How to Pick Up and Handle Guinea Pigs?

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Guinea pigs are fragile little creatures with tiny bones. Their spines aren’t very flexible and can snap like toothpicks with just the slightest force. A child holding a guinea pig firmly while excitedly waving it around may find himself/herself holding two guinea pigs instead of one.

While this scenario is slightly exaggerated, the fact remains that cavies are extremely fragile and must be handled with great care. So, the question arises, how do you pick up guinea pigs?


Who Can Handle Guinea Pigs?

In all seriousness, children lack the muscle control to hold a firm grip and may either squeeze too hard or not hard enough. Without a strong enough grip, the guinea pig will almost always wriggle loose and jump into the void of space where it will enjoy a few seconds of freedom before plummeting to its inevitable and grisly demise.

Too strong of a grip, and …have you ever squeezed a bottle of glue a little too hard by accident?

So, who IS allowed to handle guinea pigs? Only adults and older, experienced children. Everyone else can look but not touch.

In fact, holding a guinea pig is only recommended for children 10 years of age or older. So parents, please don’t allow your children under 10 years old to hold guinea pigs unless you want Mr. Nibbles to magically turn into a playdough.

In this article, you’ll learn how to pick up and handle a guinea pig without turning it into rodent paste (unless you’re under 10 years old, in which case, this article is finished and you may now go and tune in to your favorite cartoon).


Considerations to Keep in Mind

Be aware that guinea pigs are naturally cautious creatures and being picked up isn’t exactly a normal thing to them. Many of them don’t like being carried at all and may get really nervous or frightened.

They’ll soon learn that there’s nothing to be worried or scared about – unless they decide to jump from your hand while you’re walking down a flight of stairs! Before you try to carry or hold a guinea pig, make sure you’ve bonded well with the animal and gained its trust.

Before you get ready to take your pet on an adventure of a lifetime, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly. This is beneficial for three reasons.

One, you may have germs or bacteria on your hands that can infect your cavy. Two, cavies have a strong sense of smell and might be able to smell food on your fingers. Sometimes they won’t think twice about sinking their incisors into that delicious morsel (aka your finger) for a quick snack. Third, nobody likes a person with dirty hands.

Additionally, do yourself a favor and don’t use perfume, cologne or any type of deodorant prior to holding your pet. You want to build trust with the cavy by allowing it to identify you by your natural smell.

If your guinea pig confuses the smells, the training that you’re conducting will be for naught. Make sure there aren’t any dogs, cats or other pets in the area where you’ll be carrying it around.

Remove any obstacles or objects from the room. If you trip on something, you’ll be sending your furry friend flying straight to guinea pig heaven.

Turn off any loud televisions, music or other sources of noise that might startle or scare the cavy. It’s also a good idea to wear dirty clothes or an outfit that you don’t mind getting messy as the animal can often urinate or defecate on you throughout the activity. Nasty.

cute guinea pig pet

Handling Techniques

Start off by approaching your guinea pig from the front. Remember that this is a prey animal you’re dealing with which probably had hundreds of family members eaten by wild animals such as snakes, eagles, wolves, and other predators.

To see a large shadowy figure approaching from behind can scare the living daylights out of it and solidify its position to never leave the cage, ever.

If you’ve managed to get up close, talk to your pet calmly and quietly. Say something nice to it, like how you’ll try your best not to turn it into a mashed pig or let it become paraplegic for life.

Put your hand inside the cage and allow the rodent to sniff and familiarize itself with your smell. Once you’ve spent a few minutes bonding and assuring your guinea pig, you’re ready to do “The Move”.

“The Move” is an ancient secret known to many but mastered by few. It is an extremely complex maneuver passed down through a thousand generations of guinea pig masters and now within your power to learn. Listen carefully and pay attention, lest you fail to learn the secret move.

First off, slide your hand under the guinea pig and cup it under its stomach. Don’t squeeze or hold too tightly.

Next, use your other hand to completely cover its back and rump. This will provide spinal support as well as “lock” the guinea pig in – making it more difficult to escape from. The cavy should, at this point, be essentially sandwiched between your two hands. Your fingers should be curled around its body, holding it firmly in place.

Gently lift your pet off the ground and hold it close to your chest. If you’ve managed to execute this secret move flawlessly, congratulations! You’ve successfully managed to master the art of picking up and holding guinea pigs.

If you weren’t able to do it on your first try, don’t feel bad; some people spend their whole lives trying to learn it. Keep on practicing and you may or may not succeed. Carrying cavies isn’t for everyone.

Other Concerns

For hygiene and cleanliness purposes, it’s recommended to only hold your guinea pig for about 10-15 minutes at a time. This is because it will naturally want to go to the bathroom after that long and scary adventure.

Your pet will normally start nibbling or biting at your clothes to signal that it has had enough fun and wants to go back to the safety of its cage.

Observe your cavy during the holding session and learn from it. Did you notice any specific areas where it wanted to be touched and where it didn’t? All cavies are different, but in general, they like to be stroked between the ears and rubbed gently under the chin. They don’t like you rubbing or stroking their belly or bum.

Placing them back in the cage should be done carefully as well. Don’t just toss your cavy back in the cage like an old pair of shoes.

Hold it securely and place your hand on the bottom of the cage floor. Open your hand and slowly let the guinea pig scurry back to its home. If done properly, this will help keep it calm and pretty soon it’ll learn not to squirm away from you so often.

Carlye Yancey
Carlye Yancey

Between internships, volunteering, and paid jobs over the last 4 years, I have pretty much-gained experience with domesticated animals. Currently being in school for my veterinary technology degree, I spend my leisure time with 3 critters that I own.

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