaxed body typically indicates a comfortable happy Pet.
  • High-Pitched Squealing Your guinea pig knows exactly what he or she wants as well as when he or she wants it. Make no mistake, a high pitched squeal typically is telling you that your Pet wants you to know something. Whether it is a simple "Hi!" or a "Give me a snack!" your guinea pig is telling you something. Over time, you will learn exactly what each little squeal means.
  • Shrieks Just like an alarm, shrieks indicate something is wrong. Your Pet may be frightened, scared, alarmed, or in pain. Anytime you hear obvious shrieks, it would be a good idea to take a quick peek to make sure everything is alright.
  • Teeth chattering The guinea pig with chattering teeth is typically an unhappy guinea pig. This is a warning. Your best bet is to take a step back and stop what you are doing.
  • Whining Your guinea pig is telling you he or she is annoyed by something you or another guinea pig is doing.
  • Rumbling A low pitched noise you may hear during mating season. It will be lower than a purr and sometimes a dance will accompany the rumble.
Take time to listen and interpret each sound your guinea pig makes. You will quickly begin to notice patterns which will help you understand what your guinea pig is telling you!

What to do
  • Do NOT try to stop squealing by giving a toy, food, treat, or your attention. Get the guinea pig to be quiet FIRST and then reward the quiet behavior.
  • Do NOT touch the guinea pig during excessive vocalization.
  • Do NOT let the guinea pig out of the pen in direct response to vocalization.
  • DO provide distractions before the squealing begins. 
  • DO make sure your Pet is quiet - for 2 to 5 seconds before getting any rewards. 
  • As time goes on, expect more seconds, then minutes of quiet before giving a reward. DO praise quiet.
  • Watch for accidental rewards - wins - the guinea pig gets for excessive squealing. Make it MORE rewarding NOT to vocalize excessively.
Why do they make noise to get our attention?

Guinea pigs are cute and adorable but they can be incessant when it comes to their vocalizations. One of the most misguided uses of their squeal is to beg for food. Do not encourage this behavior by offering them food while they are squealing. You will inadvertently teach them to use those vocalizations to get what they want.

When we accidentally reward unwanted behaviors such as excessive vocalization by providing food, attention, or play in an attempt to stop the racket, these rewards may increase future outbursts. Just like the jackpots in Las Vegas, intermittent rewards create persistent behaviors.  

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