Sometimes raising guinea pigs can seem like one-sided love especially when we would do anything for our guinea pigs. But you should not be discouraged! Guinea pigs show affection differently from other pets. The fact that guinea pigs are prey animals, who have built-in run and hide in DNA, also leads many humans to misunderstand how much our guinea pigs actually love us.
The following list may be deemed as milestones and quests to win over a guinea pig’s heart. Try to evaluate where you are with your guinea pigs, and apply the different methods to help guinea pigs gain trust and display more affection toward you.
So here are the signs that your guinea pigs love you!
1. Does not run to hide from you
Guinea pigs are instinctively cautious and always on alert. In the wild, they need to make sure they scurry to safety whenever they hear strange noise or see a possible threat. As a new owner, when a guinea pig runs away the moment you get closer to their cage, you may start to think that guinea pigs do not like you and they never will.
However, I want to tell everyone that guinea pigs running away does not necessarily mean they do not like you. It is just their survival mechanism in their DNA is kicking in before they start thinking and assess the situation. This mechanism helped them survive for thousands of years.
If the guinea pigs approach you voluntarily, it is a sign that they trust you and see you as a protector, a guardian, a friend and a provider.
What if they seem scared or always hide when you are around?
Remember when I said guinea pigs react to “strange” sound and possible threat? When you first adopt guinea pigs, they are in a completely new surrounding. New sound, smell, temperature, lighting, etc. To guinea pigs, it may be equivalent to being dropped into a jungle with predators with no clothes, house, food, water or tool. The level of fear could be tremendous especially if the guinea pig is still young (less than six months old). As a new guinea pig pet parent, you must first do everything to make sure they feel safe. Once they feel less threatened by their surrounding, then and only then will guinea pigs start thinking about developing their bond with you.
Here are the necessities that you must provide to put them at ease.
- 24/7 accessible unlimited amount of grass hay
- Clean water
- Soft and safe bedding. Click here to read about different types of bedding and the best bedding for guinea pigs.
- Hiding spot
While guinea pigs get used to the surrounding, refrain from touching or holding them for at least a week or two, during a period we call the Adjustment Period. This is when we need to make sure they do not see you as a threat. If you have had your guinea pig for more than two weeks, do not worry. It is not too late. You can still follow the following Adjustment Period Plan for next two weeks.
Tip 1. Adjustment Period Plan (two weeks recommended)
If you have any old clothes that has your scent, it is a good idea to hang it on the cage wall or put it where they hide. Try to wash your clothes with the unscented detergent without fabric softener. Then, wear the clothes for a day so the clothes will have your scent. If you have GuineaDad Liner, I suggest putting the clothes inside the pocket so they will naturally lean and smell the clothes while they are hiding.
While the guinea pig is hiding in a hide out like the Crunchy Condo, try to put your hand nearby so they could see and smell the hand. Make sure your hands are not so close that guinea pigs feel uncomfortable. Stay in a safe position for couple minutes, every couple hour during the Adjustment Period. This will help them learn that your hand is not a threat.
First, make sure the guinea pigs' cage is away from the loud sounds (TV, refrigerator, washing machine, street traffic, etc.) We can slowly convince the guinea pigs to think of their new surrounding as a safe environment, instead of a dangerous jungle. Once the cage is in a quiet location, spend as much time as possible every day to talk to them in a soft gentle voice. The guinea pig will slowly start relating you to feeling of safety and comfort.
Once the guinea pigs feel more comfortable with your presence – you will start to see your guinea pig explore the cage, eat hay, drink water even with your hand inside the cage.
Congratulations on hitting this milestone! Now, we can move on to the next step.
2. Approaches your hand and licks it
Click Here to watch How to Make Your Guinea Pig Love You: Episode 2 (Includes Sign 2 and 3)
When you have built enough trust with your guinea pig(s), the guinea pig will approach your hand to give you a lick. This is a sign of trust and affection. To them licking is like a small guinea pig kiss! When they lick themselves or their fellow guinea pig companions, they are grooming their fur.
Some of you who have gone through the Adjustment Period successfully, might have experienced your guinea pigs lick your hand already. If so, congratulations! If not, no need to worry. In both cases, below Vegetable and Treat Method will help you build trust and gain guinea pig love.
Tip 2. Vegetables and Treats Method
The fastest way to win guinea pig’s heart is in guinea pig’s tummy. The hand feeding has been proven to be an effective way to human-to-guinea pig bonding. During the Adjustment Period Plan, we made our efforts to ensure guinea pigs do not see your hand negatively (as a threat). Now it is time to help the guinea pig recognize our hand as something positive (a provider).
Prepare some fresh, guinea pig safe vegetables. (If you are not sure how much of what vegetable you should feed your guinea pig, please refer to the below video)
Try cutting them in small pieces – bite size for guinea pigs. You do not have to cut them in tiny pieces, but this will ensure that guinea pigs come closer to your hand to get every bite. The number of feeding session will also increase because there are a greater number of pieces.
Now that you have successfully gone through the Adjustment Period Plan, they will be willing to take vegetables off your hand. Try to give them one piece every couple second so they wait a bit between every bite. During this wait time, the guinea pig will get a little nervous and try to send you some signal to let you know that they want those vegetable pieces coming faster. In many cases, they will lick you finger or gently nibble at it. When they lick you, try to give them the vegetable pieces faster. Perhaps give two as a sense of reward.
Pea Flake is one of the most popular guinea pig treat around the world. It may take couple tries for a guinea pig to get used to the taste, but it could help you build trust faster. As a precaution, you should feed pea flake and other treats in modest amounts. For pea flakes, each guinea pig should be given no more than two to three pieces per day.
3. Freely crawls onto your hand and lap
When the guinea pig gets more comfortable with you, they might even start to crawl on your hand during the Vegetable & Treat Method as they grow a bit impatient. However, what is more rewarding for a guinea pig parents is when your guinea pig trusts you so much that they start crawling on your lap and body. When they climb onto you, sometimes you can feel their warm and fluffy belly which will make all the worries and stress to go away. To reach level 3, you can try the Interactive floor time below.
Tip 3. Interactive floor time
The best way to provide a floor time is to ensure guinea pigs have access to soft flooring – which could be a carpet or rug. If you are worried about guinea pigs peeing and pooping on the carpet or rug, or if you have a hard floor, you can lay some GuineaDad Liners on the floor for guinea pigs to explore the area. While guinea pigs come out to explore, I suggest that you sit right in the middle of the GuineaDad Liners where they will feel most comfortable. Again, we are trying help create a connection between your presence and positive sensation.
Just like the Vegetable & Treat Method, prepare vegetables and treats. Lure the guinea pig close to you and onto your lap. Some guinea pigs will be adventurous enough to climb onto your leg right away (if your guinea pig is anything like my Peanut). However, if they are more like my Tofu, you can help your guinea pig feel safer to voluntarily climb on your lap by putting smaller sized GuineaDad Liner onto your lap. GuineaDad Liner will also service as a protection for you from vegetable juice, pee and poop (you know guinea pigs poop the most when they eat, right?). I personally do not mind either, but for some of you who do, GuineaDad Liner could be a life saver 😊.
Now that you passed the level 3, it is time for you to continue on!
4. Wheeks when you come home or approach them
Click Here to watch How to Make Your Guinea Pig Love You: Episode 3 (Includes Sign 4,5 and 6)
Another sign that they love you is when they start wheeking once you arrive home or call them. Wheeking is a high pitch sound that guinea pig makes whenever they feel excited or are anticipating something. If you watch GuineaDad YouTube videos, you will often hear Peanut, Tofu and Dumpling wheek to get my attention. Whether they are excited that you are there to feed them or they just want some attention, they are ultimately happy that you are around. This sign will happen sooner or later as you follow three tips mentioned in the previous sections. There is not a specific tip to make this happen, but this behavior will show naturally as guinea pigs consider you as a provider and a protector and show more love to you.
5. Sleeps around you, especially with eyes closed
When your guinea pig starts to sleep around you, especially with their eyes closed, this means that they no longer see you as a threat. It also means that your guinea pig enjoys your company and feels safe enough around you to sleep. Also, guinea pigs usually tend to be alert right when they wake up in case there are predators around. If your piggy takes their time to wake up by yawning and stretching, that means they are comfortable and in no rush to scurry away from you.
Tip 4. Floor Time Tent
Guinea pigs love to burrow, and that is why so many guinea pigs around the world love GuineaDad Liners. We can use this guinea pig’s preference to burrow to our advantage in bonding with guinea pigs. Just like in the previous tip, make sure you are sitting or lying down on GuineaDad Liner, but with your legs stretched this time. Make sure you have bit of a gap between the leg so that if your guinea pig wants to walk between your leg and turn around, they can do so. Also try to have enough gap between the edge of the GuineaDad Liner and your foot. Think of the GuineaDad Liner as a road and your two legs as the road’s passing lane. Cover your leg with a thin blanket – hold one end of the blanket with bottom of your foot and cover your body. This will create some gap above your ankle below the blanket if your foot is pointed up. Lure the guinea pigs to go under the blanket. They will start to explore the tunnel and jump over your ankle to switch lane if there is some space above your ankle below the blanket. Once they understand that it is safe and fun inside this space, they will lie down (probably near your foot) and sleep leaning on you. This activity brings your guinea pig’s comfort level to another level. Now you have reached level 5 in gaining guinea pig’s trust and love. Time to move onto level 6, the ultimate level.
6. Comes to you on command
This is the last stage. If you have completed level 5, you and your guinea pigs are already at a point where there is an unbreakable mutual trust and love. The level 6 is more able making them understand you, so you can interact with them more fruitfully and continue to stimulate them to achieve ultimate bond.
Tip 5. High Pitch Command
If you watch GuineaDad’s YouTube channel, you will often see me say “kong, kong!” or “kong-a” in a very high pitch voice. This is my command word for Peanut (Kong, Kong-a means Peanut in Korean). I always call my guinea pigs with their name, so they slowly recognize their name. Consistency is very important, which means the pitch and intonation also needs to be same or similar. The reason high pitch sound works better is because it also mimics their wheeking sound, which has positive correlation in most cases. Whenever you give them vegetable or treat, try calling your guinea pig’s name in a high pitch voice. With enough positive reinforcement, your guinea pig will approach you on command in no time.
I hope this guide helps many people bond closer to their guinea pig and take out some of the misunderstanding that you might have had. Just remember to be patient with your guinea pigs and always know that you are working with a fragile creature in a jungle. If you reach level 6, that means even if guinea pigs feel exposed to the dangers of the world (engineered in their instinct), your presence to them is so strong that you are making them feel safe and happy.
You can always come back to this article to check off each level. It could take a bit more time to gain complete trust and love, but it is ever so rewarding. Providing necessities and building love are extremely important, but making sure your guinea pigs stay mentally stimulated is also crucial. There are creative ways to keep them curious and excited once they become comfortable with the surrounding. If you want to reach level 7, try checking out the GuineaDad YouTube channel to see all the fun activities that I do with my girls, and even come up with your creative ways to keep them excited.
We will try to come up with a YouTube video to demonstrate the above and add it below. Until then, I hope you all stay safe and healthy 😊