Petting and holding your guinea pigs is perhaps the most enjoyable part of being a pet owner!
However, it’s essential to remember piggies are sometimes fearful, nervous animals when being held and touched by someone a hundred times their size.
Knowing where your guinea pigs like to be scratched and petted and understanding how to handle them properly are essential to keeping them happy and healthy.
Although every individual guinea pig has their own preferences to some extent, most guinea pigs greatly enjoy being gently scratched or petted behind their ears, above their forehead, under their chin, or along their back.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about where your piggies like to be scratched, tell if they enjoy the way you’re handling them, and safely pick them up so they feel as secure and comfortable as possible in your hands.
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Do Guinea Pigs Like to Be Scratched or Petted?
Generally, yes, guinea pigs enjoy being petted, scratched and stroked.
However, it’s crucial as a guinea pig owner to note first and foremost: that all piggies are different!
If you own more than one piggy (which is ideal, as they are very social animals!), you’ve probably noticed they all have individual preferences and personalities.
Depending on their background, what they’ve experienced, and their personal preferences, some pigs will enjoy being handled more than others.
Additionally, some pigs are very shy and need more time to adjust to handling than others.
It all depends on who they are as an individual!
Still, if any of your guinea pigs don’t seem very receptive to your touch yet, don’t fret.
Even the grumpiest or most skittish piggies will come around to enjoy being held, petted, and handled, provided you handle them correctly, safely, and respectfully.
When handling your pigs, consider mentally putting yourself in their position–how would you initially react if a giant, strange creature suddenly scooped you up and started petting you?
You’d probably be a bit freaked out, at least at first!
There’s a chance you’d even react violently or attempt to escape at all costs.
This is why it’s essential to understand their body language, where they like (and don’t like) to be touched, and how to hold and pet them without upsetting them.
Learn where guinea pigs like to be tickled (if they do at all!).
Where Do Guinea Pigs Like Being Scratched?
First, let’s look at some of the most common places guinea pigs enjoy being scratched, stroked, and petted.
Again, as we touched on above, all piggies are different, but there are a few safe bets for favorite petting spots.
Some of the best spots guinea pigs like being scratched include areas they cannot reach themselves very easily.
For example, behind the ears, under the chin, around the cheeks, atop the head between the ears, and along the middle of the back are great spots.
Additionally, many piggies also enjoy belly rubs, but exposing their belly often makes them feel fearful and vulnerable if they aren’t very used to being held and touched.
It takes time and careful, repeated handling and socialization for most guinea pigs to get used to and become comfortable being petted and held.
There are also a few spots to avoid when handling your guinea pigs, such as around the eyes and mouth, as this sometimes makes them feel threatened.
Most guinea pigs also don’t particularly enjoy their feet or any other sensitive areas being touched.
Avoid pinching, squeezing, or rough handling, as you’re dealing with a very small and delicate animal.
Remember, your guinea pig is a prey animal with a sensitive heart, and it’s entirely possible for them to go into shock or even be “scared to death!”
Avoid making sudden movements or loud sounds whenever you’re interacting with your guinea pigs.
How Do You Pick Up and Pet a Guinea Pig?
Knowing how to properly handle a guinea pig is essential to bonding with your piggy and ensuring they are happy and healthy.
Guinea pigs generally enjoy being handled, but they are also skittish and will take time to get used to you and your touch first.
Before you ever attempt holding and directly handling your guinea pig, it’s good to get them settled into their new home for a few days.
This will allow them to calm down, get used to their surroundings, and understand when feeding times occur and where to find shelter and water.
They’ll also need time to get to know their cagemates.
Over time, you’ll notice your piggy start to calm down and settle into a routine.
After about a week or so in their new home, you’ll be able to start approaching them to pet them gently.
As we covered earlier, some ideal spots for petting are behind the ears, atop the head, and along the back.
Whenever you approach your guinea pig with your hands, always do so very slowly from the side rather than head-on.
Avoid hovering directly over them, as they are prey animals who understand and interpret shadows overhead as imminent danger.
Start slowly and small with little strokes around the ears and head here and there before working your way up to holding them.
If at any point while handling your guinea pig starts to squeal, struggle, or nip at you, there’s your sign to leave them alone for a bit and attempt handling again later.
Having a favorite snack on hand any time you handle them is a great way to build their trust.
Once you’re ready to progress to holding your guinea pig, again, approach them slowly and from the sides.
Scoop one hand under their belly and hind legs to hold them securely, and place your other hand around their side and over their back very gently.
Hold them close to your body and stay low to the ground (or hold them directly over a cushioned, stable surface like a pillow).
How to Tell if Your Guinea Pig is Happy
There are a few ways to tell if your furry friend is happy, uncomfortable, or even outright upset during handling.
For starters, happy guinea pigs will often rub their nose against you or lick your hands as a sign of affection (or, in some cases, to lick the sweat off your skin–weird, but they like the saltiness!).
They will also breathe more slowly, behave more relaxed, and not struggle or attempt to escape or avoid your grasp.
If they especially enjoy being handled by you, they will even run to greet you later when you approach their cage!
If you’re lucky, you’ll even notice them “popcorning” when you approach–this is a humorous term for when guinea pigs run and leap into the air excitedly.
Listening to your piggy’s sounds is a good way to get an idea of how they’re feeling, too.
They will sometimes let out a deep “purring” sound when they enjoy being petted or handled.
However, more high-pitched, sudden, or loud sounds like hissing or chirping (along with bared teeth) often indicate discomfort or irritation, so listen closely to them!
In short, pay close attention to their body language and sounds.
If they’re struggling, biting, and making upset-sounding noises, end the petting session, release them gently back to their cage, offer them a treat, and gradually work back up to handling.
In relation to this topic, see our other article on why guinea pigs nibble and lick.