Guinea pig lap time: The ultimate way to bond with your piggie

A natural part of having pets is wanting to bond and have special “together time” along with companionship. All pets enjoy this human interaction and guinea pigs are no exception! We’ve found that a great number of pet shops undersell the amount of attention and companionship that guinea pigs need. Lap time (or cuddle time!) should form part of your daily routine and is important for both you and your guinea pig friends.

The importance of lap time

happy-guinea-pig

Bonding with your guinea pig is an important part of learning to care for them properly. From the moment you bring your guinea pig home, the bonding process begins and it is great for you as well as your guinea pig. The more time you spend with your guinea pigs, the more used to you they become. They may still run for cover when you go into the room or near the hutch since that’s part of their “run from predators” nature however they will be eating out of your hand (literally) the more time you spend with them.

A guinea pig that is handled frequently will be more tame, calm and relaxed in their day to day life. They will feel comfortable in their environment and will love exploring when it comes to indoor play! Guinea pigs are social and love the attention from humans as well as their own kind. The more you talk to them and the more that they have time on your lap the happier and more comfortable with you they will become.

We often get comments on how confident happy and calm our guinea pigs are and this didn’t happen through chance. The more time and love you put into caring for your guinea pigs, the more love you will get back.

Lap time is an important part of bonding as it gives you one on one time with them to just enjoy being with each other.  I often find myself just chatting away to our little piggies as they listen, Chocolate in particular will just lie down and listen to me whilst Orange climbs right up to my face!

Without lap time your guinea pig will stay scared of being picked up or held and will always run for cover when approached. They won’t respond to your voice and will always hide whenever you are near.

How to introduce lap time

If you have a new guinea pig, then you should start with our how to hold your guinea pig for the first time article. If you’ve had your guinea pigs a while and have tried and given up on lap time then its useful to refresh yourself on how to hold them. Its always best to start slowly when introducing lap time to guinea pigs, so don’t expect them to sit for hours and be happy with it.

We recommend always keeping a towel, thick blanket or a training pad used for puppies since guinea pigs have very small bladders and are known for leaking on their owners. The last thing you want during lap time is to be uncomfortable or wet as your guinea pig will feel like something is wrong and may become afraid. Ensure you have somewhere not too far away from their cage or hutch so you are not walking up and down stairs the first few times you get your guinea pigs used to lap time.

Set the area up before you bring your guinea pigs out, having their favorite tasty treat is also great to have as this will help your guinea pigs associate lap time with treats. We usually start with a maximum of five minutes for the first few attempts at lap time. Refrain from brushing your guinea pig during their first few outings and just stroke them gently, talking softly whilst they are munching!

If they start squeaking or trying to run for cover, calmly place them back inside their home. Try not to feel down heartened as it can take several weeks or months for some guinea pigs to get used to lap time.

Duration and frequency of lap time

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This is a question that we get asked quite frequently and the answer isn’t as straight forward as we’d like! The duration of your lap time should be based around your guinea pigs reactions to it along with their personality. Some guinea pigs are happy to sit on their owners knees for a good hour before wishing to head home whilst others never really take to it and are fairly relieved to go back after ten minutes.

The best indication is to take the lead from your guinea pig, if they become nibbly, biting at your clothes, trying to dig, wriggle or make a high pitch squeak then its fair to say its time to put them back inside! We would say a good duration of lap time would be between ten minutes to one hour, but do let your guinea pig decide. One day they may be happy to sit whilst other days they desperately want to go back inside their hidey hole.

Can I watch TV with my guinea pigs?

Another question we get asked a lot! Guinea pigs love sound due to their poor eyesight so there is no harm in your guinea pig watching TV with you as long as the program isn’t excessively noisy and contains sounds such as gun shots, loud music or drums. Obviously don’t sit too close to the TV and ensure your attention isn’t solely focused on your favorite show.

We would advise that young children do not hold guinea pigs whilst watching TV as they tend to become too distracted and may forget they are also caring for a guinea pig. With regards to frequency, We would advise that between once and twice a day is perfect for your guinea pig especially since they will also be enjoying indoor play time, again take the lead from your guinea pig.

Do guinea pigs enjoy lap time?

All guinea pigs are different and some guinea pigs love lap time, others will get used to it with time whilst a few hate it always and forever! There are several ways to make lap time more enjoyable for your guinea pig, ensuring you are calm and relaxed helps them learn there is nothing to fear, along with using the same blanket or fleece each time you hold them.

They will associate it with lap time. Feeding them vegetables can also help to settle an anxious piggie. Remember some piggies are more active during lap time then others as well!

What to do if your guinea pig doesn’t like lap time

Firstly its important to remember guinea pigs are not toys and so not all like to be cuddled! Patience is key along with using the tips above. Never force lap time. Starting slowly with just a two minute lap time and building up can work wonders as can combining lap time and indoor play.

This way you can let them run over your legs without you touching them. They will learn that your not so scary and you can slowly introduce stroking them. Do not force them into lap time though, if it causes them distress to have lap time, increase indoor play and spend your time sitting next to their cage and talking to them instead.

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

    Know your guinea pig head to tail!

    Bringing home a new pet can be exciting and scary at the same time! We’ve all been there. I remember bring home our little piggy bundles and just watching them in their new home hoping they would be ok. One of the best places to start, be it before or after bringing your guinea pigs home is getting to know them from head to tail!

    Our guinea pig friends have been kept as companions in household since the 16th Century when they were introduced by European traders.

    Brain

    Although domestic guinea pigs have a reduced brain size then their wild relatives, they are still just as smart if not smarter! A study in the journal of Animal Cognition suggests that although they do have a reduction in brain size over their bolder and more aggressive wild cousins they may actually be quicker learners! In the study, three tests were carried out to see the differences between the domesticated guinea pig and the wild cavies.

    Boldness and aggression.

    A wild cavy via zoochat.com

    In the boldness test, Guinea pigs and wild cavies were observed whilst approaching an unfamiliar guinea pig and a strange object in the form of a yellow rubber duck. Cavies were quicker to approach the duck and adopted aggressive behaviours such as teeth chattering and curved body language when approaching the unfamiliar guinea pig. Whilst the guinea pigs were more timid and took longer to approach. In this case the wild cavies were deemed more bold and aggressive.

    Learning

    This test is when the guinea pigs excelled over their wild counterparts. Cucumber was placed inside plastic containters and the challenge was to see who figured it out the guinea pigs or cavies. The domesticated guinea pigs grasped this concept and figured out how to get the cumber much quicker than the wild cavies. Usually domestication of pets produces less intelligent animals and they experience cognitive decline, broadly speaking.

    Furthermore, the average guinea pig can learn complex maze tasks using symbols as sign posts. They also have an excellent memory and can remember the times at which certain things happen such as feeding and cleaning out of cages! If your memory isn’t as good at feeding times as your guinea pig’s then try an automatic feeder! 

    You can also feed their skill for learning by creating a maze out of a vairety of carboard tubes or buy plastic tubes which are more hard wearing like this one that we use for our little piggies.

    Eyes

    One of our guinea pigs!

    Guinea pigs are able to see predators coming at them from all directions thanks to their large eyes being on the sides of their heads. This also unfortunately means they cant see what is right in front of them which is often why they startle relatively easily. A normal guinea pigs eyes are both the same size,clear, bright and should protrude slightly. Guinea pigs usually keep their eyes open all the time even when sleeping! Only a small few close their eyes fully when they sleep.

    An experiment was carried out by Horst Bielfeld in his book Guinea Pigs — A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual where he uses coloured food bowls to distinguish whether a guinea pig could see colours and it concluded that they can.

    Additionally you will notice a milky liquid coming from your guinea pigs eyes. This is completely normal and is used to wash the face. Your guinea pig will leave this liquid to build up and then will use it to clean their face using their front paws several times a day.

    Ears

    Guinea pigs have excellent hearing to help them identify predators before they come into view. There ears are soft and folded over to protect the delicate tissue inside. They are prone to different types of ear aliments and the jury is still out over whether the owner should clean their ears for them as part of the grooming routine. We have never cleaned our guinea pigs ears and I regularly check them as part of their grooming routine and none of ours have ever suffered with ear conditions. If your unsure then speak to your local vets. The usual ear cleaning kit of water and cotton buds is also useful to have in on standby just incase they develop any ear aliments.

    Its normal for the outer ear to sustain a little damage such as a slight rip or tear as unfortunately the hierarchy battle is ongoing for piggies. As long as they aren’t huge rips or infected / swollen / bleeding then its best to just monitor the situation.

    Nose

    A guinea pigs sense of smell is highly developed and is likened to in between a human and a dog. They are able to recognise companions and owners through scent. A guinea pigs nose is small and should be clean and dry. Guinea pigs sneeze frequently throughout the day but anything excessive is a cause for concern. Guinea pigs expel air from their nose and it creates a high pitched sound but is unmistakably a sneeze. Guinea pigs that begin to sneeze constantly may also just be allergic to their bedding. If you think this may be the case then slowly start to swap out each type of bedding you use to discover which one was creating the allergy. We have always used Timothy Hay without having any problems plus its great for wearing down teeth!

    Legs

    Guinea pig legs aren’t very strong and can break really easily. They also cant jump very high so don’t let them fall or jump from any height. Even though your piggy has little legs, they will do a fair bit of standing up on two feet to get a better view of outside their cage or even just to see whats happening. Ours are always standing on two legs when they know they are about to get fed! This stance also helps to lift them up so they can give their excellent sense of smell a chance to help discover whats going on. If your lucky you may also spot your little piggy running. jumping in the air and landing on all fours – they they will do it again. This amazing dance is called “popcorning” and shows that your piggy is perfectly content. This is more common in younger piggies so enjoy it whilst you can!

    Feet and Claws

    Most guinea pigs are born with four toes on their front feet and three toes on their hind feet. A guinea pigs claws grow constantly and in the wild this helps them climb the mountainsides and walk on hard or difficult ground. Guinea pigs kept as pets require their claws to be clipped regularly and you can do this by either taking them to a grooming center or buy purchasing some specially designed nail clippers. A young guinea pigs claws start out short, sharp and pointy and as the guinea pig ages they become thicker, more brittle and unfortunately grow for irregularly. This is why its important to decide on how your guinea pigs claws will be trimmed (either by you or a professional) and then stick to that routine.

    A guinea pigs feet are soft on the underside and should be regularly examined as part of your grooming routine. Due to the soft underside of their feet, guinea pigs should be kept on a soft surface especially since they have no fur on the under sole of them either. Guinea pigs feet are prone to a condition called bumblefoot which is a bacterial infection of the feet. It is common in other rodents and even birds. Its is more likely to occur in domesticated animals due to housing conditions. They are caused due to poor living conditions such as not changing the bedding regularly or being kept in damp living conditions.There are several ways to prevent bunmblefoot such as by using specially designed guinea pig disinfectant when cleaning out the cage along with using good quality hay and bedding.

    Whilst there is a lot of information here and it may seem overwhelming, caring for your guinea pigs becomes part of your daily routine and you get the best reward – a loving, kind and affectionate pet.