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Why Are Guinea Pigs So Scared?

Guinea pigs have a lot of unique traits. 

For all their charm, they’re known for their nervous nature as well. 

Why are guinea pigs so scared? 

Guinea pigs are prey animals, so they’ve evolved in ways to give them a better chance against those predators. Often, guinea pig owners see signs of this concept, such as high anxiety and vigilance in their guinea pigs, even in a domestic setting.

If you’re a guinea pig owner worried about your scared guinea pig, keep reading! 

We’ll look at everything you need to know to help your potentially terrified guinea pig.

why are guinea pigs so scared

Easily Scared Guinea Pigs 

The primary reason guinea pigs have such a nervous disposition is their natural status as prey animals. 

A cavy would fall closer to the lower end of the food chain in the wild. 

Like your cat or dog might have certain behaviors or traits indicative of a predator, a pet guinea pig will show signs present in prey animals. 

This includes their instinct of hypervigilance which can lead them to startle easily. 

When they’re safe inside their cage in your home, this vigilance doesn’t usually help a pet guinea pig avoid predators. 

However, the prey species is still rather anxious.

Related: Are Mice And Guinea Pigs Compatible?

What Are Signs of Fear in Guinea Pigs? 

If you’re a new guinea pig owner, you might not know what to look out for in your piggie pals as signs of fear. 

There are a few things to signal anxiety in guinea pigs. 

For one, guinea pigs love to move; they’re rather active animals! 

If they have a furry friend in their cage, you might see them run together or separately. 

When a guinea pig is scared, they tend to move much less. 

If they’re suddenly startled by something like a loud noise, they may freeze in place and assess their surroundings for signs of predators. 

In a long-term sense, a fearful guinea pig will hide more often than usual and stay in its hiding spot rather than exploring.

Ongoing stress in guinea pigs may also present in changes in guinea pig behavior like chewing on cage bars

For more information on guinea pigs running around, check out our detailed article.

This is natural for a guinea pig to do from time to time since they do love to chew. 

However, excessive chewing can signal stress or fear. 

Another behavioral change you might see is your usually friendly guinea pig acting more aggressive or these herd animals staying away from their friends.

Is It Normal for Guinea Pigs to be Scared? 

Well, it depends on the situation. 

Like any other animal, certain situations can cause stress for a cavy because their needs aren’t being fully met. 

However, even the best pet parent might see some guinea pig fears surface in their cavy from time to time. 

There are differences in the personalities of guinea pigs too. 

Owners who have a pair of guinea pigs or more might notice some have a more fearful disposition than others. 

One very common reason your guinea pig might startle is sudden noises. 

Like you might jump at loud noises, your guinea pig is likely to do the same. 

You might also notice additional anxiety in these social creatures when they’re in a new environment. 

This can include situations such as when you first bring your new pet home, move from house to house, or even change cages. 

Over time, they’ll get used to their new environment and calm down. 

Your guinea pig may also show fear when in pain or unwell. 

If you notice your piggie acting differently than normal or showing signs of an injury or illness, it’s best to schedule a trip to the vet. 

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How Do I Get My Guinea Pig to Stop Being Scared? 

This is another question dependent on the circumstances surrounding it. 

For instance, if a sudden, loud noise leads up to your terrified guinea pig, they may need a few moments of peace and quiet to calm back down. 

New Environments

If a distressed guinea pig is nervous in a new environment, it’ll need some time to adjust and extra reassurance. 

This means giving them space before handling them unnecessarily and ensuring they have a calm environment with all their basic needs met, such as food, water, and safe entertainment. 

The point here is to show your piggie they’re in a safe environment. 

Over time, they’ll relax in a comfortable, calm, and consistent environment. 

Introducing Yourself

When you first meet your guinea pig, they may not warm up to you right away. 

To them, humans they don’t know are just larger animals, potentially larger predators. 

This can stir a lot of anxiety in guinea pigs.

After they’ve settled into their environment, it’s time to work on spending some quality time together. 

If you just scoop your cavy out of their cage, though, you’re likely to startle them. 

Instead, start slowly and focus on getting them comfortable in their environment and around you by spending some special time together at your pet’s pace.

First, let them get familiar with you. 

A good way to approach your guinea pig is to approach them directly; you don’t want to surprise them!

Make sure to crouch down for floor time sessions as well. 

This will help you get closer to their level and seem less imposing. 

Once they’re comfortable being held, staying close to the ground will also help them from startling at the height. 

Before you step towards holding your guinea pig, it’s best to spend plenty of quality time with their feet planted firmly on the ground. 

Allowing them to play in floor time sessions or even get used to your scent may take lots of time, but it will help you and your guinea pig avoid a bad experience. 

One of the most common mistakes is moving too fast for your guinea pig, so pay attention to the cues they give you as you interact with them! 

Further Reading: How Early Can Hold Baby Guinea Pigs.

Fear from Pain

You might notice signs of fear in your guinea pig when they aren’t feeling well. 

Pay attention to other signs potentially accompanying their fear, such as: 

  •  Reduced appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Weight loss
  • Changes in bathroom habits
  • Unusually bothered by contact
  • Changes in breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Hair loss

Of course, this list isn’t fully comprehensive, but these are some of the most common signs of illness in a guinea pig. 

If you see these or any other signs of illness or an injury, it’s best to take your guinea pig in for a visit to the vet. 

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