Why Do Guinea Pigs Shiver?

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Guinea pigs can express themselves in a variety of ways such as hisses, purrs, wheeks, and squeals, but do you know that one cavy’s shiver may mean differently with another’s?

Guinea pigs are sociable creatures. They are generally friendly and can live well with other piggies, but they also have distinctive personalities and have a particular position in their own cage social system.


Cold Temperature

Guinea pigs, like all mammals, shiver as a form of body response to temperature changes to lower levels. Shivering allows mammals to maintain their body in a balanced state, extending their body’s activity period despite an incoming cold.

The ideal temperature for raising guinea pigs is 65-75°F. Managing environmental temperature for your piggy can be a balancing act — if the environment is higher than 75°F, your cavy will experience heat stroke. Any degree lower and it will acquire respiratory problems.

It is therefore not surprising if your guinea pig will shiver after a bath. To limit the coldness and decrease its shivering, put a towel soaked with warm water at the bottom of the sink or bathtub before placing the cavy on it. Use warm water to bathe and when done, use hair dryer at low heat setting; taking care to avoid your piggy’s ears as well as moving the dryer to and fro.

When you are done cleaning your guinea pig, ensure that the cage has been placed away from any draft. Do not put the cage outdoors on cold weather. Make sure that your piggy’s home is placed in an environment with non-fluctuating or barely-fluctuating temperature and still air.


Illness and Medical Symptom

If your guinea pig’s shivering persists, you may want to check its head for any nasal discharge and clouded or watery eyes as these may indicate a cold or some respiratory infection. Consult with the vet afterward to have your cavy’s condition confirmed and properly diagnosed and treated.

Do not self-medicate as this could be harmful to your pet.

big guinea pig

Fear and Anxiety

Shivering is also part of all mammals’ fight or flight response to fear. Check your guinea pig’s cage and its environment whenever you hear it shudder. You may need to run quickly or employ a CCTV camera to catch the culprit behind cavy’s alarm. Do you see any prowling cat, dog or rat nearby?

If there are no animal or human threats behind your guinea pig’s shivering, try to discover what stimulus is causing it to shiver by asking its former owner, shelter or pet shop. Sometimes, a past trauma is associated with harmless objects like a random towel can trigger your guinea pig to shudder. This is especially true for rescued cavies that have lived difficult past lives.

Have them calm down by cutting out all the noise like the TV. You can even put them in their cage huts for privacy and a little bit of quiet time so they can calm down before you take them out once more.

You can also let them sit on their fleece or on you while giving them treats to help them feel comfortable.

Excitement and Other Reasons

Shivering, which is also called vibration, can also mean that your guinea pig is annoyed. This usually happens when you do something the cavy does not like – like delaying its meal service, brushing or stroking it in the wrong direction of its hair strand or on the wrong part of its body – like near the rump.

You will recognize its annoyance because it will have other behavioral cues like trying to squeeze out of your grasp as an act of expressing discomfort.

Another reason cavies may shiver is in excitement, regardless if it is anticipation like when they are looking forward to you bringing their dish of food or courting during mating periods. You have to be keen enough to spot other clues to identify their reason for shuddering.

Mating reasons, for example, is indicated by hip wiggling or humping, while pure excitement due to food may be indicated by them looking at you and wheeking when the fridge is opened.

Your guinea pig could also be merely happy. Its shuddering could just be purring in contentment as it is being petted on your lap, with a treat in front of it.

Unlike the usual shuddering and purring due to discomfort, your guinea pig may follow some rhythm such as vibrate-stop repetition or it could just sit contentedly.

Unlike a happy or contented shiver, shuddering due to fear is usually accompanied by one of these or a combination of – a freeze, raising of the head as if looking for any signs of predators or danger, and chattering or grinding of teeth as if annoyed or warning to buzz off.

Final Note

There are many possible reasons a guinea pig may shiver and one cavy’s shiver may mean different from another’s. As your guinea pig’s hooman, it is important, therefore, that you know and understand your cavy’s personality and background as this will help you read its additional behavioral cues and the situational context whenever it shivers.

Consult with your vet particularly if the shuddering extends over long periods like days or weeks since this may mean underlying health issues. Guinea pig illnesses tend to escalate rapidly if left untreated so it is better to have your cavy monitored and its health problems discovered at the earlier stages.

Keep in mind that guinea pigs are skittish herd-type creatures that have high intelligence which means that past maltreatment or any fear or discomfort-inducing situation can get them traumatized and affect their behavior. Your response to a shivering guinea pig, then, should be to prioritize its safety and comfort to counter its fear.

After all, at the end of the day, all your little furry friend needs is just all the love and care it deserves.

Carlye Yancey
Carlye Yancey

Between internships, volunteering, and paid jobs over the last 4 years, I have pretty much-gained experience with domesticated animals. Currently being in school for my veterinary technology degree, I spend my leisure time with 3 critters that I own.

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