Rescue Guinea Pig Behaviour

AbiD

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Hi, I currently have two guinea pigs, one I have had for 4 years and one I rescued from a man who just couldn’t take care of him anymore almost a year ago in order to keep my 4 year old company as his cage mate sadly passed away. The piggy I rescued (Charlie) is very brave with new things and loves to run around the garden (we are completely fenced in so there is no danger to them and we let them both just free run around the garden). But I’ve found that Charlie acts very almost bipolar, as in one moment he’ll run up to you and literally stand on your feet and follow you around but then the next, you look at him and he freezes up and just stares at you and won’t move until you actively walk away out of sight from him. He also hates to be approached and hates being handled. The only time he will let me stroke him is when he is at his bowl and eating a food he likes. And then that’s only sometimes, most of the time he runs away and hides as soon as my hand approaches him, no matter how slowly I do it. My other guinea pig however will just sit and let me stroke him practically any time. I thought he might just need to settle in but it’s been almost a year and he still seems incredibly afraid of me, I just don’t know how to gain his trust.
 

Roselina

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Welcome to the forum 😀 I think Charlie’s behaviour sounds normal guinea pig as they are prey animals and don’t really like human contact. Your other guinea pig is maybe a different personality and ok with it. I wouldn’t worry about it ....it’s just Charlie. I’m sure more experienced forum members will be able to advise you very soon. You must post some pigtures - we love pigtures 😀
 

Piggies&buns

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:agr:
its entirely normal behaviour. They have their own characters. Most piggies do not like being touched, or handled.
 

AbiD

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Welcome to the forum 😀 I think Charlie’s behaviour sounds normal guinea pig as they are prey animals and don’t really like human contact. Your other guinea pig is maybe a different personality and ok with it. I wouldn’t worry about it ....it’s just Charlie. I’m sure more experienced forum members will be able to advise you very soon. You must post some pigtures - we love pigtures 😀
Here’s a picture of them both! The orange one is Charlie and my other baby Bruno. Thank you for the advise! 😌
 

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AbiD

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:agr:
its entirely normal behaviour. They have their own characters. Most piggies do not like being touched, or handled.
It’s such a shame because Bruno loves his cuddles and will just fall asleep on me and cuddle for hours! I was hoping Charlie would be the same but I’m content to let him do his own thing if that’s what makes him happy, at least I know it’s not something of my own doing, I was worried that I was doing something wrong. Thank you for the advice!
 

Roselina

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Here’s a picture of them both! The orange one is Charlie and my other baby Bruno. Thank you for the advise! 😌
Ah they ARE gorgeous ! Such lovely characters - and you know it’s not you just their little ways 🥰
 

Free Ranger

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My avatar pig George is also incredibly nervous. He's 3 1/2 and this pic is quite unusual in that you aren't seeing the whites of his terrified eyes... I seriously didn't recognise him when I looked at the photo! I've had him living in the kitchen for 2 years now: he recently lost his female (Ivy) who was the dominant one(!) We tried to introduce him to a young female who seemed to really like him but after about 15 minutes he suddenly chattered teeth and went for her. I think it was basically because she was young and moved suddenly which startled him - and that was that. I've never known a male reject a willing young female. She was fine BTW, but we're now on the hunt for an arthritic old Grandma.

I've always left him to it as he was happy piggin' around with Ivy and tame old Daisy (his lady-love) but in the few weeks since he's been sadly alone I've been trying to build more of a relationship to help him not be so afraid of life and I think it's actually starting to work. I'll tell you what we've been doing so you can see if there's anything you can try.

George has been handled more recently (partly because stress had led to a bit of impaction - enough said) but also we've been having breakfast together! I get up as it's starting to get light and make my tea/muesli. The pig(s) would normally wait to be uncovered, come and get a bit of veg and then start on pellets and hay. Now I sit on the floor and eat with George... and he's started to relax more around me. He'll come out to the bowl while I'm right there, and even though he's lovely I'm careful not to gaze at him too long or too directly (a predator 'stares'). I talk to him a lot more, 'answer' if he makes any noises, and go to the cage several times in the day just to pop my hand in and give a very brief touch with just one finger on his head or cheeks. He's now stopped leaping away when he sees the hand (which occasionally has parsley). Every day at 4 we have tea and biscuits and another veggie treat together - I sat on the floor by his cage again, but this time I put him in my lap for a while. Now we've reached the point where I carry him around the house for a few minutes first to see the rest of the family ("The Adventures of George" says my son) and then have him in my lap for a telly break in the other room. At first he trembled so violently I thought he'd expire with his white, staring eyes, but after the same routine every day he's learnt he's not going to die being lifted or carried or going somewhere different and there will eventually be munchies. Even so, he has to be settled on his towel in the same position facing left, with my left arm curled round him, and he has to be almost completely covered with just nose and eyes visible. Then I give his treat and have my break with tv on quietly. I talk to him and stroke his nose and under the chin - as much as he can manage. In the first days he was shaking and rigid with fear - he wouldn't touch the treat... the next few days he took a bite or two but barely chewed... I think he was trying to stay silent. He's gradually got braver and braver though. His trembling comes in waves now as if he's really trying to relax. Early on, he started to give me a gentle nip after about 5 minutes - that was enough and he wanted to go back to his house. As he gave the nip his eyes went really wide and fearful so I knew he was being as brave as he could be. Today was something of a triumph: he settled in position to be carried and when we got seated he went straight in at the treat (a piece of cabbage leaf) and after 5 minutes or so he finally stopped trembling! It felt really weird that he was so still - and I even felt him adjust his feet to settle into a more comfortable position. It has taken over 2 weeks to get to this stage. He relaxed for a good 15 minutes and then I felt the tiny nip. I was cheeky and pretended I'd not felt it - I carried on stroking him and telling him how brave he was. The a minute or two later another nip - definitely a little firmer and held for just a moment. How clever! So he was taken back to his cage and released. The other thing is although I have to 'pick him up' with my two hands I don't 'put him down'... I hold him securely and lower myself to the floor (actually a cushion - I'm not that limber) and let him climb out of my arms himself. This means he waits and steps off rather than fighting to escape and maybe flinging himself into the air. I hope he also feels a sense that he's not just a passive parcel - he's getting at least some choice in the matter.

So we are getting there but he'll never be as tame as old Daisy. I did wonder if a nervous temperament went hand-in-hand with those lovely rosettes as all my 'tufty' pigs have been spirited! The short haired ones (both smooth and rough) have been way more placid. I think there is hope that your pig can certainly build more of a relationship with you even if he's never as tame the other. Let us know how you get on... 💕
 

AbiD

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My avatar pig George is also incredibly nervous. He's 3 1/2 and this pic is quite unusual in that you aren't seeing the whites of his terrified eyes... I seriously didn't recognise him when I looked at the photo! I've had him living in the kitchen for 2 years now: he recently lost his female (Ivy) who was the dominant one(!) We tried to introduce him to a young female who seemed to really like him but after about 15 minutes he suddenly chattered teeth and went for her. I think it was basically because she was young and moved suddenly which startled him - and that was that. I've never known a male reject a willing young female. She was fine BTW, but we're now on the hunt for an arthritic old Grandma.

I've always left him to it as he was happy piggin' around with Ivy and tame old Daisy (his lady-love) but in the few weeks since he's been sadly alone I've been trying to build more of a relationship to help him not be so afraid of life and I think it's actually starting to work. I'll tell you what we've been doing so you can see if there's anything you can try.

George has been handled more recently (partly because stress had led to a bit of impaction - enough said) but also we've been having breakfast together! I get up as it's starting to get light and make my tea/muesli. The pig(s) would normally wait to be uncovered, come and get a bit of veg and then start on pellets and hay. Now I sit on the floor and eat with George... and he's started to relax more around me. He'll come out to the bowl while I'm right there, and even though he's lovely I'm careful not to gaze at him too long or too directly (a predator 'stares'). I talk to him a lot more, 'answer' if he makes any noises, and go to the cage several times in the day just to pop my hand in and give a very brief touch with just one finger on his head or cheeks. He's now stopped leaping away when he sees the hand (which occasionally has parsley). Every day at 4 we have tea and biscuits and another veggie treat together - I sat on the floor by his cage again, but this time I put him in my lap for a while. Now we've reached the point where I carry him around the house for a few minutes first to see the rest of the family ("The Adventures of George" says my son) and then have him in my lap for a telly break in the other room. At first he trembled so violently I thought he'd expire with his white, staring eyes, but after the same routine every day he's learnt he's not going to die being lifted or carried or going somewhere different and there will eventually be munchies. Even so, he has to be settled on his towel in the same position facing left, with my left arm curled round him, and he has to be almost completely covered with just nose and eyes visible. Then I give his treat and have my break with tv on quietly. I talk to him and stroke his nose and under the chin - as much as he can manage. In the first days he was shaking and rigid with fear - he wouldn't touch the treat... the next few days he took a bite or two but barely chewed... I think he was trying to stay silent. He's gradually got braver and braver though. His trembling comes in waves now as if he's really trying to relax. Early on, he started to give me a gentle nip after about 5 minutes - that was enough and he wanted to go back to his house. As he gave the nip his eyes went really wide and fearful so I knew he was being as brave as he could be. Today was something of a triumph: he settled in position to be carried and when we got seated he went straight in at the treat (a piece of cabbage leaf) and after 5 minutes or so he finally stopped trembling! It felt really weird that he was so still - and I even felt him adjust his feet to settle into a more comfortable position. It has taken over 2 weeks to get to this stage. He relaxed for a good 15 minutes and then I felt the tiny nip. I was cheeky and pretended I'd not felt it - I carried on stroking him and telling him how brave he was. The a minute or two later another nip - definitely a little firmer and held for just a moment. How clever! So he was taken back to his cage and released. The other thing is although I have to 'pick him up' with my two hands I don't 'put him down'... I hold him securely and lower myself to the floor (actually a cushion - I'm not that limber) and let him climb out of my arms himself. This means he waits and steps off rather than fighting to escape and maybe flinging himself into the air. I hope he also feels a sense that he's not just a passive parcel - he's getting at least some choice in the matter.

So we are getting there but he'll never be as tame as old Daisy. I did wonder if a nervous temperament went hand-in-hand with those lovely rosettes as all my 'tufty' pigs have been spirited! The short haired ones (both smooth and rough) have been way more placid. I think there is hope that your pig can certainly build more of a relationship with you even if he's never as tame the other. Let us know how you get on... 💕
Awe, George seems like a beautiful little soul, could you send a picture if possible? I’d love to see him! Thank you for all the advice, it’s a little harder to be around him all the time as I’m off at college most of the day and their cage is outside. We bring them inside for the winter though and keep them in the kitchen so possibly I’ll be able to get much more bonding in then. I’ll certainly try your method of having breakfast with him and build it up slowly, I’m looking forward to having more time to spend with him, during lockdown I spent a lot of time in the garden with them free running especially because it was warm but I didn’t unfortunately handle him much because I know how much he enjoys running around and being free to do what he likes and I enjoyed just watching him do little hops around the garden. But as the winter comes in and I can’t let them out as much, I’ll be sure to spend more time handling him!
 

Free Ranger

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George is this black one in the picture on the left (with a flourish of ginger underneath!) and he wasn't really handled at all while the girls were alive as there wasn't any need. Your boys are beautiful - and Charlie does look like he knows his own mind! My pigs are also able to roam free in my tiny Victorian garden as there is a high wall all the way around and it is lovely to watch piggies bopping about. We are wary of passing cats and also red kites which are common round here. These birds usually go for carrion but there's always a first time. We have been lucky so far (touch wood) and in nearly 10 years have had no trouble (not even sunlight can easily get into this little patch!) We used a child's fishing net at first to catch them at night-time to avoid a frenzied pursuit (esp as you can't see George in the dark) but once they learned what was going on they came in on their own when they saw me come out with the little broom to 'herd' them. Now alone, he is not so brave so I carry him outside and sit with him while he checks everything out, then he comes in on his own after about 10 minutes. It's colder and damper now though.

I put him on hubs' lap yesterday for 5 minutes and he was in much more typical pose when I returned - staring eyes, braced rigid with fear, and he'd apparently been like that all the time so hubs needs to put some work in. We got him from a rescue and a lady said she'd been fostering him at her house as he came in with his two brothers who bullied him to the point there was a big fight. I said "poor little George" but she said no, he was easily the biggest and when he eventually fought back he'd hurt them. He didn't take up a dominant role though, he'd just been really frightened, so they had to be separated. I asked if they'd tried to pair him up (as he'd been neutered) but no, he'd been on his own for a long time and she didn't keep guineas herself, "...just dogs and rats"(!) So not the best start.

He's currently sitting in the cat-box waiting for someone to go and fetch him his daily handful of grass. I think by sticking to a routine it makes them feel more secure. When your pigs come in you'll find you notice all sorts of little things in their personalities as you're basically sharing a territory and you might find they start to squeak for you when you come in the door! Eating together is nice and it gives them a chance to check you out while they think you're not looking 😉 Good luck at college avoiding all those unpleasant winter viruses!
 
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