When handling Guinea Pigs you need to be confident and careful. We'll show you how to handle your Guinea Pig to keep them comfortable.
Why is it important to handle my Guinea Pig carefully?
When handling Guinea Pigs, or any small animals, you need to be confident and careful. Guinea Pigs have delicate bones, particularly their spines, so you don't want to drop your Guinea Pig from any height. Guinea pigs have rotund, heavy bellies that are disproportionate to their delicate little arms and legs. You should always take great care when handling your piggy so that you don't put too much pressure on them to hold their own body weight.
Who should hold my Guinea Pig?
We do not recommend that young children pick up or carry Guinea Pigs. This is because they may unknowingly hold them too tightly, or the Guinea Pig may startle and wriggle out of their hands. It is better for children to sit with the guinea pig on their lap or to sit in a safe area on the floor with the guinea pig running freely around them.
When should I hold my Guinea Pig?
Before handling your Guinea Pig, you will need to gain their trust. Start by spending time sitting quietly near to your piggy's cage so that they grow comfortable with your presence. Talking to your piggy softly can also be beneficial so that they recognise your voice.
After some time, you can begin placing your hands and fingers near your Guinea Pig, move slowly and keep very still. Allow them to sniff you regularly to get used to your smell. You can use treats such as fruit and vegetables to get your Guinea Pig to come closer to you. Be careful they don't mistake your fingers for carrots!
When you feel ready, you can try to touch your Guinea Pig. Don't be disheartened if at first they shy away, it will take time. Try petting their head and chin, as your hand is in their eye line they can see you come in peace. Generally, you should avoid their feet, underside and rear end as a surprise tap on the bum will likely startle them.
Guinea Pigs are very cautious and timid creatures, observe their body language and vocalisation until you feel your Guinea Pig trusts you, then you can begin trying to handle your Guinea Pig.
How should I pick up my Guinea Pig?
- Sit next to your Guinea Pigs cage for a short time.
- Let your Guinea Pig sniff your hands
- Make contact with your Guinea Pig by giving them a light head scratch and stroke on the back of their head.
- Manoeuvre your less dominant hand around the side of their body with your fingers arriving underneath their chest behind their front legs.
- Quickly, manoeuvre your dominant hand under their rear end, scooping up their bum into the palm of your hand.
- Make sure you have a firm grasp before lifting.
- Pull them in close to your chest for security.
Note: We do not recommend holding your Guinea Pig upside down on its back
Here is a useful demonstration from a vet:
How should I place my Guinea Pig down after being picked up?
Similarly to when you lift your Guinea Pig, it's important you place them down with confidence. This is likely the moment where they begin to wriggle as they lowered back into their cage or if you are placing them down. It is important to panic and release them early as the fall may cause them harm. With one hand under the body you can lower your Guinea Pig right down until their feet are able to touch the floor again.
Does my Guinea Pig enjoy being handled?
Most animals prefer to have their feet safely on the ground and to be in their own home. But once comfortable being handled, Guinea Pigs will enjoy spending 10 to 20 minutes being stroked and scratched and even enjoying some of their favourite fruit and veg whilst in your arms or perched in your lap in a cuddle cup or on a pad. Try to avoid handling your Guinea Pig for more than 20 minutes at a time, return them to their home for a toilet break and some food.
Why does my Guinea Pig wriggle when being held?
If your guinea Pig wriggles when being handled it might be because of fear, discomfort, needing something, little exposure to handling or just their personality. You may notice they begin to wriggle as they are being lowered to the ground or back in to their cage. Most importantly, you should never squeeze your Guinea Pig to stop them from wriggling, this can be a common mistake made by young children, and may lead to further stress put on your Guinea Pig and potential injury.
Guinea Pigs usually become comfortable over time the more they are exposed to handling, which means at first it may be best to place your wriggly piggy back in their home and try again another day. Your piggy companion should be with you for as long as 6 to 8 years, so be patient and build a bond by handling them regularly.
If you continue to hold your wriggly piggy, keep a secure hold close to your body. Try not to make any sudden movements or loud noises. Keep calm and talk to your Guinea Pig. Keeping your Guinea Pig distracted with treats can prevent wriggling. Some guinea pigs will enjoy being wrapped lightly into a towel, blanket or lifted in a soft tunnel as this will make them feel secure and calm the wriggling.
What do I do if I drop my Guinea Pig?
Guinea pigs are gentle animals with delicate bones. If you drop your Guinea Pig, particularly from height, we recommend taking them to the vet immediately. Guinea Pigs are prey animals so it is their natural instinct to hide any trauma or injury. Getting your Guinea Pig checked by a vet will give you reassurance as their owner, may prevent your piggy a lot of pain or discomfort, and may help you to avoid a costly vet bill further down the line.
Can I handle my Guinea Pig if she is pregnant?
It is generally advised not to handle pregnant Guinea Pigs unless it is really necessary. If you need to take them to the vet, we recommend enticing them into their carrier with treats such as fruit and vegetables to avoid handling.
What should I do if my Guinea Pig bites me?
Research shows that Guinea Pigs very rarely bite. However accidents can happen, in the UK, we recommend following the advice on NHS available here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/animal-and-human-bites/