Guinea pigs are very sociable animals. For this reason they have developed a series of vocal expressions with which they communicate with other individuals of their species.
Guinea pigs are called “Cuys” in some countries in South America . This name has an onomatopoeic origin and refers to the sounds these rodents make on a regular basis, both in the home and in the wild . Have you ever wondered why guinea pigs squeak? If you want to know the answer, be sure to read on!
Since communication in the animal world is a very fascinating evolutionary process, ethological researchers are trying to decipher the meaning of language in different animal species.
Some Facts About Guinea Pigs
Before we dive into the world of guinea pig communication, we must first describe in more detail the species we are talking about. As surprising as it may seem, the house guinea pig (Cavia porcellus) is a type of hybrid rodent belonging to the Caviidae family . These curious pets are the result of crossing different species of the genus Cavia such as Cavia aparea or Cavia magna.
Some of the different characteristics of these small mammals are as follows:
- They come from the Andean region of South America.
- They weigh about 1 kilogram and live between five and eight years.
- Guinea pigs are herbivorous animals and need a steady supply of fibre and vitamin C to enjoy good health.
- In addition, this species has different morphotypes, which differ from each other in the arrangement of colours and the type of fur .
- In addition, guinea pigs are affable, calm rodents who live in social groups.
This last characteristic also gives us the first clue as to why guinea pigs squeak. If an animal lives in a society, it must have some way of communicating with its conspecifics and relatives, right?
Why Do Guinea Pigs Squeak Now?
This question may seem very simple at first. However, several ethological studies have devised experimental models to find out the reason for these vocalizations. And this task is by no means easy, because it turned out that there are not just variations in squeaking on an individual level. In addition, these sounds seem to have different meanings depending on the age of the guinea pig .
The guinea pig is particularly diverse because, according to this research, it can emit up to 11 different tonalities. Some of them respond to the following situations:
- Guinea pigs (especially the youngest) make more audible noises in a new environment. At the same time, an increase in the level of cortisol in your body can be observed. Cortisol is a hormone that is released by stress.
- When the guinea pigs are separated from their mothers, they utter loneliness cries that are accompanied by an increase in the animal’s movements and general restlessness. As soon as the little ones return to their parents, the mothers make purrs to calm their offspring.
But not everything can be explained by the relationship between the mothers and their boys , as many other vocalizations are related to other processes. We’ll give you a few examples below.
A Sound for Every Situation
Several studies examined when, how and why different vocalizations occur in different situations . These are some of the results:
- The chuckle is the most common vocalization in guinea pigs. It seems to appear in all sorts of situations , whether they’re social or not. The emission of these chuckling noises is very strong when two guinea pigs meet and try to identify themselves. In addition, these noises will later be replaced by other noises that better suit the situation.
- The groaning noises they make are generally generated when a situation is causing the animal to feel uncomfortable. For example, when a male willing to mate approaches a female who is not ready to conceive.
- The squeak is generated when the guinea pig experiences any type of physical pain.
While there are numerous other vocalizations made by guinea pigs, one fact is already becoming very apparent: guinea pigs squeak to communicate with each other. Every tone has a specific function and from an evolutionary point of view it is much more effective to warn others about a negative interaction with a sound articulation than with a physical activity, as this would require significantly more energy.
A Question of Conviviality
As you can see, social animals like guinea pigs have developed complex linguistic mechanisms to communicate different feelings and emotions. This is an advantage for all members of the group, as they can recognize dangers more quickly and avoid unnecessary fights among one another. Everything in the animal world has a biological response. Therefore, if you have a guinea pig at home, we recommend that you pay attention to the situations in which and how often these noises occur. Because your pet may be trying to convey a message to you, such as persistent stress or feelings of loneliness.