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Pigs Still Not Settled In?

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Junior Guinea Pig
Oct 16, 2014
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Vancouver, Canada
So I have had my pigs for about 6 months now (since October) and they are still so skittish. They will come out and eat and drink when I'm there, it's just if I place my hand in the cage, BOOM, there they go into a hidey. I try my very best not to make sudden movements, but they are easily scared.

(Some background) When I got them, it was really unexpected. My family went over to someone's house and somehow we came out with two pigs! Their previous cage was quite small (they are now in a 2x5 c&c) and the previous family had a dog (Great Dane so it was BIG dog). They were also bought from pet stores and weren't given any daily veggies or play time.

In the cage, I cannot pet them, nor place my hand near them unless I have something yummy (a carrot). They were like this ever since I got them, I thought they will get used to me in the future but it hasn't changed. Is it something to do with my daily handling? I try my best to weigh them every week and trim nails when they get too long, but it gets way to hard when they are constantly trying to get away from me. In playpen time they just sit in the corner doing nothing. I always have to trap them into a corner and pick them up with a towel to pick them up.

Is there anything different I can try and do? Should I change the routine? Is it just their personality? I really want a good bond with my piggies.

I think changing routines might be helpful. How often do you handle them? My two boys really did not like being handled, but I was not handling them that often (probably about once a week), and after I had them for about 6 months so a similar time to you now I started holding both of them every day or at least every other day, initially for 2-3 minutes and over time building it up. This seriously helped a LOT and I wished I had done it right from getting them instead of leaving it so long. Now I can hold them for a good 15-20 minutes on good days before they get irritiated, and they are both calm and relaxed on my lap and enjoy getting stroked. I would suggest trying something like this but it does take a good few weeks before I noticed differences so you have to be patient and keep it up.

On the other hand, some pigs are never really going to be lap pigs. Although mine both like a little cuddle, it does depend on their mood how long they want to sit for and sometimes theyre not interested, and I dont think they will ever be the kind of pigs that stretch out and go to sleep on my lap like some other peoples. One of my pigs, Martin, is still very skittish too - he doesn't like any noise, he rumbles at certain drum beats in music and stuff and gets very startled if I turn the hoover on or anything like that whereas Nelson has got used to all of that and doesn't barely move. We've had them both over a year now but they are different personalities so I accept that Martin is always going to be shy and a bit jumpy. He will eat veg from my hand in the cage and out of it, but he won't let me touch him in the cage at all, he runs away (even though he likes a stroke on my lap). I don't know why but they were both rescue pigs and ex-children's pets so I wonder whether he was poked about by children in his old cage so doesn't like to be touched in the cage.

I know you might feel like you've had them a long time and they haven't progressed as you hoped, but I felt exactly the same as you but in reality all pigs are different and progress at their own paces and they have their own personalities and some are just more shy than others. With regards to floor time, we've been in this flat since June and literally only since about two months ago have they felt comfortable walking about and exploring, because it took them THAT long to get used to the slippery laminate flooring. They enjoyed floor time quicker in our old property as that had carpet. Still, as Martin is so skittish he still often just walks underneath our side table and sits there. You just have to be patient. Try putting lots of hideys out when they have floor time and then they can move from one to the other easier without being exposed, you could put out food in a line too to try and coax them out to follow it. Stuff like that, you have to be inventive lol.
One thing we don't know is how long they were in that house or what that dog was like! Aside from the fantastic advice above your piggies may well have been traumatised and if this is the case you can imagine why anything big coming near/into the cage would scare the bejesus out of them. It's not your fault or their fault and it can take a very long time to gain trust after something like that.

That said I have found some of my most rewarding moments with piggies have been from gaining trust and seeing behaviour changes in very scared piggies. Perserverence is what you need :)
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