Why Don’t Guinea Pigs Like To Be Picked Up? (Find Out Now)

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Lots of pet parents complain that their cavies hate being picked up. Even if you have been handling your guinea pig regularly since you got him, he might still squirm and try to wriggle away when you attempt to pick him up. So why don’t guinea pigs like being picked up?

Typically, guinea pigs don’t like being picked up because it scares them. It makes them feel vulnerable, like you’re about to attack them. Sometimes they don’t like to be picked up because you sneaked up on them or picked them up incorrectly. Guinea pigs might not like to be picked up because they’re sick or in pain…or they’re simply not in the mood to be picked up.

a guinea pig saying that he doesn't like being picked up

But, there’s no need to worry, friend. There’s a few things you can do to make your guinea pig more comfortable with being picked up.

And you’re going to learn about them now as well as get an understanding about why your guinea pig doesn’t like being picked up in the first place.

Shall we?

Why Does Your Guinea Pig Hate Being Picked Up? 

a tip about guinea pig not liking to be picked up
Time and patient tends to help when you’re trying to train your guinea pigs to be more comfortable with being picked up.

Let’s get into the nitty gritty of it and explore the main reasons why your guinea pig doesn’t want to be held.

1. He’s Scared Of You

The most common reason your guinea pig doesn’t want to be picked up is that he’s scared. They see you as a threat.

Sorry, friend. This instinct is something that your furry friends got from their wild ancestors. In the wild, guinea pigs are prey animals. This means that they’re constantly on the lookout for predators who want to eat them.

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When you pick up a guinea pig, he feels vulnerable and exposed. He doesn’t know if you’re going to hurt him or eat him. All he knows is that he doesn’t like being picked up.

This is why it’s so important to gain your guinea pigs’ trust before you try to pick him up. If you can show him that you’re not a threat, he’ll be more likely to allow you to pick him up without squirming away or blind jumping from your arms.

2. Sickness

Another reason your guinea pig might hate being picked up is that he’s sick or in pain. If he’s not feeling well, the last thing he wants is to be picked up.

Think about it.

Do you like being touched, jostled, or picked up when you’re feeling sick?

I’m assuming your answer is no.

Well, the same goes for your guinea pig.

A sick cavy an angry cavy (or at least an irritated one). The less you handle and uncomfortable, sick guinea pig, the better.

3. You’re Picking Them Up Wrong

a funny meme that shows that you should chase your guinea pig to pick them up because they don't like it
Don’t chase your piggies. All you’re going to do is freak them out.

Are you picking up your guinea pig by the scruff of his neck? Or are you grabbing him or chasing him around his cage? I hope not!

If you are, then it’s no wonder he doesn’t want to be picked up.

Who would?

You’re probably thinking, “Well, how am I supposed to pick up my guinea pig then?” I’m glad you asked.

There’s really only one fool-proof way to pick up a guinea pig. And here it is:

  • Corral your piggie into a corner of the in the enclosure with a box or cuddle cup. (Think about it like you’re herding sheep). The trick is to use the box or cuddle cup to transport your furry friend – NOT YOUR HANDS.
  • Once he’s cornered, scoop him up into the box or the cuddle cup. More than likely, your little friend will give you some help with this. They like being in tight, secure spaces. It makes them feel safe.
  • Voila! Now that your guinea pig is snuggly in the box or cup, you can pick him up without worrying about him squirming away or jumping out of your arms (cuz you’re not trying to pick him up with your hands in the first place).

3. You Sneak Up On Them

a sarcastic guinea pig making a comment about not liking being picked up

This goes back to the whole “guinea pigs are prey animals” thing. If you’re constantly sneaking up on your guinea pig or catching off guard, he’s going to get scared of you.

And trust me, you don’t want a scared guinea pig. A scared guinea pig is a jumpy, skittish guinea pig. And a jumpy, skittish guinea pig is more likely to hurt himself – whether it’s from jumping out of your arms or bashing into something in his cage.

The best way to avoid this is to make sure your guinea pig always knows you’re coming. So, try doing the following:

  • Make some noise as you enter the room. Sing a little song or whistle a tune. Just let him know you’re coming so he has time to prepare himself mentally and emotionally for your arrival.
  • Be gentle and slow when you approach your guinea pig. Let him see and smell you before you try to pick him up. This’ll help him understand that you’re not a threat. Their depth perception is horrible, so moving too fast will scare them.
  • Talk to your guinea pig in a soft, calming voice. Remember, their hearing is very sensitive, so loud noises will startle them.

And let’s be honest here:

If someone tried to sneak up on you, you probably wouldn’t like it. So, give your little friend plenty of warning before you try to pick him up.

4. You Don’t Pick Them Up Often Enough

Let’s face it:

If you don’t pick up your guinea pigs often, they’re going to used to NOT being picked up. And when you do try to pick them up, they’re going to resist (or plain ole freak out) because it’s not something they’re used to.

The best way to avoid this is to make a point of picking up your guinea pigs every day – even if it’s just for a few minutes. And make sure you use the right techniques (see #3) to do it.

If you chase them around or try to pick them up with your hands, they’re going to get stressed and think you’re going to hurt them.

But if you use a box or cuddle cup to scoop them up, they’ll know you’re not trying to hurt them. Actually, your piggies are MUCH MORE likely to enjoy the ride.

This’ll help them get used to being handled and being picked up. It’ll also help them realize that nothing bad is going to happen when they’re being picked up.

That way, when you do need to pick them up (for example, to take them to the vet or God forbid, a fire), they’ll be more cooperative.

5. They’re In Pain

If you’ve been picking up your guinea pigs the right way and they’re still resisting, there’s a chance they could be in pain.

Guinea pigs are very good at hiding when they’re in pain. So, if something is bothering them, they’re not going to show it. They’ll just internalize the pain and try to tough it out. This is because they’re prey animals. In the wild, predators would see them as weak and easy prey if they showed any signs of weakness.

But if you try to pick them up and they start squealing, that’s a sure sign that something is wrong.

There’s a few things that could be causing your guinea pig pain:

  • An abscess: If your guinea pigs have an abscess, it’ll be hot to the touch and very sore. An abscess is a swollen area that’s filled with pus. It’s usually caused by an infection or an injury.
  • An ear infection: Ear infections are common in guinea pigs. If your guinea pig has an ear infection, he’ll probably be shaking his head a lot and scratching at his ears. He may also have discharge coming from his ears.
  • Arthritis: Older guinea pigs are prone to arthritis. If your guinea pig has arthritis, he’ll probably be stiff and have a hard time moving around.
  • Ovarian cysts: Older female guinea pigs can get ovarian cysts. These are VERY painful and can make it difficult (and painful) for your guinea pig to move around.

But, keep in mind that this isn’t a complete list. There are a lot of things that can cause your guinea pig pain.

If you think your guinea pig is in pain (or has any kind of serious or unconfirmed illness) , the best thing to do is take him to the vet. They’ll be able to figure out what’s wrong and give him the treatment he needs.

6. They Don’t Like Your Smell

This might sound weird, but it’s true. Guinea pigs can be very particular about who they like and don’t like. And one way they decide if they like you or not is by your smell.

If your fur babies don’t like the way your smell (or the smell of what you’ve been in contact with), they’re going to be less likely to let you pick him up – and even LESS LIKELY to let you hold them.

After all, why would they want to be close to someone who smells bad – at least to them?

There’s a few things you can do to fix this:

  • Wash your hands: If you’ve been handling other animals (like predators) or food with a strong odor (like onions), there’s a chance your fur babies smell it on you. So, before you pick them up, make sure to wash your hands with unscented soap.
  • Don’t wear perfume or cologne: Perfume can be overwhelming for guinea pigs. If you want them to like you, it’s best to avoid wearing any kind of scent, including perfume, cologne, scented lotion, etc.
  • Watch out for those hair products: Strong-smelling hair products (like hairspray) can also be overwhelming for guinea pigs. So, if you want them to like you, it’s best to use unscented products whenever possible.
  • Let them sniff you: When you first meet your guinea pig, give him a chance to sniff you. Have daily visits with your little friends to give them time to get used to your smell.

7. They’re Not in the Mood

Just like humans, guinea pigs have their moods. And sometimes, they’re just not in the mood to be picked up.

Cavies can be moody creatures. One minute they might want to be held, and the next minute they might not. It just depends on their mood.

If your guinea pigs are acting fussy or grumpy, it’s probably best to leave them alone. Picking them up when they’re not in the mood will only make them more upset.

How Do I Get My Guinea Pig Comfortable With Being Picked Up?

ways to get guinea pigs to like being picked up
Using a combination of these tips should help your piggies get more comfortable with being picked up.

If you want to get your guinea pigs comfortable with being picked up, it’s going to take some time and patience. And what you do depends on the reason why they don’t like being picked up in the first place.

Here’s a few basic tips to get your started:

  • Wash your hands with unscented soap. Do this BEFORE you try to pick them up, so they don’t smell anything on you that might upset them.
  • Don’t wear perfume or cologne. This can be overwhelming for guinea pigs.
  • Be patient. It takes time for guinea pigs to get used to being picked up. Don’t try to force it.
  • Start slow. Don’t try to pick them up right away. Instead, let them get used to your presence first. Sit next to their cage and talk to them in a soft, calming voice. Once they seem comfortable with you being there, you can start slowly moving your hand towards them.
  • Use a box or a cuddle cup. If your guinea pigs are still nervous about being picked up, you can try to corral them and use a box or cuddle cup to pick them up. This’ll help them feel more secure and less likely to fall.
  • Pick them up everyday. If you don’t pick them up often, they’re going to be less likely to let you do it. So, make sure to pick them up every day – even if it’s just for a few seconds.

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Do Guinea Pigs Ever Like Being Picked Up? 

Some guinea pigs like being picked up. But, most of them don’t. When it comes down to it, guinea pigs are prey animals. And being picked up makes them feel vulnerable and exposed.

There’s a few things you can do to make your guinea pigs more comfortable with being picked up. But, it’s important to remember that some guinea pigs will never like it – no matter what you do.

Can I Pick Up A Pregnant Guinea Pig?

You shouldn’t pick up a pregnant guinea pig – especially if it’s close to her due date – unless it’s absolutely necessary (ex. a health check at the vet or a weekly weigh in at home).

Pregnant guinea pigs get stressed out easily and picking her up might cause her to get upset – which isn’t good for her health or the health of her babies. Plus, it’s pretty uncomfortable for them to be picked up when they’re that huge. So, don’t do it unless you have to.

And if you absolutely have to pick her up, do it gently and support her entire body – especially her back end. And be careful not to jostle her around too much.

How Soon Can You Pick Up A Baby Guinea Pig?

As a general rule of thumb, a baby guinea pig can be picked up about a week after it’s been born. When they’re older, and you try to carry them, do so gently. Baby cavies need to be handled with extra care because they’re more delicate than adult cavies.

How Soon Can You Handle An Operated Guinea Pig? 

Typically, a guinea pig who’s had an operation can (and should) be gently handled the same day as the operation.

Guinea pigs that have just had surgery will often need held feeding themselves, require pain medication, and might have difficulty staying clean without help. All that requires that you pick them up and that you handle them.

A guinea pig that has just been operated on needs more care than a baby or pregnant cavy. After the operation, their stitches and the injured area will still be sore.

Carrying them may put unnecessary stress on the stitched area, if you’re not careful. And that could cause them a lot of pain. Make sure that you’re extra gentle when picking them up.

Lure your piggie into a cuddle cup or a box when it’s time for their post-op veterinary check. That way, you won’t have to pick them up and put unnecessary stress on their stitches.

Tip: You should ask your vet how to care for your cavy after it has surgery so that your little friend can heal quickly and be back to normal soon.

Where Do Guinea Pigs Like To Be Touched? 

Before you can pick up a cavy, you need to let them get used to you. You can do this by touching them in areas where they feel relaxed. If you don’t, they’re just going to keep being afraid of you (or get ticked off at you).

Guinea pigs love being petted around their head and cheeks. Petting them there helps them relax. However, don’t pet their backside or legs as they get uneasy when you touch them there.

How Do You Get A Guinea Pig To Like You? 

So, you just brought your guinea pigs home and they seem to hate you (spoiler: they don’t). This is normal because it isn’t used to you yet. Cavies need to get used to their new environment, so leave them alone for at least a day when you bring them home. After that, start the process of bonding and building trust with your guinea pigs.

Do you want your cavies to like you? Of course, you do.

Well, here’s a few tips to get you started:

  • Work on understanding their body language: Rumblestrutting , for example, is a sign of dominance, while teeth chattering is a sign of fear or aggression.
  • Avoid sudden movements: Cavies are delicate creatures, so handle them with care.
  • Handfeed them: This is a great way to bond with your guinea pigs.
  • Give them treats: Who doesn’t love getting treats? Giving your cavy the occasional treat will definitely make it like you more.
  • Spend time with them: Just like any relationship, the more time you spend with your guinea pigs, the better chance you have of developing
  • Provide Them A Comfortable Environment: Make sure their home is clean, spacious, has plenty of hiding spots and is safe. Toys are a must and it should be a space that’s free of sudden, loud noise.
  • Work With Their Time: You should always work with their schedule. Don’t try to control them or make them do what you want. Each of your little friends has their own personality and you need to learn what they like and don’t like.

After building that bond with you, your little friends will slowly start to warm up to you and before you know it, they’ll love being around you. Here’s a few ways that guinea pigs show affection:

  • Relaxing beside you 
  • Nudging you with their noses
  • Closing their eyes when they’re sleeping
  • Climbing up your lap willingly
  • Licking your hand

Why Does My Guinea Pig Hate Me?

Do you think your guinea pigs hate you? No, they can’t hate you. Sometimes that fear they have comes across as hate, but it isn’t. If you think your guinea pigs hate you, it’s probably because they’re afraid of you.

Guinea pigs are timid creatures by nature and it takes time for them to get used to their environment and the people around them. So, if you’ve just brought them home, give them some time to adjust before you start handling them too much.

If you’ve had your guinea pigs for a while and they still seem afraid of you, it could be because of how you’re trying to pick them up. It could be how they’re handling them. . Make sure you’re being extra careful and gentle when you pick them up and hold them. And avoid any sudden movements that could startle them.

There’s many reasons why your little friends might be so standoffish. When trying to figure out why your guinea pigs seems to dislike you, here’s a few things to consider:

  • Have you been handling them too much?
  • Are you being too rough with them when you pick them up or hold them?
  • Do they have enough hiding spots in their cage?
  • Is their environment too loud or disruptive for them?
  • Do you have any other pets that might be intimidating them?
  • Are you respecting their personal space?

Remember, it takes time to build trust with your guinea pigs. So, if you’re patient and gentle with them, they’ll eventually come around and start to like you more.

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The Wrap Up 

Guinea pigs are delicate creatures that need time to adjust to their new environment and the people around them. If you’re gentle and patient with them, they’ll eventually come around and start to relax around you – probably enough to easily pick them up.

There’s many ways to bond with your guinea pigs and make them feel comfortable around you. Handfeeding them, spending time with them, and giving them treats are all great ways to make them like you more.

Adopting a small animal: Guinea pig care. (2019, January 20). Ontario SPCA and Humane Society.

Guinea lynx:: Handling. (n.d.). Guinea Lynx:: A Medical and Care Guide for Your Guinea Pig. https://www.guinealynx.info/handling.html

How to handle Guinea pig. (2014, February 21). 

The Guinea Pig Manual | All about Guinea Pig Care!. https://www.guineapigmanual.com/guinea-pig-handling/

Saurav. (2020, June 7). Why doesn’t my Guinea pig like to be held? (Reasons+What to do?). Guinea Pig 101. https://guineapig101.com/guinea-pig-like-to-be-held/

Understanding their body language and providing them with a comfortable environment are also important factors in making your guinea pigs feel at ease around you.

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