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How to Pick Up a Skittish Guinea Pig (4 steps!)

Befriending a guinea pig: like children and co-workers, it starts with snacks

When you first get your guinea pig, you’ll notice that it may be a little on the shy side. Guinea pigs are prey animals, which means that it’s up to their discretion whether something is a threat or not. Take it from their perspective. Even if you’re a kid, you’re still much larger and louder than they are. They don’t know that you won’t hurt them.

One of the first things you can do with your new pet is working to tame them down. Why is it important to learn how to pick up a skittish guinea pig? Trust will go a long way with your new pal. Veterinary visits will be easier. Cleaning the cage won’t require a rodeo arena to catch the little guy. And best of all, your guinea pig will be happier interacting with you on a daily basis. Let’s jump in and get to work!

Step 1: Start with treats

A lot of guinea pigs are born on small animal farms. So, their parents may or may not have been handled. 

Your guinea pig was probably handled as a baby if you got it from a breeder instead of a pet store. It may still go through a period of distrust even if they are “tame“.

Start by offering a favorite treat. If the guinea pig won’t approach the treat, leave it in their bowl of food. 

Also, make sure to wait until the guinea pig stops running around until they get the treat. Over time, make them wait longer and longer to get the treat. Eventually, the guinea pig will come up to the treat. 

Start offering the treats from your hand once your guinea pig is acquainted.

When they’re eating out of your hand, it’s time to progress to the next step. This can take anywhere from a week to two weeks. Don’t worry if it takes a little longer. Every guinea pig is an individual and progresses at their own rate.

Step 2: Make contact

While the guinea pig is eating, it’s time to carefully reach out and touch the guinea pig.

You can do this anywhere on the guinea pig’s body, but most of them are comfortable with a cautious scratch on the side or a touch on top of the head. 

Be gentle, just a little pet at first.

If the guinea pig bolts or hides in a corner the first few times, this is pretty normal. They have to take this new idea at their own pace. Being touched is something new. Something different.

Step 3: More treats and more contact

Once the guinea pig is comfortable with touching, continue to feed treats as you slide your hand beneath their belly and pet them there. 

Slowly get them used to being touched around the rump, under the arms, and along the belly. 

If the guinea pig is comfortable with this, it’s time to move on to actually picking up the guinea pig ????

Step 4: Pick up the guinea pig!

When you first pick up a guinea pig, try to do it sitting near the cage. 

Put a pillow in your lap. This way, if the guinea pig tries to make a great escape, it will hit the pillow and not the floor. 

Remember, they have very small bones. Even if it’s true they are some of the sturdiest “pocket pets” out there, they are still delicate animals.

Scoop the guinea pig up in a fluid motion. 

One hand goes beneath the stomach and the other beneath the rump. Cradle it to your chest or place it on your lap. Additionally, the pillow is a great place to put your pal. 

Watch how she picks up this skittish guinea pig with one hand under the stomach and the other beneath the rump:

Try not to clutch or squeeze your pet. You’ll have to tighten your grip a little bit to pick the animal up, but be as gentle as you can.

Expect the guinea pig to be surprised by this new motion. The good news is, guinea pigs usually adjust very quickly to this if the other steps have been achieved.

Final tips

Give your guinea pig some time to settle in if she doesn’t seem to enjoy being held.

New guinea pigs, especially babies, are known to run first and think later. If they’re given some time to think over what happened and go get the treat left covered in human scent, they’ll start to associate the scent with a delicious snack.

Sometimes, though, a guinea pig just doesn’t come around to being picked up under any circumstances. 

That’s alright! 

There are a few guinea pigs who simply don’t want to cuddle and it’s okay if they don’t. You can bond with your pet in more meaningful ways! 

Leave a slice of their favorite treat hidden in a willow ball or teach them to come to the sound of their name instead.


With a little time and patience, you should be able to pick up a skittish guinea pig. Follow the steps here and remember, some just won’t be as affectionate as others. Each piggie has a unique personality. 


Wikihouse – How to get your guinea pig to trust you

Guinea pig care online

Happy cavy blog – How to build a stronger bond with your guinea pig