'Squeaking' the Same Language
The Value of Learning to Communicate with Guinea Pigs
Early October of 2016 I made a decision that has undoubtedly flipped my world into a new light. After taking countless trips to various local pet stores, and devoting an impressive amount of time to species and ownership research, I found myself nose to whiskers with a nervously curious baby Abyssinian guinea pig.
It was in that moment as I was holding the little guy snug against my shoulder that I knew I had found the right friend. I noticed right away his tiny trembles substantially decreased as I moved his body away from my shoulder, closer to my heart. Almost immediately, the store associate who was assisting me at the time noticed this change in his behavior, and commented, "You know, the most soothing sound to a guinea pig is the human heart beat. There isn't a whole lot of explanation for it, but in the least I think it says a lot about their love and compassion as pets."
This idea was something so special and unique that stuck with me every since. Remarkably, two years later, there isn't a day that goes by where Guinness (my guinea pig's name) doesn't actively prove that comfort response to be true, and ultimately embody every quality that a loving, compassionate furry friend should.
These first two years with my buddy have undoubtedly created a strong, long-lasting bond between us. That being said, I have made a very consistent effort throughout these early years to truly learn and understand Guinness' unique expressions and behaviors, so that we can, in fact, "squeak" the same language.
How My Guinness Lets Me Know He Loves Me
- "Guinea Kisses" – This is one of my personal favorites. There are some sources that claim guinea pigs will gently lick and/or brush their lips against their owners skin, simply because they like the taste. I disagree; Guinness routinely displays this behavior in situations that would initiate an affectionate response: before/after feeding, after he wakes up from a nap in which I pet him to sleep.
- Nuzzling – Without a moment to spare, when I take Guinness out of his cage, he immediately leaps from my hands, climbs up the left side of my shirt, where I then catch his butt from falling as he reaches just below my left collar bone (where my heart is), and then relaxes his muscles (into a state which I refer to as "pancake pig") and then makes a series of purrs and short, quiet squeaks.
- Shutting His Eyes – Guinea pigs tend to be nervous/cautious by nature, and Guinness is no exception. In fact, he tends to be overly cautious in nearly every external environment he is in, outside of his cage. Guinea pigs in the wild have the ability to sleep with their eyes open when they feel threatened, and shut when they are confidently at peace. That said, gaining Guinness' trust in this regard was a slow process initially. I was concerned at first because he had already been exhibiting those other affectionate behaviors, and I feared that I was misreading them all due to this missing piece. Although it took many patient attempts at creating a quiet, familiar environment in which he felt safe enough in my arms to shut his eyes during a nap, we were able to reach that milestone just before celebrating one year together and it has since become yet another one of his commonly displayed affectionate behaviors.
How My Guinea Pig Potty Trained Himself
- Understanding Cage = Bathroom – Much like any baby animal, Guinness had many accidents during the first couple months after I brought him home. Every time it would happen, I would immediately place him back in his cage, even if this were to interrupt a nap, pet, or out of cage play time. Eventually, I started to notice that before he would have an accident he would start abruptly moving in little circles, or from side to side, away from his usual formation below my left collar bone. I started acting upon this behavior and moving him to his cage immediately once it would occur. Sure enough, each time this would occur, he would proceed to take care of business appropriately in his cage.
- Nibbles – When Guinness was a baby, he went through a learning phase to determine what was safe to nibble on (clothing, towels, his cage etc.), and what was not okay to nibble on (my skin, particularly my neck at that time). Eventually he grew to differentiate that biting my skin was not tolerated (he absolutely hates being lifted in the air, so whenever he would nibble or bite skin, I would hold him high until he began to associate the act of nibbling on skin with the discomfort of being hoisted in the air). As a result, he started incorporating a nibble to my shirt collar if I hadn't responded to his circle and/or sideways motion asking to be put back in his cage to do his business.
How Guinness Lets Me Know He Is Hungry/Thirsty
- LOUD SQUEAKS – Normally, Guinness has a fairly raspy squeak... but when he is out of water, out of food, or hears the slightest crinkle of a bag, he gives off an ear piercing shriek that would easily silence even the most crowded of rooms.
- If Guinness knows I am in the room, and it has only been a short period of time, he will actively bite on his water nozzle to make a loud "clank sound," indicating his water is empty and he is thirsty. Similarly, when he is out of pellets and knows I haven't fed him that day, he will headbutt his food dish, so that it makes a 'spring' noise and rattles the side of his cage. Impressively, though, with his asking for food, I noticed that he will never illicit that response twice in one day, even if he were to finish the portion I gave him.
So there you have it in a nutshell; the above outlined observations that lead to such critical understandings have truly been an essential part to the great relationship we have today. I truly feel so lucky that everyday I wake up and automatically smile as I approach Guinness' cage to give him a little pet on the head to say good-morning. He is so much more than a pet to me; he really is my little pal. Always down for a hug, constantly giving me little guinea kisses, and although there are times when he would prefer to be alone (and makes sure I know it), there are very few of those times where he won't let me know he loves me anyways.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article and support my passion for writing and genuine care, love and interest for Guinness and all the other lovable "pocket pets" out there!
- Erin Rose
About the author
Hi Everyone! Thanks for checking out my page. My name is Erin, I am a long-time writer, but this is my first attempt going public! Not sure where this will take me, but I hope you enjoy my content & share it with friends and family!