You think guinea pigs just sit there and look cute, right? They quietly hang out and don’t do much? Hah! You don’t know your guinea pigs! Not only do guinea pigs each have their own unique personalities, they have both verbal and body language to express their feelings. ‘Popcorning,’ ‘wheeking,’ ‘rumblestrutting’ and ‘barbering’ are all terms used to describe cavy communication.
When guinea pigs are happy and excited, they kick up their heels and toss their heads as they jump and race around their cage. The guinea pig equivalent of bunny ‘binkies’, this behavior is known as ‘popcorning’. A bold and brassy guinea pig may make a purring noise and wiggle his posterior – this ‘rumblestrutting’ shows dominance. ‘Wheeking’ is a loud squeak/squeal which may signal happiness, unhappiness, or a request for a snack – depending upon the context in which the wheeking is used. These are just some of the distinct sounds guinea pigs may use to express their needs and their feelings to each other and to trusted humans.
Trust plays a critical role in guinea pig personality: the guinea pig needs to feel confident in the safety of their surroundings and trust those around him in order to relax and let his personality shine through. A guinea pig purchased on whim and subjected to inappropriate habitat, food and toys is going to be upset, fearful and stressed out. Guinea pigs who were deemed ‘starter pets’ for children too young or too irresponsible will be at risk of injury or death from improper handling, squeezing or dropping by children.
Guinea pigs are NOT easily managed ‘starter pets’ (the only ‘starter pets’ are stuffed toys, by the way). Guinea pigs require specific living accommodations and a minimum of a couple of hours of out-of-cage time daily. Guinea pigs have particular dietary requirements, including a daily ration of food rich in Vitamin C, and require regular grooming. Guinea pigs do need veterinary checkups, their teeth grow continually and may need regular trims by the veterinarian, and you will need to thoroughly clean their cages weekly with touch-ups and spot cleaning every other day. Guinea pigs live 5 or 6 years!
Once a guinea pig’s basic requirements are met, you will see their personality begin to sparkle. In addition to chatting you up, guinea pigs do love their toys. Bells, mirrors, and treat balls or cardboard toilet paper rolls stuffed with hay are very popular items.
Oh, and ‘barbering’? That behavior is reserved for those premier piggy caregivers who have earned the guinea pigs’ utmost respect and appreciation: the guinea pig chews off – or ‘barbers’ - a bit of hair off of their caregivers’ head!
If you have done your homework and think you could provide a good home for a nice guinea pig, Robyn's Nest Rescue in Miamisburg has a couple of very nice adoptable pigs right now!
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