The Surprising Intelligence of Guinea Pigs: Smarter Than You Think!

Did you know that guinea pigs can be potty trained and learn to recognize their owners? It turns out that these little fluffballs aren’t just cute faces but are also pretty intelligent. Since brainpower is difficult to assess in animals, there is a lot of debate about how smart our pocket pals really are.

Guinea pigs are smarter than hamsters but not as clever as rats. They demonstrate intelligence in problem-solving, memory, learning, and social skills. Genetics, the environment, and stimulation influence individual intelligence. Cavies can learn tricks and solve simple problems.

While they may not be as brainy as dogs or cats, there is no doubt that cavies are clever little animals. Their intelligence is often underestimated, so let’s find out more about just how brainy piggies really are.

Are Guinea Pigs Smart?

Since animals are non-verbal, it can be difficult to gauge their intelligence accurately. Methods used usually focus on their ability to learn and recording their reactions to various stimuli.

Guinea pigs are often underestimated in the intelligence department because they are naturally timid. What appears to be hesitation or inability to learn may simply be its natural defenses going into overdrive.

Since getting eaten by a predator would be game over, it could be argued that for a cavy, being cautious is, in fact, a sign of intelligence. Interestingly, scientists have discovered some interesting differences between the brains of domestic and wild guinea pigs.

Since domestication, which first happened around 5000 BC, cavy brain size has decreased by up to 13% compared to their wild counterparts. However, in learning experiments, pet piggies held their own against wild guinea pigs. In fact, despite their smaller brains, they performed better on problem-solving tasks within a man-made environment.

The study results show that pet piggies have adapted to being domestic animals and living with humans. While we may not be able to get an accurate IQ score for guinea pigs, they show some remarkable social and learning behaviors.

Since there are different types of intelligence, let’s take a look at piggy performance in specific areas.

Area

Examples of how guinea pigs demonstrate this type of intelligence

Problem-Solving Skills

Social Intelligence

  • They live in groups and follow set group dynamics.
  • They can tell humans apart.
  • When a group of cavies is threatened, they show teamwork by all scattering in different directions to confuse the predator.
  • They display emotions like happiness, which is evident when they are popcorning.

Memory

  • Piggies have been shown to have excellent long-term memories. This reinforces learning since they can recall how to get to food or what scared them in the past.
  • They can learn to recognize different humans and will respond positively to their primary caregiver.
  • They can find their way home by remembering cues along the path.

Learning

  • With patient training, patience, and plenty of positive reinforcement, some piggies can learn basic tricks.
  • Cavies can learn to recognize their name and come when called.

Do Guinea Pigs Recognize Their Owners?

Cavies are intelligent creatures that can form loving bonds with their primary caregiver. Once they have had time to settle and know their owner, they will likely respond with excited wheeks when they hear their owner approaching.

Keep in mind that the method piggies recognize people they know may not be based on your appearance. So, it’s okay if you have a bedhead or are wearing a hat. Cavies don’t only rely on vision to make sense of the world around them.

Guinea pigs use their keen hearing and sense of smell to help differentiate one human from another. While they can see you approaching, they will be more excited about hearing the familiar sound of your voice.

Are Guinea Pigs Smarter Than Hamsters?

Hamsters are adorable little rodents perfect for anyone with limited space who wants to keep a solitary pet. Many sources indicate that since hamsters have fewer brain neurons than guinea pigs, that means that they aren’t quite as bright.

While it is true that guinea pigs outperform hamsters in most learning tests that measure brain power, the amount of grey matter an animal has is less important than how they use it. Rats also have fewer brain neurons than piggies but are undoubtedly very clever.

Guinea pigs are easier to train than hamsters, as the smaller rodents also have notoriously short attention spans. They also show much better-developed social skills and enjoy the company of their owners and fellow cavies. Hamsters can be thought of as the grumpy recluses of the rodent world, while piggies are the social butterflies.

How Can I Make My Guinea Pig Smarter?

The intelligence of a guinea pig can be influenced by its environment. They are naturally clever and curious, and their brainpower can soar if they receive the correct stimulation.

There are some things you can do to unlock your cavies’ full brainpower potential:

  • Ensure that it receives a healthy, balanced, cavy-specific diet.
  • Provide a relaxed environment. An anxious cavy will not be able to learn in the same way as one that feels calm and relaxed.
  • Always keep more than one guinea pig. Cavies are herd animals, and they are stimulated through interactions with each other and their owner.
  • The cage must be as large as possible. A cavy inside a small cage will not be able to explore and learn like an animal with space to move around.
  • Add stimulating activities that your cavy must solve. Hide food or add a simple maze for it to get through. Regularly add interesting new features like boxes or tunnels.
  • Spend plenty of quality time with your guinea pig. The more interaction between owner and cavy, the greater the bond. A relaxed, bonded piggy is more likely to be able to learn simple tricks.

Like all animals, Guinea pigs should only be trained using positive reinforcement. That means rewarding the animal with a special treat each time it displays behavior you want to encourage. It will eventually make the association between the behavior and the reward and repeat the trick to earn a treat.

Conclusion

Although guinea pigs may not be the most intelligent animals in the world, they are smart enough to be highly entertaining, social pets. They are amicable, social animals with excellent long-term memories and a proven ability to solve simple problems. Cavies are bright, inquisitive creatures that thrive when kept in a relaxed, stimulating environment.