Evaluating guinea pigs

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Post   » Mon Jun 11, 2018 8:26 pm

I will be getting some guinea pigs next month. I've read what to look for physically, clear eyes, no missing fur, clean nose, etc. But I'm wondering about personality.

What made me think of this was an ad on Craig's list I read this morning about someone trying to rehome two piggies. The person wrote that the person they bought the piggies from lied about their handling as the piggies were not tame and clearly never held. Assuming the ad maker was correct, which of course I'll never know, it got me thinking about what I should expect, or what I can insist on, when looking at a couple to adopt. Can handling be proven?

Can I/should I insist on holing them or having the owner/shelter worker hold them? How much interest should they show since they won't know me? I'd appreciate anyone's thoughts or experience with this.

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Post   » Mon Jun 11, 2018 11:29 pm

Guinea pigs are naturally timid. Many people have the idea they will be pets like a cat or dog but end up discouraged they are fearful. It takes time to win their trust. A few special guinea pigs in this world are truly people pigs but I don't think the majority are. Winning their trust, accepting them for who they are, is what I would hope for.

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Post   » Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:05 am

They won't show any interest in you at all. They're prey animals, and as such, are positive that anything else that moves is likely to eat them.

Many people have pigs that wouldn't really be considered "tame." They don't come when you call, unless they've learned that you're bringing food. They'll always be skittish.

If you're looking for a snuggly pet, you should probably get a kitten or a puppy.


Post   » Tue Jun 12, 2018 10:27 am

Actually though, these are good questions. It's true that all guinea pigs run from the hands when someone tries to pick them up and a good many of them do not like to be handled. That person from the Craigslist ad probably did not have a realistic expectation of how the pigs should act and assumed that they had not been handled. Guinea pigs in a new environment will be especially skittish because they are afraid.

I think it's really next to impossible to know the true personalities of guinea pigs if they are in a shelter. I used to pull pigs from shelters for our rescue and the pigs were always freaked out from that chaotic environment (strange settings, barking dogs, unfamiliar people, etc.). Then my home was yet another new environment and they were freaked out by that. But usually, after a few weeks, they would start to settle down and get more comfortable.

If you are going to someone's house to see guinea pigs, a lot depends on how long they have had them and what kind of care they were getting there. You have to look at the environment. Are they being kept in a tiny, crowded, dirty cage and they are being housed in a house with barking dogs, young children (that like to poke fingers in the cage) or cats that mill about the room? Yeah, then they are going to be freaking out. Have said children been allowed to chase them around the cage and pick them up? Have they been provided with decent quality pellets and hay? Is the water bottle clean and filled or full of brown gunk and nearly empty? All these things matter to how they will be acting. If they meet you at the door with the pigs in a cardboard box and they don't even let you IN the house, then you have to assume that their environment has been crappy.

If the house is clean, neat, and quiet, the pigs are housed in a well-kept and roomy cage and the people seem respectful and gentle of the pigs, then you may be able to trust the type of personalities that they exhibit when you visit. Be aware that just your presence will make them a bit scared because you are a stranger to them. I would ask that the owners handle them so you can determine HOW they handle them. They WILL still run from the hands and that is expected and normal. If you adopt them, they will be freaking out for the first few weeks after the move, but they will settle down.

I hope this helps. It is a wonderful thing to take in guinea pigs, especially from a shelter, and give them a good life. I get that if you have never had guinea pigs, it's hard to have realistic expectations of how they should act.


Post   » Tue Jun 12, 2018 3:03 pm

Yeah, as I was thinking about this more last night I wondered what that poster was thinking she'd be getting as far as behavior. I had piggies as a child and even my most friendly piggie did not like being picked up though she'd settle on my lap rather happily for treats.

WICharlie, I like what you wrote and appreciate your take. I did not consider what their current situation is like which is rather dumb on my part.

But in the end does it matter? As you all have mentioned, personalities are difficult to ascertain. So even if a piggie has never been handled I don't think that means it can't learn to be handled over time. Or at least endure it for things nail clippings even if it won't become a lap piggie.

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Post   » Tue Jun 12, 2018 6:50 pm

You're definitely giving this a lot of thought, which is great. From personal experience, I do think it's possible for a piggy to learn to be handled over time. It just takes a lot of patience, and letting things progress at the piggy's pace rather than yours. We've had mostly rescue pigs, and they have all come to trust us to some degree. Some aren't big on lap time, but they'll sometimes come up to the edge of the cage and want a head rub instead of running away.

We adopted a guinea pig that someone saved from being sold as snake food at a garage sale. Who knows what kind of conditions he endured for the first several months of his life. When we brought him home, I tried to handle him, but he fought and squirmed, so sometimes it was only 15 seconds of lap time before he went back to the cage. At the time, we didn't think he'd ever take to lap time or become a cuddler, and that was OK with us. Lap time got progressively longer over time, and now he'll settle down until he has to potty. He's been with us nearly four years, and last week, he actually felt safe enough to fall asleep while I was holding him. After this experience, I really think there's hope for almost any pig to come around at some point.

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