Maybe you’ve noticed your guinea pig’s nose twitching more lately.
Or perhaps you’ve been seeing your guinea react to some of the different scents in your household.
Either way, you must be wondering just how good those little noses are at detecting various smells.
The truth is guinea pigs have excellent sniffers. With 796 Olfactory Receptor Genes, they are the animal with the tenth most powerful sense of smell! Because of their vision deficits, guineas in the wild had to rely on their noses to find food and detect threats, which resulted in their incredible noses.
To be kind to your guinea, it’s important to understand what scents they can pick up and what scents they will like or dislike.
Read ahead for more cool facts about your pet’s sense of smell and tips on how to keep their nose happy!
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What Types of Odors Do Guineas Pick Up?
Our furry friends have an impressive ability to detect and recognize a wide range of incoming odors.
Did you know your guinea will learn to recognize your scent?
They will likely be pleased when they smell you coming, too, because the odds are good you often bring food with you!
Your friend is also able to smell other animals.
However, they may have a very negative reaction to this particular scent.
Remember, these are prey animals, and they don’t have much ability to defend themselves.
Being able to smell aggressive animals that might be nearby means they have to protect themselves.
Their reaction to these smells is usually to freeze.
If this doesn’t work, they then make an effort to flee.
To avoid triggering these responses in your pet, wash your hands after caring for another animal.
Curious about what else your furry pal can smell?
Guineas can smell food, natural and artificial odors, and things like chewing sticks you might give them.
Their sense of smell is also critical to their mating habits.
Male guinea pigs secrete a specific odor when ready to mate, and female guinea pigs can pick up this smell though humans can’t.
What Smells Do Guinea Pigs Like?
We know our friends can sense an awesome range of smells. Let’s give some thought to the scents they enjoy!
Some of their favorite smells are:
- You; they will come to recognize and love their owner’s scent.
- Treats like chewing sticks.
- Themselves and their habitat.
It stands to reason your friend would be excited when they catch the smell of food.
You might also notice they sniff at their food for a while before actually eating it.
This is sometimes because they want to ensure this food is familiar and safe.
When you give your pet new food items that aren’t part of their usual diet, it may at first seem like they spend more time focused on the smell of food than on its taste.
But this is just their way of keeping themselves safe.
A consistent food selection will add to your guinea’s sense of security and safety.
So, we should always keep our pets’ diets fairly steady.
As you recall, your guinea pig also loves when they smell you coming!
Part of this is in anticipation of food, of course.
But you probably also will come to represent comfort, safety, and love.
Your scent will offer your guinea security.
Of course, your guinea will love the smell of their favorite treats and toys!
Chewing sticks are always a favorite among these guys because they have such an affinity for nibbling and chewing.
Finally, our friends also love the scent of their home!
Having the familiar scent of their bedding and toys around them will make your guinea feel safer.
For this reason, we recommend you don’t clean your guinea pig’s entire cage at once.
If you change their bedding, this isn’t a good time to clean up all their toys.
Always leave something with their familiar scent to keep your buddy feeling safe and sound.
Another part of their home they love to smell is their cage mates if they have any.
Guinea pigs are social animals.
You’ll likely see them smelling and grooming each other from time to time if they share a cage.
What Smells Do Guinea Pigs Dislike?
Now, what about odors our little friends despise?
There is a pretty narrow range of scents your pet will hate:
Onions and potatoes are both toxic to guinea pigs.
You need to keep them away from your pet’s habitat altogether.
The smell will be disruptive to your friend.
But if they ingest either of these foods, they will grow sick.
Just as they dislike loud noises, guineas also hate harsh smells.
For example, the artificial fragrances of household cleaning agents will cause them a lot of discomfort.
The artificial odor of the chemicals in these cleaners is strong for people and even stronger for guinea pigs due to their acute sense of smell.
Because these guys are constantly sniffing to look for food or predators, they are more vulnerable to these less than enticing smells.
So, let’s avoid exposing our friends to strongly scented chemicals by using fragrance-free cleaners and detergents in our homes.
Your guinea’s little nose will thank you if you make the change!
Essential oils and guinea pigs work much the same way.
Click the link above for more details on oils in our guide.
Allergies in Guinea Pigs
It’s also important to be aware of the possible respiratory problems and allergies which are sometimes caused by strong, harsh scents.
If you notice symptoms like a runny nose or inflamed and itchy eyes or skin, your little friend may be experiencing an allergic reaction.
Make sure you clean up their cage as a first step to helping them improve.
Get a small air purifier to remove possible allergens from the air if this doesn’t work.
The goal is always to keep your animals safe and happy.
So always be mindful of possible allergens as well as bothersome smells.