Exploring the Reasons Behind Yawning in Guinea Pigs

What Do Guinea Pig Yawns Mean?

“Have you ever peered into your guinea pig’s cozy abode and thought to yourself, “Gosh, why is this little guy always yawning?” Well, have no fear, my friend, for guinea pigs have a plethora of reasons for letting out those big, stretchy yawns. Are they feeling tired? Could they be a little nervous? Or maybe they’re just submitting to a play fight with their cage mate.

Who knows? But one thing’s for sure, it’s not because they’re lazy! These little piggies know how to keep themselves busy, even if it’s just by stretching their jaw muscles and taking a big ol’ deep breath. So, if you notice your furry friend yawning more than usual, it may be a sign they need more excitement in their life. Give them some toys, hidey-hole, and social interaction, and watch their boredom disappear faster than you can say “yawn”!

beautiful guinea pig

Some guinea pig owners start to panic and believe yawning represents some underlying health issues but this isn’t true. Yawning is perfectly normal in guinea pig behavior and has many different meanings. If your pet guinea pig has health issues, there are many other indicators that are much more apparent, so worry not. Guinea pig owners also confuse yawning for other behaviors which look similar to yawning but actually aren’t. 

Why Do Guinea Pigs, Yawn? [Top 5 Reasons]

They Are Tired

Yawning when it comes to tiredness is a sign of your hamster’s body changing state.

Plain and simple most of the time your guinea pig will just be fatigued, and needs a bit more oxygen or cooling their brains (Yep, weird I know). Big yawns usually happen after exercise or after eating a big meal. Guinea pigs are only small animals that tend to be hyperactive, which leads to them fatiguing quite quickly.

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Yawning due to fatigue is a complicated topic and in recent years has been heavily debated. The causes and consequences of animal groups yawning require a deep discussion that cannot be summarised easily. I recommend reading the linked study to gain greater insight.

guinea pig yawning

Nervousness (Anxiety/stress)

People who go skydiving usually yawn before jumping, the same with most people who are entering difficult situations. The same logic applies to our pet guinea pigs.

Stress/Anxiety affects a guinea pig’s body in many ways mainly the heart and respiratory system. If your guinea pig is in a stressful situation yawning is a very common reaction. You see this behavior famously in dogs, I see it with my own frequently. It’s a natural reaction, if they know they’ve done something wrong and they are expecting a scolding they will yawn. This is usually accompanied by a guilty look. I’m sure you’ve seen examples of this before, maybe even in yourself. It’s a shared behavior present in most intelligent animals.

Aggression/Submission 

I’ve seen a lot of people say that guinea pigs yawn as a sign of aggression, but this is not true. Perhaps they are mistaken by a guinea pig baring its teeth, this most certainly is an act of aggression and dominance, and I suppose you can forgive people for thinking it looks like a yawn.

nervous guinea pig

Yawning is seen as a submissive trait or a passive approach toward aggression similar to being nervous or stressed. Humans display the same behaviors when they feel threatened. We will sometimes yawn and adopt submissive body language in hope of de-escalating whatever threat we are facing. This is true for guinea pigs.

Boredom

When we are bored we tend to be less focused on what we are doing. This applies to guinea pigs too. Without mental stimulation, a guinea pig will transition from a high level of alertness to a low level of alertness. Yawning is a process present in animals and humans alike which represents this transition in the state of mind.

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You can see this quite clearly when people finish playing sports or activities which require a high level of focus and concentration. The brain is deciding to change state to a lower level of alertness after being engaged for a certain length of time.

Should I Be Worried About My Guinea Pig Yawning?

Yawning in guinea pigs is not a matter of concern, it’s a natural bodily function that occurs mainly for a purpose. Usually, all animals yawn when they’re tired or bored as we know.

It was thought that when we are tired or bored we don’t breathe as deeply as we usually do. A big yawn helps us take in more oxygen into the blood and removes more carbon dioxide from the blood, at least that’s one of the theories but this seems to have been disproven. In 1987 scientists conducted a number of tests about yawning and found there to be no increase in oxygen or decrease in co2 levels. Scientists now suggest that the function of yawning is a “brain cooling mechanism”.

cute guinea pig

Woah! Who knew yawning could be so fascinating?

Why Is My Guinea Pig Yawning So Much?

  • Fear – guinea pigs believe it or not fear humans, it’s a natural instinct hardwired into their brains. Guinea pigs will sometimes yawn when they see their owner, regardless of how comfortable they are with them.
  • Changes to their environment – water, food, or bedding. Big changes to any guinea pig environment can cause stress which in turn causes yawning. Guinea pigs like familiarity if possible you should try to ensure that you don’t make frequent changes to their living conditions.
  • Complications with other guinea pigs – whether it’s over food, dominance, or disagreement. These all cause stress and tension which is again one of the main triggers for yawning.
  • Fatigue and boredom – If your guinea pig has nothing to do and becomes bored or simply it just tired after a hard workout. These are all situations where you can expect to see lots of yawning.
confused guinea pig

The bottom line is guinea pigs are not unique in their approach to yawning. Much like other animals including humans, we yawn in certain conditions and these are the same throughout. We should try to understand yawning itself, rather than trying to link it to the specific behavior that only guinea pigs do. Please also make the distinction between what is yawning and simply just opening a mouth. These are clearly not the same thing. 

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Animals do show aggression by opening their mouths, usually, to show their teeth but this is not the same as yawning. We may not fully understand the physiological reasons for yawning but we understand the triggers.

Lets Us Know About Your Guinea Pigs

Do you have concerns about your guinea pigs yawning or do they yawn when a specific event takes place? If you have more information on the subject please let us know because we would love to find out. Feel free to leave a comment below.