Are Guinea Pigs Ticklish?

Are Guinea Pigs Ticklish

When you pet your dog, cat or a guinea pig on different parts of the body, you’ll see a different reaction for each body part. Some animals love to be petted on the back, some love it on the stomach, and some hate it.

In general, if you are close with your guinea pig it will enjoy being petted by you. But what about tickling?

Are guinea pigs ticklish? Yes, guinea pigs are ticklish but just like humans, some guinea pigs are ticklish while others are not. This means that it really depends on the guinea pig if it can be tickled. Tickling is actually a general reaction or a sensation of the most sensitive petting spot. For example, if your guinea pig is showing signs of discomfort, it’s usually because it really doesn’t like it. Many prey animals hate being petted on their back, underside (belly) or feet as those places make them feel vulnerable. This is why it is important to learn what are the safe spots for petting your guinea pig.

So the real question you should ask yourself is do guinea pigs even like to be tickled? Do humans like to be tickled?

We can’t really ask our guinea pigs if they like being tickled but we can ask other humans and for most of them the answer is no. For most people, this is normal if it lasts for a few seconds just for fun but anything more can result in agony. As guinea pigs are very similar to us, this, in theory, can be applied to them as well.

Guinea pigs have specific spots where they love to be petted some of them give them real pleasure and comfort while other spots can be quite ticklish for some of them. It is really important to mention that not every guinea pig is the same and that you will have to experiment with your guinea pig and find out what body parts are safe for tickling.

In the following sections, we are going to talk about safe guinea pig body spots for petting and we are going to give you some tips on how to pet them as well. Let’s start!

Do Guinea Pigs Love to Be Petted or Tickled?

Do Guinea Pigs Love to Be Petted or Tickled

Yes, most guinea pigs love being petted but as for the tickling, it really depends on the guinea pig and how strong the relationship is between you two.

Guinea pigs are rodents and rodents aren’t so used to trusting the world around them. This means that when you buy yourself a guinea pig, you shouldn’t immediately grab it and start twisting it around.

Guinea pigs hate that and they definitely hate being pushed and clenched between your hands. As much as they love their cage, they hate a claustrophobic feeling that your hands could give it.

A guinea pig will need some time to adapt to a new home, new environment, and the owner – you. When you buy a guinea pig, you should definitely spend some time with it to create a bond between you two but you should also restrain from petting and at that point do not even think about tickling it.

If you do everything as you should, your guinea pig will begin to trust you and you’ll be able to pet it whenever you want.

The best way to do this is to let a guinea pig sit in its cage. When you want to spend time with it, open the cage and let it approach you, and not vice versa. If the guinea pig starts approaching you often, that’s a perfect sign that it gained trust in you and you can proceed to slowly pet it.

As for the tickling part, this can be done after the bond has been established but only for a few seconds.


How to Pet a Guinea Pig?

How to Pet a Guinea Pig

If not petted properly, guinea pigs can show signs of discomfort and dislike. The first thing to do before you pet it is to make sure that you’re gentle enough. Guinea pigs aren’t some big dogs that could bite off your hand but gentle animals that require patience and tenderness.

When you decide that you want to pet your guinea pig, be sure to alert them in some way. Don’t just go behind or sneak upon them. They can get scared and you’ll lose every chance of petting it, at least for some time.

If a guinea pig doesn’t want to be petted, you should never force it. Simply let it go until it returns and wants to be petted. Of course, petting should be gentle and in the direction of the fur. Going in the opposite direction will cause discomfort for both you and a guinea pig. This direction is from head to hips – not the opposite.


Where Should You Pet Your Guinea Pig?

Where Should You Pet Your Guinea Pig

Well, that’s sometimes a tricky question. Many owners say that you should start by petting the back, which we don’t agree with. Petting your guinea pig on the back might trigger its natural instinct and make it scared.

This also applies to the guinea pig underside and the feet, which is something that you should always stay away from.

The best way to start petting your guinea pig is under the chin or head. If you see that your guinea pig is comfortable, you can then move to the back but ONLY if it is feeling comfortable.

If not, petting your guinea pig under the chin or head is the way to go. In our experience, this is the area that guinea pigs like the most.

Most of the time, you won’t even need to stop petting it as your guinea pig will move away from you on its own. That’s a signal that the petting should stop.

Related: Are Guinea Pigs Affectionate Pets?


What If a Guinea Pig Doesn’t Want to Be Petted or Tickled?

What If a Guinea Pig Doesn’t Want to Be Petted or Tickled

If your guinea pig refuses to let you pet it, there can be several problems:


You Don’t Know How to Pet Properly

A guinea pig that doesn’t enjoy your petting would gladly tell you that… if only it could speak. If you aren’t gentle and you don’t follow the rules we’ve mentioned above, a guinea pig will reject you every time you try to pet it. Why do it if it’s not comfortable?

Before you rush to your guinea pig to pet it, be sure to follow our guide to petting again. Never force a guinea pig into petting if it doesn’t want it.

Let your guinea pig approach you and then touch it gently. While this sounds hard, in reality, it really isn’t. All you need to do is be gentle and pet in the direction of the fur.


It Doesn’t Trust You

Would you let someone you don’t trust touch you? Guinea pigs are the same! In this case, you should work on a relationship between you and your guinea pig. Since guinea pigs are widely domesticated, you’ll have zero problems in this.

Just be sure to feed it regularly and keep an eye on it and you should be good. You can also include your family members to socialize it with the other people in your family.

Related: 9 Reasons Why Guinea Pigs Bite Their Owners


It Doesn’t Like to Be Petted or Tickled

Simply put, some guinea pigs don’t like to be petted or let alone tickled. That is just how it is. If your guinea pig behaves like this, you’ll need to get over it and stop petting it and don’t be sad about it.

You can still have fun with your guinea pig without physical contact – through training and play.


What About Food?

Can you somehow bribe your guinea pig into petting? In some cases, yes. Guinea pigs have only one thing in common with the regular pigs and it’s their love for food.

You see, guinea pigs are gluttonous eaters that will wipe away every bit of hay you give them. Vegetable, fruit or hay, they don’t care. Whatever your guinea pig likes, be sure to give him that but in larger portions while trying to pet it. While it eats, approach slowly and pet it gently.

If a guinea pig doesn’t react negatively, voila! You got it! Over time, it will start to associate the feeding time with you and it will like petting more and more. Since you probably feed your guinea pig several times a day, you can use that time to pet it and enjoy your gentle moments with it.

Related: What Food Can Guinea Pigs Eat? – Full Guinea Pig Food List (150+ Types of Foods)

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Summary

To put things into perspective, guinea pigs can be safely petted but they don’t like to be tickled for our experience. It’s a good thing to know, that they won’t tolerate aggressive petting as it can hurt them.

Some guinea pigs love petting and some hate it – it’s up to you to see and decide how you want to make your pet feel comfortable.

If you have some of the American guinea pig breeds, they will most likely like it. Breeds like Abyssinians with fur that grows in erratic patterns will definitely feel better without petting.

Enough reading for today. Go and spend some quality time with your guinea pig but don’t smother it too much! If you really have to you can tickle it but ONLY for a few seconds and don’t do it often! Best of luck!


Related: 50 Amazing Guinea Pig Facts You Need to Know


List of Sources

Künzl, C., Sachser, N., The Behavioral Endocrinology of Domestication: A Comparison between the Domestic Guinea Pig (Cavia apereaf.porcellus) and Its Wild Ancestor, the Cavy (Cavia aperea), Hormones and Behavior, 1999.

Sachser, N., Of Domestic and Wild Guinea Pigs: Studies in Sociophysiology, Domestication, and Social Evolution, Naturwissenschaften, 1998.

Richardson, V., Care of guinea pigs, Veterinary Nursing Journal, 2011.

Bruce, H., Parkes, A., Feeding and breeding of laboratory animals III. Observations on the feeding of guinea-pigs, Journal of Hygiene, 1947.

McNicholas, J., Gilbey, A., Rennie, A., Ahmedzai, S., Dono, J. A., Ormerod, E., Pet ownership and human health: a brief review of evidence and issues, BMJ, 2005.

Code of Practice for the Housing and Care of Animals Bred, Supplied or Used for Scientific Purposes, Presented to Parliament pursuant to Section 21 (5) of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, 2014.

Musser, G., Guinea pig, Encyclopædia Britannica, 2019.

NC State Veterinary Hospital, Caring for Your Pet Guinea Pig, Exotic Animal Medicine Department.

RSPCA, Guinea pigs: Good practice for housing and care, Research Animals Department, RSPCA, 3rd edition, 2011.

Clarissa Moolbrock

Clarissa Moolbrock is one of the founders and editor at Guinea Pig Tube. She is also an author of "Complete Guinea Pig Care Guide: The Essential, Practical Guide To All Aspects of Caring for Your Guinea Pigs" (available on Amazon). Being a veterinary technician helping animals and sharing her experience and knowledge with other guinea pig owners is her passion. Her life goal is to popularise guinea pigs as pets and that is why she has started Guinea Pig Tube website.