How do you tame a guinea pig?

It is important that we remember that guinea pigs are not cuddly toys. Despite their cuddly and cute appearance, we have to respect that they are not teddy bears and don't enjoy being picked up and cuddled. In general, guinea pigs should only ever be picked up if required for moving them from one place to another, health checks, nail trimming, vet trips and syringe feeding. Approaching guinea pigs from above is a bad idea as they associate this with a predator, therefore their instinct is to run away or hide, so you should always keep that in mind. Picking them up can cause a lot of unnecessary stress. It is definitely possible to bond with your guinea pigs and for them to gain your trust, but this takes time and patience.


Basic guidelines for taming:

  1. Hand feed your guinea pigs. This technique works very effectively and is based around positive reinforcement. The idea is that you get your guinea pigs to associate you with a good thing. Try this with veg, forage, pea flakes etc.

  2. Do not expect instant results. Guinea pigs can take months to years to gain your trust. As they are prey animals, they may see you as a threat to begin with, but over time you can develop a bond and they learn to trust. If your guinea pigs have been adopted, you may not know much about their past, so it is essential to work with each guinea pig as an individual because a traumatic experience in the past may have an impact on the taming process.

  3. Time and patience. Those two things are key if you want taming to be successful. Not all guinea pigs will respond well to human interaction in the beginning, but if you are patient with them, you have a better chance of a good outcome.

  4. Let them come to you. Something I find that is very important with all animals is to let them come to you by choice rather than forcing them to be picked up or 'cuddled'. This is where the hand feeding fits in. Some even jump on your lap!

  5. Don't be disappointed. Not all guinea pigs appreciate human interaction, and you must accept this fact. It is so important if you are thinking about getting guinea pigs, you don't just want a cuddly pet. There is so much more to them than this!




All guinea pigs are individual, so it is good to get to know which areas your guinea pig likes to be petted. Most guinea pigs enjoy head rubs - when hand feeding your guinea pigs, you can gently stroke their heads and see if they tolerate this. Other guinea pigs prefer to have chin rubs. If your guinea pigs are very tame, they may like longer strokes on their back.