A loud, sudden shriek is an alarming noise to hear from your guinea pig. Not to be mistaken for wheeking, which is a happy noise, a shriek sounds like a short high-pitched squeal and typically means the guinea pig is in distress.
Loud wheeking or squeaking, on the other hand, tends to go on longer and generally means your guinea pig is excited or anticipating being fed.
What It Means When Your Guinea Pig Shrieks
A shriek is an unusual sound that you don’t generally hear often from guinea pigs. It is usually a response to pain or alarm, like the human equivalent of a scream.
Oftentimes a shriek occurs in response to being bit by another guinea pig. A common occurrence is when two guinea pigs run into the same hidey house. One may bite the other to get them out and this can elicit a scream in response.
Shrieking can also occur when multiple piggies are bickering over food and one gets bit. A shriek is sometimes also followed by a whining noise, which generally means that the guinea pig is unhappy about whatever is happening at the moment.
You may also hear a shriek if your guinea pig catches a foot in the cage bars or hurts themselves on something else in the cage.
Shrieking can also occur if you touch a painful spot. For example, you may hear a shriek if your guinea pig has arthritis and their leg gets moved the wrong way when you pick them up. If you notice your guinea pig shriek while they are hunched over or trying to urinate, this can indicate an infection or possible bladder stones.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Scream When You Pick Them Up?
Guinea pigs may scream or shriek when they are picked up if they are being mishandled or grabbed suddenly. It’s important to always pick up guinea pigs with two hands, fully supporting their body, and never allow children to pick them up without assistance.
Guinea pigs may also scream if they have been mishandled in the past and possibly anticipate pain or discomfort from being picked up.
Some guinea pigs also shriek even if they have never been mishandled. Guinea pigs are prey animals that lack depth perception, so being picked up puts them in a vulnerable position. Some guinea pigs get more stressed over this than others and are more likely to shriek.
To minimize this, try to pick them up swiftly and secure them against your chest or on your lap as quickly as you can. Avoid carrying them around or lifting them any higher than necessary. You can also usher them into a small carrier or cuddle sack to lift them out of the cage so they feel more secure.
Some guinea pigs will also shriek or scream when you clip their nails to express their discontent with the situation. Sometimes offering some favorite veggies can help calm your piggy during their nail trim if they’ll take them.
What To Do When Your Guinea Pig Shrieks
If you hear your guinea pig shriek or scream, it’s important to check on them and make sure everything is okay. Look them over to ensure that they’re not injured or being attacked by another guinea pig.
If it happens frequently, observe the dynamic between your guinea pigs and make sure one isn’t being bullied. If you find that your guinea pigs bicker a lot, try to upgrade them to a larger cage if possible so they have their own space.
It’s also a good idea to provide multiple hiding places, beds, hay piles, food bowls, and water bottles so there is no need for them to fight over resources. You can also find hidey houses with multiple exits so they can’t run into the same house and get stuck inside together.
If the shriek occurs as a response to being touched in a particular spot or handled in a certain way, you may want to schedule a vet check-up to determine the cause of the pain reaction.
Shrieking is a relatively uncommon guinea pig noise that usually indicates distress or pain. Guinea pigs communicate using a range of vocalizations and noises such as purring, teeth chattering, chutting, and more.
For a complete overview of all the noises you may hear from your furry potato, you can also check out this article on 8 Guinea Pig Sounds and What They Mean.