There are several reasons why your guinea pig could be shaking or vibrating. Some are behavioral, and sometimes there is a medical reason behind it.
You can usually determine the cause of your guinea pig’s shaking by the other behaviors or symptoms they are exhibiting.
Shaking can be caused by illness, parasites, stress, cold temperatures in the home, or simple behavioral reasons such as happy popcorning or dominance toward other guinea pigs.
Reasons Why Guinea Pigs Could Be Shaking
There are several reasons why your guinea pig could be shaking. In the list below, I’ll cover a variety of reasons, both behavioral and medical, so you can see which category your guinea pig may fit into. If in doubt, try to get a video of your guinea pig doing the shaking behavior and show it to someone knowledgeable about piggies.
Your Guinea Pig is Cold
An involuntary shaking motion that looks similar to shivering could occur when your guinea pig is cold. This behavior is often accompanied by huddling in corners, hidey houses, and trying to burrow under things. This can sometimes happen as the weather gets colder going into the fall/winter months. Baby guinea pigs as well as seniors (over 4 years old) are most susceptible to the cold.
Guinea pigs can also shiver after a bath. To prevent this, be sure to dry them thoroughly and monitor them closely after a bath. Guinea pigs can easily catch a chill and become ill.
Towel drying is typically best, but you can use a hair dryer on the lowest setting if your guinea pig is not spooked by the noise. Be sure to hold it far away from them and dry slowly.
Only bathe your piggies when necessary, and try to do it in the warmer months if possible. Guinea pigs only need baths if they get overly dirty or greasy.
Also, check the temperature of the area where your guinea pigs are living. Guinea pigs thrive in temperatures between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. If their room is cold, try moving them to a warmer part of the home if possible. Keep them away from windows and other drafty areas and avoid opening any windows that are close to their cage in the cool weather.
Provide extra fleece blankets in their cage to burrow in and lots of hay to munch on so they can increase their body heat. You can also put several blankets and towels around the edge of their cage to make it less drafty.
If they are actively shivering, try snuggling them in a blanket on your lap to warm them up. If the shivering is related to the cold, they should stop after several minutes of huddling on your lap.
If they continue to shiver or have other symptoms, you should take them to a vet that is experienced in exotics for a proper diagnosis.
Is Your Guinea Pig Stressed or Fearful?
Freezing, running away, and hiding are the most typical responses to fear for guinea pigs. However, in some cases, they may shake when scared. This often happens if your guinea pig feels they cannot escape or if they don’t have access to a hiding place.
Many things can trigger fear in guinea pigs; for example, any loud or strange noises, birds chirping, fireworks, storms, TV, dogs barking, or people yelling. Some guinea pigs are more timid than others, but as prey animals, they can startle easily.
Coming to a new home or being moved to a new place in the house can be stressful for guinea pigs too. Be sure to give them lots of quiet time to settle in if this is the case.
Once they’ve settled in, spend some time bonding with your guinea pig by hand feeding their favorite veggie treats and talking to them softly. Sit with them calmly to build trust with them.
Avoid startling your guinea pig by holding them high in the air or carrying them around the house more than necessary. Handle them for short periods of time and hold them securely against your chest or on your lap with a blanket to keep them feeling safe.
Also, be sure they have access to hiding places, so they feel safe at all times, even when out of their cage for floor time.
If your guinea pig is staying in one spot when out of the cage or giving off short purring noises, these are also signs of fear.
If your guinea pig is showing signs of fear outside their cage, put them back in their home to decompress a bit or give them a spot to hide (i.e., a hidey house for floor time or a blanket to snuggle in on your lap.)
If they are shaking in their cage, try covering part of the cage with a blanket and ensure that they have plenty of places to hide and feel secure.
If they continue to be fearful, consider moving their cage to a quieter area, such as a bedroom or spare room in your home.
Some guinea pigs can also be stressed by the presence of cats and dogs. If you have other pets in your home and your guinea pigs seem fearful of them near the cage, try moving the cage to a separate room or blocking off a corner of the room so other pets can’t approach the cage.
Your Guinea Pig Could Be Having Seizures
Seizures are relatively uncommon in guinea pigs, but they cannot be discounted if your guinea pig is shaking and twitching involuntarily.
If the shaking is related to seizures, your guinea pig would be acting normal and then seem to lose control of their body for some time. Try to get this on video if you can to share with your exotic vet.
Be careful not to confuse this type of shaking with popcorning. This particular behavior presents itself similarly to a seizure, but it is perfectly normal behavior for happy piggies.
It takes some careful observation sometimes to tell the difference, so if you’re unsure, it’s a good idea to bring your guinea pig in for a check-up at the vet.
Popcorning guinea pigs are generally very happy and comfortable guinea pigs. They may be jumping and zooming around in addition to the popcorning. It is also much more common in young guinea pigs. Older guinea pigs can still popcorn, but it is usually much less exaggerated and less frequent.
You can check out the video below for an example of a baby guinea pig popcorning. The popcorning behavior can be either more subtle or more exaggerated depending on the guinea pig. However, you can tell that this guinea pig is very happy and curious, not fearful or timid at all while popcorning.
Illness in Guinea Pigs Can Cause Shaking
Several other types of illnesses can present themselves with shaking as a symptom. If the shaking seems involuntary and it doesn’t go away, this warrants a vet visit. Keep an eye out for other symptoms such as twitching, scratching, hair loss, pain, a puffed-up-looking coat, chewing things more than usual, staying in one spot, and reduced appetite or activity.
Ear infections can cause head shaking, head tilting, or walking in circles. Mange, fleas, or other parasites are other frequent diagnoses for shaking behavior.
Quick Shake-Offs Often Indicate Parasites
If your guinea pig is repeatedly shaking off like something is bothering them, this could indicate fleas or mites. This is usually accompanied by frequent scratching and sometimes hair loss.
If your guinea pig is showing signs of parasites, it’s important to take them to an experienced exotic veterinarian.
Over-the-counter meds for fleas and ticks can be deadly to guinea pigs, so it’s crucial to get the appropriate medication and dose from a knowledgeable source.
In addition, there are various types of mites that your guinea pig could have that need to be treated accordingly. For example, mange mites need to be treated internally and cannot be cured from topical remedies.
Your Guinea Pig is Rumblestrutting
Rumblestrutting (also described as vibrating) is a behavioral reason for shaking, and this is perfectly normal for guinea pigs! Rumblestrutting is where guinea pigs will walk slowly while slowly swaying their bodies from side to side.
This is often done in front of other guinea pigs to show off or exert dominance. Rumblestrutting is usually accompanied by a low purring noise from the guinea pig.
This behavior is more common for male guinea pigs, but females can do it too, especially when they are in heat.
Rumblestrutting is common behavior during introductions between new piggies but established pairs sometimes use it as a way to communicate 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.
Recap – How to Prevent Guinea Pigs From Shaking
There are many reasons why guinea pigs may shake. Throughout this article, we covered several of the probable causes and some solutions. If your guinea pig’s shaking is behavioral, there is usually no reason to intervene. However, if it is caused by stress or illness, it’s best to actively work toward a solution or take your guinea pig in for a vet visit.
To prevent any stress-related shaking, remember to keep your guinea pig in a quiet environment away from constant loud noises.
Teach kids to be quiet and gentle around guinea pigs and handle them calmly. It’s also a good idea to let your guinea pig burrow under some blankets and munch on veggies while on your lap so they associate it with good things.
Also, ensure your guinea pig has plenty of hiding places available in their cage. A good rule of thumb is to have one extra hiding place for the number of guinea pigs. So 2 piggies should have 3 hidey houses in total.
To prevent any cold-related shivering, keep your piggies away from windows and drafty areas in your house and provide lots of warm and cozy beds, blankets, and hay to get through the winter and late fall months.
I hope you found a lot of value in this article for your piggies! For more information on guinea pig care and upkeep, visit this page on guinea pig care or check out this article on 8 ways to save money with guinea pigs.