Guinea pigs are not just adorable, they’re intelligent too! They’re able to show a wide range of emotions through a variety of noises and gestures. Lots of owners have asked us if guinea pigs can recognize them, to answer this question, let’s take a deeper look at the guinea pigs’ behavior towards humans.
So, do guinea pigs recognize their owners? There are a number of clear signs suggesting that guinea pigs, in fact, do recognize their owners. Guinea pigs have poor eyesight, which means they will learn to recognize you mostly by your scent and by the sound of your voice. When guinea pigs lived in the wild, they organized themselves into groups. Within their herds, they relied on their ability to recognize friends and foes. They have held on to this instinct as domesticated animals, making it possible for them to recognize their owners as well.
Reports from guinea pig owners are clear: Guinea pigs not only show affection toward them, but they will also greet them when they enter the room. It’s not unusual for guinea pigs to show signs of wanting to be held or cuddled by their owners.
In addition, some report that when a stranger attempts to bribe their guinea pig with treats, their pet will gravitate toward their owners instead, choosing their special relationship over food. This makes it undeniable that guinea pigs are not only intelligent, they are also capable of recognizing humans as individuals.
How exactly can you tell if your guinea pig recognizes you? Let’s look at a few signs suggesting that your guinea pig really knows who you are.
Sings That Indicated That Guinea Pigs Can Recognize Their Owners
Special Sounds | Noises
There are two important noises that they produce around humans and that is wheeking and purring. If you are passing near the cage and your guinea pig is making wheeking sounds that means that it recognizes you. Also if you are petting your guinea pig and it starts to purr, it also means that your pet in fact recognizes you.
They Groom You
When guinea pigs want to show affection, they will do it so through grooming. This involves licking, nibbling, and nudging. So, if your guinea pig seems to be trying to “groom” your fingers, you know you have a special relationship with it!
They Cuddle You
Some guinea pigs like to rest on their owners’ laps and even nuzzle into their arms. Just remember that most new guinea pigs won’t be ready for this step when you first bring them home. Getting to this point requires building trust over time.
They Don’t Run Away
It’s perfectly normal for guinea pigs to run and take cover when you enter the room. But after your guinea pig learns to recognize you, you’ll notice that they quickly recover after their initial scare, and are happy to interact with you. You may even have the delightful experience of being greeted by your guinea pig.
How Can I Help My Guinea Pig Recognize Me?
If you want your guinea pig to recognize you, you first need to make sure they feel safe and content in your presence. After all, they won’t have a chance to recognize you as an individual if they are afraid and distracted. Make sure you are consistent in doing the following:
It is completely normal and healthy for guinea pigs to be frightened easily. This is a hard-wired instinct for small prey animals. Moving slowly will help your guinea pig stay calm during your interactions.
Don’t Make Any Loud Noises
Loud and unexpected noises will frighten your guinea pig and make it difficult for you to bond with it.
Talk to Your Guinea Pig
At first, you may feel awkward having a one-sided conversation with your guinea pig. But over time, this will help your guinea pig recognize the sound of your voice. Just remember to speak softly and in a consistent tone.
Stick With a Routine
Guinea pigs can get used to a routine. If your guinea pig knows what to expect when you come into the room, it’ll be less likely to become startled and fearful. This will increase the chance that it’ll be relaxed enough to recognize you.
Bond Through Feeding
It is possible to train your guinea pig to eat from your hand. This is a great way to help your guinea pig build a special relationship with you, but it can’t be forced!
If you have a shy guinea pig, do the following: During meal times, simply place your hand on the opposite end of the cage from the food. Let your guinea pig get used to the idea of eating while your hand is in the cage. Each day, move your hand an inch or two closer to where your guinea pig is eating until your hand is right next to him during feeding.
Finally, place the food in your palm for him to eat directly from your hand. This will help your guinea pig learn to recognize your scent.
Related: What Do Guinea Pigs LIKE to Eat?
In General, Don’t Rush Things
It is completely normal and healthy for guinea pigs to shy away from people, especially when they are brought into a new home. They are, by nature, cautious animals. However, this makes it even more rewarding when your guinea pig does start to recognize you!
Will Training Guinea Pigs Help Them Recognize Their Owners
Yes, the more positive interactions you have with your guinea pig, the more likely it is that it will recognize you as someone special.
This is where your existing relationship with your guinea pig becomes especially important because if your animal doesn’t trust you, it will be impossible to train him. Here are a couple of “tricks” you can try:
Teaching Your Guinea Pig to Stand up
Once your guinea pig has learned to eat from your hand, this is a relatively easy trick to teach. Hold one of your guinea pig’s favorite treats just above its eye level, say “stand up,” and let him have the treat.
Next, hold the treat a little bit higher, so it will have to stretch his neck upwards to get the treat, and say “stand up.” Repeat this process with the verbal command until your guinea pig is standing on his back legs to reach the treat.
In time, you’ll find that even if you don’t have a treat in your hand, but you say “stand up,” your guinea pig will listen! Just be sure to reward his performance with a treat afterward.
Training Your Guinea Pig to Jump Through a Hoop
Choose a hoop that your guinea pig can jump through easily. You can either purchase a hoop or simply make one out of cardboard. Start off by holding the hoop in one hand, and your guinea pig’s favorite treat in the other.
Place the hoop at ground level between your pet and the treat, encouraging him to walk through. It’s ok to let it cheat a little at first, by giving him the treat before it’s all the way through. This will help him get used to the hoop.
Once your guinea pig is used to walking through the hoop at ground level and getting his treat as a reward, you can slowly start raising the hoop off the ground so it can hop through.
Don’t forget to reward his jumping with treats as well. After you have repeated this process, again and again, you’ll find that your guinea pig jumps through the hoop even without a reward.
Guinea Pig’s Behavior Towards Their Owners: Possible Situations
If My Guinea Pig Recognizes Me, Why Does It Still Hide in the Cage?
Remember that guinea pigs are prey animals. Before they were domesticated, their survival in the wild depended on their ability to detect danger and escape quickly.
It isn’t unusual for guinea pigs to seek out and prefer hiding places as opposed to open spaces. Their instinct to take cover runs deep. Don’t take it personally, and continue working on building trust with your pet.
Do Guinea Pigs Bite People They Don’t Recognize?
Guinea pigs don’t typically bite. If you or someone else does get bitten, it’s likely due to how the guinea pig was handled at that moment as opposed to who was doing the handling. Usually, guinea pigs will only bite when they feel threatened.
Do Rehomed Guinea Pigs Miss Their Previous Owners?
If you can’t keep your guinea pig anymore and need to find him a new home elsewhere, you may be concerned about him. Since it recognizes you, it will certainly recognize that you aren’t there anymore, right?
Rehomed guinea pigs usually go through a small adjustment period but as long as their new owners take good care of them, they will begin to recognize their new owners and be back to their usual selves in no time.
If you do need to rehome your guinea pig, have a conversation with the new owners to ensure they continue the same kind of care the guinea pig is used to. This will help ensure a smoother adjustment for the new owner and the guinea pig.
Guinea pigs are cute and affectionate animals that make great pets for both adults and children. The fact that they can recognize their owners makes them even more special. Be patient with your guinea pig and earn its trust. You’ll be rewarded with a loving relationship between you and your pet!
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List of Sources
Geller, K. S., The power of pets: How animals affect family relationships, Virginia Tech, 2002.
Woodward, L. E., Bauer, A. L., People and Their Pets: A Relational Perspective on Interpersonal Complementarity and Attachment in Companion Animal Owners, Society and Animals, 2007.
Norman, R., Wills, A. P., An Investigation into the Relationship between Owner Knowledge, Diet, and Dental Disease in Guinea Pigs (Cavia porcellus), Animals: an open access journal from MDPI, 2016.
McNicholas, J., Gilbey, A., Rennie, A., Ahmedzai, S., Dono, J. A., Ormerod, E., Pet ownership and human health: a brief review of evidence and issues, BMJ, 2005.