In the wild, Guinea Pigs are prey animals with predators ranging from snakes to wolves and big cats. As such, even as pets, their natural instinct to avoid predators is strong. While Cavies can be tamed and become cuddly pets that like to be stroked and fussed, it can take time, and some may never particularly enjoy being petted.
Generally, however, Guinea Pigs that do like being petted are most likely to enjoy having their heads and backs petted. They may tolerate having their chest petted but most strongly dislike having their belly and bottoms patted. There are exceptions as every Guinea Pig is unique, so yours might love having its belly rubbed but hate having its head touched.
Guinea Pigs in the Wild
Guinea Pig ancestors hail from South America, North America, Europe, and Asia. What we think of as the domesticated Guinea Pig doesn’t really exist in the wild anymore, although there are similar animals found primarily in Brazil and other South American countries. The list of natural predators is long and includes snakes, large birds, wild cats, and coyotes. They are also, in some countries, hunted by humans.
Guinea Pigs as Pets
Not only is the list of Guinea Pig predators long but it is varied, as well. They need to be on guard from animals in the air, as well as on the ground. This explains why Cavies can be timid and nervous creatures. Approach one without warning, or catch it by surprise, and a Guinea Pig’s natural instincts tell it that it is probably being hunted and likely to be eaten.
What Spots Do Guinea Pigs Like to Be Petted?
As prey animals, Guinea Pigs are very wary of potential threats. They also dislike being put in a compromising position that might hamper any efforts to escape trouble. When attempting to pet a Guinea Pig, make sure it knows you are there and try to ensure that it doesn’t see you as a potential threat.
Generally, the best place to pet a Cavie is on the top of its head, although many will also tolerate being petted on the back as long as they are expecting it.
Where Not to Pet a Guinea Pig
The chest is one area that some Guinea Pigs might tolerate, and others will hate, so approach with caution and stop if your Guinea Pig seems stressed or uncomfortable with the chest petting. The belly and bottom are the least likely places they like to be petted.
How To Gain a Guinea Pig’s Trust
The most important factor that will determine whether a Guinea Pig likes to be petted is whether it feels safe, and a lot of this comes from whether the Cavie trusts you enough to pet it. It can take time but having a Guinea Pig’s trust is well worth the effort.
The 5 Tips To Handle a Guinea Pig
1. Start Young
If you get your Guinea Pig when it is young, you should start handling it as soon as possible but after it has had time to become acclimatized to its new cage and surroundings. Get into a routine of taking your pet out every day. Even if it won’t tolerate you petting it, getting the Guinea Pig out of its enclosure will build trust, reduce the likelihood of it biting, and provide greater enrichment. An adult Guinea Pig that has never been handled will be a lot more reluctant with handling than one that has been handled regularly from a young age.
2. Hand Feed
Guinea Pigs love to eat, and food bribes are a good way to convince yours to trust you. Have some tasty treats in your hand and encourage your Guinea Pig to come and take them from you. Initially, they are likely to take the food and scarper back to safety, but over time they will hang around near your hand and, eventually, may be willing to take the food from you and eat it in the palm of your hand.
3. Handle Regularly
Trust is built over time and through regular exposure. Getting your Guinea Pig out of the cage every few weeks isn’t often enough to develop trust. Try to handle your pet every day, but at least several times a week, and for more than a few minutes at a time.
4. Talk to Them
Guinea Pigs can learn sounds and noises, and they will become accustomed to your voice. Talk to your Cavie while it’s in its enclosure, when you enter a room, and also when you are handling it. It will become accustomed to having you around and will be more likely to trust you when it hears your voice.
5. Be Patient
As a prey animal, it takes a lot for a Guinea Pig to trust another animal. Even though you’re the one feeding, housing, and caring for it, you still need to be patient. If you try to rush things and your Cavie gets especially stressed out, it is likely to withdraw from you and it could take a long time to rebuild the trust that is lost. If you notice your Guinea Pig getting agitated while you’re handling it, put it back in its cage and try again tomorrow.
Guinea Pigs are good pets, and with regular handling from a young age, they will usually tolerate regular handling and may even enjoy being petted and spending time in your hands or on your lap. Avoid petting the belly and bottom, only pet the chest if your Guinea Pig likes it, and stick to the head and upper back area.
And remember that every Guinea Pig is different so just because you have one that likes having a certain area petted, doesn’t mean that all Guinea Pigs will like the same thing.
Featured Image Credit: mgventer10, Pixabay