Stop Wondering: Here’s Why Your Guinea Pig Runs Away from You

Guinea pigs don’t come with a user manual, so many owners are confused when their adorable little pets run away from them. Be assured that this skittish piggy behavior is entirely normal and shows that the little pet is alert and tuned in to its surroundings. Understanding why your guinea pig runs away when approached and finding ways to reassure your pet helps to build trust.

Guinea pigs are prey animals that instinctively run from potential threats. Although guinea pigs have a wide range of vision, they have limited depth perception, so they may not recognize their owner approaching them. Their natural defense mechanism is to run away from anything unfamiliar.

If you feel disappointed that your guinea pig buddy doesn’t greet you enthusiastically when you approach, you are not alone. Find out why your piggy runs each time you come close, and learn how to build its confidence so you can both enjoy quality cuddle times.

Why Does My Guinea Pig Run From Me?

It is perfectly normal guinea pig behavior to be apprehensive about a larger species moving towards them. It is that very characteristic that has ensured that this portly prey species have survived this long.

Running away when a large species is approaching is hotwired into guinea pigs. It is similar to the way a human feels before crossing a street. No matter how familiar you are with a road, you would never dash across without looking because it could be dangerous. Your instinct tells you to be cautious and look, listen, and proceed cautiously.

Although being a defenseless prey animal is the most common reason guinea pigs run away from their adoring owners, individual piggy personalities also play a role. Some little characters are simply less confident than others.

7 Reasons Why Your Guinea Pig May Run From You

Let’s take a closer look at seven reasons why your guinea pig may run each time you move near its cage:

  1. Guinea pigs are prey animals – In the animal kingdom, there are fight-and-flight species. Since guinea pigs are peace-loving, social little herbivores, they fall squarely in the ‘flight’ category and will instinctively run from potential danger.
    Your guinea pig’s ancestors were wild critters living in the Andes mountains of South America. They would have become dinner if caught, so pet guinea pigs need time to learn to trust their human owners.
  2. Your guinea pig may not be used to human interaction – It takes time to tame a guinea pig. Even though these popular pets have been domesticated for thousands of years, a guinea pig that hasn’t been handled regularly or received regular attention may be shy and skittish.
  3. Your guinea pig may be anxious if it is kept on its own – Guinea pigs are herd animals, like sheep or cattle. They take comfort in numbers, so always keep your guinea pig with a piggy pal if possible. Having a companion will make stressful situations, like being faced with scary human hands, much less frightening.
  4. Guinea pigs have poor eyesight – Your guinea pig will be able to see you moving toward its cage, but not as clearly as you can see. Your hand swooping in overhead may resemble an eagle or hawk, so it is natural for the small pet to dive for cover.
  5. Check your scent – Guinea pigs have poor eyesight but have a highly developed sense of smell and supersharp hearing to compensate. If you have been playing with your dog before checking on your piggies, the predator scent on your hands and clothes will likely scare the little animal.
  6. Your pet may have had a bad experience being handled in the past. Unless you adopted your guinea pig when it was very young, your piggy might have developed an unpleasant association with humans. Incorrect handling or pulling them out of hiding places may have made them fearful.
  7. Your guinea pig may need time to get to know you – Like all friendships, developing a strong interspecies bond takes time. Being the center of attention in a new home can be overwhelming for a new guinea pig. Newly adopted piggies need time to unwind and explore their new environment before the taming process can begin.

How Can I Stop My Guinea Pig From Running Away?

It may not be possible to completely stop your guinea pig from running away from you. It is an inbuilt piggy trait that makes them feel safe.

That does not mean that you will never be able to love and cuddle your pet. With patience, time, a few practical tips, and lots of yummy treats, you may be able to convince even the most fearful guinea pig that you come in peace and mean no harm.

Your guinea pig running away might be a sign of fear or discomfort. Understand their sounds to better communicate with them.

Patience is key to getting your guinea pig to relax, and look forward to interactions with you. As much as you want to cuddle your new pet as soon as you adopt it, the piggy needs time to get to know all the new sounds, smells, and routines of its new home. Only then can it begin to focus on bonding with its human.

10 Tips To Make Your Guinea Pig Less Fearful

It can be heartbreaking for new guinea pig owners to find that their cute pets dash for cover when they approach. This instinctive behavior is entirely normal, but there are ways to get your piggy used to interacting with you.

  1. Give it plenty of warning when you come into the room. Speak a lot so it becomes familiar with the soothing sound of your voice and associates it with good things.
  2. Spend time with your pet. Even if you can’t hold or cuddle your guinea pig at first, give it time to get used to having you close by. Avoid looming over the cage and always approach slowly from the side.
  3. When your guinea pig is new, carry on with chores like cleaning the cage and putting out fresh food without touching it. Get it used to hearing your voice without any physical interaction.
  4. Move slowly and without making sudden moves. Guinea pigs are highly sensitive to movement, so keep your actions slow and deliberate.
  5. If possible, always have more than one guinea pig. Herd animals benefit from having a companion of the same species, and your guinea pig may become more confident if it is not alone.
  6. When you are ready to touch the piggy, bring your hand in slowly from the side so it doesn’t resemble a frightening overhead predator. It also helps to let your piggy sniff your fingers before you try to touch its body.
  7. Never chase a guinea pig around its cage or grab it to pick it up. This will only reinforce the idea that you may be a scary predator. If you need to move a reluctant piggy, encourage it to go inside a soft enclosed space, like a cuddle sack or beanie. Then lift the whole thing with the guinea pig inside.
  8. Guinea pigs have solid little bodies with short legs. They do not like being suspended in the air and prefer to have all four feet supported. Always support your guinea pig at the front and the back of its body so it feels safe while being held.
  9. Keep a routine to make your guinea pig feel secure in its environment. Keep its cage clean and provide toys and activities that will prevent boredom.
  10. Reinforce positive behavior. During or after each positive interaction, reward your guinea pig with a tasty snack. Treats like wheatgrass or blueberries are sure to get your piggy’s interest.
Related: What kind of cage a guinea pig needs for comfort?

Conclusion

There are multiple reasons why guinea pigs run away from their owners. The most common explanation is that they are bite-sized prey animals that have evolved to hide from predators. While it may be impossible to completely eliminate this instinctive behavior, there are plenty of practical ways for owners to win their guinea pig’s trust.