Tips for handling skittish GPs?

Post Reply

Post   » Thu Oct 03, 2019 8:09 am

Hi all! I'm new to the forum and new to guinea pigs. I look forward to learning a lot about my new friends.

So we got 2 guinea pigs on Sunday. They are both female - one appears very young, the other is a bit older. They are both terrified whenever we're in the room and will not come out of their hide for anything. We never, ever see them out in their cage except via baby monitor. When we're not in the room they eat, play, drink, etc.

How do I get them to trust us? I tried hand feeding them lettuce and veggies, but they won't even come forward from their hide for those. I've read that I need to handle them more, so the last 2 days I've removed their hide and taken them out, but I feel awful chasing them around and picking them up when they don't want to be. Once in arms, they are very calm, but maybe that's because they're so scared?

I want to interact and bond with them, but I want to do it in the least stressful way possible.

User avatar

Post   » Thu Oct 03, 2019 10:41 pm

They will probably always hate being picked up. Continuing to feed tasty items, sitting by the cage and talking to them. And holding them calmly (like you're doing) should start the process of letting them get used to you.

User avatar
Supporter in 2019

Post   » Fri Oct 04, 2019 12:40 am

Guinea pigs are prey animals and cautious of everything. They usually don’t like being picked up. Once they are held and feel safe they learn to relax. As Lynx said, continue with food they like and talk to them so they get to know your voice. Eventually they will associate you with their favorite food and come out to see you when you walk in the room. It also helps to have them in a busy part of the house to they see you a lot. Mine is just off the kitchen so meal time is a bid deal. They are scared in open spaces so they will need their hidey. Just remove it when you have to catch them.


Post   » Fri Oct 04, 2019 3:01 pm

It will take time and patience.
We have had our 3 girls for about 18 months and they have settled down a bit, two of them will let us pet them about 75% of the time the other only about 25% of the time. They will run away when we try to pick them up for weekly weighing. Oddly enough the one who will only let us per her 25% of the time is the one who will sit quietly on our lap for the longest. The other two get restless and nippy pretty quickly, since they cant communicate with you when they want to be put back in their pen they will nip you, this can be either quite gentle of it could be enough to draw blood depending on the piggy. I frequently have scars on my hands and chest through picking them up. Suzi is quite gentle and will just give me a light nip but Nala will try and bite my shirt but will often get a chunk of skin as well.

Also spend time just sat by the pen talking to them s they get used to your voice and scent.

Tunnels come in very handy when trying to pick them up. when they run in to hide carefully block the ends with your hands and lift it out then gently encourage them out on to your lap.

User avatar

Post   » Sat Oct 05, 2019 10:47 pm

Have you taken them to a vet? Seriously, part of Pepsi's problems were her adrenal gland issues. And with Pellegrino it was his lice. But other than that I agree with what Lynx says.


Post   » Fri Oct 11, 2019 7:07 pm

They learn your voice and your footsteps and your smell before they learn by sight. They will always hate being picked up and will probably always try to hide or run when you approach if they think you will try to pick them up. We've had our piggies for years (some since their birth), and they do not like to be picked up. Try to scoop them up from below rather than descend upon them from above. It helps. My pigs will run to the loft we have when they realize I want to pick them up and they are OK with that, so I can scoop them up easier. They still sometimes get cold feet at the last moment and try to run, but once in our hands, they are OK.

Give them yummy treats, and we found that putting them on our chests so they could feel our heartbeat seemed to help them calm faster too. One of ours will run and wheek like we are killing her when we pick her up, but once she's on our chest, she will relax so much she splays out completely. It looks pretty funny, actually.

User avatar
Cavy Comic

Post   » Sat Oct 12, 2019 1:59 am

Since piggies are capable of learning words, try and use a single word for stuff that you are about to do around the cage. Yums, treats, water, cleaning, watching, grabbing, checking, etc, are learned within weeks. Also, a piggies trust grows with the amount of vegs treats in the long run.

My last pig did not arrive as a baby, so we figured he might not learn them fast at an older age, but he exceeded the goal. He even pretends to be asleep when I say "meds" or when we say at lap time that he's getting fidgety and needs to go back to the cage, lol!


Post   » Sat Oct 12, 2019 6:41 pm

Yes! My piggies definitely know the word "treat"! They come running to the side of the cage for those!

They also know the sentence, "Who wants to be held?" If they are OK with being held, they will run up to the loft and wait to be scooped up. Some are more likely to do this than others, but all of them have at one time or another. I didn't train them to go to the loft, btw. They trained ME. I just began to notice that when they knew I wanted to pick them up and they seemed OK with it, they always ran to the loft and waited. That was totally their idea, not mine!

User avatar
Supporter in 2019

Post   » Sat Oct 12, 2019 7:54 pm

Mine know "treat" and they also know the phrase, "Who's starving?" which I always say before I feed them.

User avatar

Post   » Wed Oct 16, 2019 3:32 pm

Lots good advice from some amazing guinea pig owners, so I will add mine. My two pet store pigs, I got as tiny babies were not too frightened from the get go, but they were apprehensive about being picked up for the first few weeks I had them. Now two and a half years old, they've learned to associate being picked up with something they like happening most of the time. Things like floor time, lap time, outside grazing or getting a fresh cage. They always come to the front of the cage and they climb into my hands every time. They're both single piggies (not paired together).

As for 9 month old my rescue piggies, Sammy and Dean (they are paired brothers) they were very skiddish when I got them and hid all of time. I don't think they were abused or their needs neglected, but they weren't given much love and attention. Anyway, I had to get them into a corner and gently pick them up. I got a nip or two for my trouble. The cage situation demanded that I keep them in a playpen on the floor during the day and move them to a small cage at night. That's how it was for the first few weeks until I was able to get a large enough permanent cage for them, as we didn't plan on getting more piggies. The day pen was really messy and had to be cleaned every day and the urine wiped down a couple of times during the day while they were in it.

The result was a lot of contact between us and them. It turned out to be a benefit. By the time they got their permanent cage, they had become used to us and being handled. We've had them for about 6 months now and they're fully acclimated to us. They both come right up to the front of the cage and greet us with squeaks, hand sniffs and the occasional love nibble or hand lick. They don't climb into my hands, but when I have to pick them up, they each go to a spot in the cage and sit there while I pick them up. They've come a long way since the frightened little guys they were when they joined our family.

Some other things that I found useful: Each time you pick them up, talk to them and tell them why they are getting picked up, as others have suggested. Do the same thing when you feed them or approach them for any other reason. You might not think so, but they do understand certain words and associate them with things; good and bad and will react accordingly. Treats while holding them also helps earn their trust. Stick with it and before you know it you'll form a strong bond with your guinea pigs.


Post   » Tue Oct 22, 2019 2:23 am

They sound good to me. Be grateful they've bonded with each other. GPs are skittish by nature, it's their instinct. That they let you hold them, even if they aren't happy about it is good. Calm in your arms after only a few days is huge progress, although it might not seem so.

Post Reply
11 posts • Page 1 of 1