Why Do Guinea Pigs Purr? (Understanding This Behavior)

Wait … guinea pigs purr? Yes, they do indeed. Guinea pigs purr because they are happy and only purr on purpose.

When your piggy is happy, healthy, and content, they show appreciation to you and each other by emitting a calm, purring sound. This is somewhere between a cat’s purr and a dog’s groan of contentment.

Guinea pigs are great pets and very popular with people who don’t have enough space for a larger animal.

Read on to find out how, why, and when guinea pigs purr and what you can do to encourage this happy behavior.

How Do Guinea Pigs Purr?

Guinea pigs purr at a higher frequency than cats do because the mechanism they use is slightly different. Guinea pigs purr at 250 to 500 Hz, and cats purr at 25 to 150 Hz.

Guinea pigs have elastic structures in their larynx (voice box) called turbinate processes. When air passes along these processes, they vibrate and produce a sound.

Some animals that purr do it without meaning to, simply because of how they are positioned when breathing. This is why your cat may sound like it’s purring even if fast asleep.

On the other hand, Guinea pigs purr intentionally, so listen carefully and figure out what’s making your piggy purr.

Why Do Guinea Pigs Purr?

There are four reasons guinea pigs purr. Each reason is important to understand to ensure you’re helping your piggy live a happy and comfortable life.

1. Purring To Communicate

Guinea pigs are fairly vocal creatures; however, their “vocabulary” is somewhat limited compared to cats and dogs. They use their purring sounds to communicate with other guinea pigs to help soothe them and reduce stress.

You may find the older or more dominant guinea pig in the enclosure will purr more than the younger ones to keep their cage mates calm and relaxed.

2. Purring To Express Happiness

Guinea pigs purr to express their happiness and contentment. This means they’re likely to purr if they are at the right temperature, being cuddled or groomed, or exposed to an activity they enjoy.

3. Purring To Build Trust

Guinea pigs use purring to bond with their humans. They will purr when they are happy and relaxed in their human’s presence because it evokes a positive response, and the piggy will either get more cuddles or a treat.

Purring around their owners also means the guinea pig trusts them enough to be relaxed and not on high alert.

4. Purring To Self-Soothe

Guinea pigs will also purr to themselves to help calm down if they’re in a stressful situation or startled. If they’re put in a new cage, introduced to a new cage mate, or move homes with you, they may purr to help themselves calm down enough to explore their new experience.

How Can You Tell If Your Guinea Pig Is Purring?

Guinea pigs can purr audibly, so listen out for their little sounds to catch that moment of happiness and see if you can enhance it by doing some extra grooming or giving an extra cuddle or two.

However, not all guinea pigs purr audibly. Sometimes, the purrs are too quiet or high-pitched to hear. In this case, you can look for some physical cues indicating your piggy is purring. These include:

  • Closed eyes: A stressed-out guinea pig will be on high alert. If they have their eyes closed, it means they feel safe and relaxed.
  • Stretched out or curled up: This relaxed body language means they don’t feel threatened or need to tense their muscles.
  • Relaxed whiskers and ears: If your guinea pig is relaxed, they will have their ears and whiskers relaxed, too, not on high alert trying to pick up scary sounds or movements.

How To Interpret Your Guinea Pig’s Purrs

All guinea pigs have unique purrs that mean different things. Learning the meaning of these purrs can help you better care for your piggy.

1. Volume Of Purring

As your guinea pig increases the volume of their purrs, it indicates their level of happiness and contentment. The louder purr could also be an indication of dominance. If you have multiple piggies in the same cage, the less dominant or less outgoing ones will have quieter purrs.

2. Eating While Purring

Do you make happy noises when you eat yummy food? Guinea pigs do, too! If they’re purring while eating, you hit the nail on the head with that meal, and your piggy is super happy.

3. Grooming While Purring

Guinea pigs love to be groomed. When you brush or comb their fur and they purr, they’re telling you they enjoy this time with you and want to keep doing what you’re doing because it feels really good. Think of it like when you sigh with happiness when you get your hair done, go for a massage, or get a back rub at the end of a long day.

4. Stressed Purring

If your guinea pig is put into a new cage or introduced to a new cage mate and starts purring immediately, it could be because they are stressed out and trying to self-soothe. If they continue purring like this, try to reduce their stress level.

FAQs About Guinea Pigs Purring

How do I encourage my guinea pig to purr?

Caring for your guinea pig properly will affect the frequency of their purrs. There are a few areas of your guinea pig’s life that need careful attention:

  • The right-sized enclosure: Your piggy’s enclosure needs to be large enough for exercise and mental stimulation.
  • The right cage mates: Guinea pigs are very social animals and need cage mates; however, pay careful attention to pairing males as they can be quite territorial.
  • The proper diet: Correct nutrition plays a significant role in the overall health of your piggy. Poor nutrition will cause health concerns.
  • The right health plan: Yearly vet checkups are necessary to keep track of your piggy’s development and overall health.

Does the type of food affect whether my guinea pig purrs?

Guinea pigs are herbivores and cannot eat certain foods, even some that are plant-based. Feeding your piggy food they don’t like or shouldn’t be eating can reduce their purring frequency.

However, feeding them yummy treats can increase their purrs. Just don’t overdo the amount of treats you give them, as it can lead to obesity and, ultimately, your piggy’s death.

Is rumbling the same as purring?

Male guinea pigs rumble when trying to flirt with a female. This rumble can sound like purring, but it’s a deeper vibration at a much lower pitch. The rumble is accompanied by a sassy strut where the male swings his hips and struts around the female.

Female guinea pigs will rumble to signal to a male that she is fertile and ready to mate. This rumbling is also very low-pitched and doesn’t last as long as a purr.

What other sounds do guinea pigs make?

Guinea pigs are quite vocal. They make a number of sounds:

  • Wheeking – to acknowledge a human bringing food to them; it sounds exactly like the word
  • Growling – to indicate distress; it sounds like a low “durr” noise
  • Teeth chattering – to indicate agitation, a warning, dominance, or territorial issues; it sounds like a lot of rapid squeaks
  • Shrieking – to indicate immediate danger; it sounds like a high-pitched squeak
  • Whining – a sound that results from a nap being interrupted; it sounds like a high-pitched moan

Wrapping Up On Why Guinea Pigs Purr

Guinea pigs purr when they’re at their happiest. Piggys are wonderful little pets that communicate with their humans and cage mates through vocalizations, one of which is a purr.

Learning your guinea pig’s behavior is important because it can tell you why they’re purring and what you can do to increase their happiness and thereby increase their purring.

Let’s recap why guinea pigs purr:

  • Guinea pigs only purr intentionally.
  • A guinea pig’s purr is higher pitched than a cat’s purr.
  • Guinea pigs purr when they are happy and content.
  • You can increase the amount your guinea pig purrs by grooming and spending time with them.
  • Guinea pigs are sensitive creatures and will purr to soothe themselves and their cage mates in times of stress.

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