If you are a new owner of a guinea pig, it may take some time to understand your pet’s behavior and mannerisms. Your guinea pig has a variety of ways to show happiness, contentment, and even fear. Guinea pigs are a “prey animal,” meaning that they are naturally hunted in the wild by larger predators.
They lack the defenses to protect themselves, so that makes them understandably afraid of almost everything. As you bond with your guinea pig, it is essential to understand what exactly your pet fears so that you can soothe them into a feeling of safety.
How do I know my guinea pig is afraid?
These beautiful pets have behavioral characteristics that will alert you that they feel afraid or threatened. Guinea pigs have a variety of purrs and chirps that they make when they are happy, sad, or scared.
If they are making short, anxious purrs, they are fearful of their environment. Your guinea pig will bare its teeth and chatter their teeth as a warning to stop whatever you are doing to them, whether it is handling them a certain way or introducing them to a new person or pet.
When you approach your guinea pig, they may freeze up or stare at you. This usually means that they are on guard against danger. It may take some time before your guinea pig trusts you enough to engage with you when you approach them for a meal or cuddle time.
Just like humans or any other pet, guinea pigs will naturally fidget or move around a lot when they are anxious. If you are holding or grooming your pet when they show this behavior, then you should place them back in their cage so that they will feel safe again.
What Guinea Pigs Fear
You’ll notice that your guinea pig runs and hides when your other pets come near, even if they are in their cage. Guinea pigs are smaller rodents that larger animals hunt in the wild, so they fear all larger animals.
Even if your larger pets want to make friends with the new addition to your household, it is essential to do this gradually. Bond with your guinea pig first, then introduce them to the other four-legged members of your family.
If your cavy trusts you, then they will understand that your other pet children mean them no harm.
Loud, Sharp Noises
After you bring your new pet home, they will naturally be afraid of their new surroundings. Just like if you brought home a newborn, you can’t assume that they will be used to everything that you do.
If you like to blare your television or radio, or if you have children, place your guinea pig in a quieter area of the house. Make sure that you engage with them often to bond with them, and then gradually introduce them to the natural din of their new home.
If you are doing any home renovations, where there is a lot of hammering or similar loud noises, that may not be the best time to adopt a guinea pig. Cavvies are naturally afraid of any sharp, loud noises; to them, it may signal danger.
Even if your guinea pig has been a member of your family for years, these sounds may still scare them. Place the cage in a quieter area of the house if you need to hang a picture or replace a cabinet. It will shield them from the intensity of the sounds and make them feel safer.
For the most part, guinea pigs are naturally afraid of people, especially if they don’t recognize the person. This may be because they do not trust the person they encounter, but it may also be a sign of prior abuse.
Many guinea pigs adopted from shelters or rescue organizations may have been mistreated in the past. You should ask these questions before bringing your new family member home. Abused animals always require more TLC, so you should be prepared to invest some extra time to make your cavy feel safe again.
Even if your guinea pig hasn’t been abused, they will still fear humans. It is in their nature. When introducing your new pet to the other members of your family, try to do this gradually. If you bond with your animal first, make sure you are present when introducing your spouse, children, and family members.
When adopting your guinea pig as your child’s first pet, make sure you explain to them to be patient with their new loved one. It takes time to bond with an animal. Also, monitor your child’s handling of the guinea pig to make sure that he or she doesn’t harm their new pet.
Being Taken Out of Their Cage
The cage means protection for your guinea pig. When you open their cage, your new pet may run and hide. This is a natural behavior, especially if they are afraid. If you need to take your guinea pig out of the cage to clean it and replace the bedding, then you need to gently coax your animal out of hiding with soft words and phrases.
When beginning to interact with your cavy, try to reach into the cage and pet them without picking them up. Guinea pigs are naturally cuddly, and they love attention, so this may encourage your new pet not to fear being taken out of their comfort zone every time you approach.
Guinea pigs are very social, and they are some of the friendliest pets you can adopt. They thrive in social situations, especially with other guinea pigs. When choosing a guinea pig, consider selecting more than one. If your cavy has a friend, they will be much happier in their new surroundings.
If you only have one guinea pig, and you would like to adopt another, treat this like any other pet that you are bringing to a new home. Gently introduce your new guinea pig to its new cage mate, watch for signs of aggression and fear.
For the most part, your guinea pig will welcome the company, and he or she will bond immediately with their new sibling. If you notice that your pet is being aggressive to its new cage mate, keep them in separate cages. Keep their homes close to each other so they can interact. They can still have the company of each other while asserting ownership over their own space.
Taken to the Vet
Imagine you were the size of a guinea pig, and a giant took you out of your home and brought you into an environment where another giant started to poke and prod you with their hands and hard, metal instruments. If this doesn’t sound very appealing, then you know precisely how your guinea pig feels about trips to the veterinarian.
Check-ups are essential to the health and livelihood of your guinea pig, but these trips can stress them out. Taken out of its comfort zone, your guinea pig encounters strangers they don’t trust who will be touching and handling them.
Soothe your guinea pig as much as possible during these trips, while allowing the medical professional to do their job. Talk to your cavy in the waiting room; hold them close while you wait for the doctor. Making them feel safe, even in these outside surroundings, can make your vet visit less traumatic for your guinea pig.
Grooming is a normal part of pet care. Clipping your guinea pig’s nails and bathing them can ensure the health and happiness of your guinea pig. If you neglect to cut their nails, they can grow into the bottoms of their feet, requiring surgery to remove them. Guinea pigs self-groom, but they will need baths every three months or so (more often if they get dirty).
The first time you groom your guinea pig is always the worst. They will fidget, squeal, and possibly try to bite you. This means they are afraid of what you are doing to them. Be as gentle as you can, and try to coax your cavy into a state of calm.
Don’t hold your pet down and force them to endure grooming if they are extremely agitated. Eventually, as you bond with your guinea pig, these maintenance techniques will not bother them so much. They may even come to enjoy it.
Now that I know what my guinea pigs fears, what now?
Understanding your pet’s behavior goes a long way in developing a lasting bond with the newest member of your family. Similar to bonding with a dog or a cat, spending quality time with your guinea pig will encourage a relationship between the two of you.
If your guinea pig becomes afraid during your quality time, always put them back in their cage where they will feel safe. There is no time limit on forming this connection, and it may take days or weeks before your guinea pig welcomes your interactions.
Encouraging positive quality time and lots of love and TLC will make your guinea pig happy and healthy. Pretty soon, you won’t be able to imagine life without them.