Guinea pigs are known for their wide range of vocal communication. Although most pet owners are familiar with their pets’ squeaking sounds, many are confused when their guinea pigs begin making rumbling noises. These rumbling noises are what is known as rumble strutting.
Rumble strutting, also known as motor-boarding, is a form of communication typically used to signal that it is time to mate. Sometimes, it might also happen when your guinea pigs are hungry, bored, or even stressed.
It may sound alarming initially, but rumble strutting is a completely natural and normal behavior for guinea pigs. Read on to learn what rumble strutting is, why it happens, and what to do about it.
What is rumble strutting?
As the name implies, rumble strutting is when a guinea pig makes a deep rumbling noise while walking around.
When a guinea pig does this, it will shift its weight side-to-side, almost like a dance. Their fur might also become puffed up in an attempt to make themselves appear larger.
During rumble strutting, a guinea pig might appear as if its whole body is shaking or vibrating. Their head will also be raised. Sometimes, guinea pigs may even raise their front legs while at it.
Why do guinea pigs rumble strut?
The most common reason rumble strutting happens is for guinea pigs to communicate with each other that they want to mate.
Female guinea pigs will do it to let any nearby males know that they are ready to mate but will only remain interested in mating for just a few hours.
They will rumble strut quite regularly as they come into season to mate, typically every 16 days or so. However. just because your female guinea pig is rumble strutting does not mean she is actually going to mate and become pregnant every 16 days.
Male guinea pigs, too, will start rumble strutting when they are interested in mating with a female. They will do this while encircling her.
However, male guinea pigs may also begin rumble strutting to exhibit dominance over other male competitors in the enclosure.
If multiple male guinea pigs try to mate with one sow, they can start to rumble strut towards each other as a way to decide who will eventually get to mate with the prom queen.
Scared or anxious
Rumble strutting can also be used as a way to intimidate or show dominance towards potential danger.
If something has spooked your guinea pig, it might start to rumble strut and puff up its fur to make itself look larger as a defensive response to whatever is scaring them.
Sometimes, rumble strutting occurs just because something makes your guinea pig grumpy.
If they are hungry, they may begin rumble strutting out of crankiness. Some guinea pigs have even been known to rumble themselves to sleep when annoyed.
If food is low, some guinea pigs will react by rumble strutting. They will also start to rumble strut to let others in the enclosure know how much food is available.
Guinea pigs might also start rumble strutting if they are under-stimulated. It could be that they do not have enough toys to entertain themselves or their enclosure is too small for them to run around.
A small enclosure might also mean there is not enough room for your guinea pigs to properly play with each other, which could contribute to their boredom.
Communicating with others
Rumble strutting is used as a means of communication between guinea pigs.
You already know they use it as mating rituals. It can also be used to let others know if there is not enough food or if they want to play and exercise with each other.
Since rumble strutting is also a sign of dominance, a guinea pig might do it to keep others away from their food.
Guinea pigs may also start rumble strutting to warn others about potential danger nearby. Like any form of communication, it happens as either a call or response to other guinea pigs in the area.
How long does rumble strutting last?
That depends on what is causing the behavior. Typically, rumble strutting will only last for a few hours. Regardless of why your guinea pig is rumble strutting, they will eventually get tired and settle down.
If they are particularly young, then they might rumble strut multiple times a day but will stop after a few hours.
If your guinea pigs are rumble strutting because of a change in environment or because they are not used to each other yet, then they will rumble strut at each other for a week or two in short bursts of a few hours as they get used to each other.
How often does rumble strutting occur?
Typically, guinea pigs will rumble strut every now and then, especially if they are in heat. This can occur every few weeks but will eventually go away until the next time they are in heat.
Rumble strutting will come and go for weeks or even months, but it is still perfectly normal behavior. Younger guinea pigs are more likely to rumble strut more often.
Male guinea pigs may rumble strut at other guinea pigs on and off just as a form of communication, whereas female guinea pigs will rumble strut every few weeks when she is sexually active.
In both cases, the guinea pig will eventually stop rumble strutting. They might stop because they are tired or have gotten used to the other guinea pigs. Female guinea pigs in heat will stop rumble strutting when they are no longer interested in mating.
What should I do when they do that?
Check for injuries
Since the most common reason rumble strutting happens is due to mating, it is important to check your female guinea pigs for injuries caused during the mating process.
Additionally, since rumble strutting is used to determine dominance during mating rituals, check to ensure none of the male guinea pigs are injured.
They might have gotten aggressive with each other when deciding who gets to mate with the female guinea pig.
If you do find any injuries present, be sure to take your guinea pig to the vet. Unless you are extremely experienced, it could be hard to determine the severity of the injury and how to properly treat it without professional medical advice.
Rumble strutting is a natural part of the mating ritual and may not be stopped if your guinea pigs desire to mate with each other. The important thing is to make sure no one gets injured during the process.
If your guinea pig is rumble strutting due to being scared or anxious, the best thing to do is to find ways to alleviate their anxiety.
Separating them temporarily into another enclosure will give them the space and distance to calm down from the perceived threat.
While they are separated, there are other things you can do to help calm them down. Gently stroke the back of their ears and neck to help alleviate stress. If you know any specific things your guinea pig likes that soothes them, you can also do that.
Rumble strutting is not dangerous for your guinea pig but instead may merely be a sign of anxiety or stress. Once your guinea pig has calmed down, they can be returned to their normal enclosure and will be perfectly fine.
Guinea pigs might start rumble strutting if they are bored, so you have to provide them with more ways to entertain themselves. Give them more toys or obstacles to play with and exercise in their enclosure.
Additionally, you can also hide treats under the hay in their cage. This will encourage them to forage and hunt down their food. It is essentially a guinea pig equivalent to a scavenger hunt and will keep them entertained.
It is also possible that the enclosure is just too small. They could become frustrated and bored if there is not enough room to run around or play with each other. A cage upgrade might be necessary to alleviate boredom.
If you can’t get a larger enclosure, then be sure to give your guinea pigs enough floor time. This will provide them the space they need to get all of their energy out without you needing to purchase a new cage.
If you determine that your guinea pigs are rumble strutting due to boredom, it is simply them trying to tell you their needs and is not a cause for concern.
Regardless of the reasons, just remember that rumble strutting is a completely natural and normal behavior by guinea pigs.
It is not dangerous for your guinea pigs and is just a way for them to communicate with each other and with you.
Whether it is due to mating, stress, hunger, or boredom, it is just a sign that your guinea pigs need a little extra attention and care.