What Does It Mean When Guinea Pigs Purr?

What does it mean when guinea pigs purr

We’ve all heard our guinea pigs squeak when we rustle plastic bags, open the fridge, or even walk into the room. It’s pretty easy to see that this sound means they want something–usually food. But what does it mean when guinea pigs purr?

Guinea pigs purr when they’re excited, afraid, happy, or displaying dominance over another pig. Purring when pet can indicate either discomfort or contentment, depending on your guinea pig’s other body language.

In this article, we’ll talk about the various types of purring in guinea pigs and what each one means. We’ll also discuss other body language so you can differentiate between happy and unhappy purrs.

Why Do Guinea Pigs Purr?

Guinea pigs purr for a plethora of reasons: happiness, excitement, fear, discomfort, and dominance. Let’s dig into some different situations so that you can see which best fits your piggy’s behavior.

Short Purrs While Being Pet

If your guinea pig purrs when you pet them, it could mean one of two things.

Short purrs typically indicate discomfort at being pet. You might be petting an area they don’t want touched, such as their back or rear. Or, you might be petting them against the grain of their fur, which most piggies don’t like.

It’s also possible you’re petting them too roughly, or your piggy isn’t comfortable with pets at all.

Uncomfortable guinea pigs may stay still, not leaning into the pets or exposing themselves more fully to your reach. Their eyes might seem large and fearful, and they likely aren’t going to get cozy in your lap but instead will just stand there.

Long Purrs While Being Pet

Guinea pig purring while being pet

On the other hand, a piggy who’s giving long purrs is likely enjoying the pets. They may close their eyes, lean into your hand, or offer up sensitive areas (such as lifting their head for chin scratches).

They may melt into your lap or flop to their side in a show of comfort and trust.

Purring While Running Around the Cage

This commonly happens around mealtimes or when other exciting things are happening. Your piggy may run around, popcorn, squeak, or stand on two legs to try to reach the goodies!

This is clearly an excited behavior and means your piggies are looking forward to dinner, enjoying floor time, or maybe even very happy in their cage.

Long Purrs Toward Other Guinea Pigs

This is also known as rumble strutting and is a display of dominance. Piggies will shift their weight back and forth, their bodies shaking as they rumble. A rumble sounds like a purr, but is a bit deeper in pitch.

Rumble strutting is most common in males during bonding, but can continue even in piggies who’ve lived together for ages. Females also rumble strut.

It can also occur when a male piggy shows interest in a female or a female is in heat. Please remember to keep intact male and female guinea pigs housed separately with a solid barrier between their cages to prevent mating.

Short, Random Purr

Guinea pig hiding

A short purr out of the blue, after a loud noise, or when the dog approaches the cage indicates fear. Your guinea pig might freeze up or run to huddle beneath their hides.

You may see their cage mates respond in kind, hiding or freezing as they, too, try to figure out where the danger is.

This should be an infrequent noise for piggies. If it’s happening often, try taking away whatever’s scaring them. For instance, you might need to be more quiet around them or keep other pets out of the room where the piggies are housed.

Is My Guinea Pig Growling or Purring?

Growling is much lower in pitch than purring or even rumbling. You can also tell the difference from context.

Guinea pigs rarely growl, so if they do they’re likely very annoyed. They’ll likely show other signs of unhappiness such as baring their teeth, freezing in place, or wide, fearful eyes.

Growling can be paired with teeth grinding and is sometimes followed by a bite if your piggy’s boundaries aren’t respected. If your guinea pig growls at you, please stop what you’re doing and maybe even put them in their cage to decompress.

How Do I Know if My Guinea Pig is Happy?

It can take time to learn what guinea pig sounds and body language mean, especially if you’re new to them. Some ways guinea pigs show happiness are:

  • Popcorning – when a guinea pig leaps into the air out of joy
  • Zoomies – running around their cage or the floor
  • Positions that reveal their neck or tummy – these are a vulnerable positions and show that your piggy trusts you
  • Leaning into your hand – this means, “more pets, please!”
  • Closed eyes or sleeping during pets – your piggy is very relaxed and enjoying the attention
  • Willingly walking up to you – whether in the cage or during floor time, it’s a good sign if your piggy is opting into your interactions

Remember that your guinea pig isn’t necessarily happy just because they aren’t running away. They can freeze out of fear, or tolerate things because they think they have to.

For instance, a guinea pig forced to be held may not be happy with how they’re being pet. They might just know that they can’t get away or be too afraid to attempt it.

On the other hand, if you were to sit on the ground with your piggy and they run over to you or crawl into your lap themselves, you know this is what they want.

Or, they might relax into your hold and flop onto their side exposing their tummy–showing total relaxation and trust.

Guinea pig enjoys getting cheeks scratched

Other Guinea Pig Noises

Other guinea pig sounds include:

  • Squeaking: This means your piggies are excited, and likely that they want something. The most common time for guinea pigs to squeak is when they’re about to be fed!
  • Chirping: A high-pitched chirping sound, almost like a bird, indicates fear.
  • Screeching: A loud, high-pitched noise of distress. Your guinea pig may be very afraid or in pain. Either way, the problem should be addressed immediately.
  • Cooing: Mama piggies will coo softly at their babies. Guinea pigs may also coo at people or other piggies to show affection.
  • Teeth chattering: An angry sound that is often heard during bonding or when cage mates are having an argument. They don’t necessarily need to be separated, but do keep an eye on them–especially if they’re newly bonded.
  • Hissing: This is a rarer sound which means your guinea pig is very angry! Give them space.
  • Sneezing: Sneezing typically means your guinea pig should see a veterinarian. It can indicate an upper respiratory infection (URI), which can progress very quickly without treatment. If your guinea pig is sneezing continuously (rather than just a single sneeze) or shows other signs of URI, they should see a vet very quickly.

Guinea pigs can be tough to read when you’re used to keeping predator animals as pets, or when you haven’t had a pet before at all! I hope this article has helped you better understand your piggies’ sounds, body language, and what it means when they purr.

Remember that purring can indicate both happiness and discomfort, so the context and their body language make a big difference.

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