You’ve got a new guinea pig and naturally, you are excited. You want to pet and show them affection. But, there is a problem. They keep running away! I know how this feels and it is of course something that you will soon want to overcome. In order to do it helps to understand why they may be skittish in your presence, to begin with. Well, here is what you are going to want to know.
So, why does my guinea pig run away from me? Guinea pigs generally run away from their owners because they have yet to build confidence, trust, or familiarity with their owners. They do not yet feel safe in their owner’s presence. This typically happens with newly acquired guinea pigs who need time to settle and relax in their new environment. Other reasons they may not yet feel safe include a lack of socialization or being held too much noise, or fast and abrupt movements towards them.
When it comes to holding your guinea pigs; it is all about approaching gently and making your presence known. You’ll need to do this consistently too.
It actually helps to chat with them in a soft voice, and doing so can strengthen the bond that you have with them while helping them to become familiar with you and differentiate you from others.
While it is true that guinea pigs are friendly, playful, and engaged. It can take some time before they get used to their owner.
Unfortunately, it does not happen right away; but it’s a great feeling when they do and is definitely something to strive for.
These cavies are curious by nature and enjoy time outside of their enclosure, exploring their surroundings and getting some much-needed activity.
This is very important and it helps them to relax.
Yet it doesn’t help if your guinea pig(s) run away when you approach them; how are you supposed to even get them out?
Let us now take a closer look at why your guinea pig may be acting in such a way before we turn to some practical things you can try to build that trust and stop them from doing so.
What Does It Mean When Your Guinea Pig Runs Away From You?
When a guinea pig runs away from its owner, it usually means that they do not see this person as someone they can trust yet.
Guinea pigs can be skittish, and it takes time for them to get acquainted with their new surroundings and of new people.
Think of it this way, if you have recently gotten your guinea pig, they have no reason to trust you. They need time to learn about you, what you are like, and if you are ultimately safe.
Besides, you will have only taken them out of their previous environment and everything will be new.
It’s also nothing to be worried about and should be somewhat expected.
In fact, even those owners who report that they have very close bonds with their guinea pigs will tell you that it took time.
Chances are, your new pet is in a very stressed state, and with time and as they are able to relax, things will improve.
They are wild animals, after all.
It’s in their nature to run; just as their ancestors would have to feel predators or any impending danger.
This is typically why the slightest noise or movement is greeted with such alarm. Even if it does not seem excessive to you – it will be for your guinea pig.
Equally, it’s important to remember that this is certainly not a reflection on you as a person. It doesn’t mean your guinea pig dislikes you either.
so, consider that you could do all the right things to make your cavy feel safe and loved, but they may still run away from you, to begin with. It’s purely down to instincts.
Whatever you do, don’t take it personally; just keep doing your best. With time, proper care, and consistency, your relationship will improve.
Why Is My Guinea Pig So Scared?
If you notice that your guinea pig is very scared; then chances are there is something provoking them and putting them in this stressed state.
First and foremost, it’s important that you look for the cause; which can vary.
As we’ve discussed above, guinea pigs will always be frightened by nature.
They are used to running away from animals that want to kill and eat them. Fear simply runs in the family of guinea pigs.
There is little if anything you can do about this inherited trait and tendency.
Although in your home, you have better control of what happens, when and how.
Sometimes it is entirely obvious and explicit, such as a sudden bang or a crash.
If this were to occur you would likely notice them freeze. This is actually a survival mechanism to help them go unnoticed and survive in the wild.
Other times, however, what is causing them to be scared may be more subtle. You may need to investigate further.
For instance, your guinea pig may be afraid of new noises at first, or the noise could in fact be excessive for them.
So, you’ll need to consider where you position their enclosure. It is advised that they learn to recognize that people are living there, so they must get regular views and glimpses of everyone in the household.
Beyond this, it will take some time for them to get used to noises like the TV, washing machine, music, etc.
Your little cavy may even be afraid of curious children or other pets; remember they need to feel safe and secure.
Nevertheless, you should look to let them out of their cage regularly in a safe and controlled manner. During the day works best and you can watch them as they go and explore.
Another excellent tip to reduce your guinea pig from feeling scared is to speak to them gently and help them get used to your voice.
Better yet, if you are able to hold them, then you can hold them close to your chest so that they feel supported and secure in your care.
If you are not quite at this stage, slowly approaching and getting close is a good place to begin. This way they can learn of your scent and begin to recognize you the next time you come to visit.
Thankfully, guinea pigs are highly social creatures. They thrive on company so will want to develop a bond with their owner, if they feel they can safely do so.
It is for this reason that guinea pigs thrive in the company of other guinea pigs. Keeping more than one is a good idea if you can afford it and are able to care for them both.
Owning more than one guinea pig does come with additional considerations and efforts, although it is better for the wellbeing of your pet if you can provide them with socialization from their own kind.
In doing so, just be sure to consider the genders you are housing together.
Nevertheless, a cavy is more likely to feel vulnerable on their own. So, for this reason, it is a good idea to keep more than one.
They do live in huge groups called ‘herds’ in the wild after all.
How Do I Stop My Guinea Pig From Running Away?
Guinea pigs are fast on those little feet of theirs, and if they are frightened or distrustful, they will soon look to run and hide.
These pets certainly need repetitive positive encounters to reduce their instinctual fear and not perceive people as a threat.
Thus, it’s essential to treat your guinea pig gently from the moment you bring them home. The quicker you can have them feel safe the better.
It is also generally easier to do so while they are still young and trauma has not had a chance to take hold.
For the first day or two, it’s best to give your guinea pig a little space before you even attempt to pick them up.
You can cover the cage with a light blanket so that they still get some light – this will help them to feel safer during this adjustment period by limiting their sight and reducing noise.
Just be sure to do so with an appropriate cover and be sure not to completely cover the cage. You do not want to accidentally suffocate them!
After a few days have passed, and they are beginning to settle in their new home, you can begin introducing yourself.
Just consider that within the first interaction or two, they may attempt to escape.
So to make this a calmer experience for the both of you, consider the following:
- Begin to visit the cage frequently, approaching slowly and talking in a soothing voice. The first few times do you not attempt to get too close and keep your distance.
- Offer a treat to your guinea pig every time you come to the cage. Especially before you attempt to first pick them up. Its also advised that if you can pick them up you give them another when they are sitting in your lap.
- Keep your hands in the cage for a period of time and keep them still; this allows your guinea pig to sniff your hand and get acquainted with your scent and presence first and foremost.
- Your guinea pig is likely to go under their hide, let them, giving them time to reassess the situation.
- Do not force yourself on top of or over your guinea pig at any time, and never force them into your hands if they are not fully comfortable.
- Slowly lure them to one end of the cage with one arm. Gently place your hand on their back. In a scooping movement, with both hands, pick up your guinea pig in a fluid yet confident motion.
Your guinea pig must get exposure to everyday noises that come with living in a home; so long as they are not abrupt or excessively loud, of course.
It’s also a good idea to try and include them in several of your household activities, as it will desensitize them to unfamiliar sights and noises.
Eventually, they will learn of the sounds associated with feeding.
It’s an excellent idea to house guinea pigs indoors: this will help them to get better acquainted with you, your family, and their surroundings.
Besides, it can ensure you keep them sufficiently warm and well protected from the elements.
While it is possible to keep the outside, considerations need to be made.
And most importantly, make sure that you spend quality time with your guinea pig consistently.
The more you do this, and the more positive experiences you have with one another, the better the relationship will be.
Most piggies like to be petted behind the ears or stroked gently from the neck to the back in the direction of the fur.
It is somewhat essential to pet your guinea pig for at least 30 minutes a day once they are comfortable in your presence.
Besides, this is what owning a pet is all about!
How Should I Pick Up A Guinea Pig That Runs Away?
Picking up a guinea pig that wants to run away is a challenge. But first and foremost, you need to consider if you, or the particular person who wants to, has spent sufficient time with them.
You need to ensure that your cavy is ready and willing.
Nevertheless, there will always be a period where picking up your guinea pig will cause them some discomfort. There is no real getting around this.
The trick is minimizing this discomfort and only attempting to do so when it can be positive and constructive.
So, the first few times you pick up your guinea pig, you should expect them to run away and into a hide.
It may help to take a few breaths and to collect yourself before approaching the cage.
Ensure that the surroundings are calm, there are no loud noises or sudden movements.
It would help to switch off your phone in case it rings or goes off. Approach the cage slowly but confidently; there’s no need to rush.
Make sure to put a towel on the floor, ready to collect any pee or poo from your guinea pig. Sometimes this is how they will respond to first being handled.
You’ll then want to proceed by slowly introducing yourself, speaking gently to them in a calm and controlled manner.
Put your hand into the enclosure and leave it there for a minute. They should come out of their hide, come towards your hand and look to smell you. These are excellent signs!
Gently stroke your guinea pig and see how they respond. If it is favorable it is showing that they are beginning to trust you.
You may feel nervous at first, but try to be calm around your new pet before you do decide to attempt to hold them.
They can definitely pick up on your feelings, and this makes the experience somewhat stressful for both of you.
You can use the enclosure to your advantage, do this by guiding your guinea pig slowly to one side.
Sometimes, you can lead them to their house and use that to help pick them up. Lifting one edge for example.
Be sensitive to your guinea pig’s feelings at all times; if they begin to nip you for example, it will likely be better to wait some time for them to calm down before you proceed.
This may be later in the day or another day altogether. Either way, ensure they return to a calm and composed state.
In terms of the motion of picking up, you’ll want to do so in a strategic manner to.
Slip a hand under your guinea pig, and support their body weight from underneath.
Hold your guinea pig safely and securely by putting a finger around the front of their legs.
Also, remember that your guinea pig will feel safer if you pick him up with both hands. Besides, it can help you feel in better control too.
Make sure not to squeeze, or they may jump or nip to protect themselves.
It’s a good idea to place your piggy on your chest with their feet towards your body. Bring them close.
Feed some treats to your guinea pig throughout the process. Especially while you hold them. These ones are excellent from Amazon and many owners swear by them.
That way, your cavy will associate good things and rewards with you holding them.
Continue to talk to your piggy in a soft voice while you’re holding them. What you say does not necessarily matter, it’s how you say it.
If your guinea pig wiggles as you hold them, try to avoid putting them down unless absolutely necessary.
Continue holding them, and stay calm. It goes without saying but be careful when you return them to their cage. Do not drop from a height!
Guinea pigs are naturally skittish; it’s in their nature and it is generally not something that they will hold personally against you!
That is of course assuming you have treated them well throughout your previous interactions!
Part of a guinea pig’s nature is knowing that they are vulnerable and prey for many predators.
It makes sense that they look to run away in times of fear and perceived threat.
Keep in mind that you are bigger, stronger, and largely unfamiliar. Naturally, they will view you as a threat, especially in the early days.
That being said, in time, with consistent care and a slow and gentle approach, picking your guinea pig up is something you can absolutely strive for.
When ready, they will even soon come to love the attention and time with you. They are very social after all.
Wondering what other behaviors your guinea pig displays may mean? Then check out my guides below:
- Why Do Guinea Pigs Vibrate?
- Why Does My Guinea Pig Lick Me?
- Why Is My Guinea Pig Biting Me?
- Why Do Guinea Pigs Chew On Their Cage?
- Why Does My Guinea Pig Stare At Me?
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.