Handling your Guinea Pig

Guinea pigs are nervous animals by nature and will often run and hide if they sense danger. Even when a guinea pig has shared your life for sometime, they still have the natural instinct to run away, if they sense you are going to lift them up. However, many become quite tame and some will even stand very still while you lift them up. Because my guinea pigs are very used to being handled by me, most of them no longer run away and 3 of my piggies will actually stand up against the cage to be lifted. Even so, my Jasmine really dislikes being lifted and will twist and turn to avoid my hands. Jasmine should win prizes for reversing backwards at a great speed :) Once in my arms though, she is a very happy guinea pig.

Please remember that guinea pigs have delicate bodies, so great care must be taken when holding them. When picking up a guinea pig, its a good idea to approach them from the front rather than behind. They may become very frightened if they are suddenly lifted and didn't see you coming. First of all, gently talk to your guinea pig and stroke them, this will help to calm them down. Place one hand under the guinea pigs chest, just behind the front feet, and use your other hand to support their hindquarters. Keep a firm grip, but do not squeeze as their bones and internal organs are fragile. Bring piggy close to your chest, still supportung them by using two hands, one to place over their back and the other to support their hindquarters. If you are new to guinea pigs or have a guinea pig that really struggles, then you can kneel down on the floor to lift them. Of course, you want to avoid your guinea pig falling at all costs, but if they do manage to squirm out of your hands, the distance for them to fall will be less. They could still break their bones or teeth from a short distance, so please be careful.

Small Children and Safety
Please don't allow very young children to walk around holding a guinea pig, just in case the guinea pig decides to jump. Over the years I've heard some tragic stories of guinea pigs being dropped or squeezed too hard. Very young children can't always control the pressure of their hands so they could hurt a guinea pigs delicate body by accident. Only allow children 4 and over to hold a guinea pig, but they mustn't be allowed to retrieve a guinea pig from its cage. Same applies when putting them back in the cage. Ask the younger child to sit down, preferable on the floor, while you hand over the guinea pig. Teach them to be gentle and to only stroke the guinea pigs hair downwards, in the direction the hair is growing. Remember some guinea pigs have certain areas of their body that are more sensitive to them. My Clover never likes me stroking her past her middle and would moan at me if I went anywhere near her rump. Also teach your child to stop stroking them if piggy starts moaning or if they keep raising their head. Guinea pigs try and nudge your hand away if they dislike being stroked on their head. Please respect their wishes and try another area, under the chin or just behind the ears are popular places for my piggies. Gentle stroking of their ears can also have a calming effect on them.

When putting a guinea pig back in their cage, they may become excited, so don't release your grip until they are at ground level. Another important thing to remember when holding guinea pigs is to always be prepared for the unexpected. On one occasion, I was holding Jake and a postman delivered a letter, the sudden loud noise of the letter box made Jake jump. I don't know who was more shocked, thankfully my grip was firm enough and I didn't drop him. Even with an experienced person holding a guinea pig, anything can happen.

If you have very young children, make sure there is a lock on the guinea pigs cage so a young child won't be able to get access to the guinea pig. I've sadly heard about a young child getting a guinea pig out of the cage without their parents knowing and it had very tragic consequences for the guinea pig and much sadness for the young child. So avoid temptation by placing a lock on the cage.

Protecting your clothes
Its best to not hold a guinea pig for more than 10 minutes at a time, because they will naturally want to go to the bathroom. All my piggies tend to let me know if they want to be placed back in their cage to relieve themselves. They will become restless and start whining to let me know they need the toilet. However, my Jasmine doesn't seem to mind releasing a little puddle of urine or pooping on me. Poops aren't a worry, they are dry and come in a neat little package. The only time poops become a little problem is when my hubby steps on one :) Urine however, can create a problem in the form of a warm wet patch on your clothes. A good idea is to protect yourself or children with a towel, by placing it under your guinea pig.

Handling a pregnant guinea pig
If you have a pregnant guinea pig, please don't handle her much in the later stages of pregnancy or start poking or prodding to see how many babies she is having, be gentle at all times. If you need to transport a pregnant guinea pig to the vets, place her in a small type cat carrier, one that has a door as a front opening. Place a layer of newspaper on the bottom, then a layer of hay to make a comfy bed or you could use towels. Then prehaps include a few veg treats to tempt her to enter the carrier by herself.

My youngest daughter Jenna, holding Clover
nice and close so she feels secure

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