Guinea pigs are a great and rewarding pet to have. They are personable and friendly little creatures that enjoy time spent with their owners. However, in order to make sure your guinea pig is comfortable and happy around you, you will need to tame it.
Taming is the process of introducing your guinea pig to human contact, letting them know that your, or other people’s, presence is nothing to worry about.
An untamed guinea pig is more likely to act aggressively, as they will be frightened by human contact.
So, let’s go through the steps of how to tame a guinea pig.
Step 1 – Get Them Used To Your Presence
Once your guinea pig is in their enclosure, you need to get them used to humans being around. Approach their cage a few times a day and use your voice to talk to them.
Likewise, when you clean the cage or adjust their food and water bowls, talk to your guinea pig.
In the wild guinea pigs will shy away from certain unrecognized noises. However, if you talk while feeding them or giving treats, they will associate the noises you make with good things, such as food.
It is important at this point to not try and touch or pick up your guinea pig. They need to be slowly introduced to you before any physical contact is appropriate.
Placing them in an area of the house that has a lot of movement and/or talking is also a good way to get them used to hearing, smelling, and seeing humans. Eventually they will learn that humans are safe to be around.
Step 2 – Offer Them Treats
Once they are used to you, offer your guinea pig treats. If they do not accept the treats from you, you should walk away with the treat. The goal here is to let the guinea pig learn that treats come from contact with you.
Again this is to make the guinea pig learn that humans = nice things.
Eventually your guinea pig will be confident enough to approach you for treats even before you have shown them.
Step 3 – Attempt To Pet Them
Once your guinea pig is comfortable approaching you, you can try and pet them. At first your guinea pig might shy away from your hands.
If this happens, slow down until they are comfortable then try again. Give them treats from your hand as you do this.
If your guinea pig gets scared enough to retreat into their enclosure, then you might have to restart the process from step 2 or even step 1. Be patient with your guinea pig as they all have different personalities. Just like us humans.
The goal of step 3 is to get them used to not only your touch, but the smell of your hands. Ideally your guinea pig should let you stroke their head and/or body.
It is important to stroke them in the direction their hair grows as it is painful to stroke them against the grain.
Step 4 – Pick Them Up
After a few days of petting your guinea pig, you can even try to pick them up. Make sure that you pick them up from underneath and give them a flat platform to stand on. Hold your hands out so that they can sit in your palm.
The first time you pick up your guinea pig, take it slowly. Soothe them with treats and petting, this will keep them calm and will also make them associate being picked up with being treated nicely.
To start with only pick them up for a few seconds, and gradually build up this time until they feel like they are comfortable in your hand.
However, only hold your guinea pig for 10 minutes at the longest, otherwise, it can confuse them. They need to understand that their enclosure is home.
How Do I Hold A Guinea Pig?
First, place your dominant hand under the front legs of the guinea pig and place your thumb over their shoulders. Then place your non-dominant hand under the back legs.
Lift the guinea pig up and bring it against your chest. This will make sure the guinea pig feels secured.
Your guinea pig will not appreciate being turned over or held in a position without a flat base. Don’t turn them upside down or hold them vertically, they really won’t appreciate it.
If they start to get uncomfortable, put them back and wait a while before trying again.
Guinea pigs tend to try and leap from your hands once they can see where they are going to be put down.
For this reason, it is important to lower them down into their cage backward to avoid them making a jump for it. Place them down gently with their face facing you.
The most important thing to remember when taming a guinea pig is that they need to be comfortable. Do not rush your guinea pig into being picked up or petted if they do not want it.
Guinea pigs have even been known to bite when they are really frightened.
So, start with some talking, move to treat giving, then petting, before eventually trying to pick them up. If one step fails, go back a step and work up to it again. The process shouldn’t take too long as long as you are patient.