Guinea Pig Behavior: How Does It Work?
Everyone who has guinea pigs spends hours looking at the cage or run. The bugs squeak, chatter their teeth and run after each other. When a female is fertile, the male will growl after her and try to jump on her. When guinea pigs are happy they will jump, or popcorn. A guinea pig will also sometimes bite materials or nibble on your fingers. But why do guinea pigs actually do this?
Guinea pigs in the wild
In the wild, guinea pigs live in small groups. Each group consists of 1 bear and a few sows. Each group has a territory of approximately 10,000m2. When a strange bear invades the territory of another bear, it will immediately be chased away from the area as soon as they realize it. A strange sow can be included in the herd. The ranking must then be re-established. Often this happens without the use of blood, it is mainly impressive behavior (grumbling and walking on high legs) to impress the other guinea pigs as much as possible. Sometimes the sows bite at each other a few times, but in 99% of the cases this is in the coat and not in the skin. In the wild, guinea pigs often walk several hundred meters or even more than 1 kilometer per day. This is why it is important that your guinea pigs get out of the cage regularly and can run loose in a run, otherwise they will get bored quickly.
If a sow is in heat and she is ready to mate, a bear will find her even more attractive. He will then squirt urine and slide his butt all over the floor. The urine contains a special substance that makes the sow feel more like it. She will lie flat with her stomach on the ground ready for the bear. So it can be seen very clearly in guinea pigs when a sow is in heat. Sometimes even females will run after each other at such a moment.
There are several reasons why a guinea pig might bite:
Bite out of sensitivity
Some guinea pigs have very sensitive skin. When you stroke or brush those guinea pigs roughly, they may nibble on your hands or arm. Some guinea pigs also do this when you cut their nails, for example. They don’t usually bite through happily!
Bite out of desire
This group is also called the lattice gnabbellars. They will stay on the ground on their hind legs and lean their front legs against the bars. They pull and nibble on it. This is done to get attention from the guinea pigs in the cages next door, but also to get attention from their owners.
Bite through pain
A guinea pig cannot tell us where it is in pain. If you pet a guinea pig and it suddenly bites you hard when you pet a certain place, this can mean that he is in pain in that place. This is also common when your guinea pig is about to die. If you then take them on the arm, they will often nibble on your arm and try to run away. They often do not get anything from this themselves, they are in such terrible pain that they no longer know how to deal with it.
Bite to investigate
A guinea pig will use its teeth the same way we use our fingers. If they see or smell something new, they will nibble or bite it to check what it is exactly. At the moment he will never really bite hard, it is more like a taste. Young guinea pigs in particular will often do this. These animals can also see your fingers as carrots, but if you shout a lot of ouch once or pull your finger back quickly every time it happens, they will soon realize that this is not the intention.
- Loud squeaking sound, a kind of whistling: Hey I’m hungry, give me food or attention
- Chattering teeth: I am angry, watch out I am going to attack
- Scream: Auwww I’m in pain
- Soft grunting noises: I like it here
Jumping / Popcorn
Sometimes when you put your guinea pigs in a large run, they suddenly jump very weird. This is nothing to worry about. This means that the guinea pig is very happy. Very young guinea pigs in particular do this a lot.
In 99% of cases, this is not a sign that the guinea pig is ill! The droppings often even contain substances that are good for the guinea pig, especially the morning droppings.
Turning around another guinea pig
This is a sign that one guinea pig wants to mate with another guinea pig if they ‘prrrrrrt’ at the same time. When you hear a lot of chattering teeth and they twirl around each other, you have to be careful. They may then be ready for an attack.