How to Tame Guinea Pigs

tame guinea pig eating grass next to child on the floor

Guinea pigs are by nature very nervous pets but you can tame even a skittish and nervous guinea pig and get them to come to you using this taming guide. You can use these tips for baby guinea pigs as well as older pets that you have adopted.

Some important points before taming

We recommend a pair of guinea pigs: It’s worth mentioning that guinea pigs that are in pairs are generally happier than single guinea pigs so we always recommend having two and this may help them feel a little calmer therefore aiding the taming process.

Don’t chase them when picking up: If you are always having to chase them round the cage to pick them up, this can make them more nervous. So when you need to take them out of their cage, try sectioning off a small part to make it easier.

How to begin the taming process

First you should approach the cage quietly. Guinea pigs don’t like loud or sudden noises or sudden movements. So you need to make sure you are in a peaceful environment and that you remain quiet only speaking softly and gently to them. This way they’ll get used to your voice.

However, it’s unlikely that either a baby guinea pig or an older newly adopted guinea pig will come to your hand and let you stroke them even if you approach them quietly and gently. You need to get them to trust you first.

How to get a guinea pig to trust you

Gaining a guinea pig’s trust is something that happens over time. They need to know that you’re not some kind of predator and that nothing bad is going to happen when you approach. In fact, so much the better if positive things happen when you are with them.

The first thing on your guinea pig’s list of “positive things” is undoubtedly food! ​

Taming guinea pigs with food
Taming guinea pigs with food

Food is the key to successfully taming your guinea pigs.

Hand feeding your guinea pigs

Eating food is a guinea pig’s favorite pastime! So if you have the right food on offer they will want to come to you and in time will let you stroke them too. 

The taming process is gradual so don’t expect immediate results. Patience is essential and it will definitely pay off.

The best way to start is with food such as large lettuce leaves. Most guinea pigs love lettuce! Romaine lettuce is best for this as the leaves are large and it is generally one of their favorites. Iceberg lettuce is not recommended for guinea pigs.

Step 1: How to get your guinea pig to come to you

Start by holding a lettuce leaf over the side of their cage or in front of you. Alternatively, if you have an indoor pen, you can sit on the floor and have part of the pen open so they can come closer which is even better.​

Hand feeding a lettuce leaf to guinea pigs
Hand feeding guinea pigs with a lettuce leaf

Don’t move your hand, just keep still and wait for your guinea pig to approach. When he does come for a nibble, he will try and take the whole leaf away with him so make sure you keep hold of it!

If you move your hand a bit quickly, your guinea pig might run away so take it slowly.

Gradually over a few days he will feel more confident to come closer to your hand. 

Step 2: Encourage your guinea pig to come closer

After a few days, or when he looks comfortable with being hand fed, try him with something small such as a or a blueberry so he has to come right up to your hand. ​

Hand feeding a pea flake to an Abyssinian guinea pig
Hand feeding pea flake to Abyssinian guinea pig

Make sure you are holding the treat just in the tips of your fingers as you don’t want him to bite your finger by accident.  They don’t usually bite intentionally but if your finger is in the way when they are chomping down on their food it can happen accidentally.

Step 3: Get your guinea pig to climb on to your lap

If you are sitting on the floor with them, you can begin to encourage your guinea pig to come closer by bringing the food closer to you. ​

Taming a guinea pig with pea flakes
Taming a guinea pig with pea flakes

Gradually you may be able to get them to climb on to your lap for the food. 

This won’t happen straight away but as your guinea pig gets to trust you more, he will become braver.

Summary of how to tame guinea pigs

  • Make sure the environment is quiet and calm
  • Talk gently and quietly to them
  • Begin by offering a large lettuce leaf and let them come to nibble at it
  • Progress to smaller pieces of veg or so they have to come closer to your hand
  • Sit on the floor with them and offer food, getting them to come closer each time
  • Encourage them to put their front feet on your lap.

Can I start taming my guinea pigs on the day I get them?

When you get new guinea pigs it is wise to let them settle into their new home first. Everything will be a little strange for them and you are also a new person in their lives who they will need to get  used to. Give them a few days to settle in and then gradually and gently start interacting with them a little more each day.

How long does it take to tame a guinea pig?

Your guinea pig may become pretty tame in a couple of weeks but it may take many more weeks with a skittish, nervous pet.  All guinea pigs are different and you need to allow them the time they require to get used to  you.

My guinea pig is scared of me. Can I tame him?

Guinea pigs that are very nervous and skittish may take a longer time to tame but you need to be persistent.

Just because he are scared of you at the moment doesn’t mean he doesn’t like you so there is no reason to feel that you are doing anything wrong. This is his nature and he needs to learn you are not a danger to him. 

Spend time each day following our steps as well as giving him lap time and you should notice him getting more brave as time goes on.