Teeth Chattering in Guinea Pigs: Signs, Causes, and Responses

Dogs growl, snakes hiss, and guinea pigs chatter their teeth. Many animals have developed clear warning sounds. It’s their way of signaling that they are feeling threatened or that something is upsetting them. Understanding why your piggies chatter their teeth and responding appropriately can go a long way in keeping your little fluffball happy.

When guinea pigs chatter their teeth, it is usually a sign that it is angry, annoyed, or impatient. Teeth chattering is never a positive sound. It is a clear indication that the animal is feeling threatened or intimidated. The warning may be accompanied by whining and can be a precursor to a fight.

Guinea pigs have a wide range of body language, signals, and vocalizations to express themselves and communicate with those around them. Teeth chattering is a very distinctive sound that sends a clear message.

Why Do Guinea Pigs Chatter Their Teeth?

Teeth chattering for humans usually means that we are shivering from the cold. That is not the case with our piggy pals, who make the rapid tick-tick-tick sound with their teeth as a warning that they are feeling agitated.

Many circumstances can lead to a piggy chattering. Like hissing and whining, it always indicates that something in your piggy’s little world is amiss, and immediate investigation is required to defuse the situation.

Teeth chattering is sometimes accompanied by the angry piggy baring its teeth. The animal may simultaneously make a whining sound to appear even more menacing.

Let’s take a look at some specific instances that commonly lead to cavies making this sound:

  • Teeth chattering is often a precursor to a fight. If you have recently introduced a new piggy to the herd and hear this sound, they may need more time apart to get used to each other before putting them in the same cage. It is a clear warning to respect territory and keep at a distance.
  • Chattering often occurs during shows of dominance in a group. Even within an established herd, there may occasionally be challenges to the set hierarchy, and teeth-chattering may be used to intimidate one other.
  • Female guinea pigs with young pups may make this sound if they are feeling uncomfortable about how close someone is getting to their babies. It would be a defensive signal that the mom piggy is uneasy and wants you to move away.
  • They may make this sound if they are unhappy about something being done to them, for example, while grooming or trimming their nails. Your piggy is letting you know it is not enjoying the experience.
  • Some individuals may make the sound when they are impatient if you take too long to serve a favorite snack.

How Do I Stop My Guinea Pigs Teeth Chattering?

Context is everything when it comes to cavy teeth chattering and how to respond. If the sound is the precursor to a fight with a new piggy, it is wise to separate the animals for a little longer. If it is a dominance squabble amongst familiar herd members, you may just need to monitor the situation closely and step in if needed.

A cavy that is teeth chattering may benefit from some quiet personal space to assess its environment. A great way to make your piggy feel safe is to provide a spacious cage with plenty of hideouts and shelters. That way, it can escape the situations or cage mates that make it feel threatened or anxious.

Like all parents with toddlers, there are times when you will need to switch to your A-game to distract your cavy if it starts chattering its teeth. Necessary situations like grooming may result in this impatient or annoyed sound from your piggy as it wants you to stop. Anticipating their reaction and keeping a few special treats or favorite vegetables close by can help to distract them and sweeten the experience.

Why Does My Guinea Pig Keep Moving Its Mouth?

True teeth chattering is always a loud, unmistakable, threatening sound, so if your piggy is just moving its mouth and not making much noise, something else may be going on.

Many owners report seeing their piggies chewing even though they have nothing in their mouths. Although guinea pigs can’t store food in their cheeks like hamsters, they may retain small amounts of fibrous material in the back of their mouth from their last meal to chew later.

Continuous, unexplained mouth moving or teeth grinding should be investigated as it could signal a medical or dental issue. If you notice that your piggy is chewing or moving its jaws around, take note of the following:

  • Check if it has something stuck in its mouth that it is trying to dislodge.
  • Feel for lumps or bumps around the mouth that could signal a mouth abscess. Anything unusual must be investigated by a veterinarian.
  • Guinea pig teeth grow continuously. Malocclusion can result when they don’t wear down properly. The result is not only uncomfortable, but it can be fatal as the animal is not able to eat enough.

What Are Unhappy Guinea Pig Noises?

Loud teeth chattering is the most common sound your piggy will likely make if it feels threatened or unhappy. It is an unmistakable sound that lets everyone know it is uncomfortable and wants some alone time.

Our clever pets have a much more extensive repertoire of noises to express displeasure, which include:

  • Hissing – This sounds similar to an angry cat, and it is another way your piggy may let everyone around it know that it is upset.
  • Whining – Often happens at the same time as teeth chattering and communicates annoyance.
  • Shrieking – Always immediately respond to any sudden high-pitched shrieks from your piggies, as it may signal fear or pain.
  • Some types of purring – Most of the time, a purring cavy is letting you know that it is contented and relaxed. When the sound and accompanying vibration have a higher pitch or seem jerky, it can indicate that the animal is tense. If you are unsure, check your piggy’s body language to help interpret the meaning of the sound.

Conclusion

Cavies are chatty little creatures, but it can sometimes be difficult to translate exactly what they are trying to communicate. Teeth chattering is one noise that is easy for humans and other guinea pigs to understand. The loud, menacing sound is a clear message to everyone around to respect the piggy’s boundaries and move away.