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Getting your guinea pig out of his cage and petting him is a good way to build a bond between you and your pet. It may seem like your guinea pig does not enjoy the experience. While some rare pigs will always dislike physical contact, you can convince yours to enjoy petting by building up his trust slowly and bribing him with treats.
The reason most guinea pigs dislike handling is because it triggers primal prey instincts. In the wild, anything swooping in to pick up a guinea pig intends to eat it. Even after generations of domestication, your pig may see your incoming hand as the talon of a condor and flee in terror. Guinea pigs tend to calm down once you have them held securely, but your pet may remain tense and unhappy until you return him to his cage.
To make your guinea pig receptive to petting, you need to put him at ease. Pick a quiet area away from other pets or activity. You can sit down and place him in your lap, or lie down and place him on a solid surface next to you. Start by scratching gently behind his ears and on top of his head. He may tense up at the contact -- if he chatters his teeth or makes loud shrieking noises, you should back off and give him some time to relax. Eventually, he should become more accepting of your touch, and you can brush the length of his back, following the natural lay of his fur.
Bribing Your Pet
One way to help your guinea pig relax is to bring along some snacks. Guinea pigs are voracious eaters, and they are much more likely to accept any situation if food is involved. Bagged salad mixes are a good choice, but stick with darker greens like spring mix or romaine over iceberg lettuce blends. Sliced bell peppers and the occasional baby carrot make good guinea pig treat. Offer a snack and, while your guinea pig is eating, pet him gently. Over time, he will begin to associate you with food and become more at ease.
Certain breeds of guinea pig may be less receptive to petting. American breeds have short-haired coats that lay flat and smooth along the body, making it easy to follow the natural contours of the coat when petting. Abyssinians, on the other hand, have rosettes that cause their fur to grow in erratic patterns -- and pushing the fur in the opposite direction of growth can be painful for your guinea pig. In addition, pigs suffering from mites may find petting extremely painful. If you notice any thin or bald patches in your pet's fur, contact your vet for treatment.
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