Guinea Pigs—Chatty Cavies

Created Creature

by Valerie Principe on June 23, 2024
Audio Version

Cats meow, dogs bark, and guinea pigs love to chat! The cavy (KA-vee) kind, which guinea pigs belong to, were created on day six of creation week, the same day as the chubby, pink animals they’re named for. But guinea pigs aren’t related to pigs. They’re actually a kind of rodent.

They earned the name “pig” from the piglike squeals and sounds they make to communicate. Learning to understand guinea pig language is a lot different from learning human languages like Spanish or French, but it can be a lot more fun. After all, when was the last time you saw your Spanish teacher jump up in the air like a kernel of popcorn?

Guinea pig

Squeak for Yourself

Not all squeaks are created equal. Guinea pigs use different sounds to communicate different things.

Short clucks once or twice in a row usually mean “I’m exploring!” Guinea pigs might make this noise to let other piggies know where they are and to show that they are content.

Tutt tutt noises several times in a row mean the guinea pig is uncomfortable or frightened. This sound is like a warning that danger is near.

Wheeks (sometimes called whistles) are loud squeals that mean, “I’m excited to eat or play!”

High-pitched wheeks mean, “I’m in pain or danger!”

Purring (yep, cats aren’t the only animals who purr) usually means, “I feel safe.” But purrs don’t always mean the same thing. If a guinea pig is letting out a high-pitched purr and its body is very stiff, it might feel stressed.

Rumbling is like a more intense version of purring. Guinea pigs rumble when they want to show another guinea pig they’re the boss. If a male guinea pig rumbles at another male, it usually means, “Back off.” But if a male rumbles at a female, it might mean something more like, “Look how cool I am!” Sometimes male guinea pigs even add a little fancy footwork to impress the ladies. This combination is called rumble strutting.

Teeth chattering usually means a guinea pig is responding to a threat. If two guinea pigs are each trying to show they’re the boss, one might respond to the other’s rumbles by chattering its teeth, basically saying, “Bring it on!”

Guinea pigs will sometimes make a chirp that sounds like a bird’s song. This sound means the guinea pig is mildly uncomfortable. For example, baby guinea pigs sometimes chirp when they’re hungry.

Fun Facts

  • The Cavy family also includes giant capybaras and a funny-looking creature called the Patagonian mara.
  • Guinea pigs aren’t from the country Guinea. They’re from South American countries including Guyana.
  • Unlike most mammals, guinea pigs are born with their teeth already grown in.
  • Guinea pigs eat their own poo! Some guinea pig poo contains vitamins that keep their digestive system healthy. Aren’t you glad you don’t get your vitamins that way?
  • Guinea pigs have four toes on their front feet but only three toes on their back feet.
  • Guinea pig teeth never stop growing. This means guinea pigs have to constantly nibble on things to grind down their teeth.

Get Poppin’

Some guinea pig breeds in South America can grow to around a foot and a half long!

When guinea pigs are really excited, they don’t just use their voices to communicate. They get their whole bodies involved in a move called popcorning.

When corn kernels get hot enough, they start popping all over the place without warning. One minute they’re just sitting in a pan, and the next they’re popping through the air!

When a guinea pig “popcorns,” it pops up from the ground—sometimes in the middle of running—and then twists in the air to face another direction. If you ever see a guinea pig do this fancy move, you can be sure it’s having the time of its life.

Scents You’re Here

Sometimes guinea pigs want to leave a message behind for their buddies. Since they can’t write or use technology to record their squeaks, they communicate in a different way.

Guinea pigs almost never close their eyes—even to sleep!

When a guinea pig finds a cool spot to hang out and wants to send a message that the spot is taken, it will leave a sort of smell-o-gram. It does this by scooting its bottom across the ground. A special gland on the guinea pig’s rear end leaves behind a scented oil that will make sure other guinea pigs get the message.

Safe and Sound

The many ways God gave guinea pigs to communicate not only helps them warn each other of danger but also helps their human owners know how to care for them well.

It’s fun for us to learn how guinea pigs communicate, but for these furry little creatures, communication is key to survival. In the wild, bigger animals hunt guinea pigs for food. This isn’t how God originally made things to be, but after Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden, death became a part of everyday life for God’s creation.

One day, when God makes all things new, creatures won’t hunt each other anymore (Isaiah 11:6). But until then, guinea pigs will use their God-given communication skills to warn each other of threats and help keep each other safe.

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