How Smart Are Guinea Pigs?

Guinea pigs are fun, affectionate, and curious animals. But did you know that guinea pigs are also clever and fast learners? Chances are, they are smarter than you think!

As a guinea pig parent, you may have noticed certain traits and behaviours that indicate your guinea pig is smart. According to studies, guinea pigs have a sharp memory that allows them to remember their paths in the wild. As prey animals, having a sharp mind allows them to remember food sources and outsmart predators. 

As guinea pigs' intelligence is difficult to measure, we look for characteristics and behaviours that reflect the intelligence of these animals. From learning tricks to recognising their parents, we reveal how clever these cute animals are!

Guinea pig with hat and glasses

Are guinea pigs really that smart?

Yes! Guinea Pigs are highly sensitive and perceptive animals. Guinea pigs can learn their own name, learn tricks and display high emotional intelligence and empathy.

With guinea pigs having higher intelligence, it is important to encourage variety in their everyday lives and to prevent boredom. Creating DIY toys, filling their cage with accessories, and giving your guinea pig lots of floor time are vital for their general health and well-being.

Signs your guinea pigs are intelligent

With intelligence being difficult to measure, characteristics and behaviours give the biggest insight into a guinea pig's IQ. 

Scientists have studied guinea pigs to determine their intelligence level through a variety of studies. Research experiments prove that guinea pigs remember pathways and remember their way back home. It was originally thought that guinea pigs used their strong sense of smell to return home however it was proven that it is due to their kinesthetic memory.

Guinea pigs wander off to look for food and water but would always return to their habitat. 

 A great example of intelligence in guinea pigs is their ability to confuse predators in herds. If a predator was nearby guinea pigs would scatter in different directions instead of running away in one direction to confuse and disorientate the predator. Very smart!

 Intelligence is also determined by their ability to show emotional intelligence. As piggie owners, we know too well the cute pop-corning spells they make when they are happy! It is known that guinea pigs can sense emotional shifts within a herd and also with their owner and will respond accordingly. 

 Guinea pigs are quick learners and have the ability to learn tricks and respond to commands. One such example is guinea pigs recognising the rattle of a bag or the sound of the refrigerator door opening and will immediately squeak to recognise this as food.


Is that food? Guinea Pig

Do guinea pigs know their own name?

If guinea pigs are so intelligent you may be wondering, do guinea pigs recognise their name?

Yes! If you are new to owning a guinea pig, the response will not be immediate. As time passes and you bond closer with your piggies, they will eventually learn their own name. Guinea pigs have incredible hearing and will begin to understand the tone and pitch of your voice. If you repeatedly call your guinea pig's name it will eventually associate your tone of voice and sound with themselves. 

For top tips on how to bond with your guinea pig check out our blog: 20 ways to bond with your guinea pig.

 As well as names, guinea pigs can also recognise certain words and commands. For instance, food words will be associated with food. Declaring lunchtime or the name of the food before feeding your piggie will allow them to recognise the connection. To test this, declare lunchtime and see how your guinea pig responds! You will hear the squeaking for food immediately!

Check out our blog to learn more about guinea pig sounds and what they mean here.


Do guinea pigs have emotions?

Yes! Guinea pigs are very sensitive creatures and respond to both their owner's and herds emotions. Guinea pigs are known for being emotionally intelligent which shows how clever these animals are. In the wild, guinea pigs can sense emotions and will stay in tune with the rest of the herd. They have the ability to sense feelings and emotional changes and constantly stay alert.  Since guinea pigs are social animals, they are extremely devoted to supporting and protecting each other and their leaders. 

If you are well bonded with your guinea pig it will sense a shift in energy and a change in your emotions. Typically, piggies will look to their owners as the pack leaders in a household. This gives them a natural inclination to check on your emotional state. Guinea pigs do this by picking up on their owner's tone of voice and body language. By knowing their owner well, they can compare these aspects and identify mood changes. To understand your guinea pigs emotions, check out our blog: Guinea Pig Happiness Checklist.

Guinea pigs are one of the most effective emotional support animals for people dealing with various emotional and psychological issues.

Due to the combination of their attentiveness and loving nature, they’re excellent for helping mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety. 

Guinea pigs are such renowned emotional support animals that some institutions have conducted further research into practical applications of their natural traits.


Guinea Pig & Owner

Can you teach guinea pig tricks?

Yes! As guinea pigs are intelligent animals they have the ability to be trained. To train guinea pigs all you need is a bit of patience and plenty of treats! You want to choose healthy treats that they enjoy. Treats that are perfect for regular training sessions include bell peppers, cilantro, kale, parsley, romaine lettuce, and spinach.

 You can also teach your guinea pigs to differentiate between the primary colours red, yellow, blue and green. To test this you will need four colour-marked bowls for this. Keep the food in the same bowl and change the arrangement of the bowls constantly. The test will be interesting for you and challenging for the guinea pig. To test whether guinea pigs only go to the right bowl because of the smell, then don’t put any food in initially – but fill it straight away when the guinea pig goes to the right bowl!


Guinea Pig Tricks

Do guinea pigs recognise their owners?

Yes! Guinea pigs are smart creatures that are easy to develop a bond with. A guinea pig will recognise their owner as the caregiver who gives them food and love. A sure sign a guinea pig recognises you is that they feel safe around you. Here are 3 ways we know guinea pigs recognise us:

  • Your guinea pig will run towards you.
  • This is a clear indication your guinea pig recognises and has bonded with you. You may find your guinea pig will follow you around or run towards you when you return from work. Guinea pigs are also known to climb up their owners.

  • Your guinea pig will recognise your voice
  • When you talk to your guinea pig you may find it squeaks back! When it comes to food time your guinea pig will happily let you know that it is hungry! An indication that your guinea pig recognises you is by getting another person to shout the same word. You will soon realise your guinea pig will only respond to you. 

  • Your guinea pig will recognise your footsteps
  • Guinea pigs have incredible hearing so it is no surprise they are able to pick up on sounds that humans would not pay attention to. After years of bonding, you may find your guinea pigs know your footsteps. It is very common for you to walk downstairs and for your guinea pig to start squeaking! 


    Guinea pigs also know you by your smell and will happily eat from your hand and play with you. All this takes intelligence on their part!

    To learn more about the relationship between guinea pigs and their owners, check out our blog: 9 signs your guinea pig loves you.


    How smart are guinea pigs compared to other animals?

    Guinea pigs are smart creatures no doubt! A guinea pig's brain weighs 5.5 grams and has 240,000,000 neurons in its entire nervous system! So how does this compare to other animals?


    How Smart Are Guinea Pigs?


    Compared to other small rodents, hamsters have smaller grey matter in their brain than other rodents because they have fewer neurons in their brain.

    Hamsters are harder to train compared to guinea pigs, due to their short attention span. Both Rats and Mice have similar memory spans but have less grey matter than guinea pigs meaning they are indeed smarter!

    When it comes to Rabbits, guinea pigs are on a similar level however Rabbits have more neurons in their brain than guinea pigs meaning that Rabbits are slightly more intelligent!

    Guinea pigs have a better memory than rabbits as rabbit's short-term memory only lasts for a few minutes whereas guinea pigs’ memory has a longer lifespan.

    So are guinea pigs smarter than cats or dogs? The answer is unfortunately no. Cats and dogs both have more grey matter in their brains, meaning they are smarter than guinea pigs. Dogs can also be trained in many areas where guinea pigs fall short. 


    Guinea pigs are cute adorable creatures with huge personalities and are indeed very smart! So next time you think your guinea pig is out-smarting you- it probably is!


    Guinea pig funGuinea pig health

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