One of the biggest questions among guinea pig owners is how to handle a guinea pig so that they are comfortable and relaxed, and you don't cause them any stress.
No matter if you're a new guinea pig owner, or you've had them for a while, It's never too early (or late) to learn more about what makes your pet happy.
Read on to find out more about guinea pig handling techniques
How often should you handle guinea pigs?
Before we dive into exactly how to handle a guinea pig, let's talk about how often you should be handling them.
Guinea pigs are quite sociable and generally enjoy being held and petted, but it may take time to get to that point. Avoid handling them for a few days after you bring them home, so they have time to adjust to their new surroundings. You can use this time to speak gently to your furry friend through the cage and get them used to the sound of your voice and your scent.
After a few days have passed, you can start to handle your guinea pig, but take time to gradually build that relationship so that your guinea pig feels safe and reassured.
Handling your guinea pigs is a great way to bond with them, but there are some circumstances when it's not advisable.
When should I not be handling my guinea pig?Pups need time to develop immunity, so don't handle newborn guineas for at least two weeks.
Guinea pigs that have just given birth should also be left alone for at least two weeks so they can recover from the birthing process without being handled by humans (or any other animals).
If your furry friend has recently been ill, you should also give them a little extra space for healing before handling them again. Your vet will be able to advise you on exactly when it will be safe to handle them.
Getting guinea pigs used to handling
The best way to get a guinea pig used to being handled is by spending time with it and working your way up. When you do start to pick your guinea pig up, begin with just a minute or two a day and gradually increase it until you are handling them for around twenty minutes.
Not all guinea pigs will want to be held for twenty minutes, and some may tolerate a little longer. By starting slow and building up, you will learn how to tell when your guinea pig is ready to be put down.
At first, spend time out of their cage just sitting on the floor with your guinea pig beside you. Solid ground will make them feel more comfortable, so by putting them on the floor and spending some time at their level, you will reassure them. Talk gently to them so your voice does not startle them. When you first begin to handle your furry friend, always pet them in the same spot at first.
Now that your piggy is used to you and is happy and relaxed, you can pick them up. Remember, you should only move on to this step when your guinea pig is comfortable with it or if they show no signs of stress.
Guinea pig handling techniques
Guinea pigs are easily startled by sudden movements, so make sure to go very slowly and gently when handling your guinea pig.
The best way to handle a guinea pig is to use both hands. This will allow you to place one hand on the chest of the guinea pig, being careful not to squeeze its delicate rib cage, while the other hand supports its rear. You can bring them into your chest to make them feel more secure.
Guinea pigs' legs are quite delicate. Let their legs hang over your hand to keep them safe and supported. If you want to pick your guinea pig up to move them, place one hand under their chest and with the other hand, support their rear and gently lift them.
If your piggy is a baby, or even if they a little older but new to you as a pet, they can be scared at first of being handled, so it is sometimes a good idea to use a tube or tunnel to coax them into, or a soft fleece or blanket to help you to pick them up in. They need to take their time to get used to you and their new surroundings, so take your time and try to be patient. If you give them a small treat when they are in your lap or hands, they will soon realise that being handled is a good experience, as they love their food!
If your guinea pig feels uncomfortable and wants to be put down, they are likely to squirm. be prepared for this, and make sure that you don't squeeze them to avoid dropping them. Start off holding your guinea pig on the sofa or somewhere soft and comfortable, in case they want to get down quickly. Another sign your guinea pig wants to be put down is if they start to lick your hand while wriggling.
Guinea pigs are one of the most popular pets in the world, and for good reason. They’re clean, they don’t smell, and they are very low maintenance. Once tamed, these cute little piggies make excellent pets and can be taught tricks, will come over to you when you call them, and squeak happily when you enter the room.
Just like humans, guinea pigs have their own little personalities. Some will love being handled and others will only tolerate it for a little while. Have fun with your pet while being sensitive to their needs and they will appreciate it by being less nervous and more affectionate towards you! Some really tame Guinea's will even follow you around like a four-legged puppy would once they get to know and love you!
For more top tips and information about how to look after your Guinea Pig, take a look at our Guinea Pig feeding guide.