“How do I make my guineas pig like me” is a common question I’m often asked by both new pet parents and established guinea caregivers. Even people who are considering adopting these adorable rodents are curious about the ins and outs of cavies and how they build a relationship with their owners.
Really, what it all comes down to is bonding with your pet, which enables them to be more comfortable with you and trust you. Not only is building a strong relationship with your guinea pigs essential for them, but it’s just as crucial for you as their guardian too.
Their personality and past negative experiences play a huge role in bonding with your cavies. While it will likely take some time and effort on your part to bond with your fuzzy besties, once you do build that solid foundation, living with and caring for your pets will ultimately become much easier.
So, whether it’s your first time caring for cavies or you’ve been around this block countless times, let’s go over some tips and tricks to learn how to make your guinea pigs like you. If you invest in building a bond with your guineas, consistently putting in the effort and time needed to do so, then I’m sure you’ll create a wonderful, comfortable, happy relationship you’ll both appreciate.
How to Make Your Guinea Pigs Like You? 7 Tips
The following 7 tips should help you build a strong, trusting relationship with your cavies and make them like you.
1. Interact With Your Guinea Pigs Several Times a Day
Interacting with your pets several times a day is incredibly important, especially so if your cavies have been neglected in the past. Some guinea pigs that have been adopted were ignored in their previous homes. As such, they don’t know how to interact with humans and are perhaps traumatised by their experience. Therefore, add regular, multiple times a day interaction to your routine.
Since they may not be used to interaction, they might be skittish and uncertain about why you want to pick them up. So, start off slowly to decrease stress, picking them up in periods of no longer than 30 seconds and working your way up bit by bit to 5 minutes per visit. If your guinea pigs are too scared and won’t let you hold them, try using a cuddle sack to pick them up to make them feel safer.
Eventually, they’ll get used to the attention and look forward to it, calling you over before the next pick-up time!
2. Help Them Associate a Positive Experience With Daily Pick-ups
How do you ensure your guineas associate a positive experience with getting picked up? The answer is simple: by feeding them healthy treats each time!
Get to your pet’s heart – via their stomach – by offering small bits of veggies, herbs, and other pet-safe, yummy treats every time you pick them up and interact with them. Before you know it, they’ll be wheeking for your attention – and a treat – every time they see you!
3. Talk to Your Cavies Throughout the Day
Speak to your pets throughout the day, not just when you pick them up, as this will get them more used to your voice. Guinea pigs are naturally skittish creatures (they’re prey to a great many animals in the wild, after all), and so they need to be spoken to in soothing tones to make sure they don’t freak out and to calm down their typically high-strung personalities.
4. Don’t Raise Your Voice or Yell Around Them
Even if they bite you, poop or pee on you, don’t yell at them or raise your voice. The last thing you want to do is take one tiny step forward in your relationship – only to leap backwards countless steps because you got upset at something they did.
Guinea pigs are incredibly intelligent creatures, but since they’re highly anxious they may nip you out of fear, or pee and poo on you. If something like this happens, simply remain calm, gently put them down to give them some space, continue to speak to them in soothing tones for a few more minutes, then take a break and start again next time.
5. Don’t Skip a Day When It Comes to Interacting With Your Pet
Unless you truly have no choice, be it because you’re sick or are working an exceptionally long day, don’t skip interacting with your guinea pigs. It’s essential to keep up the daily routine of spending time with them.
If you’ll need to be out of the house a bit more than usual, then consider asking a friend or family member to spend some time with them, or even hire a professional pet sitter to interact with them temporarily.
6. Allow Your Cavies to Be Free-range Guinea Pigs
By allowing them the ability to spend time outside of their cage regularly, you’re showing them they’re welcome in the family and live in a safe place. Let them roam freely – with supervision, of course – to lessen their anxiety of the ‘outside world’ and show them they’re free to run and play and be happy with their best bud – you, their human!
7. Take Good Care of Them
Always make sure they have enough food and water in their habitat, giving them the sense they’re well-looked after by their human companion. If you’re not sure about what type and amount of food you should give your pet, as well as feeding them treats, check out the food guidelines in the post on how to feed guinea pigs.
Make sure they have enough space in their cage, and a well-set-up cage layout with enough places to hide in case they feel threatened or scared. Keeping their cage clean by regularly spot cleaning it is also vital for their health and well-being.
If you have a single guinea pig, consider adopting another furry friend to keep them company. These social creatures thrive in the company of their own kind, and having a same-species companion can help them feel more relaxed and secure.
How Do You Know if Your Guinea Pig Likes You?
Cavies don’t mask their true emotions, whereas humans have the ability to hide their feelings. If your guinea pigs don’t like someone, they’ll show it. Conversely, if you’re not too keen on someone, for instance, like that neighbor of yours that keeps putting his garbage in front of your home (seriously, why does he do that?!), you can choose to hide your emotions and act contrary to them.
Guinea pigs, or any animal for that matter, won’t pretend they like you if they don’t. However, if you’re still not sure if your cavies like you, here are a few signs that typically demonstrate you are, in fact, accepted by your fur babies.
Signs your guineas like you:
- They let you hold them and don’t scurry off screaming like the end of the world has arrived.
- They eat out of the palm of your hand and don’t pull a grab-n’-hide-to-eat move.
- They seem calm and comfortable around you and don’t ‘popcorn’ with every move you make.
- They don’t nip when you’re playing with them – or bite and draw blood.
- They seek out your attention during outside-cage time and want you to pick them up – instead of running for cover.
- They call you over to their cage with their wheeking to spend time with you – instead of running in terrified circles at the sight of you.
What to Do if Your Guinea Pig is Scared of You
To better understand your pets, it’s important to consider three basic factors that predispose your guinea pigs to anxiety and panic:
- Genetic predisposition
- Social experiences early-on in their life, particularly during the initial socialization period of their early stages and adolescence
- Environmental experiences in adulthood
There are several reasons why cavies may develop a fear of humans. A negative experience with young kids, for instance, could result in guinea pigs that are scared of children. These pets may display signs of fear around kids, such as being easily startled, running and hiding if children get too close, or even if new people approach them in the home.
When Your Guinea Pigs Are Afraid – Common Signs of Fear
The following are a few common signs of fear in guinea pigs. Should you observe any of these signs, please give your pets the space and quiet they need to calm down. Also, you should consider working with them to decrease their fear and fight-or-flight reaction.
Signs of fear in guinea pigs:
- Bulging eyes that show a lot of white
- Incessant squeaking/loud, nervous chatter
- Grinding teeth noises
- ‘Frozen in fear’ posture
- Quick lowering of the head when reaching for them
- Running away from noise or when people get close
- Hiding when someone is near
- Getting startled easily
If you observe any of these possible signs of fear, or other signs that you connect with anxiety or panic, you may want to think about working with them to calm their fear. You’ll not only be building a better relationship in doing so, but you’ll also help them live a healthier, happier life by decreasing their worry.
Keep in mind that some of these signs may also indicate illness in guinea pigs. If you suspect that your furry companion may be unwell, it’s best to seek veterinary advice.
Bonding With Your Guinea Pigs to Lower Anxiety Levels
Since my guinea pigs, Muffy and the late Miss Lilly, were adopted from a guinea pig rescue, we didn’t have much information on their previous home. Nonetheless, we were told the great majority of pets that come to the shelter were mistreated, ignored or simply left somewhere, abandoned like an old pair of shoes.
It was emphasized that we would need to be patient and spend some time socializing them. Honestly, it took about a year to help Muffy and Lilly feel at ease in their new home. Yes, it took effort on our part to earn their trust, but ultimately, spending the time to bond with them was indeed time well-spent.
In the end, learning how to make your guinea pigs like you goes hand-in-hand with building a stronger relationship with them. By doing so, you’ll be making a huge difference in both of your lives, and very likely be extending their lifespan with the decrease in stress.
If you’d like to learn more about bonding with your cavies, I recommend reading our post on bonding with guinea pigs for some great advice.