A guide to guinea pig body language

Guinea pigs are able to communicate in a variety of ways to help us understand what they are thinking and feeling. The most obvious form of communication is verbal which means that the subtle body language clues they provide are often overlooked.

Whilst its vital to understand your guinea pigs verbal behavioral patterns, learning their different types of body language is equally as useful.

Popcorning

The most amazing of sights is to see your guinea pig leap into the air (sometimes continuously!) This is also the easiest to spot. This is more common in younger guinea pigs although older piggies can often be seen leaping for joy – just not as high as their young counterparts.

Popcorning indicates pure joy and happiness, your guinea pig is literally so happy they are jumping for joy.

Our guinea pigs can frequently be found popcorning over all sorts of things – a new toy for their cage, giving them hay and even when we come in and have a chat with them.

Licking

Not only do guinea pigs purr like cats they also lick like them too! Licking is thought of as another friendly gesture that our guinea pigs do to show us how much they care.

There is some debate as to whether guinea pigs are simply tasting the skin for salt – but we like to think its to show their affection.

Snifffing

Have you ever really watched your piggie and wondered why they sniff everything so much? Ours sniff each other, the hay for eating, the hay for sleeping in, the carpet….

Sniffing is an excellent way for guinea pigs to discover what is going on and whose about. Its a very normal activity!

Rubbing / touching noses

This is a friendly greeting often exchanged between cage buddies. Our guinea pig Orange though will happily touch noses with us to show us how happy she is.

Freezing

Try not to take it personally when your guinea pig turns to stone the moment your around. This is a normal instinctive behavior that keeps wild cavies alive. In the wild, cavies will freeze in the hope that predators will find it harder to spot them.

Our domestic friends often freeze when startled or are uncertain about something. Its more common for new and young guinea pigs as they are still trying to get used to their new environments.

Our guinea pigs frequently froze when we brought them home but after a few weeks they stopped. They rarely do it now unless they are surprised or their are young children in the house.

Scent marking

Guinea pigs show their dominance to other guinea pigs through scent marking. This involves rubbing their cheeks, chins and back end on items they have claimed as their own.

Urination can also be used to the same effect to show their dominance.

Mounting

It can rather alarming to see your guinea pigs mounting each other especially if they are the same sex. When we first saw this behavior, we were convinced the pet shop had given us piggies of the opposite sex.

In same sex guinea pigs, mounting is a way of exerting dominance among the group and is very common in females.

In opposite sex piggies, mounting is to initiate breeding behavior so ensure you are fully prepared for any new arrivals.

Strutting / rumble strutting

If you spot your guinea pig shifting its weight from side to side, wiggling its hips and making a low rumbling sound then its rumble strutting.

Rumble strutting is a sign of aggression and is common in groups of guinea pigs when dominance is being established. Its important to be observant during this behavior as your piggies may end up fighting.

To calm fighting guinea pigs, the safest and most effective way is to carefully place a blanket over the top of them. This calms them down and distracts them as they become more concerned over finding the way out.

If you have fighting guinea pigs then it may be necessary to separate them either for a short time or permanently.

Fidgeting and/or running away from being picked up

Fidgeting whilst being held is common in young and new piggies. It can be an indication that they are simply fed up or being held. It may also need they need to answer natures call.

If you find that your guinea pigs fidget frequently whilst being held, it could be a sign that you need to reduce the amount of laptime and then increase it slowly.

Running away from being held is a normal guinea pig instinct and should not be taken personally. Guinea pigs are prey animals and so have defense mechanisns in place, such as running away in order to keep them safe.

Slowly, over time your guinea pigs will no longer feel the need to run away from you and will welcome the chance to be held.

Guinea pig happiness : 10 ways to tell you have a happy guinea pig

There is no better feeling in the world than knowing you have a happy guinea pig. Its conformation that all the love, attention and care you show your guinea pig is paying off. I believe every guinea pig owner’s first priority is to strive to have a healthy and happy guinea pig.

If you’re a new guinea pig owner, it can feel very overwhelming in the beginning. Uncertainly creeps in and it can be tough working out what your guinea pigs signs and body language means.

That’s why we have put together the top ten signs that you have a happy guinea pig! Its important to remember that all guinea pigs are different and your guinea pig may not show the same signs as someone elses guinea pig. Your guinea pig doesn’t have to be showing ten out of ten of this checklist. One or two shows they are perfectly happy and healthy!

1. Popcorning

There is nothing more amazing than seeing your guinea pig literally jump for joy due to sheer happiness! Popcorning is the guinea pig dance move of happiness! It is when a guinea pig runs, jumps into the air and then does it again.

It is is normally more common in younger guinea pigs. Older piggies have still been known to perform the odd popcorn however it is less noticeable. The jumps are less high and the running is slower.

Guinea pigs have many reasons to popcorn – Their favorite hay, getting fed pellets and even socialising. We have found that if a guinea pig is in a cage that is too small then they are unable to popcorn. Happy guinea pigs require plenty of space in order to popcorn. Ours when they were younger popcorned in their cage. They are older now and popcorn when they are running free during indoor playtime.

2. Wheeking

The most common of guinea pig sounds! Its hard to miss this amazing sound. Happy guinea pigs will wheek at even the mere chance of food – plastic rustling, the fridge opening and even the sight of their favorite hay.

Did you know that wild cavies do not wheek in the wild? Our domestic piggies have created this special sound just for us humans. Its their way of gently encouraging us to feed them and often works. Its hard to resist a wheeking piggie! Ours often wheek as we walk up the stairs in the hope of a little treat. We feed our happy guinea pigs chunks of cucumber and the occasional strawberry as their treats.

3. Approching

The most frustrating thing when you first bring your guinea pig home is their frequent hiding. Its nothing personal they are just made that way! Being prey animals they are the natural instinct to hide when they sense danger or are unsure of their surroundings. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing your little guinea pig emerging out of their hidey hole and exploring the world!

The next step from this is when during indoor playtime, they start coming over to you to explore. Our happy guinea pigs will even sit on our feet and play with our socks! You will find your guinea pig will approach you more and more as they gain confidence in their surroundings. Some guinea pigs will never fully approach you and will maintain a safe distance away. They may frequently run back to the nearest tunnel or shelter as well. That’s normal and natural behavior.

4. Signs of good health

A happy guinea pig is a healthy guinea pig! Happiness and healthiness go hand in hand for our little piggie friends. Ensuring your guinea pigs health is vital to a happy guinea pig. The best to perform a health check (Check out our guide to learn how) is during laptime.

The signs of a happy and healthy guinea pig are:

  • Energetic and not lethargic or limping.
  • Their normal appetite and enthusiasm for food.
  • Clear nose, dry eyes and the body free from sores / bumps
  • Lots of their usual vocal and physical signs.

If you think your guinea pig is unwell, then its best to consult a vet immediately.

5. Chilling out

A happy guinea pig can often be sign stretched out and lying down. We have special guinea pig fleece and our guinea pigs love to lay down on it. Chocolate often wraps herself up in it and has a little nap.

Guinea pigs can take a while to get to the “stretching out” point. They usually start with standing still and rather stiff. Next they move onto resting their head nearer to the ground. Finally comes the chill out! Our guinea pig orange isn’t a big fan of lying down but Chocolate adores it.

6.Licking

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A happy guinea pig likes to share the happiness in the form of some licking. Similaraly to a cat, happy guinea pigs will show their happiness by licking your hand.

There is some thought that this behavior is due to guinea pigs liking the salty taste of human skin but we like to think of the licks as kisses! Plus unhappy guinea pigs have not been known to lick their owners.

7.Purring

Another cat likeness. A happy guinea pig will purr whilst enjoying laptime! A purring guinea pig indicates they are relaxed, calm and comfortable.

Its useful to beware that there are two different types of purring sounds that guinea pigs make. A low and deep grumble is the happy purr. It will be obvious as your guinea pig will exhibit other types of happy behavior (such as a relaxed posture or lying down)

A high pitch purr indicates something is wrong.

8.A big burst of energy.

Have you ever noticed your guinea pig suddently run around a space as fast as possible? Yes this is the sign of a happy guinea pig. Similarily to hamsters, guinea pigs do get a build up of energy. Wheels are unsafe for guinea pigs and a happy guinea pig will delight in running around at high speed. Our guinea pigs have a whole room to themselves and often chase and play with each other during this energy burst.

9.The stretch and yawn.

This is fairly uncommon behavior. We thought for the longest time that yawning was associated with aggressive behavior. Luckily after a serious amount of research we learned that if the yawn is accompanied with a stretch then it means to opposite. Both our guinea pigs stretch and yawn during lap time. They are obviously happy guinea pigs and want to show us.

10.Chutting.

A fairly rare sound made by guinea pigs. The name reflects the sound that is made by your piggie. Chutting mainly occurs during laptime and is thought to be a behavior reserved for those under two years.

Our happy guinea pigs only chut when they are out of their cage and exploring their room.

Indoor play time for your Guinea pig

It is common for new guinea pig owners to be completely unaware of  play time (both indoor and outdoor.) Its common knowledge that guinea pigs need holding, feeding and their cage or hutch cleaning, but very little information is given out about hosting indoor or outdoor play time (also known as floor time.) Whether your guinea pig lives inside or outside, play time is still essential to having happy, healthy little piggies! We recommend indoor playtime whether your guinea pig lives inside or out. 

Why guinea pigs need indoor play time

Wild cavies are constantly active and their domestic relatives, guinea pigs are no different. Guinea pigs need daily interactions, social time as well as plenty of exercise. Unless your cage or hutch is enormous then its likely your guinea pig will benefit from some playtime in an environment they are safe to explore.

Don’t forget how curious guinea pigs are! They just love exploring and giving them an extra space to run, popcorn and explore will help keep them healthy along with preventing obesity. Due to guinea pigs curious nature, its common for them to become bored stuck in a cage or hutch all day. Allowing them to have a large, safe place to explore can relieve that boredom. 

Guinea pigs that don’t have access to a large open space to run in often become bored, depressed, hold extra weight and interact less with their owners. Hosting playtime also lets you spend extra time with your guinea pigs and watch how they move and play. In time your guinea pig will interact with you. Ours run through our legs, lean against our backs and generally come over to investigate what we are doing! 

The best places for indoor play

 A clear, dedicated area is required for indoor play time. The area needs to be away from other pets and is safe for your guinea pig to run around. Some people have a whole room dedicated to their guinea pigs and so the guinea pigs are able to run free after the room has been safeguarded.

If you don’t have a whole room to spare then you can make a playpen from cardboard boxes, use a large easily manipulated cage or buy a dedicated playpen for guinea pigs. Ensure whichever form of play pen you choose that your guinea pigs are in a draft free area and they are protected from loud noises. 

How to set up your playpen 

The floor should either one that’s easy to clean or be covered with a waterproof fleece or piece of material. Guinea pigs have very small bladders so do expect multiple droppings and little accidents.

Guinea pigs shouldn’t be placed on any hard surface that could damage their feet or legs. They are delicate creatures with tiny bones. If you are not using fleece then a thick old towel with a soft blanket over the top is fine. Choose any blanket or fleece that is easy to place in the washing machine but remember not to tumble dry since this makes fleeces ineffective. 

If you are creating a closed playpen then you can use cardboard boxes. Ensuring they can’t be moved easily by your piggies. Or you can buy a specially designed pet playpen. They are easy to clean especially if you buy one with a waterproof blanket for the floor. The bars can be easily wiped clean as and when needed.

Don’t forget to put things inside the playpen for your little guinea pigs to play with and explore. Our favorites are tunnels, hideouts and PVC tunnels which can be chewed on. We always put some cardboard boxes to be chewed through along with some upturned old ice cream tubs to be used as “poop trays.”

Swap the toys you put in the playpen the same way you do with their cages and hutches to ensure they don’t get bored with the same toys. 

How to start indoor play time 

If your guinea pig is a new arrival or has never had indoor play time then its important to remember to be patience. Ensure the playpen is out of household foot traffic and isn’t in a noisy area of your house. To start, ensure you have set up the playpen and have it all ready for their arrival.

Next carefully hold your guinea pig and place it inside the playpen. Its likely it will run for the nearest cover, make sure the playpen is all set up before you start. Don’t take their running personally. Guinea pigs are prey animals so its their nature to run and hide in their favorite hideout. We always like to sit with our guinea pigs during floor time.

For the first few times sit in the playpen and talk calmly, trying not to make any sudden movements. Its best to start getting them used to floor time by letting them spend a smaller amount of time in the beginning and watching how they behave. Refrain from touching them or picking them up during this time.

This is their special time to run, play and explore. Gradually increase the time they spend having play time and eventually you will have your guinea pigs confident enough to investigate everything in it – even you! 

How long should floor time be

This is a question we get asked a lot and many sites give many different answers. It is recommended between one to four hours a day. If your guinea pig lives outside and has a large run then it is likely to need less than four hours. If your guinea pig lives inside, then it is depend upon how large their cage is.

Many pet shops sell cages that are far too small for guinea pigs to live in once they get past six months old.

We have found that whilst it depends on the personality of your guinea pig, it is useful to host indoor play time in a place that your guinea pigs can access their cage safely. This way they are able to dictate when they have had enough. Our guinea pigs generally have around two hours of indoor play.

This is broken up into two one hour sessions. It varies on what we are doing that day, or how our little piggies are feeling. As a general rule they should be having at least one hour floor time.  A good rule of thumb is the smaller your guinea pigs cage, the longer their floor time should be. 

Ideally indoor floor time should take place at the same time each time each day and should take place daily. Obviously life is unpredictable so missing the odd indoor floor time isn’t the worst thing. Just make sure they are getting out at least once every other day. 

A complete guide to handling guinea pigs

We can all agree how difficult it can be to catch a cute little guinea pig in order to groom, stroke and move it. 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 piggy in order to pick them up but 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 its 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 favorite food. Our guinea pig Orange is rather fast and defiant when it comes to being picked up and even she can’t resist some tasty spinach. Remember to always hold your guinea pig with two hands to 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 its 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 other can be moved to their back. This ensures they don’t fall backwards plus its 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 laptime!

Children and handling guinea pigs

Guinea pigs make excellent pets for children however its 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 who should be sitting down comfortably on a comfy chair or coach. 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 knee so they don’t complain about feeling the claws through their clothes. Ensure you stay with the child and supervise the interactions to ensure they 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 wont 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 hideout, then resist the urge to remove all the places it has to hide. Instead ensure you have a box or tunnel with a top and bottom and transport your guinea pig inside that. Simply place one hand either at each end or over the 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 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 are pregnant then its important to avoid handling her. Lap time is pretty much out for a pregnant guinea pig since they are very prone to stress plus the added risk of injuring mummy 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 shoes box or other sturdy structure works well for supporting the addition 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 blanket 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. Its fairly common for guinea pigs to leave droppings on you and less common for urine although it does happen! Its 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 make a whining sound.

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 your 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 its 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.

Guinea-pig-lap-time

Holding your guinea pig for the first time

Once your guinea pigs have completely settled in then 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 its your first pet in general. This article is designed to show you how to handle your guinea pigs for the firs time:

Let them get used to you.

happy-guinea-pig

Its 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. Its an important part of helping them settle in to leave them alone. 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 quite 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, along with providing places to hide, also aids to build up confidence and trust. Don’t be tempted to remove their hide outs thinking that it will force them to be confident – this has the opposite affect 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 picking up 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 through 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!

Its 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

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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 you 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 things 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 its 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:

  1. 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.
via RSPCA
  • 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. Its 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. The 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 take 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
    Helping-your-guinea-pigs-settle-in

    Helping your guinea pigs settle in

    There is no better feeling then when you’ve brought your new guinea pigs home for the first time! Whilst its really exciting for us humans it can be a really scary time for guinea pigs. Follow our helpful tips to ease their transition and help them settle in:

    Putting them in their new home

    Once you place your guinea pigs in their new home they will no doubt run for cover! Don’t take it personally though as guinea pigs are very timid and are used to predators. You should have already set their cage or hutch up with good quality hay, chosen their bedding and provided fresh water in a bowl or bottle. 

    They should also have hay racks filled with fresh hay (or with grass which we fill ours with for our indoor guinea pigs) and have some food out. Its typical to think that your guinea pigs aren’t happy if they freeze or spend long periods of time hiding when they first arrive, this is normal guinea pig behaviour and it will take a few weeks or months for it to settle down. I remember when we brought our guinea pigs home and we didn’t think they had eaten or had any water for days since they just stayed in their hidey holes and didn’t come out.

    They were actually being very clever piggies and sneaking out at night to eat, drink and have a good run about. Guinea pigs remain skittish for a while and even now our piggies run for cover when we first approach them as its their natural instinct. They pop their heads out the hidey hole and then start wheeking once they realise its only us! Whilst its normal for piggies to hide for the first few days or weeks do spend some time talking to them and checking that they are leaving pellets around just to ensure they are actually eating and drinking normally.

    Let them be

    Whilst its tempting to take your guinea pigs out of their cage to feed them, hold them or even give them a quick clean out – Don’t. These first few days are really important for allowing your guinea pigs to settle in and feel safe. Its tempting to rush this bit since all you want to do when you bring them home is hold and fuss them so its rather disappointing not being able to (especially if they are a pet for children.) Instead you can attempt to feed them treats through the bars of their cage / hutch and spend time with them talking.

    I have some very fond memories of sitting on the wet grass talking to our last set of piggies whilst they were settling in. It’s acceptable to open the cage to replace and remove food but don’t be tempted to try and stroke them even if they are sticking their heads out of their safe haven. Any contact during the first few days is likely to set back the amount of time it takes them to get used to their new home and environment. I’m a bit of a neat freak so for our guinea pigs we purchased this guinea pig igloo so all the droppings are collected in the one place and then when they are out and about its much easier to clean.

    Confidence and trust building

    Whilst it seems like you don’t have too much interaction with your new guinea pigs in the first few days there is actually a lot you can do to build their little confidence so they feel safe and ready to venture out when your there. Talking to them is a really good way and especially effective when bringing them their meals. It helps them become familiar with the sound of your voice along with the sound of the food being prepared (if they are indoors when you are preparing it.) Make sure you are talking them in a quiet and gentle way so as not to frighten them. We always talk to ours during the settling in phase (as well as now!) and its a good idea to talk to them whilst offering a tasty treat like a carrot through the bars. Even if they don’t come out to accept the tasty treat they will get used to your voice and associate it and you with food. Food is a great confidence builder for guinea pigs! It wont be long until they “wheek” at you every time you open the fridge like ours do! Ours even “wheek” now when we come in from being outside as they expecting a treat.

    It can be tempting to take away the guinea pigs hide away so as to “force” them to come out and play – NEVER DO THIS! It doesn’t help them feel more confident in fact it has the opposite effect and be very damaging.

    The best to build trust with your piggie is through food! The way to a guinea pigs heart is definitely through its stomach! Start by feeding them through the bars and talking to them so they know you are there. Guinea pigs hate sudden movement since they cant see whats right in front of them thanks to having their eyes on either side of their head. It will take a lot of patience before they approach you to take some food but they may eventually eat out of your hand if you remain still. After this has been mastered you can attempt to move your hand slowly around their cage and eventually you can move their toys around (not any place that they are hiding in) just so they can get used to you. The last stage is gently stroking your piggy and hoping them don’t run away. This is a fairly long process and may take up to two weeks. Remember to always approach your guinea pigs from the side, never from above.

    Lap  and play time

    Once your guinea pig has settled in and is cautiously moving around their cage or hutch its time to approach lap time! You can read our full guide on it but we’ve broken the basics down here. Guinea pigs should have lap time / play every single day as its good for them to get out and about their cage, you get some quality time with them plus it helps bonding. Not to mention its great for sneaking a health check and grooming session in! Lap time is when your play, stroke, talk and spend some time with your guinea pig on your lap. Its a great idea to also feed them a little treat as well so that even the most timid / independent guinea pig will enjoy it. Play time is when your piggy can run free in a secure area that is easy for you to clean.  You can make a run using cardboard or buy one. There are lots of options to chose from such as this specially designed one or this one intended for puppies!  Play time involves putting toys in the playpen along with hidey holes and watching your little piggies run around and explore. If you have any other pets, make sure they are out of the room. The room used for play time should also be free of draughts. Its a lot of fun watching the piggies play and they often do the “popcorn” which is a special move guinea pig’s do when they are happy which involves running back and forth whilst jumping in the air.