Proper socialization for guinea pigs to humans is essential for guinea pigs in captivity. Otherwise, your guinea pigs will spend more time than necessary stressed out. Since guinea pigs are rodents, stress does horrible things for their health. Instead, it’s better to devote some time to the socialization of guinea pigs, regardless of how old they are.
Social Lives with Other Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs are herd creatures, and living in groups of five to ten is natural for them. If you’re bringing guinea pigs into your home, it’s best if they have a buddy or two. Then they socialize with each other and are generally healthier. The trick is finding the right pairings.
Steps for Socialization of Guinea Pigs with Humans
The key to the socialization of guinea pigs is keeping the process as stress-free as possible. Once guinea pigs start acting stressed, such as running away or nibbling, any progress you’re making starts winding backward. Slow and steady wins the socialization race.
Talk to Them
When you first get a guinea pig, you are a new unknown to them, even if you get a previously socialized one from a friend. Since they’re prey, the newness does not go over well. Fortunately, the first step in the process is simply talking to your guinea pig.
This step in your guinea pig’s socialization with humans takes a couple of minutes a few times a day. It doesn’t matter what you talk to your guinea pig about; it’s about getting them used to the sound of your voice. You could even read to them from the newspaper.
Associate with Food
The next socialization step for guinea pigs is associating you with something positive. This process can take some doing since, from their perspective, things larger than a guinea pig tend to eat them. That’s where the food comes in, since what little piggle can resist a treat?
At first, you’re going to want to move your hand slowly and deposit the treat on the floor of your guinea pig cage. Do not become discouraged if it takes your guinea pig a few minutes to get the snack. Eventually, your guinea pig will stop hiding and come closer when you bring snacks. If you’re diligent about offering small treats every day, your guinea pig may even become comfortable to eat out of your hand.
Once your guinea pig is not running away, you can start working on touching inside the cage. It’s essential to stay away from your guinea pig’s underside for the first few days. Then you can work your way through to picking up your piggle. Remember, it’s important to support your guinea pig’s butt when picking them up.
Guinea pigs do better when they have their feet underneath them. If possible, let them. Some people teach their guinea pigs to hop in upside down igloos or onto towels to make this process easier. Once they’ve become acclimated to the idea of being picked up inside their cage, you can move to let them dictate the terms.
The next step is letting your piggle get used to you on their terms. For this step of socialization, you need an enclosed area, such as a bathtub or children’s swimming pool. All you need to do is to sit in the area and then set the guinea pig down. Your piggle then has space to explore you more thoroughly. The important thing with this is to maintain a safe feeling environment for your guinea pig. You should repeat this step often.
Introduce Other People
Once your guinea pig is comfortable being handled by you, you can work on introducing other people. This process may take some time, so if you have unfamiliar guests, let your guinea pig remain in his or her cage. When you have time to work with people one on one is when your guinea pig will be comfortable.