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Do Guinea Pigs Play Dead? (And How to Teach Them)

Do Guinea Pigs Play Dead? (And How to Teach Them)

Guinea pigs can be easily frightened and unnerved. They are very fragile animals and can be easily threatened. But do guinea pigs play dead when they are frightened?

If your guinea pigs see a threat coming to them, they will do anything to protect them and even play dead if the situation demands. If they are terrified to death, they will lie down and pretend to be dead to protect themselves from predators. You can also teach them to play dead.

Apart from defense, they often play dead while they are sleeping or are extremely feeling content.

Some owners also enjoy training their guinea pigs to learn a wide array of tricks, and playing one is one of them.

We shall discuss how to teach your guinea pig the same in the latter part of the article. So, let’s get right into it.

Do guinea pigs play dead when scared?

Guinea pigs do play dead when they are amid fear or terror. Playing dead is their last choice of preference.

Guinea pigs go completely still, without moving an inch of their body while pretending to be dead.

If you have housed your guinea pig outside then they might play dead if they sense any large predator like foxes and coyotes nearby.

Guinea pigs love to be on the ground, and your spontaneous lifting could frighten them up; therefore, they can play dead, if you observe this, then instantly put them down.

Guinea pig in a trance-like state

What does trancing mean? Well, It’s a state in which a person or animal is not conscious or not fully aware of what’s happening around.

Either they are unresponsive to external stimuli or following the person who has induced the trance.

Trancing is a hazardous technique, as it can scare the unconscious state of guinea pigs, and if you’re not aware, then you should know that it can go as worst as giving a heart attack to them.

Thus it should be preferably used only at times of emergency.

For example: If, your guinea pig is bleeding, and you want to put a bandaid onto their wound but failing because of their resistance, so this tactic might help amid that situation.

Though trancing should be the last resolution to opt for.

Following are the few steps to be followed if you must trance your pet:

  1. Put a towel or soft blanket in your lap.
  2. Gently, hold guinea pig with your hands and put them into your lap.
  3. Kindly turn them around on their back, certainly in a position that their return is slightly higher than their head.
  4. For sure, they will resist this initially, so make them calm by softly petting them.
  5. Before they go into a trance state, they will stop moving entirely and will still be.
  6. Be quick enough to do whatever needs to be done.
  7. Remember, they might look calm to you, but they are terrified subconsciously.
  8. Keep hold of your guinea pig even after you’re done, and soon enough within minutes, they will return from their trance state.
  9. Reassure them that you have their back and kindly put them down, offer them their favorite treat.

Never try trancing on guinea pigs of older age or the ones with any health-related issues, guinea pigs are not very good with dealing stress, they may end up having a cardiac arrest.

Do guinea pigs play dead when attacked by predators

Guinea pigs and dogs

Strong survival instincts govern our guinea pigs. Their adrenaline gets activated when they find themselves in a tense situation.

They will hardly play dead if they see a predator approaching them because while doing so will make them an easy target to the predators.

Despite being vulnerable and small in size. They have a stable flight and fight tendencies to tackle predators.

They will use all their strength by scratching, biting, and kicking when it comes to defense. However, the fight is the last resort for them. They prefer to hide and run away in most cases.

When guinea pigs suspect predators around them, they are more likely to run at a speed of 300 meters per second, while it may differ depending on the individuals.

Although in certain situations, they might just lie down and pretend to be dead, hoping for the best of outcomes that the predator will just bypass.

Well, they also necessarily do understand that playing dead is not a solid plan to stick to since most of the predators are scavengers and will not even bother to think twice before eating them.

Thus playing dead could be useful in certain situations but not every time. It is not so effective a defense method to use.

Do baby guinea pigs play dead

Playing dead is a habit that is incorporated in all guinea pigs from young to old. It is something that they have learned from their mothers as life coaching.

Because of their vulnerability, they can easily be frightened by bad experiences, loud noises, shocks, and threats.

Be careful not just every time they’d be playing dead, if you find them in this situation, softly lift them and wrap around a towel and put them into their cage once they start moving.

Guinea pig play dead after exercise

Guinea pig sleep schedule

You might sometimes have noticed your guinea pig playing dead while they were running around and playing.

Remember, guinea pigs have a sense of vision but lack in-depth perception, so they could have probably been into a misperception of seeing a predator.

For example: A passing flight could be misunderstood as an approaching predator.

Some may also try playing dead when they are exhausted from playing, so they just drop off. It is widespread to happen in younger guinea pigs.

Though drop-down of your Guinea pig might look frightening at first, because they drop just like a stone, anyway,don’t mistake it as a heart attack.

Do not panic in a situation like this, and let your guinea pig just rest for a while because they are exhausted from playing.

Guinea pig playing dead vs sleeping

Although it is tough sometimes to guess whether they are sleeping or playing dead, Guinea pigs enjoy taking paradoxical sleep in which they tend to keep their eyelid open

When guinea pigs are very tired or relaxed, then they will sleep with their eyes completely closed, lying on their sides, legs towards there sides, and it is very much likely to play dead, but it is not so.

To be sure enough, listen to the sounds that your guinea pig is making. If they are purring or grinding their teeth and taking sound sleep, then do not worry, they are feeling extremely contented in themselves.

In addition to this, also look out for twitches in their body, because a guinea pig in trance state will show no movement or twitches. While sleeping will reflect twitch or jerk onto their body.

How do you teach a guinea pig to play dead?

How to train your guinea pig to play dead

Here are some simple steps to follow:

  • Take a towel or blanket and put it onto your lap.
  • Uplift your guinea pig and turn them around on their back or sides.
  • They are going to resist at first but calm them down and stroke them gently.
  • Before they go into a trance state, they will still try to resist.
  • Though they might appear calm to you, they are terrified subconsciously.
  • Keep hold of them until they wake up, and after a few minutes, they will return from the trance state.
  • Once they return, offer them their favorite food and drink.

Thus in this way, you can teach your guinea pig to play dead, though it’s not recommendable since they are very fragile and sensitive.

Also, this could be life-risking and can lead to a heart attack in your guinea pigs.


Try and keep your guinea pig in an area that safe from predators or any other possible threats so that they couldn’t be triggered to go into a trance state in the first place.

Do not panic whenever you encounter them lying down on their back into a completely still position without any twitches, just gently stroke them until they return into their senses.

Though trancing could be useful when it comes to assisting any wound or injury of guinea pigs, due to their restlessness, they will try to avoid your aid.

Be careful; they might look perfectly fine from outside, but mentally, they are stressed, so at worst, they could end up having a cardiac arrest or heart attack.

Therefore we would suggest using trancing only when it is an emergency and not for bogus purposes.

Sources: Guinea pig stress response, The effect of human interaction on a guinea pig, Social stress in guinea pigs, Guinea pig behavior

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