5 Surprising Reasons Why Your Guinea Pig Is Scared Of You

So, you got yourself a guinea pig. You were excited for the first 10 seconds until you realized how scared of you your piggie seems to be.

However, don’t take it personally.

Typically, guinea pigs can get scared of anyone due to unfamiliarity, loneliness, trauma, lack of privacy, and generally a stressful home. Additionally, guinea pigs are prey animals , which means they are always on the lookout for any potential predators that could hurt them. This can make your guinea pig very skittish and alert when in a new environment, like in its home with you.

a picture of a guinea pig that's scared of you - or scared of his owner

While you can’t control a guinea pig’s prey instinct and emotions, you can work on the external factors contributing to your cavy’s fears. There are practical ways to ease up your guinea pig’s anxiety around you or other people in your home.

This isn’t necessarily a quick process. You’ll have to make sure you’re also controlling your frustrations and work on establishing a great relationship with your cavy.

That said, let’s head to the reasons why your guinea pig is scared of you and what you can do to ease up their fear.

1. Doesn’t Know You

a list of reasons why guinea pigs can be scared of you
Try not to take it personally if your piggies are a bit anxious of you. It’s not you. It’s them.

It’s hard not to nervous or scared when you’re around strangers. And this is true with guinea pigs.

We’re taught “stranger danger” when we’re young, but piggies are programmed by biology to be on high alert for predators.

In their natural habitat, guinea pigs are prey to large and vicious animals.

So, fear becomes an instinct to protect themselves.

They run away or hide and get jittery when you pick them up as their brain assumes you’re a predator. In some cases, they would even bite your hand.

When you bring your new cavy home, don’t expect that the little furball will cozy up quickly. Instead, anticipate that your guinea pig will be truly terrified of you. That way, you won’t get frustrated.

Allow your guinea pig to settle and be familiar with the new home. Then, make their cage comfortable and provide everything they need.

Start building trust and bond with your guinea pig as soon as you get them. One good way to establish that rapport is by hand-feeding your cavy veggies or small bits of fruit.

Food is always perceived as a reward, and eating is a pleasurable experience. So, by directly feeding your cavies, they can easily associate a positive feeling around you.

2. Nowhere To Hide

A guinea pig’s cage is generally ventilated and visually open.

If you just got your cavy, it’s super important to provide a hiding place so your guinea pig can have a safe area inside the enclosure. Think of it as having a separate room for your cavy, much like your own room in your house.

Guinea pigs tend to stay in their safe place when they are afraid, nervous, or lonely.

When you introduce your cavy to a new home, the little furball will be anxious, and without a hiding place inside the cage, the fear and anxiety will only aggravate. Unfortunately, this experience can linger, and your cavy will be even more scared of having you around.

Plus, the lack of a hiding place can hurt your guinea pig’s ability to relax.

And will a stressed out piggie stop being scared of you?

Of course not!

So, make sure to add a tunnel, pouch, hut, cuddle sack, or any structure where your cavy can have a little privacy.

3. Traumatized

It is important to know where your guinea pig is coming from – literally.

Sometimes the cause of your cavy’s fear is due to bad experiences from the past. It could be a negative human interaction from a previous owner or breeder or trauma from not having basic needs met like food, water, or a clean environment.

Guinea pigs are sensitive creatures, so if they are mistreated or even just met with hostility from a previous owner, it could have left them feeling extra vulnerable and wary of humans (yes, even you).

Traumatized piggies will often have a harder time getting over their fear and bonding with their new pet parents.

Also, it doesn’t help that humans are considered predators and guinea pigs as prey.   

If you know that the background of your little friend, you can come up with a better strategy to pacify and create a trusting bond with your cavy.

4. Stressful Home

You’d be scared too, if your home feels unsafe and unrelaxing. Sometimes your cavy is scared of you because of environmental stress.

Maybe it’s not your interaction or trauma from the previous handler that makes them scared around you but the stress they get from your home.

For example, if it’s too noisy in your room or any area where you keep your cavy, there’s a high possibility that your guinea pig will feel threatened.

And when that happens, your piggy will choose to stay in the hiding place instead of coming closer to you.

Likewise, if the hutch is cluttered and unclean, it might spike up anxiety in your little friend.

In the same way, if your cavy’s cage has poor ventilation and wire floors, this can cause discomfort and paw pain.

5. No Friends

Loneliness can open a series of negative emotions from your guinea pig. One of which is fear.

Guinea pigs are very social creatures. They thrive more when they have a companion in their enclosure.

Now, don’t just plop any piggie into your current guinea pig’s cage.  It has to be compatible match – another piggie that gets along well with your first.

And keep in mind, for many cavies, living with a group or at least another guinea pig is essential for their survival.

In the wild, guinea pigs live in herds. So, you can say that the need for a companion is embedded in their DNA. So, if you let them live on their own, without a friend or any one of their kind, they’re more likely to feel scared an anxious.

You could argue that you’ll be able to spend enough time with your guinea pig to stop your little friend from being lonely. But you have to understand that a cavy’s need for their own kind is almost primal.

Sure, human interaction eventually becomes a norm with guinea pigs, and they generally like having fur friend of their own kind around with a few exceptions.

So, if possible, bring home two piggies at once or allow them to live in pairs if one of the cavies has passed on already. Either way, it would be best to have another guinea pig in the home.

How Do You Make Your Guinea Pig Comfortable With You?

There’s no guarantee that your cavy will become comfortable with you unless you put some effort into building a bond. Just like any other relationship, trust is essential for comfort. And that’s your first mission.

Here are some things you can do to gain your guinea pigs’ trust and make them comfortable around you.

1. Make sure to feed them by hand whenever possible.

Eating is generally an enjoyable experience for all piggies.

If you provide a favorite food (like strawberry tops, endive, or romaine lettuce) to your cavy directly from your hands, you establish the impression that you’re a friend and not a blood-thirsty predator.

Don’t be discouraged if your little friend doesn’t take food from your hands at first.

Slow and steady wins the race. Some guinea pigs may take a little longer to get close to you, but with patience and persistence, they will eventually learn to trust you.

2. Spend LOTS quality time with your cavy.

Just your presence around the guinea pigs eventually eases up the fear and discomfort they feel.

Familiarity is a vital instrument against fear. Basically, you get your fuzz spuds used to you.

Likewise, spending quality time playing on the floor or just sitting next to the enclosure chatting will add up the good experiences your guinea pig share with you.

3. Interact with your guinea pig appropriately. 

This basically means that you avoid behaviors that make guinea pigs think that you’re a predator. Stay at the same head level with a guinea pig, for example. If you towering over them, they’ll think you’re going to swoop down and devour them. Avoid sudden movement like you’re about to pounce.

Start chatting with your fur balls the second you enter the room.

Predators are quiet and crafty. And you definitely don’t want you little friend associating you with any type of predator behaviors.

If you don’t want them scared of you, work on the predator-like behaviors and avoid them.

4. Talk to them regularly.

Having a regular conversation with your cavy will allow them to pick up your voice and be familiar with it. In addition, you want to associate your voice with safety, friendliness, and comfort. Don’t hesitate to talk to your little friend like they’re other people.

5. Provide a relaxing environment.

Make sure that your cavy is in a safe place, where they can relax and feel protected.  As in protected by you…and not scared of you.

  • guinea pig’s cage should be roomy with enough room (at least 7.5 square feet – or more- for one piggie) and enough ventilation to keep them comfortable. Also, important is to keep their cage clean.
  • Also, you want to eliminate any potential stressors that are around or near their enclosure like other pets, loud noises from the TV or radio, etc.
  • Plus, add some relaxing items to their environment, like chew toys or toilet paper rolls stuffed with hay or some other fun cage accessories.

At the end of the day, guinea pigs are creatures that thrive in familiarity and routine. As long as you provide an environment that they feel safe and comfortable in, they’ll eventually overcome their fear of you.

Final Thoughts About Why Your Guinea Pig Is Scared Of You

As a fur parent, you should expect that a new pet guinea pig being scared of your is pretty normal, especially if it’s still early in your relationship.

To manage your guinea pig’s fear, find its root cause.

If it’s unfamiliarity, a stressful environment, loneliness, or some other external factor, all you have to do is work on fixing that issue.

Then you can expect that over time, with the right bonding techniques, you’ll have a closer relationship with your cavy.

If the source of your little friends’ fear is something else like trauma, then it’ll probably take your piggie a much longer time to warm up to you.

But, that’s to be expected. I mean, it takes time to get over scary experience – especially for fuzz spuds.

Your focus should be on making sure that each interaction with your piggies is a positive experience. Just keep providing love, care and patience, and eventually your fur balls will overcome their fear of you.

At the end of the day, patience and compassion do pay off. And with each day, your little friends will be less scared of you.

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Nunez, K. (n.d.). Fight, flight, or freeze: How we respond to threats. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/fight-flight-freeze

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