When taking care of a pet guinea pig, it’s important to know how to read their body language and understand guinea pig communication.
After all, they can’t speak to tell you how they’re feeling!
Guinea pigs tend to vibrate, shake, or purr for different reasons including mating behavior, feeling threatened, or the ambient temperature making them cold. As with most animals, guinea pigs rely on sound and body language to communicate.
The range of emotions these behaviors indicate can seem confusing at first.
Keep reading, and we’ll look at what these vibrations could mean and how to interpret and respond to them.
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Why Does My Guinea Pig Shake, Vibrate, and Purr?
While guinea pigs are social animals, they won’t speak to you anytime soon.
Like any other pet, they rely on body language and different sounds to communicate.
As an owner, it’s up to you and your vet to interpret those signals to safeguard your guinea pig’s wellbeing.
When it comes to shaking, vibrating, and purring, there are a lot of possible meanings.
This behavior can even represent positive and negative messages, sometimes making it hard for a guinea pig owner to distinguish between different vibrating sounds and shaking.
The best way to see why your guinea pig is shaking or vibrating is to assess the entire situation.
This includes anything out of place in their environment and other aspects of their behavior.
Pay attention not only to their body movements but also to the actual sounds accompanying the behavior.
For example, a low-pitched purring sound might be associated with excitement or happiness, while something like gurgling sounds would come across as a sign of a health problem with a guinea pig combined with shaking.
Good Vibrations in Guinea Pigs
There are a few positive reasons you might notice behaviors like shaking, purring, or vibrating in your pet guinea pigs.
Purring is usually a good sign in your guinea pigs!
Much like a pet cat, a pet guinea pig might start to purr or take on a happy vibration when they’re happy.
You might also hear them make a rapid sound like a tweeting sound when they’re happy.
This behavior is especially common in younger guinea pigs.
Another natural cause of vibrations in male guinea pigs is mating behavior.
As they start to court a mate, you might notice a more subtle vibration on display when they’re excited or happy.
You might notice your female guinea pigs vibrating in return if they’re interested in the male.
It’s usually easy to tell this courting behavior apart because other signs often accompany it.
This often includes the guinea pigs circling a couple of times or swaying their hips more than usual.
Bad Vibrations in Guinea Pigs
On the other hand, there are negative vibrations to keep an eye out for in your pets.
For one, vibrating may also denote fear.
Since guinea pigs are prey animals, they act more nervous than a larger, naturally predatory pet.
You’ll want to avoid anything which could make these gentle creatures nervous.
This can include anything from a loud noise to a new place or even fear of bigger animals.
While they’re social by nature, holding them improperly or when they don’t want to be held will scare them.
Did you know guinea pigs will remember you by your scent? Click to learn more.
Keep an eye out for fearful vibrations in these anxious animals, especially as you handle them.
Like any other animal, you’ll find different cavies have different personalities.
So, some might show signs of anxiety or fear easier than others.
It’s a good idea to take the time to get to know your pet and learn more about what they like and don’t like.
Aggression or Annoyance
While your guinea pig may shiver in fear, the same behavior may crop up when they’re angry or annoyed.
If the emotion continues, you might hear an aggressive vocalization that sounds like they’re clicking their teeth together or hissing.
In general, guinea pigs are gentle creatures and don’t often resort to this form of communication unless they feel as though they can’t get away.
This means you’ll most likely hear this sound and see this shaking if you’re holding a guinea pig when they don’t want to be held.
This often comes from an inability to flee, making the guinea pig feel like they have to take aggressive actions to defend themselves.
It’s a frightening position for prey animals to be in!
You might even notice a growling sound coming from your cavy in some cases.
This usually indicates they’re highly distressed and feel the need to protect themselves from a threat.
If you notice this, it’s best to cancel cuddle time and gently place your guinea pig back in their enclosure and let them calm down.
Male guinea pigs are known for their tendency to in-fighting.
Still, you might notice female guinea pigs fighting for their dominance in social status at times.
A part of this can include vibrating or shaking.
Shaking due to a show of dominance may include the sound of clicking, chattering, or even grinding teeth.
Like you, a guinea pig might start to shiver if they get too cold.
To keep your cavies comfortable, make sure to keep the area they’re in within 65-75° degrees Fahrenheit (24° C).
Don’t overcompensate by switching from cold to overly high temperatures.
Hot temperatures can cause damage, too, and you’ll want to avoid close heat sources or direct sunlight.
While most vibrating, purring, and shaking in guinea pigs is a method of communication, it can represent something more serious.
Aside from temporary environmental conditions like the cold, shaking might indicate an underlying health condition.
If you’re worried, pay attention to other signs of illness.
Common signs of illness in cavies include:
- Decreased appetite
- Decreased drinking with access to water
- Weight loss
- Hair loss
- Discharge from eyes
These are just a few of the most common signs of illness to watch out for.
Check out our helpful information on guinea pig hair loss and if it comes back.
In general, look for any signs your pets have sudden and alarming changes in behavior or appetite, indicating a problem.
If you notice violent shaking or seizing in your pet, it’s best to see a vet.
They can offer your pet a full examination and determine the exact cause of the shaking and whether it’s concerning or not.
In general, it’s good to get any ongoing shaking you aren’t sure about checked out by a vet.
Why Is My Guinea Pig Shaking and Not Moving?
If you notice your cavy is shaking but not doing much else, it’s a scary scene!
After all, these animals are timid, but they love to stay on the move and socialize.
This is why it’s so alarming when a guinea pig starts shaking and stops moving as well.
Pain with movement is usually an initial concern for conditions like arthritis or disease.
If you notice your cavy is shaking and staying in place, it’s good to schedule a visit with your local vet.
Again, this can come from a fear response as well.
As prey animals, cavies sometimes freeze in place when they feel threatened.
As we discussed before, they may shake or vibrate in fear too.
If you notice your guinea pig is shaking and not moving for more than just a few startled moments, it’s best to turn to a vet.
Since these are fragile creatures health-wise, it’s important to respond to any signs of declining health as quickly as possible.
Why Is My Guinea Pig Vibrating After a Bath Time?
A common time owners notice their cavies shake is after bath time.
Is it something to worry about?
Usually, the cause is uncomfortable but not very threatening.
Your guinea pig might be cold when they get out of the water.
When you get out of the water and the air seems incredibly cool, the same can happen to your little pet.
Use warm water when you bathe them and dry them off completely before returning them to their cage.
Bath time might also give your little friend some anxiety.
This can cause them to vibrate or shake until they calm down.
Once they’re dry and safely back in their enclosure, you will start to see them settle after some time.
If you notice this shaking or vibrating is accompanied by any other signs of illness, lethargy, or doesn’t go away after they’ve warmed up and calmed down after bath time, consult your vet on the matter.
Fortunately, these animals are pretty good at keeping themselves clean.
You probably won’t have to worry about bath time concerns like this too often.