Guinea pigs – handling
Information about handling, training and showing guinea pigs.
Schools that keep guinea pigs must have the use of suitably constructed pens and cages that secure the animals. These pens may be portable but must be solid in construction and erected in a way to be safe for both humans and guinea pigs.
|Observation of normal animal behaviour||1|
Guinea pigs need to be handled calmly and with care to prevent distress and injury to both animal and handler. Well-designed refuges such as tubes or pipes assist in catching. If guinea pigs hide in these, they can easily be caught without struggling.
Guinea pigs are prey animals that are naturally wary of people. They have a strong flight response and will freeze or attempt to escape if they feel threatened. Guinea pigs can become easily stressed with excessive handling or handling for extended periods of time. Always limit the time spent handling guinea pigs as they like to be able to retreat and hide after a while and will become stressed if they cannot do this. Only guinea pigs that are accustomed to being handled should be picked up, carried, groomed and patted. Untamed or young guinea pigs should be introduced to handling slowly. Begin with small amounts of less invasive handling, for example, sitting close by to them, followed by short periods of holding and patting. Excessive handling of an untamed animal will only result in stress and an unpleasant experience for the animal. After handling, always return guinea pigs to an area where they can retreat so that they do not relate being handled as a stressful experience.
Capture, restraint and handling of guinea pigs
|Capture, restraint and handling||2|
The gentle nature of guinea pigs makes them one of the easiest small mammals to handle. They rarely bite but can, and will, if handled incorrectly. They should be lifted by grasping under the trunk gently but firmly with one hand, while supporting the rear quarters with the other hand. Great care should be taken when handling pregnant females. They should be grasped by the back of the neck and have their weight supported with a hand underneath the rump so that they are in an upright position.
Guinea pigs are extremely sensitive to over-handling and only one student should handle the guinea pig at any time. Multiple students should not handle them in any one session. Guinea pigs are temperamentally different and only those that do not show distress when handled should be used. Sudden noise or movement should be reduced near the animals.
Familiarising guinea pigs is typically used for better outcomes in a variety of situations and for different purposes and generally occurs with consistent handling from a young age. These include:
- For pen cleaning and daily management
- For showing and preparation
- Movement between pens and facilities
- Routine husbandry procedures (worming, grooming, washing, skin treatments, vaccinations).
Familiarising animals can be made easier by mixing younger, untamed guinea pigs with older more placid guinea pigs that are comfortable with being handled. When a handler enters the enclosure, if the older, tame guinea pigs do not attempt to run and hide away, younger animals may be more comfortable with the handler. Usually if one animal becomes stressed, the other animals will sense that there is a threat of danger.
Showing guinea pigs
|Training guinea pigs for showing||3|
Time and effort needs to be put into training and preparing animals for showing. Training is best done slowly from a young age. Extensive handling from a young age will ensure that guinea pigs are comfortable with being handled and surrounded by people, which will reduce stress levels when they are taken to a show.
The night before the show, ensure guinea pigs are completely dry before placing them in their cage with clean bedding. Unlike other animals that can be kept in individual show cages, always keep the guinea pigs in their normal cage to avoid stress. To ensure the animals remain clean, provide clean fresh bedding and only keep a maximum of two guinea pigs per cage. The guinea pigs’ usual ration of food should be supplied at the usual time as well as an appropriate quantity of clean fresh water.