Purring is a common form of communication for guinea pigs. It can indicate a variety of things, from fear to contentedness. The best way to determine one form of purring from another is to observe the guinea pig’s behavior accompanying the purrs.
Guinea Pigs Purr to Communicate
Squeaking (commonly referred to as “wheeking”) is the most common way for guinea pigs to communicate, but purring can tell you a lot about their behavior as well.
Some guinea pigs are not big “wheekers” and prefer to communicate with a range of lower-pitched sounds, including purrs.
I had one guinea pig who rarely squeaked, and purrs were one of his favorite sounds. He would purr when frightened, when he was excited, and when he was trying to boss other guinea pigs around.
Is It Good or Bad When Your Guinea Pig Purrs?
There is a wide range of reasons why guinea pigs may purr, both good and bad.
To determine how your guinea pig is feeling in the moment, watch their behavior. Are they moving or still? A frozen guinea pig is usually uncomfortable and scared.
Short purrs typically indicate fear or discomfort. However, some guinea pigs will do a very quick purr when they are very excited, such as at feeding times.
You can tell the difference in their behavior very clearly, however. If it is a happy purr, your guinea pig will be running around, trying to climb up on the cage and be super excited.
Longer purrs are not usually fear-related. Guinea pigs often purr and vibrate for several seconds when they are trying to show off or boss around other guinea pigs.
Guinea Pig Purring At A Noise – Fearful Purr
A very short, sharp purr accompanied by a freezing motion means that your guinea pig was startled by a noise. Guinea pigs purr at noises as a way to subtly alert others to the possible danger.
If you see your guinea pig doing this a lot, try to locate the source of the noises that are bothering them and avoid making them if possible.
You can also cover part of their cage with a blanket and ensure they have plenty of hiding places to help them feel secure.
Guinea Pigs Purring At Each Other
Guinea pigs often purr at each other while shaking or swaying and walking slowly. Some people also refer to this as vibrating or rumbling. This is known as “rumble strutting,” and it is very normal behavior for guinea pigs!
Rumble strutting is more common for male guinea pigs as a way to show off and court a female. Some females may do it occasionally, especially when they are in heat.
Some guinea pigs will rumble strut as a way to boss other guinea pigs around or exert dominance.
Guinea pigs may purr and strut during introductions with new guinea pigs, but it can be common with bonded pairs as well.
Sometimes one guinea pig will rumble strut when they want their buddy to move out of the way or get out of a hidey house that they want to go in.
Guinea Pigs Also Purr When They’re Happy!
You may occasionally hear a short, quiet purr if your guinea pig is very excited and happy. This can be distinguished from fear purrs by watching your guinea pig’s behavior.
Happy purrs will be accompanied by excited behavior from your guinea pig. They may be running around, climbing up on cage bars, putting their paws up on your leg, or popcorning.
Happy purrs are most common around food time, for example, when they get fresh hay and pellets or their favorite veggies.
Guinea Pigs That Purr When You Pet Them
Guinea pigs may purr when you pet them, and this can indicate a variety of things. It’s important to be objective and observant of your guinea pig’s behavior when you are petting them.
Guinea pigs may purr if they don’t like the way you’re petting them. Guinea pigs don’t love being petted against the grain of their fur or in a rough manner. If your guinea pig is uncomfortable with the way they are being petted, you will often hear short purrs. The guinea pig may also be sitting very still and possibly be a little bug-eyed looking.
A long purr and possibly leaning into your hand can be a happy noise, however. I have had a couple of guinea pigs that do this when being petted.
Sometimes it’s almost like they are rumble strutting against your hand. It may be accompanied by stretching out their feet or closing their eyes.
This means your guinea pig is content and comfortable around you. You can tell it’s a happy purr if your guinea pig seems comfortable and at ease.
Staying still does not always mean your guinea pig is happy with something, however. Some guinea pigs come to learn that they cannot get off a person’s lap, so they don’t try. This is why it’s important to be observant of their behavior. If you are petting them gently in the correct direction of their fur, most guinea pigs will be content with that.
In closing, guinea pigs may purr for a wide range of reasons. To determine if it is fear-based or a show of happiness, watch your guinea pig’s behavior closely. The way they are acting is the best indicator of how they’re feeling at the time.
Purring is one form of communication that guinea pigs use to talk to us and other guinea pigs around them. To learn more about guinea pig sounds and behavior meanings, check out our guinea pig behavior page.