Getting a guinea pig to trust you takes time and patience, because guinea pigs are naturally very nervous animals.
In the wild, guinea pigs would have been prey for many other animals, so it is in their nature to run for their lives when any other animal or human comes towards them, or tries to pick them up.
However, with perseverance and love, you can get a guinea pig to trust you and feel relaxed in your presence or when being held.
A trusting guinea pig is a lot easier to care for, as they will be less nervous when you need to take them out for nail cutting, bath times and grooming. It is also much better for them as they will feel happier and more relaxed.
Here are some tips that will help make your guinea pig trust you.
Taking your guinea pig out daily for lap time and cuddles will help them to become used to being picked up and handled.
They will most likely be nervous and perhaps a bit fidgety at first, but be patient and kind. Keep up with this each day and you should start to notice your guinea pig becoming more relaxed and trusting over time.
You might find that when you put your hand in the cage, your guinea pig runs for cover. They are not confident yet that you aren’t going to do them harm. They feel that they need to hide and protect themselves from this potential attacker.
Start to gain your guinea pig’s trust by hand feeding them. Something that is long, like a large lettuce leaf or a stick of celery is a good food to begin with. They don’t need to come too close to your hand to eat these so they will feel safer.
As they discover that your hand offers tasty food and doesn’t harm them, they will be more inclined to come to you for food.
Once you have gained their trust with a larger piece of vegetable, try something a bit shorter, like a slice of cucumber. Hold your hand very still and wait for them to come to you rather than pushing the food towards them.
Once your guinea pig has got used to being hand fed like this, you could then try feeding them healthy treats, such as pea flakes, which will mean they have to literally take it from between your fingers.
When they are used to hand feeding, you will find they are very happy to come to you and take food from your hand.
The more attention your guinea pig receives from you, the more likely they are to understand that you are friendly and not going to harm them.
Each time you go past your guinea pig’s enclosure, pay them some attention with a little stroke on the head or even under the chin if they’ll let you.
They might run away when you first try this, but once they are used to hand feeding, they will be braver, and may enjoy the extra attention from you.
If a guinea pig trusts you enough that you can stroke them in this way, they will also be less likely to run away when you need to take them out of their enclosure for lap time.
A guinea pig who is handled gently will feel more at ease than one who is roughly handled. Although it can sometimes be difficult to take a guinea pig out of their cage without chasing them around, try to find ways that minimise this as it will make them more nervous.
Pick them up securely but gently and pet them gently so they feel safe and loved. Always put them back carefully too and don’t drop them into their enclosure but place them in gently, then let them go.
Talking to your guinea pig will get them used to the sound of your voice. Speak softly to them and never shout or raise your voice.
Guinea pigs do get used to certain words and the way they are said, or certain noises from humans and relate them to what happens when that noise is made. For example, if you make a kind of kissing noise when you have treats, they will get to know that this sound means a treat is on its way and they will react accordingly.
This is another way to build trust and a good relationship between you and your guinea pigs.
Having a routine can help build trust as they will know what to expect from you and when. Like many pets, guinea pigs react well to having a routine.
Try to feed your guinea pigs at a similar time each day. You could also try to clean out at the same time each day and even give a little treat afterwards so they know what to expect after the cage is finished.
I usually do the daily spot clean before their morning feed and once I’m finished they can hear me preparing their food which causes great excitement!
A single guinea pig is often more withdrawn than a pair or herd of guinea pigs. They really need interaction with another pet of their own kind.
A properly bonded pair of guinea pigs are likely to be happier and more relaxed, which can also help when it comes to building up trust. as they are less likely to be as scared or timid.
It can sometimes take weeks or even months to get a guinea pig to trust you, particularly one who may have had a bad experience with a previous owner. Even younger guinea pigs or baby guinea pigs can take a while before they trust you.
The more attention you give your guinea pigs, the quicker the process is likely to be.