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.
- Supporter in 2019
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.
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.
- Cavy Comic
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!
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!
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.