Most people don’t expect guinea pigs to make much noise. Anyone who’s owned a guinea pig for more than a day or two will be quick to inform you that you are entirely wrong.
Guinea pigs are incredibly vocal creatures, with a huge range of different sounds made to express their needs and emotions. One such sound is the all too well-known wheek-wheek-wheek.
Guinea pigs wheek for several reasons, although the most common are anticipation of food, when they are happy, or trying to get their owner’s attention. Wheeking forms part of a guinea pig’s varied vocabulary and is a sound directed specifically to humans to express themselves.
This article explores the reasons behind a guinea pig’s wheek, what exactly it sounds like, and how to differentiate it from the myriad of other sounds your piggie pet may make on any given day.
What is Guinea Pig Wheeking?
Wheeking is a loud, almost squeaking sound made by a guinea pig and directed at humans.
It is one of 10 other sounds like chirping, purring, and rumbling used for communication by guinea pigs daily.
In most cases, wheeking is a happy sound and isn’t a cause for alarm or worry.
The easiest way to describe the sound of a guinea pig wheek is a throaty squeak similar to the sound a week-old puppy might make when it can’t find its mom. Here is a video of a guinea pig wheeking:
Guinea pigs have an intricate language made of a variety of sounds that carry different meanings. Understanding each of these sounds can help you better care for your guinea pig and become more tuned into your pet’s needs.
6 Reasons Why Guinea Pigs Wheek
1. To Get Attention
If you haven’t given your guinea pig any attention or treats for a while, there’s a good chance it is wheeking to get just that.
Similar to a baby, guinea pigs get loud when they want to remind you they’re around and require your care.
Wheeking could also be a sign that your guinea pig is bored and craves human interaction, or it could just be a sound they make to let you know they love you.
In most cases, popping by their cage and giving them a pat or a snack will silence them quite quickly if they were simply trying to get some TLC in the first place.
2. When They’re Excited or Happy
If you’ve ever heard the sounds kids make when they’re excited, you might easily compare their vocalizations to those of a guinea pig experiencing the same emotion.
If you usually play with your guinea pig at a particular time of day or let them out for exercise, you may find your guinea pig begins to wheek as the allotted time nears.
Guinea pigs are full of personality, and their wheeking, although at times unexpected, is just a way of letting you know they are excited for whatever it is they expect will happen next.
3. When Guinea Pigs are Afraid
In very rare cases, wheeking may be a sign that your guinea pig is scared.
Since your pet associates wheeking with you giving it food or attention, it may believe that wheeking calls you to it. If your piggie is scared of something, like a bird outside a window or a loud noise, it may wheek to get you to come and comfort it.
Guinea pigs are heavily reliant on human care and interaction, so it’s easy to understand why they may want their owner around if they’re feeling frightened or unsure about something.
4. When Guinea Pigs are About to be Fed
Similarly to their wheeking to show excitement, guinea pigs may begin to wheek if they believe you are about to feed them.
Contrary to popular belief, guinea pigs are relatively intelligent animals. They are at least smart enough to associate you opening the fridge, or the door of a specific cupboard, with them getting fresh food. Some can even identify the sound of a food packet opening!
If they see or hear you doing anything they connect to them being fed, they may start wheeking in anticipation.
5. To Greet or Beg From You
Believe it or not, some guinea pigs wheek to greet their owners. [Source]
If your guinea pig hasn’t seen you in a while, they may wheek as their way of saying, “Hi! Nice to see you again.”
Another reason they wheek when they see their owners could be to beg for a treat or snack.
Just like dogs whine and give you puppy eyes when they want a treat, guinea pigs know the way to their owner’s heart is through their excessive cuteness.
They wheek to wrap you even more around their tiny fingers with their adorable squeaking.
6. Just Because
Alright, this one may be a bit vague, but sometimes guinea pigs will wheek just because they want to. Guinea pigs are vocal animals and apparently very much like the sound of their own voice.
If your guinea pig has been fed, played with, and showered with attention, and it still wheeks, it’s probably doing it just because it can.
Do All Guinea Pigs Wheek?
Wheeking is a sound made by guinea pigs directed explicitly at humans. It shouldn’t be too surprising, then, to find out that wild guinea pigs don’t wheek at all. [Source]
It’s a behavioral trait exclusive to piggies kept in captivity.
Guinea pigs most likely developed wheeking as their way of bossing their owners around.
Perhaps they assume wheeking is something we understand better than their other sounds, or maybe they found a way to make sure we give them what they want by wheeking so often and so loudly we supply them with food and attention out of annoyance.
The frequency with which your guinea pig wheeks depends entirely on its personality. If it uses wheeking for all five reasons listed above, you might hear the sound far more often than if your pet only wheeks for food.
What Other Sounds Do Guinea Pigs Make?
In order to identify wheeking, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the other sounds your pet may make to distinguish one from the other.
There are a total of 10 common guinea pig vocalizations, and knowing what they are and what they mean may help you better care for your tiny, furry friend.
- Chutting – Sounding precisely like its name, a chutting guinea pig is a happy one. Chutting is the guinea pig equivalent of talking to yourself and is generally not directed at any living thing.
- Whining – If your guinea pig whines, it usually means it is in pain or upset about something. If your pet whines constantly, it may be a good idea to check on it and make sure it isn’t sick or injured.
- Rumbling – Rumnling sounds like a lower, deeper version of a cat’s purr. Rumbling is common in dominant males when asserting their position amongst other guinea pigs or looking for a mate.
- Purring – High-pitched purring usually means your guinea pig is annoyed by something. A low-pitched purr means it is happy and relaxed.
- Chattering – Chattering may sound like your guinea pig is grinding its teeth. This is usually a sign of extreme annoyance and frustration because it is being disturbed when it wants to sleep or because someone is interrupting its mealtime.
- Chirping – As the rarest sound of all, chirping may occur at very random times during your guinea pig’s life. Some guinea pigs go their whole life without chirping once and, because of this, the reason for them making the sound is unknown.
- Shrieking – Just as in humans, a shrieking guinea pig means something is very wrong. This may be because it is terrified or because it has injured itself somehow. You should never ignore shrieking guinea pigs.
- Hissing – This is usually a sign that your guinea pig is extremely angry and is about to get aggressive or fight. Usually, hissing is directed at competing guinea pigs of the same sex.
- Cooing – A calm, sweet sound guinea pigs often direct at other creatures they love. This might be to their owners or their babies.
If you ever thought a guinea pig would be an innocuous, quiet pet, I am sure you are now having second thoughts. Many guinea pig owners cherish their pet’s ability to communicate with them and their fellow piggies.
It’s a unique trait not many other domesticated rodents exhibit and forms part of all guinea pigs’ opinionated and slightly feisty personalities.