AJ Cavies

Please use scroll arrows above to select further topics

Copyright © 2017

Photo crop

Behaviour & Communication

Do Male Guinea Pigs make better pets? Are Females more Friendly?

I am often asked is it better to have Males or females, are females more friendly here is my own personal advice to all new future Guinea pig owners.

From my many years of experience with Cavies both Male & Female make excellent loving pets, If you are requiring two Guinea pigs to live together then two Male or female from the same litter is ideal and often recommended alternatively two babies from separate litters can often work just as well as long as they are the same age and introduced to their new living accommodation together.

Please note the above is intended for same sex Guinea pigs often when either Males are introduced or even females to your collection despite them being in separate cages the Males will get the female scent and will start to demonstrate Alpha male behaviour and this can result in fighting with each other at which point you will need to separate the males into their own cages.

If you only intend to keep two Guineas of the same sex you should have no problems at all. For further advice if required do contact me.

GUINEA PIG COMMUNICATION & BEHAVIOUR

You will notice your guinea pig(s) behaving in lots of different ways and making lots of different noises - this is because guinea pigs are highly social and use 'body' language and 'vocal' language to communicate with each other. It is lovely to have a group of guinea pigs and just watch how they interact with each other as they go about their daily lives. If you can't work out what your piggy is saying just by the noise you should be able to work it out by watching their behaviour as well.

I have listed below some of the main types of communication that I have observed in my guinea pigs throughout the years, I'm sure there are more. I'll list the 'body' language followed by the typical accompanying 'sounds' made. Please be aware that this is simply my interpretation.

GENERAL 'PIG TO PIG' BEHAVIOUR

In the wild guinea pigs, who are prey animals, live in grasslands and make extensive tunnels through the grass so that they can move from place to place in safety without being seen by predators. This is why they love having tunnels to play and hide in.

Guinea pigs are pack/herd animals, which means that in the wild they live in large very social, hierarchical groups (led by a dominant male) with a very well developed means of communicating with each other. They often huddle together for warmth and safety, look out for each other and interact with each other all the time. At floor time you sometimes see them all running around together in a long line, affectionately called a 'piggy-train'. This is why it is a good reason to have more than one cavy so they can interact and do more of the natural things that Guinea’s do. Listed here are some of the main ways your pigs will communicate/interact with each other:

Sniffing the air: You might see your pig do this if there is another pig around or if they wondering if anyone is about. They will sniff the air to see who it is and see if they know them. Sometimes they do this just after you have let them out for 'floor' time, just so they know 'what's what before launching off to let off steam

Sounds: Sometimes you will hear reasonably quiet short wheeks exchanged between your pigs, sort of 'who's that have they got food, how are you doing?' not quite a full WHEEEEEK but more of a gentle 'wheek, eek, squeak' repeated, until they either get back to what they were doing or progress on to the full WHEEEEK once they have sensed they might get something to eat!

Sniffing Noses / Ears / Bottoms / Under Chins etc.

Again, pigs do this to see if they know each other etc. - they will do a lot of this when you introduce a new pig into your herd. Sometimes the 'new' pig being sniffed will just stand still with her 2 front paws straight whilst he/she is given the 'once over'. They have scent glands in these places which is why they sniff there!

Scent marking territory: Common signs of your pig scent marking are:

• Rubbing their cheeks / under chins against something.

• Dragging their bottoms along the floor

• Rubbing their grease gland (this is found at the rear of the pig) onto something

You often see them rubbing their bottoms on the floor of a pen that has just been cleaned out so they are establishing their territory again as the other scents have been removed. Sometimes when they are out on 'floor time' you will see them rubbing their cheeks on things like chair or table legs!

Standing Still / freezing If your pig hears something or smells something it doesn't know they may be scared and freeze so they can't be seen!

Not liking another pig / Aggression! If your pig comes across another pig it doesn't like you will soon know about it. Common signs are:

• Fluffing out their hair (so it almost stands on end - this is to make them look bigger and more frightening)

• They might yawn / open their mouths wide (this is to show off their teeth)

• They will often raise their heads in their air at the other pig so they are both facing each other with their heads up.

• They may raise themselves up on their back legs so they are ready to fight

• They may pace their back legs from side to side (their legs will look stiff)

You will probably mostly see this when introducing new pigs or with a pair of male pigs - they give each other lots of warnings to try and avoid having a 'real' fight. Mostly they will settle down after lots of this behaviour but if they have got to the heads raised / teeth chattering stage keep a very close eye on them as they are likely to fly at each other and can do a lot of damage - keep a towel and a water spray handy.

• Sounds: This behaviour will be accompanied by a loud unmistakable teeth clacking / chattering

Happy Pig: Running and jumping, flipping around! - affectionately known as 'popcorning' - sometimes mistaken for a pig having 'a fit' by people who have never seen this before.

• Sounds: When they are out on floor time and enjoying themselves they make little 'bouncy chortling' noises as they happily explore the ground.

Content with life Stretched out in the bedding in their pen happy, secure and content with the world or just generally wandering around their pen, stopping for a sniff or a nibble of something tasty, sitting down happily munching on hay.

• Sounds: Sometimes you will just hear general soft wheeks and chortles coming from your pigs as they happily go about their business in the pen.

Stiff legged strutting / pacing This could be one of 2 things:

• Showing or establishing dominance - Done 'at' another pig - mostly males to males (see also not liking another pig …above).

• Sounds: Often accompanied by teeth chattering or a loud vibrating 'GRRRRRR'.

• Doing the 'mating' dance if they are doing this and kind of 'squirming' around another pig. Sometimes called the 'rumblestrutt' or 'motorboating' Female pigs also do this to each other when they come into season and also try and mount each other to establish dominance. Sometimes if you stroke along the back of a female pig who is in season and doing this she will flatten / arch down on the floor of the pen, this indicates that she is 'ready' for a little romance…… However if a pig is doing this to another pig who is just not interested he may find himself getting a swift squirt in the face from the harassed one.

• Sounds: May be accompanied by a low vibrating 'grrrr/prrrr' (hence the motorboating term)

Mounting: This could be one of 2 things:

• Establishing dominance in a herd - can be done between females. Females who are in season also sometimes do this [see above].

• Mating - done by a male to a female.

Head down between Legs: If you see your pig up on her back legs with her head down between them she will be eating her poops, this is normal and called 'coprophagy'

Sad and withdrawn. Sometimes you will see a pig looking fluffed-up, sad and dejected and more often than not huddled in a corner of the pen with her bottom facing outwards. This is a typical sign that something is very wrong. Examine your pet and take to the vet sooner rather than later!

Stroppy Squeak Sometimes when one pig is eating something the other wants or is sleeping where another wants to, you get to see a bit of pushing and shoving going on, often accompanied by a rather stroppy sounding high squeak as the comfy pig is ousted!

High pitched squeak: Different from the 'wheeeeeek' for food. Sometimes if a pig hurts itself (or is hurt by another pig) or is afraid it will give a high pitched squeak, you can sense the distress in it when you hear it. Sometimes made by young pigs missing their mum.

Chirping: Sounds just like a bird chirping - no-one is 100% sure what this means as far as I am aware! Not very often heard - but a definite 'cheep cheep' A couple of my pigs have chirped that I can remember - Dixie - when she was quite new to me, she was out on floor time (quite a new experience) and I heard her chirp - I looked for her and she was sitting bolt upright in her run and chirping away - perhaps she couldn't find her way back to her hutch and was afraid.

'LAP TIME' / 'PIG TO HUMAN' BEHAVIOUR!

Listed here are some of the main ways your pig(s) will communicate with you, and trust me they will soon have you trained.

Excited about food coming / FEED ME

Your pigs will assemble at the front of the pen all running between each other looking very excited, jostling for a good place at the front! Typically happens when breakfast is due. Woe betide your conscience if you haven't got anything tasty in.

Sounds: High pitched WHEEEEEEEK!!! Unmistakable - the trademark pig noise! After a short while they will do this when you rustle plastic carrier bags, or you rattle their treat box.

I am greeted by this sound when I first get up in the morning, as they hear me about and I open the patio door - suddenly I move or say something and they realise I am there and think 'WHEEEEEEEK someone's here, some food might be on the cards.

Unhappy lap time

You might feel your pig stiffen in your lap and her hair might also 'tense up' when you stroke him/her, this could be because he/she doesn't like what you are doing or that he/she is quite new to you and not quite feeling secure and confident with you yet and might wonder what on earth you are doing so will be scared and unsure.

Sounds Your pig will make a fairly loud 'brrrrrr' noise - if you are holding your pig at the time you will feel her vibrate (not to be confused with the softer happy purr of a happy pig). You will often hear this if they have heard something they don't like.

Fidgeting & Nipping at Lap time

If your pig has been happily settled in your lap then suddenly starts fidgeting and/or tugging at your clothing or even give you a gentle nip it generally means they want to have a wee so put them back in their pen. However, sometimes they will nip because they are afraid, or you are not holding them comfortably - re-adjust their position or put them back for a while then gently take them out and try again.

Sometimes your pig will still be fairly relaxed but you will notice her lift her back end up slightly - you will normally find she has left you a little poop, bless.

Happy Lap time

Melting into your lap at lap time to enjoy a multitude of cuddles and strokes. Sometimes they crawl up and nestle under your chin; they all find their own little comfy place.

Sounds: My pigs do different noises when they are happy at lap time:

• make a lovely soft 'cooo cooo' sound - over and over, it is lovely.

• make a happy-toned chortley noise - greatly increased by rubbing their sides in a circular motion with both hands!

• make a sound like lots of little very soft and gentle cat purrs.

Throwing the head in the air: Sometimes if you stroke your pig’s head they may firmly toss their head up in the air, this usually means they don't like it and you'd be well advised to stop doing it!

Nudging you with her nose: Sometimes if you have been busily stroking your piggy and then you stop they will not be amused and will 'nudge' you with their nose to 'please carry on ' Stopping their purring to nudge you and then resuming their purring once you are tending to them again!

Piggy Licking You: Sometimes when you have your pig out for a cuddle they will lick you. It is very sweet, I'm not sure if anyone is certain why they do this - the 2 main theories are.

• They are licking you to get salt.

• They love you and are kissing you. I like to think it is because they love me, Sometimes they will be fast asleep on my lap, and wake up every now and again, stretch their little back legs out, give a little purr and then give my hand a gentle lick then settle back down to sleep.

Running Away / Resistant to being picked up:

• As guinea pigs are prey animals it is natural for them to run away from you or wriggle like crazy when you attempt to pick them up - they probably think we are big beasties out to harm them Over time, with gentle but confident handling / talking and reassurance your pig(s) learn we are not to be feared and will generally become easy to catch, pick up and handle.

• I have noticed before that if a Guinea pig that normally is a good 'picker-upper' runs away from me when I want to get them out it is usually because he/she wants to have a wee, if I leave them and watch for a minute, they will generally go and have a wee and will then let you pick them up as normal. But if I persist in picking him/her up anyway, they won't settle on my lap until I put him/her back and let them relieve themselves.