Once your guinea pigs have completely settled in, its time to hold them! It can be quite daunting holding a guinea pig for the first time especially if this is the first time you’ve ever had guinea pigs or even if it’s your first pet in general. This article is designed to show you how to handle your guinea pigs for the first time:
Let them get used to you.
It’s important you let your new guinea pigs get used to their new home along with getting used to you. You should have spent their first few days up to a week giving them space and not trying to stroke or touch them.
An important part of helping them settle in is to simply leave them alone and let them adjust to their new home. You can help them get used to you during this stage by offering them tasty treats such as carrots through the bars of their cage or hutch.
You should also be talking in a soft and quiet voice to your guinea pigs. This helps them get used to you and the sound of your voice. This initial phase can be frustrating and scary as you desperately want to hold your new friends plus you worry that they don’t like you as they spend all their time hiding and running for cover.
Keep checking that they are eating, drinking and are making droppings to ensure they are healthy.
Building confidence and trust
Its really important to build your new piggies confidence and help them learn to trust you. Talking to them regularly and offering them treats is a really big part of this. Providing them with a cage or hutch that is big enough is essential. Along with providing places to hide, also aids to build up confidence and trust.
Don’t be tempted to remove their hideouts thinking that it will force them to be confident – this has the opposite effect and can cause your guinea pigs to become very timid.
The best way to build trust with your guinea pig is through offering treats and food. We have a wonderful article on building trust with your new piggies.
Preparing to hold
A little preparation goes a long way when it comes to holding your guinea pigs. All you really want to do is pick them up, give them a stroke and a cuddle before putting them back in their cage.
However, a great deal of care is required in order to avoid causing injury to your pet by holding them too hard or by accidentally dropping them. This is especially important when young children are handling guinea pigs for the first time.
Guinea pigs have very delicate bones and squeezing them or dropping them from a great height can cause serious injuries such as broken bones, bruising, internal damage or even death. Mishandling them can also cause them to become frightened, vulnerable and nervous around you.
Once you have learned how to handle your guinea pigs properly, it is a skill that you will use every time you handle your guinea pigs and will help them feel safe and secure. This will create an unbreakable bond between the two of you and you will be best friends in no time!
It’s important to remember that guinea pigs will always wriggle, jump and try to run away every time you go to handle them as its part of their nature but once you learn to handle them correctly you will be able to catch even the wiggliest piggies safely and calmly.
Before removing your guinea pig from its home ensure all other animals are safely locked out of the room and ensure you have a blanket or towel ready to place on your knee as guinea pigs often pass droppings or urine on their owners.
Remember that all guinea pigs are different – some will like being held, other will get used to it and others will never really take to it. It all depends on your guinea pigs personality.
How to approach your guinea pig
Never approach a guinea pig from above since it will startle and scare them. This is because they have their eyes on either side of their face which is great for spotting potential predators from far away but not so great for things right in front of their face.
Firstly, get down on all fours in front of the guinea pig cage slowly, refraining from any sharp sudden movements.
Ensure you get down to their level on the ground and sit comfortably in front of their house. Slowly put your hand inside the cage or hutch without attempting to place it over your guinea pigs.
Allow your hand to stay still for a moment so they can get used to something different being inside their new home. Inquisitive piggies will start popping their heads of their hide outs to see what this new thing is and the more confident piggie will even wander over to it to give it an investigative sniff.
If they do this, let them do this for a minute or two (which is why it’s important to be sat comfortably.) If your piggies are still hiding out, then allow your hand to stay still for a few minutes before slowly moving it across the cage and then allow it to be still again – not many piggies can resist the urge to investigate.
This may seem somewhat dull but its all part of the bonding experience as they are getting used to your scent and linking it up with the sound of your voice. They will eventually associate your scent and voice with the lovely relaxing cuddles you will soon be having. It will also assist when you are picking them up in the future.
This starting point is all about creating a positive experience for your guinea pig so take your time, don’t rush and refrain from rushing your guinea pig by trying to grab hold of them. Never pick a guinea pig up from behind or above as this will alarm and startle them.
How to pick up your guinea pig
After your guinea pig has investigated your hand you can begin following the steps to picking them up:
- Carefully put your hand under their stomach whilst supporting their back legs with your other hand (see picture). Always carry them against your chest to stop them struggling and falling. It is essential that your guinea pig feels comfortable and supported during this stage so hold them securely but refrain from squeezing or holding too tightly. Remember that a guinea pigs insides are small and delicate and you don’t wish to cause any injuries.
- If you are carrying your guinea pig then you should hold them close to your body with one hand under their bottom and the other carefully on their back. Being close to your chest allows them to share in the warmth of your body and helps them feel reassured. It’s also a great way to sneak a cuddle or two in!
The first few times that you do this your guinea pig will struggle and try to run or wriggle away. This is perfectly normal especially if your guinea pig is from a pet shop as it is likely to have never been held before. The more frequently you pick up and handle your guinea pig the quicker they will get used to it.
- Lap time should be conducted sitting down comfortably. Hold the guinea pig close to your chest but this time with them in a horizontal position still keeping one hand underneath its bottom whilst the other hand is free to stroke and comfort your piggie. This is a great time to feed your guinea pig a delicious healthy treat. Ensure you constantly talk to your guinea pig in a calm and quiet voice as to reassure them.
- If you are passing your guinea pig to a young child ensure that you retrieve the guinea pig from its cage the first few times (depending on the child’s age) and they are already seated. Now you can show the child how to place their hands and pass the guinea pig slowly and calmly over to them.
Placing them back in their cage
Placing your guinea pig back in their cage after lap time is just as important as getting them out. Don’t be tempted to just drop them back inside their cage. This still forms part of the bonding process between the two of you. Still holding your guinea pig with one hand under its bottom allow it to either walk back into its cage or lower it down slowly, ensuring that it is their bottom that is going into the cage first. This prevents a hurried scuttle away that could result in an injured piggie.
Hints and tips
- Remember to be calm and slow-moving when you are picking up your guinea pigs. If you are nervous or anxious they will be able to tell and it will likely make them harder to hold.
- Never squeeze or have too tight a grip on your guinea pig as this will cause them injury, pain and distress.
- Remember it takes practice and patience when handling a new guinea pig
- Always wash your hands before and after handling any pet as well as your guinea pig.
We’d love to hear from you! How was your guinea pigs first experience when you brought them home? Comment below!