Music defines the human experience. It’s hard to think of an art form we spend more time with—in fact, some studies show the average person spends over 25 hours a week listening to music! 1 We hear music in the animal kingdom, too—from beautiful bird songs to choruses of crickets. But do our pets enjoy music as much as we do? Some guinea pig owners love to play music for their pets. And many people claim that listening to the right music makes their cavies calmer and happier.
The truth is, it’s hard to tell if guinea pigs like music or not. Certain types of music—especially loud, harsh, and percussive music—seem to stress them out. And other types of music might bring your guinea pig some enjoyment. But you probably care more about your music than your pets do. Let’s dive into what makes music work—and how to tell what your guinea pig thinks of it.
The Research Behind Animals and Music
There’s not much research on whether guinea pigs enjoy music, but there are studies about other mammals. One study of dogs showed that listening to classical music was linked to sleeping more and other signs of reduced stress, while heavy metal music caused dogs to act more stressed 2.
A different set of researchers tried composing music with tempos matched to an animal’s heart rate and pitches matched to their vocal range 3. They found that cats and tamarins were twice as likely to respond to “species-specific” music than human music. This suggests that some guinea pigs might prefer music that’s higher pitched and faster paced. But since it hasn’t been studied in guinea pigs, it’s hard to know whether their findings hold true. You might have to experiment to see what music is best for your guinea pig.
Of importance here is the fact that guinea pigs are naturally neophobic. This means that new experiences, including a new sound, frighten them easily. Therefore, before experimenting to see if your guinea pigs enjoy music, it’s important to note that they may not enjoy the experience. This is also why information about their appreciation of music remains inconclusive, as some guinea pigs might be accustomed to music, while others might find the sound frightening. The most obvious sign of neophobia in guinea pigs is refusal to eat or drink, hiding, and not exploring their hutch or surroundings.
How to Tell If Your Guinea Pig Is Enjoying Music
If your guinea pig is happy with the music you’re playing, you’ll be able to tell by their body language. Music might make your guinea pig feel happy and excited or calm down. Your happy guinea pig might make a “wheek” noise. Guinea pigs also sometimes jump up when they’re excited, a move called “popcorning.” You can also sense if your guinea pig is happy when it’s alert, active, and playful.
On the other hand, you might see your guinea pig calm down when listening to music. Calm but happy guinea pigs will cuddle up, lick each other or their owners, or sleep peacefully. They might purr softly like a cat. Please note that these claims are entirely anecdotal and may not apply to your guinea pig.
How to Tell If Your Music Is Stressing Your Guinea Pig Out
If you like your music loud and strong, you might need to keep your guinea pig’s health in mind. Look for signs of stress like hiding, chewing the cage bars, hunching over, or becoming aggressive. Loud noises are known to scare guinea pigs, so some music might be too much for them.
Is your guinea pig a music lover? Even though we don’t have the research to back it up, many owners are sure their guinea pig has its own favorite songs. You’re the best judge of your guinea pig’s mood, and if you pay attention, you might find out what kinds of music it likes best.