Between the two girls, Freya has always been the more feisty and more nervous pig. It was so difficult for me to make her feel at ease with us. While Ellie was already capable of doing lap time with me after a few weeks, Freya wouldn’t even let me touch her and would always run away in terror whenever she sees me about to pick her up. When I succeed in catching her, she would kick (and occasionally bite) me to let me know she’s not pleased with all the handling. As a first-time owner, it was very frustrating for me.
If you can relate to my situation, here are some tips to help you tame and bond with especially difficult pigs like Freya:
- On the first few days, don’t even attempt to touch them.
Yes, getting guinea pigs is always an exciting time. It’s so hard to resist those little furballs and their cute faces just makes you want to hold them immediately! It’s tempting, but don’t do it. Only go near their cage when giving or replacing food and water so they have time to get used to their new environment. If you try handling your pigs during a scary time like this, they will only try to escape and will be more afraid of you as a result.
- Hand-feed their veggies.
If there’s something that you should already know about your guinea pigs during their first few days with you, it’s that they love to eat! You can use this to your advantage by hand-feeding them their veggies instead of just leaving it on the cage floor. Not only will you be able to bond with them, they will also learn to associate your hand with good things. Start by offering them veggies near their food bowl; if they take the veggies from your hand, gradually move away to the farthest side of their cage and let them come to you.
Tip: Have a firm hold on the vegetable since some clever pigs (like Freya) will go towards you, grab the treat, and retreat back to their hidey houses.
- Before carrying them, let them see and sniff your hand.
Guinea pigs have a limited line of sight so when someone grabs or touches them, they easily get startled and would try to flee. This is especially true for super nervous pigs like Freya! That’s why when approaching Freya, I let her see and sniff my hand first before petting or holding her. Remember not to make any sudden movements that may scare your piggies when you try to hold them.
- Use a cuddle cup for handling.
During Freya’s first few months with us, it was so difficult to hold her with my bare hands because she runs away at the mere sight of my hand approaching her. However, she does like going in her cuddle cup or cardboard tunnel and never runs away when I lift it up for lap time. This was my way of getting her from her cage for several months. You can use this method for handling your piggies until they get used to being held.
Tip: If you don’t have cuddle cups, there’s no need to worry. Guinea pigs also like to hide in a lot of things such as boxes, tunnels, and huts.
- Spend time with them.
As I mentioned before, Freya hated being held. But I always persisted in my efforts to bond with her. I did daily health checks on her, groomed her, fed her, and even played with her during lap time. Do things together with your guinea pigs. You can watch TV with them. If they’re out for floor time, sit with them on the floor as well and let them come to you. Talk to them during lap time and let them get used to your voice. Constant handling is necessary for guinea pigs to be socialized with humans. In time, they will realize that being held is not a big deal; some friendly pigs will even look forward to being held!
It took me several months to tame Freya and even now, she still has her diva moments, although they don’t happen often. Overall, Freya is now a sweet and affectionate pig who would greet me excitedly when I come to their cage. She loves eating food from my hand, too! She has improved a lot since our first meeting and while she still dislikes the process of being lifted out from her cage, she does enjoy being petted.
Remember that even with these tips, it may still take a long time for your piggies to trust you completely. Just be consistent with your efforts. Don’t give up and keep on trying; work with the piggies’ pace instead of rushing it. Always keep in mind that it’s not easy for guinea pigs to settle down in a new environment but with time and patience, you can make your piggies feel secure and it will all be worth it.
How long did it take you to tame your pets? 🙂