Guinea pigs have individual characters and make fantastic pets. Although they cannot speak the same language as us, they have many other ways of communicating.
These naturally social creatures use a variety of unique sounds and body language positions to convey their moods, needs and wants, and can say a lot!
If you own a guinea pig, you may have noticed they have quite the vocabulary that includes squealing, purring, and hissing.
But why do guinea pigs chirp?
There is no consensus of opinion amongst research about why guinea pigs chirp. It could be down to fear, stress, loneliness, or that they want food or water. It is probably a sign of nervousness, or can also happen after the loss of a loved one, or following a stressful incident.
Chirping is one of the strangest sounds you will hear a guinea pig make and often a sign they are more nervous than usual.
In this article, we discuss various reasons as to why your guinea pig is chirping and what action you need to take.
What Does It Sound Like When A Guinea Pig Chirps?
A guinea pig will rarely chirp, but when they do, it has to be said that it can either be quite pleasant to listen to or somewhat annoying!
The chirping can be uninterrupted and go on for several minutes.
When you first hear the noise, you may think that a bird has gotten into your home as guinea pig chirping is very similar to that made by a bird.
While chirping, a cavy can sometimes go into a strange trance-like state, which looks disturbing, or they may move their body slightly with the motion as they make the noise.
When Do Guinea Pigs Chirp?
Your guinea pig can start chirping at any time, but it is more common at night when it is quiet and things have settled down.
The chirping sound can go on for ten minutes or more but often stops when you enter the room.
You can guarantee once you close the door and leave, the chirping resumes immediately!
Why Do Guinea Pigs Chirp?
Why guinea pigs chirp is the subject of much discussion with no firm conclusion.
It could be down to fear, stress, loneliness, or that they want food or water.
If your pet cavy is chirping, you need to look at their body language and consider other factors to understand better.
It takes a fair amount of effort for guinea pigs to make these chirping sounds as they move their lips back and forth while moving their body, so there is an apparent reason for this strange behavior.
It is important to remember that cavies are social creatures and don’t make sounds arbitrarily but to communicate with other pigs or their owners. (Source)
Once we understand that they are attempting to communicate with us, we can look at the motivation behind their actions.
Next, we will look at some possible theories as to why guinea pigs chirp.
Loss Of A Loved One
One of the primary reasons for guinea pig chirping is the loss of a loved one.
Being herd animals, guinea pigs love the company of other piggies, so it is natural for them to grieve when they lose a companion.
Your cavy will express its sad emotions by chirping and go into a trance-like state.
As this behavior often occurs when another guinea pig dies, there appears to be much evidence to back up this theory.
Chirping is more likely when guinea pigs have been kept as a pair rather than in a small group.
A Warning Sign
If your guinea pig chirps but doesn’t go into a trance-like state or hasn’t lost a companion, then the reason could be a potential danger to their existence.
It could be their way of alerting others that a predator is looming.
Guinea pigs often make these warning sign chirps in large open environments when seeing something like a cat coming close.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Sometimes owners may notice their guinea pig chirping after being through a stressful or frightening situation, such as being chased by a cat.
This theory suggests that the chirping sounds result from a post-traumatic stress disorder and is how the guinea pig copes with the situation.
One of the most plausible theories of guinea pig chirping is from pets that tend to be naturally more nervous than others.
A nervous or scared cavy is likely to freeze to prevent detection from a predator, showing a trance-like appearance.
They will also be more anxious after encountering a stressful situation or will feel vulnerable after the death of a companion.
Whatever the reason for their nervousness, your pet may feel comforted in your presence but will probably revert back to chirping when you walk away.
Just as a baby cries for attention, guinea pigs may chirp for the same reason.
Your pet may need something like food or water or might simply want to play!
Why Do Guinea Pigs Chirp Mainly At Night?
Although it is rare for guinea pigs to chirp, it tends to be during the night when they do so.
Once again, there are no actual reasons to justify these actions at night-time, but it may be because they see shadows or hear unfamiliar noises, or are feeling the loss of a companion.
Being kept awake at night by constant chirping can be exhausting for the owner, so you need to find the cause.
Do Guinea Pigs Chirp Because They Are Happy?
If your guinea pig is excited and full of beans when chirping, it is usually a sign they are happy.
However, cavies tend to make whistling sounds when they are happy rather than chirping.
Based on the other theories, chirping is more likely to occur when a guinea pig is feeling nervous, scared, or lonely rather than when they are happy.
What To Do If Your Guinea Pig Chirps
If your guinea pig is chirping, you need to consider why they are making this particular sound.
As we have learned, chirping is mainly associated with fear, nervousness, or grief.
It is wholly understandable for a guinea pig to be heartbroken over losing a companion just as we would be if someone close to us died. It would help if you gave them time to grieve, paying them more attention to help ease the pain.
Eventually, you may want to introduce them to another companion, preferably within two weeks after the death, as keeping a guinea pig in isolation is not good.
If your cavy is constantly chirping in the night because they are scared, you will want to calm them down. You may have difficulty trying to find out the cause, though. Some owners leave a night light on for their cavies which can help ease their anxieties of a possible predator.
Also, check that your pet has enough supplies in terms of food and water as they may be making these sounds to get your attention if they are hungry or thirsty.
If you have any doubts, take your cavy to a guinea pig-savvy vet as there could be a medical reason for the chirping.
What Other Sounds Do Guinea Pigs Make?
Scientists have identified between seven and eleven distinct guinea pig sounds, each having a different meaning when communicating. (Source)
Here we help you recognize some of these vocalizations and their meanings:
Purring can either mean your cavy is happy or angry, so you will need to look at the situation in front of you to assess the meaning.
A low purring sound indicates your pet is contented, whereas a high-pitched purr with an increasing pitch towards the end means they are annoyed.
Your guinea pig may vibrate as well.
A short-sounding purr may indicate fear, especially if your pet is motionless.
If you notice your guinea pig’s teeth chattering, it isn’t because they are cold but because they are angry or annoyed.
It is a warning to other cavies and people to stay away and can also sound like a hissing sound.
Teeth chattering can sometimes occur when you introduce your guinea pig to another, warning each other not to interfere in one another’s personal space.
A fighting cavy will often make this noise along with the bearing of its teeth.
Wheeking sounds like a long, high-pitched squeal or whistle and is generally associated with excitement.
Guinea pigs often make a wheeking sound when they are hungry, so don’t be surprised if you hear this noise when you feed them.
Scientists have concluded that this noise is exclusively for humans as they do not make wheeking sounds in the wild.
Shrieking is a high-pitched noise that indicates your cavy is frightened or extremely upset, so never ignore it.
Check your guinea pig as they may have a physical injury as well as their surroundings if something has scared them.
Cooing is a soft murmur that a piggy will make to their young or owner as a sign of their love.
In adult cavies, males and females coo to each other to show affection towards one another.
The History Of Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus) are fascinating animals to talk about and have an amazing past.
But despite their name, they are not from Guinea, and they are not pigs! How they got the name is still something of a mystery.
These stout, little tailless rodents originated from the Andes in South America, living in herds on grassy plains and rocky areas.
The Incas domesticated them as far back as 5000 B.C, both as pets and for food. In fact, you can still find guinea pigs on the menu in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Columbia, where they are considered a delicacy.
The Guinea pig trade outside of the Americas began in the 15th century. Traders sold them in Europe to the upper classes and royalty as exotic pets, including Queen Elizabeth the First.
The guinea pigs’ natural defenses against disease are similar to those of humans, which has led them to be used for medical research in laboratories over the last two centuries.
About Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs measure 8 to 10 inches long and weigh between 1.5 and 2.5 pounds.
They have small petal-shaped ears with their eyes set on either side of their heads. Their small, triangular mouths comprise 20 teeth, which grow continuously.
There are 13 different guinea pig breeds that come in various colors, patterns, and coat types.
These pocket pets are herbivores, eating a diet of hay and processed pellets along with some vegetables and fruits. Like humans, they do not make their own vitamin C, so they need to get it from their food.
Cavies are incredibly sociable and, as herd animals, should be kept in pairs or small groups. But although they like to be with their own kind, they also thrive on human attention.
The average cavy can live up to 8 years old, providing they receive the proper care and attention.
Guinea pigs tend to chirp when they are more nervous than usual and may need some reassurance and bonding time with their owner to help keep them calm.
Chirping is particularly common in cavies after a companion has passed away, and often they display a trance-like appearance as well.
Your guinea pig may be frightened by other pets in the house, such as a dog or cat, so keep these animals at a safe distance.
If you cannot find the source of your guinea pig’s chirping, you may need to check with your vet as it could indicate an illness or another type of condition.