Yawning is a reflex that is done amongst lots of different types of animals—not just mammals, but birds, reptiles, and even fish! Did you know that humans begin yawning within 11 weeks of gestation? So, the question now is whether guinea pigs yawn, and the answer is yes!
Guinea pigs yawn for a few different reasons, and it’s not just a reflex like it is in humans and other animals. It’s also a behavior that they display in different situations!
What is a yawn?
Yawning is a reflex that involves opening your jaw wide and then taking in a deep breath, and then is followed by a deep exhale.
It’s common for people to believe that yawning is a sign of being tired or bored, but that isn’t necessarily the case. However, it does explain the perception that yawning is a way for the body to get more oxygen into the blood to improve alertness. This isn’t necessarily true either, because there are cases where people were yawning when they were breathing in air rich with large amounts of oxygen.
According to different studies, yawning actually occurs when we’re gearing up for an activity, whether it’s something like workouts, performances or exams, or when you wake up and are preparing for the day. Yawning also occurs when the brain is overheated, and this observation was made when people seemed to yawn less when they had cold/ice packs against their heads.
There have been other studies that suggest temperature regulation is crucial for the body to properly function, and this is controlled by the brain region referred to as the hypothalamus. With this logic, if the brain makes the body yawn in order to cool the brain, it may explain why some people yawn a lot when they’re anxious as well! It can help them relax or help relieve some of their anxiety.
Why do guinea pigs yawn?
Now that we’ve learned about what a yawn is and why humans typically yawn, we can discuss our real question: Do guinea pigs yawn, and why do guinea pigs yawn? There are a few explanations for this, and it doesn’t just have to do with the involuntary reflex of yawning!
You guinea pig is tired.
Guinea pigs may yawn when they’re tired and fatigued. And this makes sense—as you know, guinea pigs don’t necessarily have a sleeping schedule that is regular and set, and they’re active on and off all day, every day! They may be awake and running around at two in the morning, and then asleep at eight in the morning, and then they’re up and about a few minutes later.
Guinea pigs also don’t typically sleep for long periods of time! They tend to take short naps throughout the day. This has to do with the fact that they’re a prey animal and when they were out in the wild, they had to stay alert to keep an eye out for predators.
This worked the best when they were living in herds and large groups, because they could look out for each other and even sleep in “shifts” of some kind. This way, everyone got the rest they needed, while others in their herd were alert and ready to signal whenever they may be in danger.
For more information on guinea pig sleeping habits, read this post here.
Your guinea pig is annoyed.
Guinea pigs will yawn, or perform the motion of yawning in order to express that they’re irritated by their companions. This is typically performed and directed at other guinea pigs that they don’t get along with, or if they feel like another guinea pig is getting into their space—their personal bubble, if you will.
If you’ve read our blog about how guinea pigs communicate with each other, then you know that when guinea pigs raise their heads, they’re establishing dominance. This can be combined with the yawning motion in order to express that they’re annoyed, and this can be a signal to other guinea pigs to back off! Guinea pigs can be quite territorial, even with their piggy companions that they’re bonded with.
For example, one of our guinea pigs, Mi, enjoys annoying her sister Ru on purpose! Mi will instigate and provoke Ru until Ru finally shows that she’s had enough!
Your guinea pig is relaxed.
Obviously, this one is a good reason for them to yawn, and the most ideal reason! If there’s no signs of stress in their body language or behaviors—such as sitting in a hunched position, outward aggression, over-grooming, etc.—then it’s pretty safe to say that your guinea pig might be relaxed!
They might even be in a relaxed enough state for them to completely pancake, or lay flat with their limbs splayed. A yawn that is followed by no other displays or body language can mean that this piggy is relaxed around not only their fellow guinea pigs, but around you!
Your guinea pig is about to start fighting.
Again, if a guinea pig wants to display their dominance over the other piggies around them, they’ll yawn, but to take it further, they’ll reveal their teeth as well. There are other sounds and behaviors to look out for, which you can read about in depth here. The guinea pigs will chatter their teeth, raise their hackles and fluff up their fur to appear bigger, and even lunge at other piggies.
If you see any of these things, it’s a sign that there might be a fight that’s about to break out. There’s a few things you can do if your guinea pigs end up fighting. It’s important to separate them within their cage. Place something like a soft tunnel across to give them a bit of a border or barricade so they can calm down separately. Make sure that if these piggies are new to each other, that you’ve given the proper time to acclimate and get used to each other.
During fights, guinea pigs can injure each other and themselves, and in the worst case scenario, they can kill each other. It’s important that you stop the fights before anything like this can happen!
Your guinea pig is stressed.
This isn’t a surprise, we’re sure—Guinea pigs are very anxious animals, and their behaviors have everything to do with this! When your piggies are scared or anxious, they might let out a yawn, even involuntarily. You may recall that in the beginning, we mentioned that humans tend to yawn when they’re feeling anxious, and that it could be the brain’s way of cooling itself down, in order to help them relax.
Our piggies like to hide and do other things to make themselves feel comfortable and safe, and we should encourage them and enable it! We mentioned previously that guinea pigs are naturally prey animals, and hiding is what makes them feel safe, even if they are just living in your home with you.
In order to help your guinea pig relax, we recommend that you give them more ways to hide by including tunnels, blankets, and actual hideys for them to tuck themselves into.
Our GuineaDad Crunchy Condo is a great cardboard option that comes in a pack of 3! It’s made with non-toxic glue, food touch safe ink, and reusable, recyclable virgin paper. All these elements make for a healthy hidey that can help guinea pigs maintain their teeth, but also a safe one! Of course, you can also use the boxes you get your online shopping packages in, but you can’t be sure whether the components that they’re made from are actually safe for your piggies!
We also have the GuineaDad Queen’s Castle, which is a solid wood hidey that is great for guinea pigs to not only hide in, but they can also gnaw on it as much as they’d like—it’s perfect for teeth maintenance as well. As you probably know, guinea pig teeth are always growing, and it’s important that they’re eating the proper foods and have the proper items for them to chew on to healthily wear down their teeth in a safe manner.
Our GuineaDad Liners are also great for hiding! We created our liners with the guinea pig hiding behavior in mind—the pocket is for the piggies to tuck themselves into! It’s extra fun for guinea pigs when you tuck a hidey into the pocket because then they have two levels of hiding.
The hidey tucked into the pocket is already quite shady, but if they go further inside and hide in the pocket just behind the hidey, it’s extra dark! You can read more about why guinea pigs like the dark in our blog post here.
Guinea pig yawns can be good and bad!
It’s important as guinea pig parents that we always keep an eye on our piggies for changes in behavior and body language! They can’t exactly tell us with words how they’re feeling, but by learning about their behaviors, body language, and sounds, we can be the best piggy parents we can be.
This doesn’t just go for their happiness and comfort, but for their overall health as well! You are your piggy’s first line of defense against everything. By keeping them safe, we can keep them healthy and happy!