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What Smells Do Guinea Pigs Like or Hate?

Guinea pigs can’t tell us how they feel, so how do we know which aromas to include in their environments?

Guinea pigs will always love the smell of their favorite fruits and veggies. As a rule, pet owners should avoid introducing guinea pigs to fragrances such as candles, essential oils, perfumes, and colognes.

Read on to learn how to distinguish scents that piggies love from those they hate!

Smells Guinea Pigs Love

You’ve probably already noticed your guinea pigs’ favorite sounds. The crinkle of a plastic bag or the sound of your fridge opening might create a frenzy in your home.

It is a little more challenging to know what your pets’ favorite smells will be because they are more likely to hear a bag of veggies and react to the sound before they get the chance to smell it. 

Favorite scents for your piggy will vary just as much as they vary for people, but there is one commonality about all cavies: guinea pigs love the smell of fresh veggies.


Some piggies may also enjoy the specific scents of different types of hay. Timothy hay should be a staple in your guinea pigs’ diets, but the occasional oat hay, alfalfa, or orchard grass might get their noses sniffing. 

Fruits and Vegetables

Guinea pigs are curious creatures and love to experience new treats. Fruits and veggies that you might try introducing your cavies to in moderation include strawberries, celery, spinach, cilantro, parsley, romaine lettuce, kale, carrots, and many more. Always research the health effects of treats before you give them to your pets. 

Try playing a game with your piggy. If you notice one of your piggies is sleeping, attempt to quietly place veggies against the outside of their cage and see if any of the smells encourage them to wake up and run over. Alternatively, set up a veggie playground in a safe space for your piggies to explore. 

Guinea pigs like to search for veggies during floor time, and you might see their little sniffers seeking out their favorite treats. It is safe to say that whichever treat they munch down on first might be their favorite smell!

Smells Guinea Pigs Hate

Piggies hate Onions

piggies hate Onions

Guinea pigs have a variety of reactions to different fruits and vegetables. One guinea pig may love cucumber as an occasional treat while another won’t touch it. It’s hard to say whether this preference is because of smell, but scent could be a good indicator of why a guinea pig isn’t interested in a specific treat.

One smell that guinea pigs are sure to hate is the scent of onions. Onions are poisonous to guinea pigs and should never be put in their vicinity. Similarly, potatoes or potato leaves should never be introduced to a guinea pig’s habitat. 

Other Animals at Home

A guinea pig may also hate the smell of other pets in the home. A cat or dog can be extremely intimidating to a little cavy.

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A guinea pig should never be introduced into the same environment as another pet species to be completely safe. It can be challenging for pet owners to notice the signs that their guinea pigs are scared or stressed in the presence of other pets. 

Hence, it is strongly advisable to keep your other pets separate rather than trying to force a cross-species friendship. Guinea pigs are prey animals that can quickly develop stress and anxiety from being in the presence of another pet that they perceive as a threat. Stress can compromise a cavy’s immune system and endanger their health.

It is best to house your guinea pigs in a room where other animals in the home will have the least contact possible. Behind the closed door of a spare room is a good location for a guinea pig enclosure.

All guinea pig enclosures in a multiple-pet home must always be strong-built with no possibility of a larger pet sneaking in and toppling over the cage or sticking a clawed paw inside the openings to terrorize them.

What Scents are Harmful to Guinea Pigs?

If possible, it is always safest to keep candles, essential oils, perfume, and cologne away from your cavies. Many of these fragrances are toxic to guinea pigs, and the others may still be harmful to your cavies’ health. Besides poisoning from fragrances, guinea pigs could also experience an allergic reaction or develop an upper respiratory disease from being introduced to the wrong scent.

Guinea pigs have susceptible respiratory systems that could be irritated by a new scent. Guinea pigs are prone to developing respiratory illnesses. Upper respiratory diseases can be fatal for guinea pigs without veterinary help. 

Make sure to take precautions against your piggies developing an upper respiratory disease, as they are sometimes difficult to diagnose until it is too late. This difficulty is due to a guinea pig’s instinct to hide their illness from other guinea pigs. Unfortunately, their instinct to keep their illness from their herd has frequently tricked their owners into believing they are healthy as well.

What Scents are Harmful to Guinea Pigs

Signs that your guinea pig may have developed a respiratory disease include but are not limited to the following:

  • coughing
  • sneezing
  • shallow breathing
  • whistling while breathing
  • runny eyes
  • sluggish behavior
  • depression
  • weight loss

If your guinea pig shows any of these signs, make sure to take them to an exotic veterinarian for a diagnosis.

Additionally, guinea pigs should refrain from smelling outside scents to avoid experiencing an allergic reaction to a strange smell. It is impossible to determine which scents your guinea pigs might have an allergic reaction from, so it is best to keep their interaction with candles, essential oils, perfumes, and colognes as limited as possible.

Scented Candles

It is safest to keep burning candles in a location of your house that is far from your guinea pigs’ cage. Some pet owners might be tempted to believe that naturally scented candles are safer to burn than artificially scented ones. Despite this belief, natural candles are just as capable of being toxic to guinea pigs and can create scents that could trigger respiratory illness or an allergic reaction in cavies.

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Some scents would be safest to avoid purchasing for your home altogether rather than risking an adverse reaction from your guinea pigs. According to the ASPCA, all tea tree oil products can be hazardous for pets to inhale, including cavies. Be sure to check any fragrances you intend to use in your home for tea tree oil before emitting them.

Even with the cleanest cages, guinea pigs can put off unwanted odors, and some pet owners might be determined to find an acceptable scent to mask the offensive smells. Some candles are specially designed to be around small pets, which are available for purchase. 

These candles claim to be entirely safe for your pet but make sure to research these options carefully and verify their safety with your veterinarian before using them. If your guinea pigs start to show any respiratory symptoms, as listed previously, remove the candle and immediately contact your veterinarian.

Essential Oils

The vast majority of essential oils are toxic for guinea pigs. As mentioned before, tea tree oil should not be included as a scent in a home with pets. Other essential oil scents widely accepted as unsafe for cavies include but are not limited to the following:

  • clove
  • peppermint
  • anise
  • citrus
  • thyme
  • wintergreen
  • camphor
  • eucalyptus

It is strongly advised not to use essential oils in your home with guinea pigs, especially not with a diffuser near their cage. If you are using a diffuser in your home, research the ingredients on the labels of your essential oils and verify that they are not toxic to your pets.

Remember that just because they aren’t toxic doesn’t mean that they are safe to use. Guinea pigs can still have allergic reactions or a poor respiratory response to these outside aromas.

Instead of using essential oils, consider growing a strongly scented herb like cilantro, mint, or basil in the same room. As well as improving the air quality in your room, these herbs also make great treats for your piggy pals.

Perfume and Cologne

It is best to avoid being in your pet’s room after applying perfume or cologne. Never spray perfume or cologne in the same room as your cavies, and this rule also applies to spray-on deodorants or air fresheners. If a guest arrives who you suspect might be wearing perfume or cologne, politely ask that they avoid entering the same space as your pets.


In conclusion, guinea pigs have sensitive noses with strong likes and dislikes. Avoid using scented fragrances in your home, especially in the room where your guinea pigs reside.

Guinea pigs are small animals with fragile respiratory systems that need to be monitored carefully. Your piggies will always love you for including the aromas of their favorite fruits and veggies in their daily lives.