Guinea pigs are an ever-popular pet due to their affectionate, social nature. They have a vast array of vocal and body language cues they use to communicate. But how do you know if your guinea pig is showing playful behavior?
Guinea pigs that are playing frequently display a behavior called popcorning, which generally consists of rapid vertical jumping, twitching, and zoomies. It is an expression of joy and excitement mostly exhibited by baby guinea pigs expelling their extra energy. Popcorning may be accompanied by small happy squeaks as well.
However, what games does one play with a guinea pig? Do you really need to spend a fortune on brightly colored toys from a pet store? And if you have multiple guinea pigs, how can you be sure that everyone is having a good time? Keep reading to find out all of this and more.
Guinea Pig Behavior: Playing with Humans and Other Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs typically adore playing with their human and animal friends. However, they are also small prey animals – meaning their preferences often differ vastly from those of dogs, cats, and humans.
Many preferred games of guinea pigs involve exploring the environment and finding food. Agility courses are another favorite activity among guinea pigs and provide a great source of exercise. Guinea pigs often enjoy following each other around, but being chased by a larger animal such as a human may scare them – try to let your guinea pig come to you instead.
If you are unsure whether your guinea pig is showing playful behavior (rather than fearful or aggressive behavior) look for key body language cues.
What Playing Looks Like Between Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs show their friendliness with one another while playing through rapid hopping (called popcorning), rubbing noses, happy squeaking, and grooming behaviors such as licking and nuzzling each other.
Popular games between guineas include guinea pig trains (where piggies follow each other around in a single file line), sniffing together, and contagious popcorning, where one piggy starts the ball rolling with a series of jumps and zoomies. All of these behaviors are signs of happy guinea pigs!
You should never see blood drawn, excessive chasing, or lunging between guinea pigs. These are signs of angry guineas.
What It Looks Like When a Guinea Pig Wants to Play With You
Guinea pigs will try to initiate play with trusted humans in a similar manner to how they interact with other guinea pigs. You may see them start popcorning, zooming in circles around you, putting their paws up on your leg, or trying to follow you around. Curious guinea pigs may also nuzzle, lick, or gently nibble you, but harder biting or nips can mean they are uncomfortable or mistaking your hand for food.
There are many games you and your guinea pig can play which are safe and fun for everyone – your pet’s favorites will take trial and error to find. We’ll discuss this in more detail later, but a few common games include hiding treats, food mazes, and hide and seek.
Can Guinea Pigs Play with Other Household Pets?
When guinea pigs interact with household pets besides other guinea pigs, it can get difficult to measure the reaction of the two animals to one another. The safest choice is to keep animals separate.
However, if you are going to introduce your piggy to another animal, be sure to know your animals and do so safely. When observing an interaction between your guinea pig and another pet, keep in mind the typical body language of guinea pigs. Be sure to educate yourself about the body language of the other species in question as well and be ready to break up any questionable interactions for the safety of both animals.
What Do Guinea Pigs Like to Do?
Guinea pigs are burrowing animals who are very food motivated. They love to explore and forage for treats. Letting them indulge their instinctual love of tunnels, foraging for snacks, and investigating safe items are all great ways to entertain your piggy.
Playing With Their Owners
When organizing playtime between you and your guinea pigs, there are so many activities you can try. Bringing them to a new, safe space, letting them climb on you, and playing with toys are great low-maintenance options. For more involved activities, jump to our section on games further down the page.
Playing In Their Cages
It is important for guinea pigs to have an adequate number of hidey houses, beds, food bowls, and ample bedding in their enclosures. This makes it less likely that multiple guinea pigs will fight over space.
In addition to this, it’s beneficial to leave out a rotating selection of toys to keep your piggies from getting bored. Guinea pigs love to push items around, pick things up, and chew – so choose toys suitable for one or more of these activities.
Safe chewable items are often the best bet for guinea pigs. Piggies love to gnaw on different types of objects, and chewing also helps keep their ever-growing teeth short naturally.
Toys For Guinea Pigs
There are many toys sold in pet stores for small animals such as guinea pigs, but not only do you not need to buy these expensive toys, some are not even safe.
Examples of safe and cheap toys for guinea pigs include:
- Untreated safe tree branches (apple, pear, willow, mulberry, etc)
- Treat balls
- Piles of blankets to burrow in
- Toilet paper rolls (split lengthwise to prevent them from getting stuck)
- Cardboard boxes
- A paper bag filled with shredded newspaper.
- Small stuffed animals with no beads or small pieces to choke on
- Smooth plastic balls that are too large to fit in the piggy’s mouth
Anything non-toxic that fits into the enclosure can turn into a guinea pig’s favorite toy. It can take a bit of experimentation to find your guinea pig’s favorites, so be sure to switch it up and try new things! You can find even more ideas on our guinea pig toys and enrichment page.
Games To Play with Your Guinea Pig
For more active playtime, you can try several games out with your guinea pig. Some of these are more suited to a shy guinea, while others will be best for high-energy social butterflies.
Hide and Seek
This game involves hiding favorite toys or treats in a safe area for your guinea pig to find. This can be done in an enclosure or a playpen and is best suited to food-motivated deep thinkers.
- While the guinea pig is elsewhere, take several small treats and hide them around the area. Make use of bedding to lightly bury the treats or hide them inside toys and tunnels. Start with easier hiding places and progress to more challenging spots as your guinea pig learns the game.
- Bring the guinea pig into the enclosure and show them one of the treats in its hiding spot. You may need to help them at times by pointing out the next treat to keep them motivated. If your guinea pig likes this game, they will eat the treat and start sniffing around for others.
- Let them scour the area for more treats until they get bored, then remove any they did not find.
For those who would enjoy training their guinea pigs, many piggies (especially young or high-energy types) love to run agility courses.
- You can start small by setting up heavy, stable items (such as blocks, books, or furniture) to create a long straight alleyway.
- Place your guinea pig at one end, and then sit at the other.
- Call their name and lure them towards you with a treat.
- Watch them happily zoom down to meet you for their affection and/or snack.
- Repeat as many times as you like.
Over time, you can add ramps, small jumps, and tunnels to make the course more challenging. Eventually, your guinea pig will be a master agility piggy.
Where In the World Is This Guinea
For passive or sleepy guinea pigs wanting some attention and stimulation, you can try taking them on a supervised tour of your house. Carefully carry them, lifting them up to surfaces they’d normally be too small to see, and let them sniff items they are unfamiliar with.
This game works best with animals who are not prone to anxiety or startling, as some guinea pigs do not enjoy being carried around.
Floor Time Fun
Guinea pigs love exploring, and setting up an enriching environment in a safe playpen is an excellent way for them to have some fun. Set up an exciting floor time area with tunnels, toys, cardboard boxes, and more. You can also hide some treats if your guinea pig gets bored. Let them out to explore for an hour or two until you notice they are getting tired and ready to go back to their home.
You can also try laying on the floor while your guinea pig runs around and see how they react. Guinea pigs often get curious and try to run around or climb on you. Getting down on your guinea pig’s level makes them feel more comfortable and often helps you create a stronger bond with your little potato.
Guinea pigs are very playful animals due to their social nature. Guinea pig keepers should strive to provide plenty of enrichment for their furry friends by way of toys, games, and other piggy friends.
However, guinea pigs are individuals with their own personalities. You may need to try several types of enrichment before you find one your guinea likes. Common favorite pastimes of guinea pigs include running around, exploring unfamiliar areas, and earning treats.