Guinea pigs don’t always have the best reputation for intelligence. After all, there are times when they can’t even find a piece of food in front of their face! However, guinea pigs are actually very smart. They can learn tricks, recognize their owners, learn their name, and even learn to problem solve.
Guinea pigs also learn by association very quickly. How fast did your guinea pigs learn that opening the fridge, or crinkling a bag results in food? I’d venture to guess it didn’t take very long.
How Smart Are Guinea Pigs?
Guinea pigs are very smart animals. They are capable of learning and remembering many trained behaviors and tricks. My guinea pig Ace has even demonstrated this capability to a high level. Here he is showing off some of his tricks, including basketball, high five, scent detection, and even playing fetch.
Guinea pigs are able to learn a large number of skills and behaviors. Ace even earned his champion trick title at just 17 months old! These trick titles are actually invented for dogs! I thought it was appropriate, because Ace is basically a little dog. 🙂
The champion title tested skills such as retrieving, scent detection, distance work, and so much more. His video submission was also independently verified by the trainers at Do More With Your Dog. You can watch our champion title submission video below.
What Can You Teach a Guinea Pig?
As you can see in the videos above, there are a lot of things you can teach a guinea pig! Guinea pigs are capable of responding to their name, coming when they’re called, and even doing tricks of all kinds!
They can rival dogs, cats, and rats with their learning ability. Even though guinea pigs are less agile than these other animals, they can still learn some of the same tricks. Guinea pigs can be taught to give a paw, play fetch, and spin circles on command. They can even learn to run miniature agility courses.
How Do You Train a Guinea Pig?
Guinea pigs learn best when they are taught in small steps and rewarded with treats when they get things right. It’s best to start teaching some easy tricks first, like responding to their name and running in a circle on cue. To teach your guinea pig tricks, you’ll first want to find their favorite veggie treats. Vegetables like green leaf or romaine lettuce, bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, and parsley can be great to use as a training reward.
You can start training guinea pigs at any age, but it’s often easier when they are about 1 year old. Young guinea pigs are very easily distracted and have a short attention span. They also tend to be jumpy and more skittish than adults. Once guinea pigs turn a year old, they usually calm down quite a bit. It’s also important to spend time bonding with your guinea pig before training tricks. Guinea pigs learn way faster when they are tame and able to trust their humans.
Do Guinea Pigs Recognize Their Owners?
Guinea pigs absolutely do come to recognize their owners. They are very good at picking up slight sounds and they easily notice subtle differences in smell and sound. They can use these senses to quickly identify their owner from a stranger.
I used to have a very skittish guinea pig. He bonded quite closely to me, and he’d come out, hang out with me, eat treats from my hand, and do some tricks. However, if I brought anyone in the room with me, he’d be hiding. Completely unwilling to come out for all the food in the world, even if the other person was entirely silent and calm. He could always tell if there was a new person or not, without even poking his nose out of his hiding place.
Guinea pigs can smell their people, sense them, even learn what your footsteps sound like versus other people.
Can Guinea Pigs Learn Their Names?
Absolutely, guinea pigs can learn their names. Guinea pigs often have a hard time differentiating between human words, so it’s important to choose a short name and use the same word consistently every time.
Also use a different tone of voice so your guinea pig can easily recognize their name over your regular speech. Call your guinea pig in a happy, slightly higher pitched tone of voice. Guinea pigs learn quickly by association, so you can teach your guinea pig their name much faster by giving them a treat every time you call their name.
What is the Smartest Breed of Guinea Pig?
Abyssinians are typically the smartest breed of guinea pig. This is because they are so bold, confident, and full of energy. This makes them very trainable and fast learners. However, they can also be a little bossy and sometimes even aggressive.
Abyssinians have a bit of a reputation for biting. From my experience that has been true, having owned two of them. The biting is not always aggressive, sometimes they are just tugging on your clothes or trying to communicate with you. But they do tend to “talk with their teeth” more than other breeds on average.
Even though they can be fun and sassy companions, I would hesitate to recommend them to first time owners, people with kids, or someone that wants a “cuddly” guinea pig. Abyssinians do not usually like to sit still, and most don’t overly enjoy being pet either.
Also, this doesn’t mean that other guinea pig breeds are not smart! I had a white crested guinea pig that learned well over 50 tricks, and an American (smooth coated) guinea pig that could figure out how to escape from any type of cage or pen. I had another American piggy who learned many tricks and could even paint with a paintbrush! The smartest guinea pig is a tame guinea pig that trusts their human.
Are Guinea Pigs Dumb?
Guinea pigs can play dumb sometimes, but this is influenced by factors outside of intelligence. Guinea pigs are prey animals, so when they feel unsafe, they often run away, hide, or freeze. Many people think they are dumb animals because they can be nervous like this. However, if you are patient and take the time to bond with them, you can see their intelligence really shine.
In addition, guinea pigs are known for aimlessly spinning around while looking for a piece of food right under their face. At first glance, this also doesn’t look like a shining example of intelligence. However, a guinea pig’s wide body shape as well as the blind spot under the chin actually makes it difficult for them to find food that’s right underneath them.
Also, as prey animals, guinea pigs are genetically programmed to always have their head up and looking around themselves. They often need to be taught to lower their heads and actually sniff the floor for a particular piece of food.
Do Guinea Pigs Have Feelings?
Guinea pigs are very emotionally intelligent animals, and they have feelings like any other human or animal. Guinea pigs often get depressed when their mate dies. In some cases, they can even go into a deep depression that can cause sickness or life threatening symptoms.
Guinea pigs also show joy in many cases by running wildly around their cage and jumping in the air, known as “popcorning.” Guinea pigs squeal excitedly when they’re happy, and even purr. Purring can indicate anything from fear, to happiness, to putting on a show for other guinea pigs when combined with “rumblestrutting.” This is basically where the guinea pig sways back and forth as they walk.
Do Guinea Pigs Have a Good Memory?
Guinea pigs generally have a good memory. They remember best if the things they are remembering are associated with something really good or bad. For example, do you only put your guinea pig in a carrier to go to the vet? If it happens a few times in a row, most guinea pigs will remember what happened the next time you bring out the carrier, even if it’s a year or more later. If they get badly spooked by a particular noise, they will remember that noise in the future, even at a lower volume.
On the flip side, guinea pigs also associate certain things in a very positive light. These things can be very hard for them to forget. Most guinea pigs will squeal at the sound of a plastic bag, for example. They’ve learned that crinkling bags mean they’re getting fed. If you stop crinkling any bags (hard to do lol) for many months, and then crinkle one again, I’ll bet your guinea pigs will still remember clearly what it means.
When I teach my guinea pigs tricks, they will typically remember their tricks for many months. Some of their favorite tricks never need a refresher, even when we haven’t practiced them for several months, or even a year! Sometimes, the more challenging tricks will need a refresher after some time.
However, the guinea pigs will always pick up on it very fast in just a couple minutes. It’s similar to your friend prompting you to remember an event from years ago. All it takes is a little prompt to bring the memory back to the forefront of your mind. Guinea pigs can be quite similar in that way.
IQ Tests for Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs can’t take IQ tests like humans can, so it can be hard to pinpoint a guinea pig’s average IQ. However, there are intelligence tests you can set up to figure out which of your guinea pigs is the smartest in your herd.
Guinea Pig IQ Test #1 – What’s Under That Cup?
One test you can do involves some lightweight plastic cups, and some of your guinea pig’s favorite veggie treats. Choose a very lightweight, clear colored cup for this test. Place a veggie treat under a cup beside your guinea pig. See how long it takes them to figure out how to knock over the cup to get the treat.
Once they’ve mastered this, add in more cups. Put the treat under only one cup and see how well your guinea pig can identify the cup that has the treat. You can also space out the cups further for more of a challenge.
Guinea Pig IQ Test #2 – Which is the Better Choice?
For this test, you just need your guinea pig and a handful of veggie treats that your piggy loves. Put a small amount of food in one hand, and a larger handful in the other. Hold both hands out towards your guinea pig and see which hand they choose.
Once your guinea pig understands the idea of this game, start holding the hand with the most food further away. See if your guinea pig will travel further for the hand with the most food.
Enrichment for Guinea Pigs
Mental enrichment is great for guinea pigs to use and exercise their mind. There are many enrichment games you can play with your guinea pig. One thing you can do is hide little pieces of their favorite veggie treats around their cage. Put treats inside tunnels, around on the floor, and on top of hidey houses. You can also sprinkle some veggie pieces in their hay to encourage natural foraging behavior.
Another thing you can do is build a maze for your guinea pig. You can build the walls of your maze using bricks, cardboard, or books stacked on top of one another. Build simple mazes that are easy for your guinea pig to navigate at first. Put some treats at the end of the maze. You may want to put a trail of treats through your maze at first, or guide your guinea pig through with a piece of food until they understand what to do. Once they get the hang of that, you can build gradually more challenging mazes to really exercise their brain.
You can also get your guinea pig a treat ball. Fill up the treat ball with pellets or diced up veggies and show your guinea pig how to use it. Once guinea pigs learn how to roll them around, treat balls can quickly become a favorite toy. They are great fun for guinea pigs, and they also provide a good source of enrichment and physical exercise.
Are Guinea Pigs Smarter Than Rats?
It is generally assumed that rats are smarter than guinea pigs. Having owned both, I think the intelligence is comparable. However, rats have an edge when it comes to agility and learning ability.
First of all, rats are much bolder, faster, generally more confident. You will find rats that are more nervous, but they are still generally less fearful than the most skittish guinea pigs you’ll find. This gives rats an edge, because they can prioritize food over safety more often than guinea pigs.
I’ve taught tricks to both rats and guinea pigs, and I have to say that rats generally learn faster. However, this is not necessarily due to a difference in intelligence. Rats are more agile and move much faster. Guinea pigs have wide, low bodies and can’t move nearly as fast.
This means, if you’re teaching them to spin in a circle, rats may learn it in 10 minutes, while a guinea pig takes 20. But, since rats are so much faster, they are getting twice the repetitions in half the time that the guinea pig is. When comparing how many repetitions it takes for both to learn the same trick, it is actually much closer to the same.
Rats also have the potential to learn a wide variety of tricks over guinea pigs. This is again, due to their body shape. Rats are thin, agile, and have no trouble balancing, climbing, jumping, and using their paws to navigate puzzles and obstacles. Guinea pigs cannot use their paws to grasp obstacles, and their body isn’t build for climbing, high jumping, and balance.
Rats are definitely great problem solvers. However, I have also seen my guinea pigs figure out many things on their own as well. I had a guinea pig who could push his exercise pen fence over to a low shelf, then step up on the low shelf to get around the fence. He also figured out how to open a door that was very slightly ajar, by biting at it and pulling it towards himself. I have another guinea pig that is an extreme escape artist! I swear that pig can get out of anything that isn’t clipped with 13 carabiner clips.
Overall, I feel that guinea pigs and rats are pretty equal in intelligence. Factoring in the physical and mental differences, rats clearly have an edge. However, basing actual intelligence and capability of learning, they have many similarities. Both are incredibly intelligent animals that are capable of learning a lot.
Are Guinea Pigs Smarter Than Hamsters?
I’ve shared my life with 4 different hamsters in the past, and I still have several guinea pigs to this day. I have to say that both guinea pigs and hamsters are pretty intelligent! I had hamsters escape from their cages routinely as a kid. I still have many memories of waking up in the middle of the night to dig a hamster out of my parents’ underwear drawer….
Unfortunately I never taught tricks to my hamsters back then like I do now with my piggies, so I’m not able to compare that. Hamsters can certainly be little puzzle solvers though, so I’m sure they’re more than capable of learning and remembering many behaviors. Unfortunately hamsters don’t live nearly as long as guinea pigs, so they would likely not learn as much as guinea pigs could in their lifetime. However, comparing how smart one is to the other, I think hamsters and guinea pigs are pretty close to equal in intelligence.
Are Guinea Pigs Smarter Than Rabbits?
I have 2 rabbits in addition to 5 guinea pigs. When I first got rabbits, I was surprised how similar they are to guinea pigs. They really are more similar than any other two types of animals I’ve had. As such, I find guinea pig intelligence to be very much the same as rabbits. It varies more based on the individual, rather than the species in my experience. One of my rabbits is a quicker learner than the other, just like some of my guinea pigs pick up new tricks faster than another.
Some tricks are easier to teach to rabbits, such as stand up or jumping. Rabbits have better balance, so they are a natural at these types of behaviors. However, I find tricks like basketball and fetch are easier to teach to guinea pigs.
Are Guinea Pigs Smarter Than Dogs?
It is generally accepted that dogs are smarter than guinea pigs. However, guinea pig vs dog intelligence is very difficult to judge because the species are so very different. Dogs are a predatory species of animal, whereas guinea pigs are prey animals and therefore much more flighty. Dogs are also bred over many generations to work alongside humans. They have been raised to have a biddable, willing to please type of personality.
Guinea pigs are driven by food and survival, which makes them less inclined to interact with humans in the same way. However, if you put a fairly biddable guinea pig against a dog, intelligence may be up for debate, especially with certain dog breeds. Guinea pigs are certainly capable of learning a lot when the circumstances are right. However, dogs as a whole still have the upper hand when it comes to intelligence, based on their evolution as a species over the years.
Are Guinea Pigs Smarter Than Cats?
Again, this is so difficult to judge, as cats are entirely different than guinea pigs. Even cat vs dog intelligence is fiercely debated. It’s fair to say that all these animals express their intelligence in different ways. Cats are similar to guinea pigs in the way that they’re not nearly as biddable as dogs.
Both cats and guinea pigs are less inclined to work with humans without an external benefit of some sort. However, cats have evolved to stalk and hunt prey, which requires a higher level of intelligence and problem solving. Again, cats have the upper hand on intelligence when compared to guinea pigs.
How Smart Are Guinea Pigs Compared to Humans?
Compared to…. certain humans, guinea pigs may seem pretty smart. Realistically though, it’s not really a fair comparison. Humans have relied on their intelligence for years to survive and develop the world into what we know today. Guinea pigs don’t have the able bodies or opposable thumbs that humans have. Guinea pigs have also evolved over the years to live very differently from us. As such, guinea pig intelligence can’t really be compared to humans.
As you can see, intelligence is not always black and white. However, guinea pigs are much smarter than they are often given credit for. They are capable of learning and remembering quite a lot. Although their evolution has led them to be more nervous by nature, they are still able to use their brain and problem solve.
Their body type and personality can make it easy to overlook their intelligence compared to animals like rats, dogs, and cats, but they can still give these animals a run for their money. To test out your guinea pig’s intelligence for yourself, try teaching them some tricks from our list of 10 easiest tricks to teach your guinea pig.