A question we get asked a lot is how to hold guinea pigs. We can all agree how difficult it can be to catch a cute little guinea pig. Even if all we want to do is groom, stroke and cuddle them. Guinea pigs are timid creatures and surprisingly fast runners!
Since guinea pigs are prey animals they are more likely to run and hide than other pets. Plus with most guinea pigs weighing no more than two to four pounds, they are pretty speedy once they start to run!
It can be tempting to simply reach in and grab or pin your guinea pig in order to pick them up. This is very dangerous since they have delicate bones. If you fail to pick up your guinea pig correctly they could get seriously hurt. Plus it makes the whole experience for your furry little guinea pig friend rather terrifying.
How you should pick up a guinea pig
The correct way to pick up a guinea pig is to place one of your hands underneath its middle, around the stomach region. Ensure you approach your guinea pig from the front and are talking to them calmly throughout the picking up process. Then you support its back or hind legs with your other hand.
Guinea pigs do not like to have their feet left unsupported. Plus dangling legs can easily be injured due to being caught or bumped against other objects. Guinea pigs that are picked up correctly feel safe and happy. If you have an extra wriggly guinea pig, then it’s important to ensure you don’t squeeze your piggie around the tummy region.
Reluctant piggies that really don’t want to be picked up can be persuaded with some of their favourite treats. Our guinea pig Orange is rather fast and defiant when it comes to being picked up but even she can’t resist her favourite treat. Remember to always hold your guinea pig with two hands. Also, ensure they are correctly supported and can’t attempt to wriggle free or jump as they will injure themselves.
Walking when holding a guinea pig
In a perfect world, everything we need for our guinea pigs would be located in close proximity to each other! Since these items aren’t, then it’s possible you will have to walk whilst carrying your guinea pig especially if they live outside and come indoors for lap time.
In order to help your guinea pig feel safe and secure whilst your walking with them, pick them up as described above but instead of cradling them in your arms similar to how you would a baby, instead hold them upright against your body.
Still keep one hand under their legs and then the other can be moved to their back. This ensures they don’t fall backwards plus it’s a great way to sneak a few extra strokes in! Ensure you walk slowly and avoid making any sudden movements.
The majority of guinea pigs will happily snuggle into your body when held in this position and will feel safe and secure. The upright position in which you carry your guinea pig whilst walking will often mimic the one your piggie climbs into during playtime!
Children and handling guinea pigs
Guinea pigs make excellent pets for children! However, it’s important to teach them how to hold the guinea pigs correctly to ensure the guinea pig and the child do not get injured. Very young children should not be tasked with picking up or walking with guinea pigs.
The guinea pigs should instead be brought over to the child. The child should be sitting down comfortably on a comfy chair or couch. The guinea pig can then be placed safely on the child’s knee without any harm coming to the guinea pig or child.
We always put a thick towel or blanket on our children’s knees. This stops them from complaining about feeling the claws through their clothes. Ensure you stay with the child and supervise the interactions to ensure the child isn’t being too rough. It can be rather difficult to teach a very young child about being gentle especially if they haven’t fully developed their cognitive skills.
How to deal with really reluctant guinea pigs
If you have a really reluctant guinea pig that just won’t be caught don’t chase it around the cage. The majority of guinea pigs will have a quick dash for cover and then eventually slow down enough to be caught.
If you have a guinea pig that is especially timid and stays in its hidey-hole, then resist the urge to remove all the places it has to hide. Instead, ensure you have a box or plush bed with a top and bottom and transport your guinea pig inside that. Simply place one hand at either end or over one opening with the other hand holding the bottom. Ensure your transportation container isn’t flimsy or will break under the weight of a guinea pig.
You can then transport the guinea pig to either its hutch, cage or run. You can use this same technique for lap time. Just transport your guinea pig inside the container and place it on your lap and put a treat a little further away. This will help encourage the little piggie to come out and play! Remember not to take it personally as well! Guinea pigs are timid and cautious by nature.
Handling pregnant guinea pigs
If one of your guinea pigs is pregnant then it’s important to avoid handling her. Laptime is pretty much out of the question for pregnant guinea pigs since they are very prone to stress plus the added risk of injuring mummies and babies through holding.
She should only be handled if you feel there is something wrong with her. Obviously, you will need to move the mummy piggy in order to clean her bedding and the best way to do this is using the transportation method detailed above. The only difference is to ensure you have a very sturdy container for transporting. A specially designed pet carrier or other sturdy structure works well for supporting the additional weight of the mummy and babies.
How long should lap time be
It is recommended that you hold your guinea pig for a maximum of ten to fifteen minutes at a time. Ensure you have a fleece or towel on your lap or nearby since guinea pigs naturally need to go to the bathroom. Our guinea pigs always seem to need the bathroom after ten minutes.
If your guinea pig leaves droppings or urine on you, be calm and clean it up without making sudden movements. It’s fairly common for guinea pigs to leave droppings on you and less common for urine although it does happen!
It’s easy to tell when your guinea pig is ready to go back inside its cage since it will start getting restless, nibbling at clothes and making a whining sound. For more information read our guide on how to play with your guinea pig
When guinea pigs shouldn’t be handled.
We’ve already covered pregnancy (above) as a time when guinea pigs shouldn’t be held above. Other circumstances when you shouldn’t hold your guinea pigs are if they are unwell or injured. Your vet will be able to advise when you are able to start holding them again. Another time they shouldn’t be held is when they have just been born as they are too fragile.
Where to touch and not touch on guinea pigs
Every guinea pig is different however it’s common that most guinea pigs do not like their bottom or tummy to be touched! They all seem to love having their head in between their ears stroked. In fact, this is a common technique used by vets to calm scared guinea pigs down. Several guinea pigs also like to have their neck rubbed, just under the chin.
Hold them like you will never let them go
We would love to hear about your guinea pigs! Comment below.