You certainly may recognize and love your Guinea Pig, but can they recognize you? Since getting my Guinea Pig some months ago I have been curious to see if rodents have any cognitive capacity to distinguish us from other humans. From my own personal experience and some extra research, here is what I have found.
Can Guinea Pigs recognize their owners? Guinea Pigs can learn to recognize their owners. In fact, Guinea Pigs form a close bond with their owners, just like they do with other Guinea Pigs. This can be shown and expressed through certain behaviors, including specific noises.
Let us now take a closer look at the human/Guinea Pig interaction and how this relationship forms.
We will start out by looking at some of the indicators which show a guinea pig recognizes their owners before we turn to practical ways we can build a closer bond with our pet cavies.
Why Guinea Pigs Need To Recognize
Guinea pigs have evolved to recognize other guinea pigs, humans, and developments in their environment around them. It’s a survival mechanism, of a wild animal, after all.
Imagine for a second that you are a Guinea Pig.
Would you like to be alone?
You would like to be in a larger group, protected by numbers and whereby you could socialize and mate.
And that’s exactly how guinea pigs behave and live.
They live in the wild in groups, (ranging from several to several dozen) which are known as herds.
Domesticated guinea pigs are no different; they are from the same gene pool after all.
They routinely seek physical contact with others when housed together.
And they learn tor recognize anyone they are kept with, or who is around them.
When resting, they lay down side by side and do not like sleeping alone.
They can even sleep with their chins or feet on one another, and sometimes even sleep with their eyes open if they feel the need to.
They also like to eat together, and you will likely see Guinea pigs together when feeding.
In fact, if you have ever owned a single Guinea Pig you would soon learn to recognize that it gets lonely and it needs other guinea pigs around.
This is precisely why it is recommended to get several guinea pigs at a time.
Indicators That Suggest a Guinea Pig Recognizes Its Owner
There are a number of things to look out for in your guinea pigs behavior that suggests they recognize you.
If you have recently got some new Guinea Pigs this will be hard if not impossible to observe.
In time, you will see changes in your Guinea Pigs behavior; it is these changes that show that they are becoming more familiar with you and are gaining confidence in your company
So what are the indicators that suggest a Guinea Pig recognizes you?
Approach and Run Toward You
If you are standing by the Guinea Pig cage, you may experience your Guinea Pigs running toward you!
If you are in the same room, you’ll also see them start to move closer to you to try and get your attention.
Guinea Pigs also have very powerful smelling/hearing abilities, so will likely hear you come into the house when you return home.
They will also lookout for any signs of food. This is why food can be used not only as a reward but as a way to tame and get your Guinea Pig to trust you.
If you see your Guinea Pigs at the side of the cage that faces the door, you can bet they have made their way over to greet you home.
Guinea Pigs are renowned for the sounds they make, and certain ones indicate that they are happy in your company.
They make sounds to communicate; whether this is with other Guinea Pigs or yourself.
Each sound a Guinea Pig makes is quite distinctive and unique.
They are also representative of the Guinea Pigs’ current mood and feelings and you will soon learn to navigate what each sound means.
Typically, Guinea Pigs will make different noises. Here are the main ones below:
Wheeking or Squealing: this is high-pitched and resembles the sound of a whistle/squeal. Guinea Pigs usually make this sound when excited so generally, this will be when it sees food. Sometimes they may do it when you enter the room.
Chutting: This is a little bit deeper and it sounds like the croak of a frog. Nonetheless, it’s a positive sound that typically means your Guinea Pig is in good spirits.
Purring: this noise can actually indicate that your Guinea Pig is happy or unhappy. If your Guinea Pig is purring you, therefore, need to judge the situation and look at other behaviors like movement patterns to see what this really means.
Teeth chattering: Guinea Pigs make this sound as a warning – a ‘back off’ signal and they do this to both Guinea Pigs and other People. If you hear this it’s because your Guinea Pig feels under-threat or is not yet quite confident in your company.
Shrieking: This is a high-pitched noise and definitely one to look out for. It usually means your Guinea Pig is scared or upset. If this is the case, you should be sure to check to see if the Guinea Pig is safe and okay. Make sure it is not hurt or there is something nearby causing alarm.
Hissing: This is another warning sound with the aim of telling other Guinea Pigs/Humans to back off.
As you can see, there are quite a few sounds that your Guinea Pig will make. All allude to the fact that a Guinea Pig recognizes a human face (whether positively or negatively).
They Listen To You
If you spend a lot of time in your Guinea Pigs company and routinely speak to them, they will start to recognize your voice and the words that you use.
In fact, you can even get a Guinea Pig to recognize their names! To do so, you need to regularly use their name and get them to positively associate it when you’re talking to them.
Food is an ideal tool to use to do this, you just need to say their name when you are feeding – especially around foods they love and enjoy.
Soon enough your Guinea Pig will recognize its name and you can call it to get their attention.
They Respond and Are Close Only to their Owners
If you have had your Guinea Pigs for some time, you’ll actually be able to recognize this. For new owners, not so much.
Guinea Pigs clearly show specific responses to their owners, as opposed to other unfamiliar humans.
An example of this is when they nip at you and how they approach you when they are down on the floor during playtime.
You’ll also notice how you can pick them up and put them on your lap to pet and cuddle.
Guinea Pigs do not let ‘strangers’ do this easily so if you are able to do this it’s a good sign they recognize you and are happy in your company.
Additionally, if there are several of you in the room, they’ll seek out their owner as opposed to anyone new or unfamiliar. This holds true even if you do not have any food and these ‘strangers’ do.
Why Your Guinea Pig May Not Like You
There are many things that you can do to get your Guinea Pig to like you and feel confident in your company. However, there are reasons that can prevent this from happening.
The first is that all animals, whether rodents or reptiles have their own personalities. This means that each Guinea Pig is different and some will be more affectionate than others.
Guinea Pigs can also feel scared and anxious. In fact, this can occur for a variety of reasons. Here are just some of the main ones:
- Inadequate cage size – Guinea Pigs require lots of space to roam and play. This is particularly true if you have several Guinea Pigs in one cage. If your Guinea Pigs appears to be uncomfortable, be sure to give them some more room even by roaming a closed off space of the floor/garden.
- Aggressive handling – Some Guinea Pigs love being in your lap; others do not enjoy this experience at all. Some love it from the outset, others take a lot of time to get used to it. Guinea Pigs are small and fragile creatures so you need to be careful when handling and holding them.
- Hungry – We all get hangry, even our Guinea Pigs do too! Make sure your Guinea Pigs are being fed enough or otherwise they can become aggressive.
So, now we know of a few reasons why a Guinea Pig may react poorly to its owner, but what can you to do foster more positive outcomes?
How To Make Your Guinea Pigs Positively Recognize You
Naturally, Guinea Pigs will start to recognize and feel confident around you over time.
The more time you spend with them the more they can learn to trust you and the more affection they will ultimately show.
In order for your Guinea Pigs to recognize you, it is important that they feel acknowledged and looked after.
They need to feel recognized themselves. That is perhaps the most important thing you can do.
So, assuming that they have a big enough cage, they are being handled appropriately and gently and they are well fed; what else can you do to make your Guinea Pig positively recognize you? Here are just some examples.
Communicate Softly With Them
Its important to speak regularly, but gently to and around your Guinea Pig. They have tiny ears and high listening capabilities so noises are amplified for them.
Therefore you need to refrain any shouting as this will make them scared and anxious.
Feed Them Regularly By Hand
A great way to form a bond with your Guinea Pig is to feed them yourself, by hand. This will also enable you to get closer to them which will build their confidence in you and prove to them you will not do them any harm or danger.
Let Them Roam
Guinea Pigs love to roam around and go for ‘walks’ outside of the cage.
Be sure to give them plenty of time on the floor/garden to explore and spend a lot of time with them when doing so.
They love attention so the more you can provide the happier they will ultimately become.
Guinea pigs learn to recognize their owners.
Besides, its a survival mechanism they have evolved to keep them safe.
But just like humans, it takes time and you will need to give them attention and promote positive behavior to and around them.
Ultimately every Guinea Pig is different and what might take one to recognize you in a few weeks may take another a few months.
Your relationship will always be different but you can definitely work on it over time.
Guinea Pigs are cute, social creatures that need some love and attention.
Keep spending time and communicating with them and your relationship will blossom.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.