So you’ve just got your guinea pigs and they’re now hiding in their cage. After a couple of days you’re probably wondering whether they’re ever going to come out of their hiding spots, or if you’ll ever see them.
Fear not. Your guinea pigs are perfectly fine, and their behavior is normal.
Bonding with your guinea pigs require patience, perseverance, but most importantly:
LOTS of food.
The way to a guinea pig’s heart is through their stomachs.
In this guide we’ll teach you how to make your guinea pigs feel comfortable and safe around you.
Step 1: Realize that all guinea pigs are different
Our current herd consists of three guinea pigs; One boar and two sows.
Not one of them are alike.
Our boy will gladly approach us whenever we’re at their cage and stick his nose up to see if there’s a treat coming his way.
One girl is more reserved, but doesn’t run away if she sees us coming to their cage. She usually stays a little in the background, but she’s curious too and sometimes even allows us to pet her behind her ears.
Finally, one sow has only one reaction when she sees us move towards their cage: Running away and hiding. However, she always gets very curious if she hears a bag rustling, and thinks we bring food. She’s always conflicted whether she should be scared or curious, but she knows that we accept her and she’s completely comfortable being herself.
Never consider it a failure if your guinea pigs are scared of you
Guinea pigs are prey animals, and even the most comfortable, tame guinea pigs will sometimes run away and hide. It’s their instinct to do so.
If you can’t make your guinea pig come out and be near you, it’s okay. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t love you, it just means that you need to be patient and keep trying.
Step 2: Make sure your guinea pigs can hide
As contradictory as it might sound, you have to make sure your guinea pigs can always run away and hide if they feel unsafe. You need at least one proper house or hideout per guinea pig.
If you stumble across the “advice” of removing all their hiding areas to make them tame, they’ll never feel safe around you. What they’ll do, is curl up in a corner or freeze out of fear due to being completely exposed and vulnerable.
Removing their houses and other hiding areas will make them feel vulnerable and exposed, and they’ll get stressed out.
The best way to tame your guinea pigs, is by letting them approach you on their own premises. Make them curious about your presence by offering them food, and make sure they see you from their hiding place.
Step 3: Feed your guinea pigs frequently
You’re probably already knowledgeable of your guinea pig’s eating habits by now, and know what they should eat.
Most people feed them one cup of fresh veggies per pig daily, but instead you can feed your guinea pigs smaller portions 3-4 times daily.
That way they’ll quickly get used to having you around their cage, and since you’re feeding them they’ll learn that you’re not dangerous.
After a couple of weeks they might even start wheeking loudly once they hear you prepare their veggies or approaching their cage, because that’s basically their standard reaction when they know they’re about to get food.
Step 4: Reward your guinea pigs with treats
Another great idea is to get a bag of pea flakes or similar treats, that you can use as rewards every time they do something special.
You can use the treats during the bonding and taming, to make them used to things like being picked up, coming to your hand, or even do simple tricks like picking up a small object and placing it somewhere else.
Once your guinea pigs learn that treats are coming in their direction, they’ll most likely get up, approach you, stick their noses up into the air, or even stand on their hind legs to see what’s coming.
Video: Guinea pigs feeling comfortable with you
This video was taken a while ago, and it shows how guinea pigs act around you when they’re 100% comfortable with your presence:
Most guinea pigs are extremely curious by nature, so if you stick a camera into their cage they will most likely examine it and give it a taste to see if it’s edible or not.
They’ll do the same with your hands once they get used to them.
Things you should avoid when taming and bonding with your guinea pigs
If you want to form a loving bond with your guinea pigs, there are a few things you should never do.
1. Never scare your guinea pigs.
Waving your arms, yelling, and blowing air on their face can scare them a lot. Guinea pigs are prey animals, and therefore very careful by nature. If you wave your arms violently, they might associate it with a predator, such as a big bird, and they’ll feel the need to run for their lives.
2. Never punish your guinea pigs.
If your guinea pigs do something you don’t like, such as biting you or peeing on you, they shouldn’t get punished.
Guinea pigs don’t do these things on purpose, and punishments of any kinds are extremely counterproductive.
3. Never misinterpret their signals.
I know this is a tough one, because guinea pigs can be quite difficult to understand. A specific sound or action could seem really cute, when in reality it’s a sign of distress.
It is therefore recommended that you study your guinea pigs carefully, and try researching their different signs of happiness, sadness, and warning signals, in order to get a better understanding of their “language”.
4. Never leave small kids alone with guinea pigs.
There’s no doubt that most kids love these little furballs, but the love isn’t always mutual. Guinea pigs are often scared of kids because they’re moving faster and tend to talk louder than most adults, so make sure you teach your kids to be quiet and calm when they’re around their furry little friends.
Another great idea is to never let your kids carry the guinea pigs around, but instead let them sit on the floor or in a couch while you carry the guinea pigs to them.
Guinea pigs can sometimes start squealing out of nowhere, and if kids aren’t prepared on this, they might drop the guinea pig by accident.