The Unfortunate Truth About Why New Guinea Pigs Won’t Eat

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So, you’ve adopted a new guinea pig and you’re home with them, ready to welcome them into your family. You’ve set up their cage and bought all the food and toys they’ll need to feel at home. But one thing’s for sure: your new guinea pig isn’t eating anything you give them!

Typically, new guinea pigs have a difficult time adjusting to a new home. Anxiety and fear are both natural responses to a strange environment. That’s why they often won’t eat when they first arrive at their new home. The best thing to do is to provide lots of support and love; reduce potential anxiety by integrating them into their new home gradually.

why new guinea pigs won't eat

So, how can you help your new guinea pig become comfortable enough to eat?

I’ll show you how. 

But first, let’s make sure you understand the history behind their anxiety.

Shall we?

Why Do New Guinea Pigs Refuse To Eat?

why new guinea pigs won't eat

Guinea pigs are prey animals. But, what does this mean?

The sole purpose of being a prey animal is to be eaten by something bigger. In the wild, piggies spent a good portion of their day avoiding hawks, eagles, foxes, and other predators that would snatch them up, dunk them in barbecue sauce, and make a meal of them.

But what about domesticated piggies? Why should our pets be so anxious when they don’t have to worry about being eaten by predators anymore?

This is because, even though you don’t think of your piggie as prey, they’re still very much afraid of everything around them (cause they haven’t lost those natural instincts).

This is why new guinea pigs won’t eat in your home: they don’t feel safe.

To them they’re suddenly surrounded by a new and potentially deadly predator (bad news: it’s you) who can gobble them up at any moment with no warning.

(Major bummer. But, even if you’ve crossed your heart and sworn to provide for their every need for the rest of their lives, and to love them with all your heart. They don’t know that. And even if they did…uh, they wouldn’t care.)

Under the circumstances, I’d say it’s completely natural for them to be anxious and even terrified in a new environment (actually, it’s more than natural, this is hard-wired into their little bodies; to them it’s survival).

Now, think about it.

When you’re scared enough to have a heart attack, what do you do? I guarantee what you won’t do is sit down and gobble up a big meal. (Or maybe you will, I don’t know you).

Are You Sure Your Guinea Pigs Aren’t Eating? Or Is Something Else Going On?

While some guinea pigs legit refuse to eat when they’re brought into a new environment, it’s possible that your piggie simply won’t eat with you in the same room. In both cases fear and anxiety are the culprit.

But, could there be other reasons why your new cavy won’t eat? I’d say it’s time to ask yourself a few questions:

Am I sure my guinea pigs aren’t eating?

If you’re not, then think about the following:

  • Have they been checked by a vet recently? This is important, because if fear and anxiety isn’t the issue, then it could be medical. For example, stress can make an animal loose their appetite and make it difficult for them to eat. Make sure your piggies are in good shape (like , very good shape) before you draw a conclusion.
  • Do they have a large enough cage? A guinea pig should have at least 7.5 square feet of space to roam around in (and that’s at the minimum). If they’re too cramped, then it’s going to be a huge struggle for them to feel safe and comfortable enough to chow down.
  • Is my piggie lonely? Depression and loneliness is a pretty common thing with piggies. If you only got one guinea pig, then they might be lonely and upset. This might be the reason why they won’t eat.
  • Is the new environment too stressful for them? Or maybe, there’s something about the new place (in addition to you) that terrifies them (like loud noises, stuffy smells, etc).
Here’s a video of a few things you can do to keep your
piggie comfortable when you bring him home.

New Guinea Pigs Aren’t Eating: 3 Easy Things You Can Do About It

why new guinea pigs won't eat

There’s a few things you can do to help with this problem.

And, no, it doesn’t involve forcing your new guinea pig to eat (the only thing you’ll get from that is a guinea pig with a satellite-sized chip on his shoulder and an owner with an ulcer).

If your little friend won’t eat, there’s three things that you can do to help get your new piggie a little more excited about mealtime. And a little more used to enjoying the food with you in the room.

No pressure, no stress: just good ole’ fashioned guinea pig love.

  1. Give Them Time To Adjust
  2. Use Proximity To Encourage Eating
  3. Allow Hiding

Let’s talk about these three things in a tad bit more detail.

1.Give Them Time to Adjust

Remember what I said before: new guinea pigs won’t eat in a new environment because they’re afraid of everything around them (including you).

So, when you first bring your new piggie home, leave them alone. Let them get used to you and their new surroundings at a pace that’s comfortable for them.

This is going to involve a lot of patience on your part.

It can take weeks (actually, sometimes months) for a guinea pig to become used to their new home.

But, the good news is that it’s not all up to them: you can help by understanding that the only way they’re going to feel safe enough to eat (and eventually interact with you) is if you slowly integrate into their environment (and that includes your lovely self) step by step.

2. Use Proximity to Help Them Eat

Here’s the thing.

Your piggie won’t eat because their default is fear. But, that doesn’t mean that they’re in a fearful state the entire time.

It’s very likely that your new little friend is more apt to eat when the perceived predator (in case you’re wondering, that’s you again) isn’t nearby.

It’ll be a lot easier for your piggie to muster up the courage to nibble at their veggies when you aren’t in their face looming over them like a blood-thirsty hawk (or even in the same room).

So, put your piggie’s bowl of food near their hut where they can see and easily get to it. And then, go away

3. Allow And Accept Hiding

Let’s be real: you don’t know what your piggie needs to feel safe and secure, so it might take some trial and error to figure out how much hiding is enough (or not).

But, you can give them a good start by letting them hide when they need to. Hiding is a way for all piggies to feel safe and secure.

Safe and secure piggies are more likely to eat. (Are you picking up what I’m throwing down?)

Hiding is typical and acceptable piggie behavior – especially if they won’t eat. Let. Them. Do. It. And don’t feel bad when they do. Don’t take it personally. Hiding will put them at ease, which is where you want them to be.

And eventually being at ease will build their confidence, which will help them become more comfortable with you.

You won’t get anywhere with a crazily stressed out piggie.

Consider adding an extra pigloo, a hut, or another little hiding spot for your piggie to decompress. You’re giving your piggie peace-of-mind when you give them privacy.

What Happens If A Guinea Pig Goes Too Long Without Food ?

Well, nothing good. I’ll tell you that much.

Going eight hours without food is pretty dangerous for a cavy. Their digestive systems have to be constantly moving or else their food passes through them undigested.

Without eating, cavies can end up with lots of awful health conditions like GI statis (which is where their system stops moving food through) and they can die from it..

So, if you think your piggie might not be eating plenty of their hay and at least a half cup of veggies each day, make a vet appointment ASAP to get your little friend checked out.  

In short: it’s crucial that you get your piggie to eat and drink regularly.

So, be patient and compassionate with them and, eventually, they’ll open up to you (and their veggies).

Things To Remember About Why New Guinea Pigs Won’t Eat

Now that we’re done with this article, let’s recap:

  1. New guinea pigs don’t eat because they’re afraid of everything around them
  2. You can help by giving them a chance to come out from hiding when they’re ready, using proximity to help them eat, and allowing them to hide when they need to.
  3. It’s crucial that you get your piggie to eat and drink regularly

So remember, don’t take it personally when your new guinea pig won’t eat (or even at all).

They’re not trying to hurt you feelings. They’re simply too nervous and scared of their surroundings to realize that you’re an okay person that only wants the best for them.

And as they get to know you and become more comfortable with their environment, they’ll start to eat (and maybe even begin to trust you).

Remember, they need time to acclimate to their new surroundings. Be patient and supportive of them by providing them with hiding spaces away from you, food, water, and love.

That’s the best way for your new little friend to feel safe in their environment so that you can have a healthy, rewarding relationship.

Amazonia exhibit at the Smithsonian’s national zoo now includes a Guinea pig village. (n.d.). Smithsonian Institution. https://www.si.edu/newsdesk/releases/amazonia-exhibit-smithsonians-national-zoo-now-includes-guinea-pig-village

Care Of Guinea Pigs. (n.d.). College of Veterinary Medicine – Purdue University. https://vet.purdue.edu/vth/files/documents/Care%20of%20Guinea%20Pigs.pdf

DVM, S. L. (2015). undefined. Barron’s Educational Series.

Guinea pigs as pets. (2020, May 4). News and Information | Oklahoma State University. https://news.okstate.edu/articles/communications/2020/guinea-pigs-as-pets.html

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