Are you wondering what the right way to pick up a guinea pig is? Perhaps you have a rescue piggy that is nervous around humans, and you want to find how best to handle it so that you can bond? You are not alone.
Here at H&R HQ, this is one of the most frequently asked questions we receive from our readers, so we thought it would be a good idea to do an article to answer this, along with any other questions you might have.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Run When You Try To Pick Them Up?
Understanding why a cavy runs when you try and pick it up is the first step in correctly picking up and handling your pet. You see, in the wild guinea pigs have more than their fair share of predators, including snakes, cats, owls, hawks and even humans.
As prey animals, they are programmed to run and hide when they sense danger, which is why they make a dash for it when you try to pick them up.
In time, and as you build a bond with your piggies, they will be less inclined to run, but because it is an integral part of who they are, and what they do, you shouldn’t take it personally.
Is It Okay To Pick Up Guinea Pigs?
Not only is it okay to pick up your pet piggy, but it is also imperative that you do. This is because cavies are social creatures and crave the company of other piggies and humans.
Learning how to pick up your guinea pig and handle it correctly has several benefits, for both you and your cute little cavy. This includes:
- Building that all-important bond with your pet.
- Making grooming sessions that much easier, as well as trips to the vet.
- Stopping your cavy getting lonely and depressed, and as a result preventing serious illnesses.
- Providing your piggy with the physical and mental stimulation it needs to stay healthy.
But before you just grab your piggy for some cuddle time, you should know how to pick it up, and handle it. This will prevent injuries (to both of you) and keep your piggy calm in the future.
Is There A Correct Way To Approach My Guinea Pig?
If you are a new piggy parent or have recently added a member to your furry family, you will need to approach it a little differently to one that is already familiar with you. Take a look at our list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to picking up, handling and carrying guinea pigs.
How To Approach Guinea Pigs
Ensure you get down on the ground
Most predators are much bigger than a guinea pig if you think about it, which is why it is best to approach them at their level. They will feel less intimidated and be more inclined to come to you.
Slowly place your hand in the hutch
Because sudden movements will cause your cavy to run away, we suggest you use slow, gentle movements when putting your hand in the hutch or run.
Watch where you place your hand
Don’t put your hand too close to your piggies. They are naturally curious and will make their way to you, to sniff you out. As they get more familiar with your scent, they won’t feel threatened or nervous around you.
Talk to your guinea pigs
Talking to your guinea pigs will also help with the bonding process. As they get used to your voice and learn to recognise it, they will feel more comfortable around you.
Remember to be patient, especially if it is a rescue. It will take time for your cavy to settle in and become familiar with its new home. Rushing the process will only leave your pet feeling skittish and nervous around you.
How Not To Approach Guinea Pigs
Don’t sneak up on your guinea pigs from behind
Never approach your pet from behind. This can quite literally scare it to death. Don’t allow young children to poke at your cavies through the cage, or reach in and grab for them.
Don’t swoop down on your cavies
Remember we said it is best to get down to your guinea pig’s level when picking it up? This is because, in the wild, many of a cavy’s predators will swoop down and grab it. If your piggy feels under attack, it will definitely run and hide.
Don’t be too loud
Loud noises are scary for cavies, so always talk to them in a calm and gentle voice. Don’t scream and shout around them.
How Should You Pick Up And Carry A Guinea Pig?
Before we explain how you should be picking up your piggy, you must always remember to handle it with care. As cute and cuddly as guinea pigs are, they are not toys and being too rough can cause serious injury, and in some cases, even death.
Picking Up Guinea Pigs Correctly
Once you get used to it, picking up and carrying guinea pigs is pretty straightforward. Here’s how to do it.
Start by placing one hand around the chest, or if you prefer underneath it.
Support their back legs with your other hand.
Keep your cavy’s feet facing the floor so that it doesn’t hurt its spine.
Always keep your piggy close to the floor. If it wriggles or jumps out of your hands, there is less chance of it getting seriously injured.
When carrying guinea pigs, you must keep them close to your chest. They feel secure like this, and there is less chance of you dropping them.
This clip shows you exactly what you need to do when picking up and handling your piggy.
How Often Should You Pick Up Your Guinea Pig?
For your guinea pigs to thrive and be happy, you must pick them up at least once a day. Cuddle time is an essential part of owning a cavy and helps it feel more relaxed. It also gives you a chance to check for any health issues.
But, as much as piggies love one-on-one time with you, they also don’t like being handled for too long. We suggest holding your pet for 15 to 20 minutes maximum. Of course, if your cavy is still getting used to you, you might only get 10 minutes or so of cuddling before it lets you know it has had enough.
How Do You Know If Your Guinea Pig Doesn’t Want To Be Held Anymore?
This is an easy one to answer. As soon as your cavy has had enough of being held, it will let you know. Struggling, licking your hands and a gentle nibble are clear signs it needs a bathroom break or wants to be put down. If you ignore these signs, your piggy may nip a little harder to get its message across.
As you spend more time with your piggy, it is easier to understand its noises and behaviour.
How Do You Put Your Guinea Pig Back In Its Cage?
This is such a great question. Some piggy parents simply lower their pets to the ground and then drop them out of their hands. While this might seem like the best approach, your cavy needs to understand playtime is over, and you are putting it back in its cage, rather than it thinking it has escaped.
Let’s take a look at how you should put your guinea pigs back in their hutch or run.
Don’t let your cavy wriggle or squirm its ways out of your hands. Make sure you have it securely in your hands as you lower it to the ground.
If your piggy likes to make a dash for it, we suggest lowering it into the cage, bottom first. This will lessen the chances of it sprinting off, and prevent any injuries.
Although this step might not be necessary, it is useful if you have a jumper on your hands or you and your piggy are still getting used to each other. Guinea pigs are especially at risk of hurting themselves when they try jumping out of your hands.
If you are nervous about this happening, you might want to try putting it into the cage backwards. This is because if it can’t see where it is going, it will be less inclined to jump.
Is It Okay To Pick Up A Pregnant Guinea Pig?
As much as guinea pigs love being held and cuddled, we recommend you only hand a pregnant piggy if it is absolutely necessary. This is especially important one month before they have their babies.
Also, don’t attempt to pick them up too soon after giving birth. They will want to be with their babies, but more importantly, they will be sore and uncomfortable.
How Soon Can You Pick Up a Baby Guinea Pig?
As tempting as it might be to hold a baby cavy, we suggest you don’t handle it for at least a week after it has been born.
When picking up and handling new guinea pigs, the most important thing to remember is patience and gentleness. Your pet is adjusting to you and its new environment and needs you to be calm, consistent and gentle.
Does your cavy like being picked up? What did you do to make it feel happy and comfortable when you are holding it? Tell us in the comments below.