Do Guinea Pigs Like Being Held? (+ 6 Amazing, Helpful Tips)

There’s something so hypnotically cute about guinea pigs that makes you want to hold them for ages.  But, it got me thinking…do guinea pigs like being held?  So, I buckled down, did some studying, and I learned some interesting things.

Most guinea pigs like to be held when they trust the person who’s doing the holding and the environment that they’re being held in. There are guinea pigs that will seek out their owners to be picked up.  But, some guinea pigs prefer to not be held, even if they have bonded with you.

But, that’s not all I uncovered as I was studying this topic.  Read on to learn the ins and outs of why most guinea pigs don’t like being held. You’ll also get some amazing tips to help you persuade your piggie that being held isn’t so bad.

Why Are Some Guinea Pigs So Reluctant to Be Held?

Many people wrongly assume (or hope) that when they bring a guinea pig home that it’ll be magical, that their new companion is just going to fling himself into their arms.  

Cue: a crescendo of violins, the fluttering of doves, and life-long friendship-or not.

It is rarely love at first sight for a guinea pig.  When you first bring a guinea pig home, you’d best believe she’s feeling terror, confusion, and distrust, but…

…It’s not personal.

It’s nothing that you did…or didn’t do.

If you lived in the world where most wild things viewed you as a walking chicken nugget, you’d be distrustful, too-just saying.

So here’s the deal:

If you want your guinea pig to like being held, then they have to trust you-to feel comfortable with you

6 Amazing Tips to Get Your Guinea Pig to Enjoy Being Held

So, you want to pick up your guinea pig without him running for the hills or becoming a squirming, fidgeting mass of fur in your hands?

I hear ya.

And it’s possible.

But, you have to set the stage for trust.

To establish a trusting relationship with your guinea pigs, follow the tips below.

1. Be Patient

Rome was not built in a day.  Your relationship with your cavy won’t be either.

When you bring him home for the first time, give him a day or two alone in his prepared cage to get used to his new environment

Of course, you’re excited to make friends with your piggie pal, but at this point, he’s probably still giving you the side eye. 

After that, you take steps to get your new friend used to you.

Here’s the thing:

During this stage, don’t pick him up.

Before you even think of picking him up, take a few days (or a week, if your guinea pig is particularly skittish) to make him aware of your presence.  Over time, he won’t see you as a threat.

There are several pet parents who just throw caution to the wind and immediately begin handling their new piggies. Some even do so successfully. At the end of the day, it’s best to be guided by your piggie. If your furry potato seems open to be handled…go for it.

Aquita of Squeaks, Scales, and Tails

How is this done?  Try doing the following:

  • Speak to your guinea pig in soothing, loving tones. Many guinea pigs like baby talk.  Feel free to use it.  
  • Sit close to the enclosure as you speak, so your guinea pig can smell you. Ooze friendship.
  • Bring snacks….as many snacks as your veterinarian will allow you to give him  
  • Do this repeatedly; preferably the same time each day

How long will this take?

That is up to your fur baby.

But, often they’ll give you little hints that they’re becoming more comfortable with you.  Such as:

  • Not hiding when they see you coming
  • Wheeking a greeting toward you
  • Or attempting to eat from your hand

2. Try to Understand Guinea Pig Behavior

Many relationships have torpedoed because of poor communication.  Don’t you wish that cavy’s could talk?  It would be so much easier.

YOU:  Hey, let’s hang out.  I’ll put you on my lap and we’ll watch The Great British Baking Show together.

GUINEA PIG:  Nah, I’m good, bruh.  I’m good.

YOU:  Okay…

The good news is that guinea pigs are good communicators-using sounds and body language to share their thoughts and opinions

The table below will give you some ideas about what to look for to see if your guinea pig is open to being held.

Nose is pointing upwardsSubmissive or defensive position
Eyes open, stretched out, lying downFeels safe, comfortable, content, confident in their environment
Apparent yawn; open mouth with a stretchFeels safe, comfortable, content, confident in their environment
Wriggling, fidgetingAnxious nervous
Apparent yawn; open mouth (showing teeth)Aggressive towards another guinea pig (or something else)
Freezing (not moving); eyes wide, neck archedAlarmed by something; new smell, new environment, loud sound; senses danger
Teeth chattering, swaying hips when walking or circlingAggressive towards another guinea pig (or something else)
Jumping, hopping, chasing, twisting in the airFriendly situation; happiness and delight

Guinea pig communications are easy to figure out if you know what to look for.  It just takes practice.  If you attempt to hold your fur baby when he’s in a bad mood, you’re probably going to get your feelings hurt (or some part of you bitten). 

3.  Be Consistent with the Process

Guinea pigs thrive on routines…

For feedings,



Cavies love to know what to expect. They’re neophic.  That’s a fancy way of saying that they dislike or fear anything that is unfamiliar.  

So, try to stay as consistent as your schedule allows when you begin your guinea pig’s adjustment process.

Show up to spend time with your furry friend at the same time each day, so she knows when to expect you.

Your piggy pal feels comforted and confident when she can count on you coming to hang out at the same time each day.

And counting on you is just a hop, skip, and jump from trusting you, which is what you need for your guinea pig to enjoy being held.

4.  Provide a Clean, Quiet Environment

There’s no quicker way to catapult your guinea pig into depression and poor health, than keeping her in a dirty, noisy environment.

It’s mission critical that your guinea pig has a tidy enclosure to live in and that she’s located in a relatively calm and quiet spot in the house.  It’s what best for her emotional and physical health. 

So, make doing these things a priority:

  • Spot-clean your cavy’s enclosure at least every other day
  • Give the enclosure a good, deep cleaning at least every week
  • Make sure your guinea pig is protected from overactive pets and children
  • Don’t place the enclosure near loud TVs and radios
  • Avoid drafty areas; try to keep the temperature between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit 

Happy cavies like to play, like to chase, to eat, to be held….

Unless they’re living in a rowdy, stinky palace of poop and urine.

5. Bribe Your Little Friend with Awesome Treats


Wanna fast track that trust?  Bribe your guinea pig with treats. 

Yep.  Bribe them. It works! 

Guinea pigs are a shuffling tsunami of appetite.  They love food-especially treats.  

Food is the glue that will stick you and your piggie pal together. 

Use it effectively (and consistently) during your cavy’s adjustment period, and you’ll soon find yourself with a happy buddy for life. 

6. Pick Your Guinea Pig Up Properly

When you reach a certain point in your relationship with your guinea pig, it’ll be time to try and pick up your guinea pig. 


So, what do you do? Here’s a few tips to help the process go more smoothly.

  • Don’t chase.  A guinea pig’s living nightmare is to be chased.  If your guinea pig is running away from you, then it’s a sign that you shouldn’t pick her up at that time.  The only exception would be for medical checkups that must be done.
  • Watch your hands. Don’t just shove your hand into the enclosure. You know you’d feel completely freaked out if a giant hand barged into your home to snatch you away.  Put your hand into the enclosure and wait for your cavy to notice it.  Piggies are nearsighted. If you’ve been bonding with her the entire time, she’ll notice your hand and come towards you.
  • Use a towel or a cozy. Some cavies are skittish about being picked up, but don’t mind being held.  In some cases, they honestly don’t like heights. Seeing them makes them nervous, which makes them squirm, which makes them hate the whole process.  Using a towel helps your cavy feel safe and secure.
  • Bring treats. It’s the best way to break the ice and ease your cavy through that first difficult adjustment period.  You want her to associate being with you with positive things.  And there’s nothing more positive to a guinea pig than food. 
  • Give your cavy a head’s up. Speak softly to let her know that you’re there before you attempt to pick her up, so you don’t scare the poop out of her.  Get down on her level, so she can see you coming. Don’t sneak up on her like some kind of sleazy ex. 

Remember, it’s important to put yourself in your guinea pig’s shoes.  Take a peek at the video below to get more information on how to properly pick up your fur baby.

How Long Will it Take for My Guinea Pig to Trust Me?

On average, it can take a week to several months for your guinea pig to trust you-providing that you’ve been patient, consistent, and caring through the whole process.

Below you’ll find a table to give you a range of time for the adjustment process.  It should be helpful to you as a frame of reference.

These are not approximate measures.  Be prepared to adjust the time frames-according to your situation and your relationship with your guinea pig. 

This process can go much quickly or more slowly depending on the guinea pig.  It really all depends on your piggie pal.

Time PeriodObjectiveYour Behavior
Week 1-Give your guinea pig space to get used to his new home and used to the routines of the house-leave the guinea pig alone to explore and get used to his new environment
-No stroking or touching allowed
-begin feeding routine; speak softly and gently to your new friend
Week 2-begin casual introductions
-give your guinea pig more time to get used to your scent and your voice
-leave cavy treats in the cage while you’re visiting
-start sitting next to the enclosure (the same time each day)
-have little conversations
-place special treats in the enclosure for your cavy to enjoy (only during those times when you’re having your “special chit-chat” time with him)
Week 3-continue introductions-give your guinea pig more time to get used to your scent and your voice
-get your guinea pig used to feeding from your hand (from a distance)
-you may try to slowly extend your hand to stroke the guinea pig on the top of her head
-have cavy establish positive association between your visits
-make the cavy aware that you’re there by speaking softly (you don’t want to surprise)
-approach her from the front
-hold some romaine lettuce (or other large leafy green) in your hand over the side of the cage be still
-let your guinea pig come to you to nibble it 
Week 4-continue giving your guinea pig more time to get used to your scent and your voice
-get your guinea pig used to feeding from your hand with a smaller vegetable or fruit that requires her to come closer to you
-you may try to slowly extend your hand to stroke the guinea pig on the top of her head
-have cavy establish positive association between your visits
-make the cavy aware that you’re there by speaking softly (you don’t want to surprise)
-approach her from the front
-get something smaller to feed your guinea pig like a tiny piece of bell pepper, a pea, a strawberry, or a blueberry,
hold out your arm and wait
-let your guinea pig come to you to nibble it
Week 5-continue giving your guinea pig more time to get used to your scent and your voice
-get your guinea pig used to feeding from your hand (close enough to almost be in your lap)
-have cavy establish positive association between your visits
-make the cavy aware that you’re there by speaking softly (you don’t want to surprise) and approach her from the front
-get something smaller to feed your guinea pig like a pea, a strawberry, or a blueberry, bring your arm (the food) closer to you and wait

(Source of inspiration)

The overall goal is to gradually, patiently increase your guinea pig’s confidence and comfort with you by getting her used to being in your space.

Your little friend need lots of positive experiences with you that let’s her know that you’re a safe person to be around until she’s willing (if her personality prefers it) to be held by you.

In other words, that you’re not going to try and eat her.

It likely won’t happen overnight.

Some owners have reported that it has taken months or years for their furry potatoes to trust them or even to enjoy being held.  

And others have stated that they know they’ve gained their cavy’s trust, but their furry friend is more on the independent side.  As such, she’d prefer not to be held.   

And its important that you respect that about your little friend.

The Last Thing You Need to Know About Whether Guinea Pigs Like Being Held

Ultimately, you will determine whether or not your guinea pig likes being held.

The overall goal is to gradually, patiently increase your guinea pig’s confidence and comfort with you.  

That way trust will be gained and your guinea pig will enjoy being held by you.

It likely won’t happen overnight.  

But, that’s okay.  As long as you’re patient and consistent, you’ll have a positive outcome in the end.

And that ultimate positive outcome is a happy and healthy little guinea pig that feels safe in his home.

So, what are you waiting for?  

Go ahead and get started. 

Related Questions

Why is my guinea pig scared of me?  

Your guinea pig is scared of you because it’s a prey animal and so it’s expecting you-at least at first-to try to eat him.  That’s why it’s so important to take your time to establish trust with your guinea pig.

What should guinea pigs avoid eating?  

Guinea pigs should avoid eating sugar-filled, processed foods.  They should also avoid eating foods that are high in caffeine, that have low nutritional value, or that that might be toxic to them.  Some of the foods include: bok choy, onions, potatoes, iceberg lettuce, nuts, bread, garlic, and a bunch of others.

Bankston, J. (2020). Caring for my New Guinea pig. Mitchell Lane.

Behavior essentials: The Guinea pig. (2020, October 27). LafeberVet.

Guinea pigs – Guinea pigs welfare – Tips, advice, health. (n.d.). The Largest Animal Welfare Charity in the UK | RSPCA.

Handling your Guinea pig. (2018, August 6).

Here’s how to hold a Guinea pig correctly. (2018, March 29). Wide Open Pets.

How to hold a Guinea pig safely. (n.d.). Saving pets, Changing lives – PDSA.

Small pet month: Caring for your Guinea pig. (n.d.). National Animal Welfare Trust.

Vanderlip, S. L. (2003). The Guinea pig handbook. Barrons Educational Series.

Picture of a Guinea PIg Being Held from the article: Do Guinea Pigs Like Being Held

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