When most people think of showing an animal affection, they imagine petting it. Guinea pigs are a great family pet that you would naturally want to cuddle, pet, and hold.
They are easy to care for, lots of fun, live long lives, and typically love people. But do they enjoy being held frequently and petted?
Do guinea pigs like to be petted?
Guinea pigs have a prey instinct that naturally causes them to resist being petted. However, each breed is different, so you may find yourself with a guinea pig that enjoys physical touch, or you may have one that does not.
However, most breeds of guinea pigs, with training, can eventually feel calm and comfortable in your hands.
Because some breeds of guinea pigs will vary in how well they tolerate being petted, it can be challenging to know what your guinea pig prefers.
Continue reading to know if your guinea pig likes to be petted and how you can train it to enjoy physical affection.
Why Guinea Pigs Are Afraid of Being Petted
When you reach out to pet a guinea pig, it triggers an instinct of fear. Wild guinea pigs are prey to many animals that grab at them and snatch them to eat.
So, when a guinea pig sees your hand coming toward it, its instincts tell it to run. Most guinea pig breeds, however, can be trained to be comfortable with human touch and enjoy being petted.
How to Know if Your Guinea Pig Likes to Be Petted
Guinea pigs are healthy animals that require low maintenance and make great first pets. When taking care of a guinea pig, you want to make sure it is comfortable and happy in its environment and your care. Identifying whether or not your guinea pig enjoys being petted is necessary.
Guinea pigs are fantastic animals to bond with. They are very friendly and will recognize their owners and respond to them.
They will show their excitement and greet someone by climbing their cage and squealing when they see someone they love and enjoy. To build a relationship like this, you will want to develop trust and make sure your guinea pig likes to be petted.
Here are some signs to look for:
- Body Language – Before touching your guinea pig, read its body language. If your guinea pig is acting playful, jumping around, or seems very relaxed in your presence, then it is likely that it will enjoy a petting.
- Initial Reaction – When you first reach out to pet your guinea pig, look for its initial reaction to seeing your hand coming towards it. If your guinea pig tenses, freezes, runs, or cowers away, it is afraid of you and does not want to be petted.
- Noises – Whistling or squealing sounds are also a sign that your guinea pig is happy you are present and will most likely enjoy a petting from you. A high-pitched shriek or hiss can be a sign that your guinea pig is not enjoying being touched and feels threatened.
- Licking – Guinea pigs like to show affection by licking. If you reach your hand towards your guinea pig and it licks you, then your guinea pig is happy and is more likely to accept petting.
By watching your guinea pig closely and looking for signs of happiness and content, you can identify whether your guinea pig wants to be petted.
There may be some times where your guinea pig wants to be left alone and others where it is eager for your affection; just pay attention to what your guinea pig is telling you.
How to Pet and Hold a Guinea Pig Properly
Playing with and petting your guinea pig is a great way to bond and develop your relationship, and to do this, making sure your guinea pig is comfortable with your touch is crucial.
To show each other affection, use these guidelines to know how to properly pet and hold your guinea pig starting with it inside its cage:
- Read your guinea pig’s body language before you begin petting it.
- If your guinea pig is open to being petted, make sure your guinea pig has acknowledged your presence and is aware that you are going to start petting it. You don’t want to surprise or startle your guinea pig with your touch.
- Move your hand slowly and gently toward your guinea pig.
- If your guinea pig runs away, don’t try to follow it around the cage with your hand. Back away and understand that your guinea pig does not want to be held or petted right now.
- As you begin to pet your guinea pig, use just a finger or two.
- Start by petting the top of your guinea pig’s head or under its chin
- Pet your guinea pig in the direction its fur grows. Also, only pet your guinea pig in areas that it likes to be petted. Avoid all other areas of its body.
- Watch your guinea pig as you continue to pet it and look for signs of enjoyment or discomfort.
- Don’t pet it for too long. If your guinea pig looks uncomfortable, feels tense, or walks away, then stop petting it.
- When you go to pick up your guinea pig out of its cage, you will slide your hand under its stomach and wrap a finger around its front legs.
- Then, slide your other hand under the guinea pig and use it to support its back.
- Next, gently lift it with both hands.
While petting a guinea pig, it is also important to make sure they are in a calm and stable place. Place your guinea pig on a stable surface, such as their cage floor or floor of your room. This way, if your guinea pig gets nervous or tries to run, there’s no chance it will fall out of your arms.
Additionally, picking a spot where your guinea pig feels safe, such as a bedroom or in their cage, will help the petting session go well.
Try not to hold your guinea pig for longer than 10-15 minutes. Holding and petting your guinea pig for too long will make it uncomfortable. At this point, it could begin nibbling due to restlessness and nerves or even end up using the bathroom in your hand or on the floor.
Where do Guinea Pigs Like to be Petted
Now that you know how to hold and pet a guinea pig properly, make sure you also understand where a guinea pig likes and does not like to be petted. The table below goes over where guinea pigs like and don’t like to be petted:
|Where Guinea Pigs Like to Be Petted||Where Guinea Pigs Don’t Like to be Petted|
|Under the chin||Face|
|On the top of the head||Stomach|
|Around the head||Feet|
|Behind the ears||Far back|
As you pet your guinea pig, make sure you always pet them in a way that will build trust and strengthen your relationship.
If you pet them in areas that they don’t like, your guinea pig will develop fear and anxiety and always dislike being petted.
How to Train Your Guinea Pig to Enjoy Being Petted
If your guinea pig doesn’t prefer the type of affection you want to show it, training it to like being petted will be necessary for both of you to develop a good relationship.
Follow these steps to train your guinea pig to enjoy being petted:
- Find a comfortable and quiet location for each petting session. Your guinea pig will be more open to petting if it doesn’t have to worry about sudden noises, other animals, or other humans interrupting the quiet.
- Place your guinea pig on a solid surface. Often, just holding your guinea pig for extended lengths of time can help it adjust to the feeling of being touched or held.
- Gently start to pet your guinea pig on top of its head or under its chin. If your guinea pig accepts this, continue for a moment or two and then give it a break. If your guinea pig doesn’t like the petting, pull away and try again later.
- Give your guinea pig a treat. Having food with you can help calm your guinea pig and make it more open to being petted. Associating you or being petted with food can make your guinea pig more comfortable and relaxed over time.
- Always make sure you are petting your guinea pig in the direction its fur grows. It can be hard to tell sometimes which way your guinea pigs fur is growing, so if you are unsure, look for signs of discomfort from your guinea pig while you pet it.
Do Guinea Pigs Like to Be Held?
Yes! We’re so glad you asked. Our guinea pigs love lap time and cuddles with either of us. My husband and brother have spent time caring for them, bonding with playtime, treat training and interaction with soothing vocal tones.
We gained the trust of our little cavies before we picked them up gently and introduced our laps to them as another safe space to nestle or burrow into.
Be careful when allowing children or anyone without experience to handle your guinea pig. Cavies may allow others to pet, cuddle or hold them, but watch the physical expression of your guinea pigs and see if they are comfortable.
Avoiding injuries is crucial, but minimizing stress that could be hard to notice for novice caregivers is equally important. Otherwise, your guinea pig may retreat, hide and refuse interaction for quite a while until trust is gained again.
Why Guinea Pig Shakes When I Pet Him?
The shaking you are witnessing or feeling could range from:
- Fearsome panicking
Guinea pigs who are shivering feel too cold and will shake to warm up. Feel the ears. Are they cold? The external temperatures should be 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit and never dip below that unless you are giving them heating pads or a fleece blanket. Let’s go back inside.
Guinea pigs shake when they are scared. This process of getting to know you is new for both of you. Trust and bonding happens with time and patience. Gently put your guinea pig back or stop petting for now. Use your soothing voice instead and offer a treat.
Vibrations are usually occurring during courting of a mate or out of happiness. This one is a success, because your guinea pig is happy to see you, but we hope they aren’t too happy to think you’re a potential mate!
Any of these feelings coupled with teeth chattering could be a sign of concern. Put down or stop petting your guinea pig because this could be a sign of aggression or exerting dominance. Take a break and try again later.
Guinea Pig Purring When Stroked (What Does It Mean?)
Purring is usually a very positive sign. You are doing well and your guinea pig is happy that you have chosen him or her. You are a favorite human and they are content to be with you.
They may also express contentment for their surrounding environment with gentle purring. Petting or stroking your guinea may induce this sound because we are caring for social animals who enjoy the contact of bonded humans or companions.
If your guinea pig is not purring when your friend or family member tries to pet them, this means they haven’t associated their touch as a trusted action. They prefer you instead.
Teach your friends or family to use soothing vocal tones and to repeat the name of your guinea pig. Slowly and gently, with you nearby, your guinea pig will also feel comfortable with this contact.
Stop altogether if you see and hear teeth chattering. This could mean that they are annoyed or may wish to respond aggressively if the forced petting action continues.
Do Skinny Guinea Pigs Like to Be Held?
Yes, but only with gentle care. Skinny guinea pigs are just as affectionate, if not more than their counterparts who are pudgier. They can be more docile, but also more skittish.
Allow them the time and be patient to not immediately pet the first skinny guinea pig you see right away. Introduce them to their home, allow them to be desensitized to the noises or external stimuli present in your environment that you are so used to.
In time, they will adjust as well and wish to feel your touch. They are cuddly, cute, but very sensitive as well. Try not to pet their underside or feet. Start with their head and chin. See how your skinny pig reacts. Let them be your guide.
If you feel and hear vibration, you are doing the right thing when it resembles purring. If you hear teeth chattering or see it, stop for now and build more trust.
Shivering can result from skinny hairless guinea pigs who need more warmth in their enclosures. Keep them comfortable and they will be more willing to be held by you. You will warm them as well.
Do Guinea Pigs Like to Be Pet Under Their Chin?
In my experience, I’ve found that my guinea pigs LOVE being petted under their chin. This is one of their favorite areas to be touched and stroked. Each guinea pig may express their own preference for their favorite spot to be petted.
They may vocalize it with purring or approach you and burrow into your lap deeper out of comfort. Some of their absolute favorite spots are listed below:
Favorite Petting Spots for Guinea Pigs
- Under the chin
- Behind the ears
- Above the forehead
- Along the back
- On the head
Some of these areas are sensitive and need your gentle touch only. Make sure you are petting in the direction their hair grows.
Starting to pet your guinea pig for the first few times should be done so under the chin. It’s a great starting point. We believe petting their underside or feet is a no-no as ours do not like it at all.
Where Do Guinea Pigs Like to Be Scratched?
Is your guinea pig itchy? We hope that your guinea pig enjoys the gentle scratches you are offering. They like to do this to each other so why not join in the fun?
Some guinea pigs can hurt each other if their nails are too long or sharp. They may not intend any harm, but accidents happen. Be careful with your own nails and make sure they are rounded and smooth.
Start by scratching under the chin and over the head. Do not scratch their belly or feet. The back may be a large area to pet or scratch, but some guinea pigs do not like it there. Watch, feel and notice what your guinea pigs are enjoying.
They will vocalize it or show you with body language that they like it and wish for you to continue. A guinea pig who scratches themselves too often could be dealing with mites or other parasites. They may also be experiencing skin irritations.
Carefully observe and examine to the best of your ability to make sure there is nothing noticeable to cause intense itching.
Guinea pigs are smart and friendly pets that can be fun to have in your home. Taking care of a guinea pig includes bonding with it and developing a loving relationship.
This can be done through petting, but because not all guinea pigs naturally enjoy being petted, you may need to train yours to tolerate it.