Are you new to the wonderful world of guinea pig parenthood and wondering how to form a bond with your fuzzy additions? Have you had your cavies for a while but seem to be having difficulty getting them to trust you?
Without a doubt, it’s essential to bond with your guineas, although it can take time and effort on your part.
In doing so, you’ll not only build your relationship with them and strengthen the trust between you, but you’ll also be able to get closer to your cavies and notice health problems before they get out of control. By following our tips, you’ll get a clearer grasp of what it takes to develop a bond with your guinea pigs and better recognise how to do so.
Let’s start off with a few answers to commonly asked questions about bonding with cavies. These will give you a good idea of how they function, what their preferences are, and explain a few things about bonding with guinea pigs.
Do Guinea Pigs Bond With Their Owners?
Yes, they do form bonds with their humans, very much like cats or dogs. They’re able to recognize certain people according to scent, sound, and sight cues. As such, guineas can identify and respond to who they do and do not know.
Personality, age, and past experience can play a role in the degree of interaction with people. However, they do recognize different people and often form different bonds with them, typically showing preference to those who feed and spend the most time with them.
Where Do Guinea Pigs Like to Be Petted?
The top of their head and behind the ears are often the most comforting areas to pet your guinea pigs. Don’t chase your piggies for pets; instead, start slowly once they feel safe in your presence. Cavies are tiny and skittish – approaching them too quickly may mentally send them back to a pre-domesticated state of mind, where they see your incoming hand as more of a predator’s talon!
Eventually, you can pet them along the length of their back, from head to hindquarters. Only follow the natural direction of their fur. If your guinea has rosettes (swirly patterns in their hair) do not move the fur in the opposite direction since it can be painful for your pet.
Some guinea pigs also enjoy being petted under their chin and getting their cheeks scratched.
Do Guinea Pigs Like to Cuddle?
When it comes to guinea pigs and cuddling, it’s a bit like a game of chance, really. Some piggies absolutely love snuggling up with their human companions, while others couldn’t care less about the whole experience. The secret behind this lies in their unique histories, socialization, and individual personalities.
Even if you raise two guinea pigs in the exact same way, they can turn out as polar opposites in terms of their cuddle preferences. If your guinea pig tends to be skittish or gives you the cold shoulder when you try to hold them, don’t beat yourself up over it. Don’t blame your care or think you did something wrong. Remember, guinea pigs have their own quirks and preferences, just like humans do. They’re not one-size-fits-all cuddle machines.
Don’t push them to be something they’re not comfortable with. Embrace their unique nature and find other ways to bond with them. The key is to respect their boundaries and appreciate them for who they are.
What Should I Do if My Guinea Pig is Scared of Me?
The best thing to do is give them time to adjust to your presence. Guinea pigs have a strong flight/freeze response because they’re prey animals. If your pets are young, new to your home or have a history of neglect, patience is the key. They need to overcome their natural instinct to fear you or flee to the closest hiding spot.
Announce your presence before moving towards their cage, so they know you’re not a threat. Be calm when you approach them, always from the side and not above, and speak in a gentle, soothing voice.
Eventually, they won’t be scared of you, but this can take weeks, sometimes even months. Using healthy treats, foods, yummy herbs, and fresh grass, you can get your pets to associate you with “good things.”
Lastly, consider getting a companion if your cavy is solo. They’re social creatures and are a lot less fearful when they’re not alone.
How to Bond With Guinea Pigs: 9 Relationship-building Tips
Now, for some tried-and-true tips for a rock-solid relationship with some ridiculously adorable rodents.
1. Give Your Pets Some Space
After they’ve arrived at their new forever home, give them the time they need to adjust to their surroundings. While you may be tempted to pick them up and cuddle them for hours on end, hold off on the snuggles – for now.
For about a week or two, simply be present, speak softly, and let your cavies calm down and destress. This is a big change, so please be patient with them. If you’ve had your cavies for a while, start anew and reconsider your usual approach to them. Perhaps, what they need is an area that’s quieter, calmer, so they have the opportunity to decompress and move away from their flight/freeze response.
2. Signal Your Approach
How you approach your cavies will determine their reaction. That means if you make loud noises or surprise them suddenly, they’ll always be on the lookout and stay in a state of caution.
Jamming your big human hands into their cage and trying to scoop them out – that’s also NOT a good idea. Rather, speak to your guinea pigs gently as you come closer to their habitat to let them know you’re about to visit.
Approach from the side – not from above like a predator – and slowly place your hands near the cage, in their line of sight. After a few seconds, gradually get a bit closer to them, placing your hands a few inches from their faces. Over a period of several weeks, repeat this process, progressively spending more and more time with them.
3. Talk to Your Pigs
Sit or lay next to your guinea pigs’ cage and talk to them with a calm, soothing voice. Avoid standing or leaning over the cage, as it can scare them off.
The more you talk to them, the more your guinea pigs will get used to your voice. Soon enough, they’ll associate your gentle tones with your face, as well as your soothing manner. This helps them calm down immensely and lower their defenses around you.
4. Hand Feed Them Veggies & Treats
As you speak to them, get on their good side with a few tasty veggies and delicious fruit to further associate the experience with something positive. Soon enough, they’ll know you as the bringer of tasty treats instead of a scary predator.
These actions will reassure them that you’re not a threat and they’re not in any danger when you’re around.
5. Pick Them Up Using a Cuddle Cup
Some pets, particularly those who were neglected in a previous home, often have difficulties forming bonds with their new humans. But, you can help build trust with your actions right now.
When your pets get more comfortable around you, you can slowly start picking them up. At first, schedule short pick-up times, as opposed to one long session that may be too overwhelming for them.
Using an item like a cuddle cup is the best way to pick up a guinea pig. A cuddle cup is specifically designed to create a cozy and safe space for picking up and snuggling with your guinea pigs. These products resemble little pockets that guinea pigs can climb into, allowing them to feel secure and at ease while being picked up.
If you don’t have a cuddle cup on hand, you can also use a fleece hide, a carrier, or a box. Make sure to block the entrance so your guinea pig can’t jump out.
When you pick them up, offer some tasty treats to distract them and make them associate pick-ups with yummy rewards.
Many piggies quickly learn to associate these cozy spots with positive things like playtime, cuddles, or treats. After a while, they willingly climb inside, making the whole process much less stressful for them compared to forceful handling.
6. Schedule Floor Time
After your guinea pigs have mellowed down in your presence, it’s time to take them out for some floor sessions. This is an excellent opportunity to further forge your bond with your guinea pigs.
Set up a play area in a guinea-safe environment. Always add a place to hide, as having a safe space makes them less stressed. Aside from that, go ahead and get creative by adding toys, a tasty treat section, several crumpled-up balls of paper, some hay-filled paper towel tubes – the possibilities are endless!
Sit quietly next to your pets as they explore this new environment. Put a fleece blanket on your lap with a few tasty treats and wait for them to come to you.
7. Instill the Process of Positive Association
By process of positive association with petting, cuddles, and healthy snacks, your pets will learn that spending time with their human is a good experience. Once their minds make this association, they’ll likely enjoy getting pets on the head or sitting in your lap – with a whole lot of delightful wheeking or even purring!
But also keep in mind that this might not happen with every guinea pig. They are all individuals with different personalities, and some might never enjoy being cuddled or held in your lap. Some guinea pigs simply prefer doing their own thing, away from humans – and that’s OK.
8. Consistency is Key
Strengthening the bond with your guinea pigs requires consistency. Cavies are creatures of habit. A consistent schedule lessens the anxiety of not knowing what will happen next. It’s the same for humans too now, isn’t it?
9. Get a Furry Companion (or Two)
Guinea pigs are social creatures. In the wild, they live in large herds, so they’re never alone. That’s why cavies need the companionship of a fellow guinea.
If your pet is solo, consider adding a buddy or two to fend off loneliness and alleviate anxiety. This also gives them the chance to form bonds with others of their kind. In turn, these bonds with other cavies can ensure they’re happier and actually help them form a bond with you.
A Bit of Advice, From One Pig Owner to Another
From one pig owner to another, the key to creating trust and forming a bond is to first understand their nature. Cavies are typically high-strung, skittish, and nervous – that’s just the way they’re born! Believe me, they want to trust you – but you need to work at it with them.
As their pet parent, it’s up to you to earn their confidence, and you can do it through patience, understanding, time, treats, and cuddles. If you take it slow, you’ll go a lot further, much faster.