How to Pick Up a Skittish Guinea Pig

Holding a guinea pig

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So you have a cute and cuddly little guinea pig and you want to play with it. There’s only one problem, it doesn’t like being touched, let alone held. Every time you reach for it, it runs off to hide.

This is totally normal guinea pig behavior. Being small rodents, they are prey to many larger predators, so they are naturally skittish and fearful of being caught.

To get your guinea pig to be comfortable with being held or pet, you need to get it used to your presence and show it that you are not a threat. Read on to find out how to pick up a skittish guinea pig.

How do I get a guinea pig on my side?

Guinea pigs are cautious by nature. They are programmed to always be on the lookout for bigger animals, including humans, that hunt and eat them. Getting them to let their guard down is a huge challenge for anyone who has one for a pet. 

The first and most important thing to remember is not to rush the process. Guinea pigs are social animals and they will get to know you, but it takes time to build up that trust.

If you try to grab it or force it somewhere it doesn’t want to be, you will frighten it and set the process back a while. 

So if your little guinea pig is not ready, be patient. Chasing it around will only make things harder. 

Like with all animals, even humans, the way to their heart is through their stomach. Most experienced guinea pig owners use tasty treats to help build a relationship with their pet.

Feeding them will make them happy and relaxed. It will also get them used to your presence and show that you are not a threat. 

Build their trust through food?

Guinea pigs are herbivores, meaning they live on plants. You can’t go wrong by bringing whatever fresh greens you have on hand to feed your furry little pet.

They always love a nice crisp lettuce leaf but many owners say cilantro is their favourite. You can find that at any grocery store or grow it yourself to ensure an endless supply. 

As you feed your guinea pig, you should notice it relax. It will soon come to recognize your scent and realize you are the one bringing it food, not threatening to turn it into your next meal. 

Like we said earlier, don’t rush the process. Begin by leaving bits of food in its cage and work up to giving it the food straight out of your hand. By that point your adorable rodent will be fully acclimatized to your presence.

guinea pig in a basket

The next step is to gently pick it up, hold it and start petting. Guinea pigs can be wonderfully affectionate creatures. 

It’s also important to remember when dealing with animals, that just as with people, guinea pigs each have their own personalities and preferences.

Many people own two or more guinea pigs and experienced owners will notice the difference in behavior between their pets. 

Some are more eager to be picked up and held, others a little more shy or reluctant. This is completely normal. Eventually, if you treat your guinea pigs well, even the most skittish ones will start to warm up to you and start enjoying your cuddles.

Should you hold your Guinea Pig whilst Transporting?

Sometimes, for whatever reason, you may need to pick up your guinea pig and move it somewhere else. If you still haven’t gone through the whole process of taming your guinea pig by then, you can still move it when it’s in its cage or other box.

Like with most rodents, In their natural habitats, guinea pigs live in tight burrows or dens, so they won’t feel claustrophobic when they are in a narrow enclosure. In fact, they will usually feel quite comfortable.

Some owners recommend simply using large cardboard tubes. Just place the tube in the guinea pig’s cage and wait until it waddles into it. Don’t force it, you will only make your little friend more nervous and more resistant to being handled.

guinea pig in a box

Once the guinea pig is in the tube, you can pick it up easily. Just make sure to cover both ends with your hands.

There are also snuggly little boxes made out of soft material you can buy at your local pet store for this purpose. These have one opening, so once the guinea pig is inside you don’t have to worry about it escaping out the other end like with the tubes. 

If your guinea pig still resists going into the super-comfy little home, you can entice it with some lettuce or cilantro. It is rare for them to turn down their favorite treats. 

Final Thoughts

Don’t be worried if your guinea pig is shy at first. In the wild, they are often the victims of different predators such as wolves, coyotes, snakes, hawks and in some cases are even eaten by humans.

They are genetically programmed to run and hide when they sense danger coming.

But don’t worry. If you keep at it, it will only be a matter of time before your guinea pig starts to get to know you and trust.

Believe me, it’s worth the effort. A soft, cuddly guinea pig is about as cute as can be and you will get lots of pleasure holding and bonding with your little pet.

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