Earning your Guinea Pig's love and trust can sometimes feel painstakingly difficult. You try to do all the right things, but your little spud muffin just isn’t warming up to you. What’s a piggy parent to do? How can you get your furry potato to fall in love with you?
Well, fret no more. The following seven tips will fast-track you straight to your Guinea Pigs heart! And have them eating out of the palm of your hand…literally!
I know how it feels to have unrequited love from a newly adopted piggy.
It’s hard to see them run and hide every time you approach their cage. Especially when all you want to do is love and snuggle them! This is exactly why I’m sharing these tips. I want you to know just what to do to create a long-lasting bond with your cute little Cavies.
as an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases. This site contains affiliate links which means I may earn a small fee if you make a purchase using my affiliate link, at no extra cost to you!
Tip 1. Hay! Hay! Hay! Feed your Guinea Pigs lots of HAY every day.
Hay is to Guinea Pigs like water is to fish. They need unlimited amounts of hay 24/7 to survive. It’s 80% of their diet!
How much hay do Guinea Pigs need per day?
LOTS! They need enough to burrow in. So big piles! Ideally, they should be able to easily walk into and through their hay.
For this reason, you may want to avoid using any type of hay rack or hay bag, because it restricts their access to hay and may reduce the amount of hay they eat.
Hay is not only food but also a large part of their enrichment because it satisfies their foraging behavior and their need to hide.
Think about how much you love snuggling up with a warm cozy blanket on a cold night. Well, hay is just like a warm security blanket for them. Your Guinea pig will love having nice piles of hay to snuggle up in.
They love to hide, play, and relieve themselves in their hay. Yes, it’s kinda gross that they pee and poop where they eat, but it’s just part of their charm!
Don’t think of it as being wasteful when they use their hay as their toilet. Instead, think of it as part of their necessary environment.
Q: How many times do I use the words POO, POOP and POOPY in this blog post? Nothing says “I Love You” like potty talk right? (Answers at the end)
Why do Guinea Pigs need so much hay?
They need to have constant access to high-fiber hay to keep their digestive systems going. If they don’t eat enough hay, then their digestion slows down or stops. This is referred to as gut stasis and can be life-threatening if not treated immediately.
If your Guinea Pig has a reduced appetite or stops eating then get them to a vet right away to check for underlying health problems.
Guinea Pigs' teeth grow continuously throughout their lives. So, they need to ABC (Always Be Chewing) rough food like hay to wear their teeth down.
If you notice your piggy is having difficulty chewing, then their teeth may need to be checked out by a Cavy Savvy vet to rule out overgrown molars or other dental issues.
What type of hay is best for Guinea Pigs?
Timothy Hay is probably the most common type of hay for Guinea Pigs. It offers plenty of fiber and texture to support healthy digestion and dental care. This is what you’ll find in most pet stores.
If you have allergies to Timothy Hay then Orchard Grass is a good alternative. I use Orchard Grass more in the colder months when I can’t air out the hay dust by opening the windows.
You can also offer a mixture of Botanical Hay and Meadow Hay if you have picky Guinea Pigs. These varieties are said to be a little sweeter and softer than Timothy Hay.
Oat hay is firmer and crunchier, making this a great choice for keeping Guinea Pigs teeth worn down.
Alfalfa Hay is high in calcium and is recommended for pregnant and nursing sows as well as baby Guinea Pigs under 6 months old.
Adult Guinea Pigs shouldn’t eat Alfalfa Hay due to the high levels of calcium which can lead to kidney stones. Stick to Timothy, Orchard, Meadow, and Oat grass for older Guinea Pigs (over 6 months old).
Offer a variety of different hays and see which type your Guinea Pigs like the best! They’ll be smitten with you when you bring them their favorite hay refills.
Where can I buy hay for my Guinea Pigs?
You can get bags of hay in most pet stores, but I prefer to buy mine in bulk online. I also use the auto-ship subscription feature to save even more each month. Both Chewy and Amazon offer discounted hay subscriptions.
It’s much cheaper and more cost-effective to buy hay in bulk because Guinea Pigs go through so much of it every day. They definitely live up to the name “piggy”!
Tractor Supply stores or feed stores often have bulk hay available for purchase. Another option is through local farms. If you’re lucky enough to have a livestock farm near you they may sell you hay for a lot less than retail stores.
Cavy Savvy Tip: Buy Hay in Bulk and store it in large airtight trash cans to keep it fresh and free of mildew. Always store hay in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight.
Tip 2. Give them Treats!
You know what they say. The way to a Guinea Pigs heart is through their stomach. And there’s no better way to win over your piggy's heart than with treats!
If your Guinea Pigs are anything like mine, they wheek every time I walk in the room. It’s like I have my very own welcome committee! And just because they beg constantly, doesn’t mean I have to give them a treat every time! Although, I know they’d disagree.
Remember they’re pigs and beggin’ is just what they do. So, a few pea flakes each day won’t hurt them. Plus, it’s easier to bond with your Guinea Pig by hand feeding them the foods they love.
What kind of treats are safe for my Guinea Pigs?
A slice or leaf of their favorite veggie. My Guinea Pigs favorite veggies treats are the leafy tops of celery, small pieces of carrot, parsley, dandelion leaves and fresh basil.
A small piece of fruit. Some of my piggies' favorite fruits are seedless grapes, strawberry tops, Cara Cara Oranges, and bananas. Most of mine love bananas with the exception of Snickers and Pip. Neither one of them will touch a banana. They’ll sniff it then run away like I’m offering them poison. It’s hilarious! To each their own I guess.
They also love these Oxbow Simple Rewards Baked Treats with Carrot and Dill. They’re on auto-ship per Gus’s request. It’s hard to say no to my little “house hippo”.
These aptly named Wheeky Pets pea flakes are by far the clear winner with my piggies.
To sum it up, here’s a list of safe and healthy Guinea Pig treats:
- Strawberries (they love the green leafy tops!)
- Dandelion greens
- Oxbow Simple Rewards Baked Treats with Cranberry
- Wheeky Pets pea flakes
What treats are NOT safe for my Guinea Pigs?
All treats are not created equal. Just because a treat is sold and marketed for Guinea Pigs doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good choice for them.
Their gastrointestinal system isn’t designed to handle foods that are high in sugar and fat. It’s best to avoid things like Yogurt Drops and other artificially flavored treats that contain dairy which can really upset their tummies.
Another treat I see being sold for Guinea Pigs is compressed bars of seeds and nuts. These often contain honey. I say, skip these as they can pose a choking hazard and are not a healthy choice due to the high sugar and fat content.
To sum it up, here’s a list of UNSAFE and UNHEALTHY Guinea Pig treats:
- Yogurt Drops
- Dried Fruit
- Compressed seed and nut bars
- Puffed Rice or other grains
- Colored cereal pieces often found in pellet mixes
How much and how often can I give my Guinea Pigs treats?
As tempting as it is to feed them lots of treats, it should only make up about 2% of their diet. So, only give them a small piece of fruit once or twice a week, due to the high sugar content.
Any veggies high in calcium and oxalates should also be given in moderation. This is due to an increased risk for urinary or kidney problems like bladder stones. Dark leafy green veggies typically have higher calcium and higher oxalates like Swiss Chard, Collard Greens, and Spinach. So, feed these sparingly, as in just a few times per month.
Treats like pea flakes should only be given 1-2 teaspoons per day max due to their high protein content. The serving size for one Guinea Pig looks about like what’s in the palm of my hand.
Have fun with your Guinea Pig! Hide treats to encourage foraging behavior. This is also a great bonding exercise.
Keep them interested by hiding treats in snuffle mats for them to forage and find. You could also, stuff treats in cardboard boxes or paper bags filled with hay so they have to work a little harder for their goodies!
Tip 3. Vitamin C! Keep them healthy with Vitamin C.
A healthy pig is a happy pig! And happy pigs will love you more when they feel good.
Just like humans, Guinea Pigs don’t create their own vitamin C. They need daily vitamin C to keep their vital organs, fur, skin, teeth, and immune system running properly.
Without enough vitamin C, they can develop Scurvy. If they're extremely Vit C deficient they can lose the ability to walk or use their back legs. They will appear lethargic and weak along with a reduced appetite.
The Exotic Animal Medicine Department at NC State Veterinary Hospital reports that congestive heart failure in Guinea Pigs is directly related to a lack of vitamin C in their diet. So, I cannot emphasize the importance of Vitamin C enough!
If you notice any weakness or difficulty walking, get them to the vet immediately. You may need to give them liquid vitamin C right away via a syringe!
What Guinea Pig foods are high in Vit C?
Bell Pepper (also called Capsicum annuum) is a nutritious vitamin C rich vegetable perfect for your Guinea Pigs! You can give them Red, Yellow, and Green Bell Peppers every day. This is a staple veggie in our house.
Here are some Guinea Pig friendly veggies high in Vit C:
- Bell Pepper all colors
- Brussels sprouts
- Swiss chard
Dark leafy veggies like Kale and Spinach are not to be given every day due to being high in calcium and oxalates, which can lead to kidney stones.
Your best bet is to offer your piggies a wide variety of colorful veggies to provide optimally balanced nutrition.
Do Guinea Pigs need supplemental liquid Vitamin C?
If they’re fed an assortment of fresh vitamin C rich veggies daily, like Bell Peppers, then no.
But, if they’re not getting daily veggies that are high in Vitamin C, or if they’re sick or not eating well, then yes you will need to supplement them with Vitamin C. This will help boost their immunity and keep them healthy!
What kind of liquid Vit C is safe for my Guinea Pig?
I like this Child’s Life Liquid Vitamin C. I give this to my human son when he’s got a cold. Plus, it tastes great! This is also what my exotic vet recommended when my Guinea Pig Poppy was sick. She LOVES it and will try yanking the syringe from my hand when I give it to her.
How much liquid Vitamin C do I need to give my Guinea Pig?
If you have a sick or poorly piggy then my vet recommends giving 1ml or 1cc equivalent to 50mg per day. Check the dosage on the bottle as mg per ml may vary between brands. Any extra Vitamin C they don’t need will pass through their system and be excreted with their urine.
Never put liquid multi vitamins or Vit C in their water!
Vitamin C degrades very quickly when exposed to water, heat, and light. So by putting liquid Vit C in their water it loses its potency and becomes ineffective. It's a waste of money too! Plus, liquid multi-vitamins make the water taste bad and they won’t drink as much water if it tastes funny, which can lead to dehydration or digestive problems.
What about Guinea Pig Pellets? Don’t they have Vitamin C?
Yes, Guinea Pig pellets do have some Vit C, but it’s not as good as the vitamins and nutrients they get from eating fresh veggies! Plus, the vitamin C that’s added to pellets degrades over time and becomes less effective depending on how long it’s been sitting on the shelf.
So, don’t depend solely on pellets to meet the daily Vit C requirements for your piggies. It’s just not enough.
These Oxbow Vitamin C biscuits double as a vitamin supplement and as a treat!
Mine go wild when they hear the crinkle of the Vit C bag. I give them a few times a week as a treat. Sometimes I’ll break them in half and give them one half in the morning and the other half at night. They think they’re getting something extra special. I keep these on auto delivery to get a discount.
Tip 4. Routine! Create a daily routine and your Guinea Pigs will love you for it!
When you have a daily routine and schedule for your Guinea Pigs, they’ll get used to being fed at a certain time and will begin to associate you with mealtime!
This way they’ll know what to expect and get excited when they see you approach their cage instead of running away from you!
Here’s what my daily routine looks like for my Guinea Pigs.
Morning Guinea Pig Schedule
Mid Day Guinea Pig Schedule
Evening Guinea Pig Schedule
Our Guinea Pigs LOVE their daily routine which means they LOVE me! AKA the food and treat delivery person. (Or, maybe they’re just users.)
Routine is the root of consistency. Lucky for you, I’ve got just the thing to help you with that! Snag your Free Weekly Guinea Pig Schedule and Checklist.
Tip 5. Talk to them!
An easy way to connect with your Guinea Pig is by talking to them. Or, you can serenade your piggies if that’s more your style!
The more your Guinea Pigs get to know your voice the more comfortable they’ll become with you. I love to sing, so my piggies are my involuntary audience when I’ve got a song stuck in my head. Lately, it’s been that song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno!” from Encanto. I can’t help myself, it's just so catchy!
How to talk to your Guinea Pig so they trust you.
Speak to them often, gently, and calmly when you first get them. You can tell them what you’re doing as you go about your day. The subject matter isn’t what’s important, but hearing your voice certainly is!
Bond with your Piggies by reading them a book!
Have your kids read to them. This is a great way to encourage reading for young or reluctant readers. Plus, Guinea Pigs aren’t judgemental and they won’t know if a word is mispronounced or if a few pages are skipped. They’re just happy for the company!
Guinea Pigs love music too!
If you can’t talk to them throughout the day then play some soothing music. My herd responds very well to relaxing music and I can tell by the way they sprawl out that they like the sound of music over just a silent room. There’s a Guinea Pig music station on YouTube that my piggies love!
Tip 6. Floortime! Give them playtime outside of their cage.
Why is floor time, playtime, or time outside of their cage so important for Guinea Pigs?
Floortime gives them a change of scenery and a chance to explore new areas. It’s also mentally stimulating for them to experience different areas, smell new scents, and see things beyond the walls of their cage.
They can also interact more with you during floor time. When you’re sitting on their level you can let them crawl around and over your legs. They’ll learn that you’re not a predator and will gain confidence by being near you outside of their cage.
How often do Guinea Pigs need floor time?
If you really want your piggies to love you then play with them every day!
If their cage is the very bare minimum size of 7.5 square feet, according to the humane society, then it would be great if you can offer them some floor time outside of their cage for 30 minutes to an hour each day.
This way they can stretch their legs and get some much needed exercise!
You can read more about our cage size recommendations under question 6. Yes, we do recommend a larger minimum cage size of 10 square feet for two Guinea Pigs.
This is because 7.5 square feet is very cramped for two piggies living together once you add in two hides, two beds, large piles of hay and anything else you put in their cage.
If you don’t have the space to secure a designated Guinea Pig play area, then a simple alternative would be something like this pop up expandable hexagon playpen. We use this to hold the piggies while we do full cage cleans. They really like running around in there.
Cleanup is a cinch with this waterproof hexagon liner. I just roll it up and shake it out outside before popping it in the washer.
How to set up a free roam space for your Guinea Pigs.
- Block off any areas they can hide such as under couches, behind furniture or entertainment centers. You can use extra pieces of coroplast, pillows, cardboard boxes or extra cage grids to block off any areas you want to keep them away from.
- Put blankets or towels down on slippery floors so they have traction and aren't slipping around as they try to walk. This will also help keep the poop and pee off your regular floor!
- We like to use this expandable pet play pen to create a safe space for our Guinea Pigs to roam around. Bonus, it’s big enough for us to sit in too.
Tips to help your Guinea Pig feel safe during floor time.
- Start slowly. Let them come up to you without trying to immediately pick them up. Entice them to come closer with treats! This builds trust. They’ll become more secure around you if they know that you won’t try to pick them up every time they come near you. Let it be on their terms.
- Build up to picking them up and holding them during play time. Allow them to explore their environment first. As they get more comfortable with you they’ll begin to trust you more and will come to you for more treats and interaction. Your Guinea Pig will surely love you if you do this!
- Use Treats! Hide treats to encourage their natural foraging behavior! Snuffle mats are a fun way to watch your Guinea Pig root around in search of a yummy surprise.
- You could also stuff treats in small toilet paper rolls, cardboards boxes or paper bags filled with hay. It makes them work just a little harder for their goodies!
- Keep it cozy! Use a snuggle sack or small fleece bed to hold them if they’re timid. Snuggle sacks help them feel more secure and they’re also great for catching any poo and pee accidents.
While you have your Guinea Pig out, do a quick health check!
If you’re holding them, use floortime as an opportunity to do a quick body scan. Check them from their nose down to their toes.
You’re looking for:
- Skin – Any dry or irritated patches of skin? Cuts or scrapes?
- Fur – Dull, Sparse, or missing fur?
- Body – Bumps, lumps, or swollen areas?
- Teeth – Drooling, difficulty chewing or swallowing?
- This is often due to overgrown incisors (front teeth) or molars (back teeth) that are too long or aren’t lining up properly. If you notice difficulty with eating or hesitation to take food into their mouth, then they’ll require a trip to the vet for an exam. I don’t want to freak you out, but don’t delay! Anytime they can’t eat, their health is at great risk and they can decline very quickly.
- Nails – Are their nails getting too long or starting to curl? It’s time for a nail trim if so. You can DIY or have your vet or local groomer do it for you until you get comfortable trimming them yourself. Nail trims will need to be done every 3 to 4 weeks.
Tip 7. Tidy up! Keep their cage clean.
How often do I need to clean my Guinea Pig’s cage?
Clean Cage = Happy Cavy!
- At least daily. Did I mention how much they poop? A clean cage is a great way to show your Guinea Pig how much you love them. When I put my piggies back into their clean cages, they begin to popcorn and do zoomies around their fresh clean space. They also like to mark up their territory with fresh pee and poop. So, if you want evidence of your piggies' clean cage, then take a picture before you put them back in.
- Spot Clean Daily – Spot cleaning just means you sweep up poop and check for wet or soiled fleece or substrate like paper, or wood shavings. Then replace it with clean dry fleece or bedding.
- For daily spot cleaning, I use this hand vac to quickly suck up the poop and stary hay. If I need to clean while they’re still in their cage without freaking them out with the hand vac, I use this little hand sweep and dustpan set. I love that I can get into corners easily with the pointy end!
- A full cage cleaning means you take everything out of their cage, wash and disinfect it and set it back up with all fresh clean stuff. You’ll need to do this every few days or once a week depending on the number of Guinea Pigs you have, the type of bedding you use, and the size of their cage.
- I use this Pet Safe Cage Cleaner to help reduce odors. I also use a DIY version that’s just 50/50 water and white vinegar. It cleans and disinfects without added scents and chemicals.
- Water bottles – Clean water bottles inside and out with hot soapy water using a bottle brush and straw cleaner for the tube of the water bottle.
- Water bowls – If you use water bowls instead of water bottles they’ll need to be cleaned daily. My Guinea Pigs water bowls get gross really quickly, so I dump them out and refill them about three times a day. Cuz nobody wants to drink poopy water! These are similar to the ceramic water dishes I use and they do not tip over – even when my biggest Buddah boy Reese steps up on the side of it.
This touchless vacuum is great for cleaning up stray hay on the floor.
Whew! You made it!
That’s all 7 of my top tips for getting your Guinea Pig to love you.
Now you’ve got a clear road map to your Guinea Pig's heart.
You can start creating that love connection today! As long as you have time, patience, consistency, and treats of course!
Seriously, there’s no shame in bribing your piggies to love you with treats!
Oh, and if you’re curious about the answers to the Pop Quiz, here they are!
Answers: Poo 3, Poop 10, Poopy 3 (are you seeing a trend here?)
Let me know in the comments which tip you plan to use to make your piggy swoon! And, be sure to grab your Free Weekly Schedule and Checklist too.