Guinea pigs are not angry animals by nature, but they can behave aggressively on occasion when they are agitated or feel threatened. When your guinea pig is upset, it’s crucial to give them time and space to calm down.
It’s important to read your guinea pig’s body language so you can tell when they are getting agitated. Never put your hand in front of an angry guinea pig, even if it’s directed toward another guinea pig. You are much more likely to be bitten by your piggy, even if they wouldn’t normally bite you.
In this article, I’ll cover all the signs you should watch out for so you know how your guinea pig is feeling, as well as some tips on how to calm your guinea pig when they are angry.
7 Signs That Your Guinea Pig is Angry
Guinea pigs show their agitation in a few common ways, which I’ll go into more detail about below. It’s always a good idea to pay attention to your piggy’s body language and early signals so they don’t need to escalate to more aggressive behaviors toward you or another guinea pig.
1. Guinea Pigs Chatter Their Teeth When Upset
Teeth chattering is the number one sign of an unhappy or angry guinea pig. Teeth chattering can mean a few things depending on the intensity of the chattering and the situation.
Soft Teeth Chattering Typically Indicates Annoyance
Teeth chattering is the first and most common behavior you’ll see from an agitated guinea pig.
Teeth chattering varies in volume and pitch. When your guinea pig chatters softly, this indicates a slight annoyance or impatience.
For example, my impatient little potatoes will sometimes chatter their teeth quietly at me when they are waiting for food and getting impatient.
This is usually accompanied by them putting their front feet up on the cage bars or running back and forth excitedly. Soft chattering is not usually a cause for concern.
Teeth Chattering When You Pick Up Your Guinea Pig
Guinea pigs will chatter louder when they are feeling threatened or angry at something or someone. The louder the chattering, the more space you should give them.
Some guinea pigs will chatter at people when they realize you’re going to pick them up, especially if they associate this with negative things such as nail clipping.
Sometimes this leads to a bite and other times not. I have an ex-lab guinea pig who would chatter whenever I was about to pick her up because of her past experiences.
However, your guinea pig doesn’t necessarily need a bad experience to feel threatened by handling. Most piggies do not enjoy it out of the box.
To make handling a better experience for your guinea pig, always give them lots of their favorite veggies when you hold them and do their nails. Over time, they will form a more positive outlook on it.
If your guinea pig chatters every time you pick them up, distract them with some food or usher them into a fleece cuddle cup or bed to pick them up safely.
Teeth Chattering at Other Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs also chatter their teeth at other guinea pigs. This is common during introductions with new piggies.
Teeth chattering generally means they are threatened or upset and they are telling the other guinea pig to back away.
This is not necessarily a good sign during an intro. Often teeth chattering is a precursor to a fight, so be ready to step in with a towel, cutting board, or thick oven mitts to separate them if needed.
Never put your bare hands between two tense guinea pigs, as there is a high likelihood you’ll be bitten.
Teeth chattering doesn’t always end in a fight, however. Sometimes both guinea pigs will stand down and give each other space.
Bonded pairs are usually able to sort out teeth-chattering disagreements without human intervention, although it’s a good idea to keep an eye on them just in case.
If your bonded guinea pigs are chattering frequently, it’s a sign that you may want to upgrade their cage size and provide extra hideys, water bottles, and food bowls to lower the tension between them.
2. Freezing Can Mean the Guinea Pig is About to Lunge
When guinea pigs freeze up towards a perceived threat with tense body language, this can indicate that they are about to lunge into a fight. This sign is usually accompanied by hair raised, chattering teeth, raised head, and facing toward the threat with tense body language.
This is not to be mistaken for frightened freezing, where they usually let out a short purr and freeze while listening intently for several seconds.
Guinea pigs that are freezing in an intimidating manner usually do so in response to you or another guinea pig. It is common during introductions with new guinea pigs. They may also freeze and tense up toward you if you’re trying to grab them and they feel threatened.
3. Guinea Pigs May Hiss When Angry
While it’s a very rare noise for guinea pigs, some may even make a strange hissing noise when they are threatened. This is accompanied by the guinea pig opening their mouth and showing teeth.
This is a sure sign your guinea pig wants to be left alone. If you hear this, it’s important to respect their space and give them some time to settle down.
4. Guinea Pigs May Yawn and Bare Their Teeth When They Are Upset
Baring teeth or showing an open mouth is another common sign that your guinea pig is feeling angry or threatened.
This often leads to bites or fighting, so be on alert whether your guinea pig does this to you or another piggy.
When guinea pigs bare their teeth, it looks a bit like a yawn, but it’s often repeated and paired with other threatening behaviors like tensing up, hair raised, and maybe circling another guinea pig.
If your guinea pigs are baring their teeth, it’s a good idea to separate them safely with towels or thick oven mitts.
5. Tense Body Language Often Indicates an Agitated Guinea Pig
In addition to the other signs described, tense body language is often one of the first signs your guinea pig is uncomfortable or upset. If this is ignored, they often escalate to teeth chattering and more threatening methods to ask for more space.
When a guinea pig is tensing up against another guinea pig, they may also have a raised head and show other types of threatening body language. Some guinea pigs will even rise up slightly on their hind legs while facing off toward the other guinea pig.
6. Guinea Pigs Often Fluff Up Their Fur to Appear Larger
When guinea pigs are upset about something, you may see their hair raised or fluffed up in order to appear larger to their perceived threat. Raised hair often accompanies other signs, like freezing, teeth chattering, and tense body language.
Keep in mind that fluffing up is not always a sign of dominance or threatening behavior. If fluffing up is an isolated incident, it could be pain related, as puffed hair is a common sign your guinea pig is sick. It’s important to note this behavior and take them to an experienced exotic vet if you’re concerned.
7. An Angry Guinea Pig May Lunge and Bite!
When all the other signs escalate, they often lead to the end result of lunging and biting. This is the very last phase if you miss all the warning signs.
Sometimes this happens very quickly, depending on how threatened the guinea pig was feeling. Nonetheless, lunging and biting are signs of an extremely agitated and angry guinea pig.
Fighting is most common during introductions with new guinea pigs. It’s often referred to as a “piggy tornado” and obviously this is not a good sign during an intro.
Separate fighting guinea pigs as quickly as possible with a thick towel, oven mitts, a cutting board, or another similar safety measure.
Do not touch your guinea pigs for some time after the incident until they calm down completely. Guinea pigs can easily redirect to you when they are in such an agitated mindset, even if they would never bite normally.
How to Calm an Angry Guinea Pig
The best way to calm an angry guinea pig is to give them time and space. Guinea pigs are not outwardly aggressive animals, so if they are behaving in such a manner, it is their way of saying they feel threatened and desperately need space.
Food is another way to calm an angry guinea pig. Food is the key to a piggy’s heart and giving them some of their favorite veggie treats is a sure way to calm the mood.
Ultimately, you’ll want to see what is upsetting your guinea pig so much and stop doing it, or find a way to do it that is less upsetting to your guinea pig.
If they are angry at other guinea pigs, ensure they have a roomy cage with plenty of hiding places, large piles of hay, and extra food and water bowls. If you must separate two guinea pigs, use a towel or oven mitts and never your hand.
When handling your guinea pig, encourage them to come to you instead of grabbing them whenever possible. Pick them up quickly so they aren’t upset at being chased around the cage.
If your guinea pig is nervous about being touched and picked up, you can positively condition them by feeding treats while gently petting them. Work up to touching their sides, back, and belly over several days so they are not as upset by being picked up. You can also usher a nervous guinea pig into a fleece house or carrier to pick them up so you can make it less stressful of an experience.
Guinea pigs can show their agitation in many ways. Keep in mind that if your guinea pig shows any of these signs toward you, it doesn’t mean they hate you.
They are simply giving you feedback on how they’re feeling at the moment. Try not to take any of it personally, and simply give them the space they need for now.
Guinea pigs try to communicate with us in the best way they know how, which is why it’s a good idea to learn all about your guinea pig’s body language and what it all means.
Check out our guinea pig behavior page to learn more about the sounds they make and other ways your guinea pig is trying to talk to you.