Guinea pigs are fascinating animals and make excellent pets for experienced pet owners and children (with the supervision of parents). While each animal has its own unique personality, hiding is a behavior shared by all guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs have a tendency to hide when you enter the room, when you reach into their cage to pick them up, or just randomly for no reason at all. However, there are very good reasons why this is a typical and perfectly natural part of guinea pig’s behavior.
So, why do guinea pigs hide? Guinea pigs are prey animals and they hide because of their natural survival instincts. As prey animals, guinea pigs exhibit many traits designed to keep them safe in their natural environment. These traits, shared by their rodent relatives, include an excellent sense of smell and hearing, the ability to flee quickly, and most noticeably, the tendency to hide even when they are not in danger. Being able to effectively hide from predators is the key to guinea pig’s survival. This survival tactic has been fine-tuned over millions of years of evolution.
In present times, guinea pigs are kept almost exclusively as pets (domesticated animals). In the past, this wasn’t always the case as guinea pigs used to live in the wild as prey animals, meaning that other animals would hunt and eat them.
So, in comparison, guinea pigs have only been domesticated and kept as pets for approximately three thousand years. While this has been long enough to prevent guinea pigs from behaving purely as wild animals, it pales in comparison to the length of time they were living in the wild and faced the real threat of being hunted by predators. This is why the hiding instinct for guinea pigs remains so strong to this day, and why it sometimes overrides their trust of human beings.
Now that you know why guinea pigs hide, you may be interested in how you can help your pet thrive while being supportive of his true nature. Let’s explore how you can help your guinea pig feel safe and secure while also encouraging it to come out of his hiding place and interact with you.
Guinea Pig’s Hiding Behavior | How to Help and Encourage Your Pet
While hiding is a natural and healthy aspect of guinea pig’s behavior, it may be discouraging to those who enjoy watching and interacting with their pets. If you want to encourage your pet to hide less frequently, there are a few things you can do.
1. Help Your Guinea Pig Trust You
Believe it or not, guinea pigs can develop special relationships with humans. While this won’t prevent your guinea pig from hiding altogether, it can certainly keep it from hiding so frequently. Here are a few ways you can help your guinea pig feel safer in your presence.
• Hand Feeding
Hand-feeding your guinea pig can be a lot of fun and it is a great way to encourage it to come out of his hiding place and interact with you. If your pet shies away from your hand, take it one step at a time.
First, place food on one end of your guinea pig’s cage, and then place your hand on the other end. This will help your pet get used to the idea of eating while in close proximity to your hand. He will come to understand that your hand poses no threat to it and that it doesn’t interfere with his meal.
Slowly, day after day, begin moving your hand closer to your guinea pig while he is eating, until you are able to place the food in your palm and have it eat from it directly.
• Lap Time
Your guinea pig will be more likely to venture out of his hiding place if he enjoys cuddling with you. This is where lap time comes in. Make sure you have a secure area of your home that is safe from other pets and distractions. Using a towel, pick up your guinea pig and sit down on the floor, placing it gently in your lap.
Feed it his favorite veggies while talking to it in a gentle, soothing voice. Stroke it gently and reassuringly. In the beginning, keep lap time between five to ten minutes. Over time, you may find that your guinea pig will want to stay on your lap even longer.
• Slow Movements
Nothing will trigger a guinea pig’s instinct to hide faster than sudden, unexpected movements. This makes perfect sense because, in the wild, predators would use the element of surprise when hunting these small creatures. Moving slowly in your guinea pig’s presence will help it feel safe.
• Avoid Loud and Sudden Noises
Similar to fast and sudden movements, loud and unexpected noises will have your guinea pig running for cover. Make sure to turn off or at least turn down the TV when interacting with your guinea pig. Also, make sure other people in your home know you’re spending time with your pet so they don’t engage in loud activities during that time.
Other household pets should be happy and secure in another room, as a barking dog or other loud noises will have your guinea pig back in his hiding place in no time.
2. Provide Even More Hiding Places
It may sound counter-intuitive, but giving your guinea pig even more places to hide can stop it from hiding so frequently. Guinea pigs are good at assessing their environment.
Before coming out of their hiding place, they want to make sure there are other hiding options available in case they become frightened again. If guinea pigs are sure that they will always have a hiding place available nearby, they will be more confident about wandering out into the open.
3. De-Stress Your Guinea Pig’s Home Environment
Keeping your guinea pig’s enclosure in the right part of your home is very important if you want it to stop spending so much time hiding. If your guinea pig’s home doesn’t make it feel safe and secure, it can be a constant source of anxiety. Remember that guinea pigs have highly developed senses of smell and hearing.
Be sure to keep your guinea pig’s enclosure away from noisy, high traffic areas of your home. Also, be mindful of other pets. Your guinea pig’s enclosure should be kept away from the sight, smell, and sounds of other animals in your home.
Even docile dogs and cats that may not pay any attention to your guinea pig can be absolutely terrifying to these tiny animals. Remember, your guinea pig’s ancestors spent millennia being hunted by predators that looked similar to your dog or cat!
Guinea Pig Hiding All Day: Is This Behavior Normal?
How much hiding is normal for guinea pigs? You know it’s normal for your guinea pig to hide but how can you differentiate between a normal hiding behavior and a pet who is over-anxious, or even sick? Remember that each guinea pig has its own unique personality. Some will spend most of their day hiding, while others will be more social.
The key is to ensure that your guinea pig is at least coming out of his hiding place multiple times a day to eat and go for a quick walk around its enclosure. If your guinea pig remains in its hiding place for more than 12 hours without eating, contact a veterinarian. It is likely that your pet is sick or injured.
Do Some Guinea Pig Breeds Hide More Often Than Others?
While every guinea pig comes with its own unique traits, there are some breeds that are considered less shy than others. It is reported that the two friendliest breeds are Abyssinian and Teddy guinea pigs, although this is a matter of opinion.
Before deciding to bring your new guinea pig home, talk to the current caregiver about the animal’s personality. An honest and caring seller will tell you everything they know about the guinea pig in question so that you know what to expect before bringing it home.
Related: What Guinea Pig is Right for Me?
Hiding Places for Guinea Pigs: Everything You Need to Know
What Are the Best Hiding Places for My Guinea Pig?
Now that you understand the reasons why your guinea pig likes to hide and how important hiding places are to your guinea pig’s health, you’ll want to set up his cage accordingly. Luckily, there are a number of products available at your local pet store or online.
- Made of durable plastic, igloos are easy to clean and stain resistant
- Encourages natural nesting instincts in small animals
- One piece construction
- Ideal for rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs and other small animals
- Igloos come in assorted cool colors and they're made of translucent plastic so you can see your pet inside
These guinea pig hideouts/hideaway products are also called guinea pig tubes or guinea pig igloos (pigloo). Pigloos are igloo-shaped plastic shelters that make a perfect hiding place for your pet. There are also a number of tunnels and wood houses available for the same purpose.
- Made of All Natural Willow and Grass that is Safe to Chew
- Provides a Sense of Safety and Security
- Great for Hiding, Playing, Nibbling and Resting
- Use as a Hut or Flip Over and Use as a Bed
- Measures 11" Width X 11-1/5" Depth X 7" Height
If you’re into DIY projects or if you’re simply on a budget, try using old oatmeal containers or modified cereal boxes to create the perfect hiding place for your guinea pig. Keep in mind that guinea pigs, just like their rodent relatives, love to chew. So don’t be disappointed or upset if your guinea pig chews on his new hiding place! It is normal to replace your guinea pig’s hideout now and then.
How Many Hiding Places Does My Guinea Pig Need?
The number of hiding places in your guinea pig’s enclosure will depend on two things: how many guinea pigs you have and the size of your enclosure. Your cage should always contain at least one hiding place per guinea pig. This will ensure that at any given time, each guinea pig will have its own place to hide.
Larger enclosures should be set up with extra hiding places. This will help your guinea pig feel safe while exploring his environment. It will be more confident knowing that it always has a hiding place nearby.
Respect Your Guinea Pig’s Hiding Instinct
The worst thing you can do is force your guinea pig out of its hiding place, or remove its hiding place altogether. This is both inhumane and ineffective. Your guinea pig will be in a constant state of stress, making it impossible for you to have any kind of meaningful interaction with it.
Be patient, and try to make just a little progress each day. It can take weeks, or even months for a guinea pig to change his behavior. If your guinea pig continues to hide frequently despite your efforts, it’s important to simply accept its behavior and continue to care for it all the same.
Hiding is a perfectly natural part of guinea pig’s behavior. It’s a survival instinct learned by their ancestors in the wild. Your job is to help your pet feel safe and comfortable in his environment. This will ensure a positive experience for your guinea pig and it will create a stronger bond between you two.
Hopefully, our informational guide about their hiding habits was helpful and if you liked our content please share it and keep following our site for more content on guinea pigs.
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.
RSPCA, Guinea pigs: Good practice for housing and care, Research Animals Department, RSPCA, 3rd edition, 2011.
Sachser, N., Lick, C., Social experience, behavior, and stress in guinea pigs, Physiology & Behavior, 1991.
Bradley, T. A., Normal behavior and the clinical implications of abnormal behavior in guinea pigs, The veterinary clinics of North America. Exotic animal practice, 2001.
Sangenstedt, S., Jaljuli, I., Sachser, N., Kaiser, S., Stress responsiveness and anxiety-like behavior: The early social environment differentially shapes stability over time in a small rodent, Hormones and behavior, 2017.
Quesenberry, E. K., Donnelly, M. T., Providing a Home for a Guinea Pig, MERCK MANUAL, Veterinary Manual.
White, W. J., Balk, M. W., Lang, C. M., Use of cage space by guineapigs, 1989.
Johnson, P., Guidelines for the Housing of Guinea Pigs in Scientific Institutions, Animal Research Review Panel, 2006.
Donnelly, T. M., Rodent Husbandry and Care, Purdue University, 2007.