Body language can help you earn your cavy’s trust

2 Jul

I have had the grand opportunity to live with a number of roommates over the last few years. My roommates’ interest in the cavies has varied greatly, but on occasion I’ve had one who liked to hold my guinea pigs from time to time. One in particular had trouble “catching” the guinea pig she wanted to hold — generally, she would try to sneak up on a cavy from behind and, when it startled, would end up chasing it around its pen while it shrieked and squealed and kicked bedding all over my bedroom floor.

So, in my experience, trying to “catch” your cavy is never a good way to socialize your pet. Proper handling of you cavy is essential to earning its trust over time.

Handling a cavy is quite simple, but there are a few things to keep in mind: to start, remember that whenever you go to pick up your pet, it does not understand the situation the way you do. If you behave like a potential predator, your cavy is going to react poorly. So try to approach with as calm a demeanor as possible. Move slowly, and don’t make any loud or sudden noises (I always apologize to my guinea pigs when I sneeze).

When you go to pick up your guinea pig, I have found it works best to scoop up your cavy after approaching it from the front — a predator would sneak up and grab it from behind. This gives your cavy a chance to acknowledge what is happening, and it shows that you don’t mean harm. Few socialized, adult cavies will give you trouble if you do this, though there’s always that stinker who never wants to come out of his pen.

If your cavy is young or new to you, it may still attempt to run away when it sees your hand. If this becomes a problem, try to gently corral your pet in a corner, or inside its hideaway. Over time it should become more accustomed to you.

While holding your cavy, remember that it is important to fully support your cavy’s body. Guinea pigs are built so that there is more weight on the back end than on the front, and unlike many other rodents they tend to be prone to back injuries, because their spine is less flexible than in other rodents. Guinea pigs also tend to get very nervous if their feet aren’t touching solid ground. The best solution is to support each half of the cavy with one hand, or to turn the cavy so that it can stand on your chest or stomach. This is especially important if your pet is pregnant.

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6 Responses to “Body language can help you earn your cavy’s trust”

  1. Val July 6, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

    And then there are the little freaks who beg to be picked up and scream without ceasing if you pick up their cagemate instead of them — they don’t miss their friend in the least, they want YOU!

    • EmaPen July 8, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

      So you have one of those too, eh? 🙂

      • Val July 8, 2013 at 10:36 pm #

        Annie Wigglewhiskers needs to be a children’s book heroine.

        She was the only creature alive in the pet store NOT cowering in the pigloo. Oh no, she was standing up on her four week old baby pig feet begging for attention in the middle of the cage.

        Two days in a row.

        Pet her, she purrs without an “OFF” switch (one of her sons is like this too).

        Pull her out, she licks your face incessantly.

        Pull out any other of the five, she wants to know why not her?

      • Val July 8, 2013 at 10:37 pm #

        (But in 23 years, she hasn’t been the only one, just one of many)

  2. Whistlin' Wheekers September 1, 2014 at 12:11 am #

    I have found that if you talk nicely to your piggie, and then pet them a few times, even 7-10 times, and then pick them up, it seems to go much better, at least with my Silkies.

    • EmaPen September 1, 2014 at 10:33 am #

      Yes, I have also noticed that the guineas seem to be oddly responsive to speech as well as touch. I don’t think they understand us outright, but they do seem to have at least some notion of emotive tone. Of course, guinea pigs are social creatures, and vocal cues aren’t exactly foreign to them.

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