Guinea pigs make great cuddle buddies, but they need to trust you before they can allow you to handle them that way.
Even though they are wild animals, domesticated cavies can recognize and come to their owners if they are trained.
These small, furry rodents are quite gentle in nature and can become affectionate pets IF they feel safe and comfortable.
Think about it. Will any abused pet come to its owner without cringing?
So if you want your guinea pig to run to you when you call it or return your affections, you need to make it trust you first.
How to Train Guinea Pigs to Recognize You
The first instinct of any new rodent you bring home as a pet would be to run away and hide.
In fact, even a well bred cavy will do this if it doesn’t recognize the person trying to catch it.
That’s normal because this animal has a lot of predators so it is an expert at hiding.
Their weak and small bodies make them extra vulnerable to injury which makes them extra cautious!
This will be frequent in the beginning but don’t lose heart. With patience you can make your new guinea pig your new best friend. Here are some tips that can help.
Don’t Go Overboard
Yes, your new cavy is incredibly adorable and squish-worthy. But that really isn’t any excuse to cuddle the life out of it!
If you grab it the first chance you get, you will most assuredly traumatize it.
Controlling your excitement can be difficult but the rewards will be amazing. So keep your hands to yourself at first and allow your new pet to get comfortable.
Otherwise, it can get stressed out, ill or even injure itself trying to get away.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should isolate it completely.
Keep contact minimal and talk to your new furry companion so it gets used to your presence and voice.
Do this for half an hour every day at the same time so it can start expecting you.
Feed Them to Earn Their Trust
The key to a guinea pig’s heart is through its stomach, but not just any food will do.
If you want to earn your fur baby’s trust you need to feed it the good stuff and no, Cheetos don’t count.
Get your pig some fresh hay, high grade pellets that are rich in vitamin C and fruits but determine what it likes first.
Here’s how you can do this and gain your pet’s trust. Feed it a slice of apple or a banana by hand once a day.
Try out different combinations of veggies and fruits to see what it likes.
If you do this regularly the cavy will associate you with food and that really is the only motivation it needs to trust you.
Hand feed it its favorite treats and it will come running to you when you open its cage.
Communicate With Your Words and Your Body Language
Your guinea pig will not understand what you are trying to see, but it can glean a lot from your tone and body language.
To get yours used to your presence and voice, talk to it and approach and cage gently.
Keep your distance at first so it knows you are near its cage but aren’t a threat.
Sit down right beside the cage and talk to it even if it isn’t looking at you.
Talk about your day, what you did at school, your friends, and family, anything you want but in a calm tone. An overexcited demeanor will scare your new pet and ruin all of your hard work.
If your pet is comfortable in your presence it will come up and sniff your hand.
This is its way to familiarize itself with a new presence and see if it is dangerous or not. If you remain still and calm, you may even be able to touch it.
Just don’t get disappointed if it runs back at first. If you maintain the same calm demeanor, it will return and trust you more.
Hold it Properly
Once the guinea pig is comfortable enough to let you touch it and stops running away, you can try and hold it.
Grabbing it won’t do. A healthy cavy is rotund and if you grab it from the midriff its chubby butt will hang down and it may start to panic.
Your hold should be supportive but gentle. Here is what you should do. Pick up the pig with your dominant hand right under its belly and use the other hand to cup its fluffy bottom.
Then bring it close your chest slowly to add support and to get into the ultimate cuddle position.
This position will also make the guinea pig feel secure and it will stop squirming after a while.
It will be afraid of falling at first, but if you don’t panic and drop it, it will calm down eventually. Just don’t hold it too tight. Your hold should be light but firm.
Do this a couple of times a day to make the cavy familiarize itself with your scent and touch. With time, it will come to you when you call it.
Take It Out Of Its Cage Frequently
Of course, if you just take your cavy out of its cage to cuddle and just place it back soon after, it may stop coming to you.
Like all animals, your guinea pig needs stimulation to remain active and to get exercise.
Choose a time of day when you can take it out of its cage and play with it. Your yard will not do.
Create a safe environment indoors which it can use to stretch its feet and explore without being alert for predators.
Make a small playground with food and obstacles it can interact with but make sure there are no cables or extra items that can injure it in the area.
These activities are a great way to familiarize them with their environment and to connect with them.
By playing with them outside the confines of their cage, you can ensure they don’t see you as a predator but someone who they can have fun with.
Give Them Toys
If you don’t have a space where you can leave your guinea pigs to play safely, you can always get a bigger playpen and place toys in it.
Besides the ones you can get from the pet store, you can use every day items as well.
This includes paper towel tubes, empty boxes, wheels and other items that the cavy can associate with play. Install a wheel it can run around in when you are not there to supervise so it can get some exercise inside its enclosure.
Give Them Their Own Space
If you plan on growing your herd, you will have a hard time taming them if they don’t feel as comfortable as your first cavy.
While the aforementioned tips will work with new additions as well, their comfort should also be your priority.
For example, once you get a new guinea pig or a companion for your sole cavy, invest in a larger playpen and cage.
These rodents are highly territorial and fights are not uncommon.
If for instance the one you have already tamed is meek and the new one is dominant, the stress level in the cage will increase.
That’s all of your hard work down the drain because your first guinea pig will be too scared to come to you.
To prevent that from happening don’t just plop down the new cavy in the cage and expect them to get along. Introduce them gradually.
Here is what you need to do. First, make sure that both have been neutered or spayed before making your move.
Then keep both in separate cages and push them close so they can see and sniff each other safely.
Do this for a few weeks and then allow them to mingle in the playpen, not the cage.
Make sure that this neutral space is in an area that is unfamiliar to both cavies.
That way they can familiarize with it together and create a bond at the same time. Place some food in the center of the space and allow them to eat together.
If your cavies play and eat together without an altercation for at least two hours, you can place them in the same cage without worry.
If a fight does break out, use hand towels to separate them or you will get a nasty bite.
The point of this exercise is more than introducing your cavies.
As an active participant, you will gain the trust of the new guinea pig and reinforce your bond with the first one you got at the same time.
The bottom line is whether you have one or a herd of guinea pigs, the best way to make them love and trust you is with patience and love.
Even though they are social animals, they are skittish and will take time to trust and come to you of their own volition.
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