Starting Your Furever Together

hands holding a guinea pig
4 Week Guide to Bonding with Guinea Pigs!


If you have decided to adopt or foster a guinea pig, thank you & of course CONGRATULATIONS!

When properly socialized, guinea pigs are playful, curious and outgoing pets, making them ideal companions for both adults and children older than 12 years old. Guinea pigs are expressive and can communicate their moods through various sounds like purring, chirping, and squeaking. They tend to form strong bonds with their carers and provide a rewarding and interactive pet experience.

Whether you are a first-time guinea pig owner or looking to deepen an existing bond, this four week guide will ensure that your relationship starts off on the right paw. We’ll share insights into the best care practices used across multiple small animal rescues rescues and tips on feeding, housing, and interacting with guinea pigs.

Ever wonder what your guinea pig is trying to say? Check out this video hear some common guinea pig sounds! From purring and chirping to wheeking and rumbling, guinea pigs communicate their emotions, moods, and demands for more food through a variety of sounds. Learning what each means will deepen your understanding of your friend’s feelings.

Week 0


Before your new guinea pig, or guinea pigs, arrive you’ll need to make sure that you have all the essentials ready for their care and utmost comfort.

You’ll need timothy hay, guinea pig pellets, vitamin c supplements, one water bottle per guinea pig, one hidey house per guinea pig, a carrier and lots of cuddle cups and sacks for snuggling in. For housing, a pair of guinea pigs need a minimum a 2ft x 4ft enclosure (this will provide 8sq ft of living space) but a 2ft x 5ft enclosure (providing 10sq ft of living space) is preferred. You’ll also need to decide between waterproof, fleece cage liners or soft bedding to use for the bottom of their enclosure. And don’t forget toys and treats for food bribery!



Cages and hutches are too small and DO NOT provide enough living space for guinea pigs. They can increase the risk of your guinea pig developing painful sores on the bottoms of their feet and Pododermatitis, an infection, also known as “bumblefoot”.



  • 80-90% of a guinea pigs diet should be hay. Guinea pigs should have UNLIMITED access to fresh high-quality hay 24/7. Soiled hay should be changed out daily. Alfalfa Hay for juvenile guinea pigs and Timothy Hay for adult guinea pigs.
  • 10% of a guinea pigs diet should be green leafy vegetables. Organic vegetables (no pesticides) are recommended whenever possible. Always remove seeds as these are a choking risk. Guinea pigs can start to have small amounts of vegetables introduced into their diet at 2 months old. Vegetables should be introduced gradually, one per week, so that you can monitor for sensitivity or stomach upset. If any vegetable seems to cause digestive problems do not feed it in the future. Adult guinea pigs can have 1/2 cup (a small pinch) of leafy greens and 1 tablespoon of non-leafy green vegetables per day.
  • 5% of a guinea pigs diet should be fortified food pellets. We recommend: “Oxbow“, “Science Selective“, “Small Pet Select” or “Sherwood“.
    • AVOID: “gourmet” food mixes that include nuts, seeds, treats, additional sugars and artificial colors.
  • Less than 5% of a guinea pigs diet can be fruits and treats. Guinea pigs should get no more than 1-2 teaspoon size servings of fruits per week. That’s about the size of 1 strawberry or 1 baby carrot per guinea pig.
  • Vitamin C Supplement. To ensure your guinea pigs get enough vitamin C each day feed them one or two 1/2-inch slices of bell pepper each day. You can also offer “Oxbow Vitamin C Supplement” or “Sherwood Vitamin C Supplement“.


In addition to setting up their physical environment, sit down and write a daily and weekly care schedule that includes time for feeding, cleaning, and bonding. It’s important to overlap this care schedule with your existing work, school, social and familial commitments to ensure you can provide consistent and ongoing attention to your guinea pigs. Project this schedule over the next 5-7 years to make sure you can dedicate the necessary time to develop a lifelong bond with your guinea pigs.



  • Morning (around 8-9 AM): Add a generous pile of fresh hay and 1 tbsp of guinea pig pellets.
  • Evening (around 6-7 PM): Repeat the morning feeding routine and add 1/2-1 cup serving of fresh leafy greens and vegetables. Rinse and refill all water bottles.

PRO TIP: Use feeding times as an opportunity to bond. Hand feeding greens build trust and familiarity with your guinea pig. You can even train your guinea pigs to climb into your hand in exchange for a yummy leafy green or slice of bell pepper.

Habitat Maintenance:
  • Morning and Evening (around feeding times): Remove uneaten hay and replace with fresh hay. Guinea pigs enjoy having a large pile of hay that they can burrow in.
  • If you are using bedding in your guinea pigs enclosure, you will need to spot clean each day to remove waste and change out of all of the bedding every 3 or 4 days to maintain a clean and hygienic environment for you guinea pigs.
  • If you use a guinea pig cage liner, fleece liner or bath mats, dedicate 15 minutes to tidying up your guinea pig’s enclosure each morning and evening. This includes sweeping or vacuuming loose hay and droppings to maintain a hygienic environment for your guinea pig. Liners will need to be changed out every 2 or 3 days so you will need at least 2 sets to use interchangeably.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: Do you have access to a reliable washing machine and drier to wash soiled guinea pig liners in?


Deep Cleaning:
  • Once a week you’ll need to do a deep cleaning. This means, removing all liners or bedding to wipe down the bottom of the enclosure with diluted vinegar or a safe cage cleaner. You can also use diluted vinegar and paper towels to wipe their hideys and litterbox, if you use one. Plastic hideys can also be rinsed in the sink. Examine toys and accessories for wear and tear and replace, as needed.
  • If your enclosure has a canvas bottom like the “MidWest Guinea Pig Habitat” you can wash it in the washing machine once a month. Wash any soft hideys, cuddle cups or beds in the washing machine at least once a week.
  • Wash their water bottles with warm, soapy water or in the dishwasher to maintain cleanliness and prevent bacterial growth.
Health Check:
  • Assess your guinea pig’s health by checking their eyes, ears, teeth, bottoms of their feet, nails, fur and general body condition. Keeping a close eye on their physical condition helps in catching signs of illness early, ensuring timely medical attention.

PRO TIP: Get a pet scale and weight your guinea pigs each week. Keep a detailed log and pay attention for signs of weight gain or loss. Most healthy guinea pigs weigh 800-1000g.

Week 1


Getting Acquainted

This week’s goal is to make your new friends feel safe, secure, and comfortable as they adapt to their new home and your presence. Focus on establishing a consistent routine for feeding, cleaning, and gentle interaction to build trust and familiarity. Spend down time near their enclosure, observing their behaviors and speaking softly, use food and treats to encourage them to approach you. Ensure that all interactions are calm — avoid loud noises and sudden movements to not startle your guinea pigs. Remember, this may be the first time they are hearing household sounds like the vacuum or television.

Be mindful of their health and behavior — watching diligently for any signs of stress or illness such as changes in appetite, lethargy, or hiding.

Things to DO, AVOID and WATCH OUT FOR this Week:


  • Create a Safe Space: Provide a clean, calm and secure home-base for your guinea pig to settle into. Consider covering their enclosure with a light blanket or towel during the first few nights to give them an added sense of security, make sure there is still adequate ventilation.
  • Stick to a Routine: Follow the daily schedule you created, feeding and cleaning your guinea pigs’ area twice a day.
  • Build Trust Gradually: Spend time near their enclosure to observe their behaviors and preferences. Speak softly and offer treats to begin building trust.
  • Start a Journal: Keep a log of your guinea pigs’ behaviors, responses, and energy levels throughout the day. This can help you tailor your interactions based on their preferences and mood.


  • Forgoing Routine: An unpredictable schedule that changes each day can cause stress.
  • Loud Noises and Sudden Movements: Move slowly and calmly around them. Avoid raised voices, slamming doors and running around their enclosure.
  • Force Interaction: Pay attention to body language and respect boundaries. Allow your guinea pigs to come to you rather than picking them up or holding them against their will. Holding them before they are ready can break trust and negatively impact your relationship.
  • Unsafe Cleaning Products: Refrain from using harsh cleaning products or aerosols near your guinea pig’s area.


  • Signs of Stress: Excessive hiding, loud squeaking, or refusal to eat can indicate that your guinea pig is extremely stressed out or sick.
  • Proper Nutrition: Make sure they are eating the right type and amount of food, especially plenty of high-quality hay and daily vitamin C supplements to prevent deficiency.
  • Supervise Children: If there are young children in the home, supervise interactions closely to ensure they are gentle, helping to prevent stress for your guinea pig and protect children from getting nipped. Remind children to speak softly and avoid running next to the guinea pigs enclosure.

Week 2


Building Trust Through Routine

Consistency is key this week as you continue to settle into your new life together. As your guinea pigs becomes more comfortable with you, increase the amount of time you spend interacting each day. Continue the feeding and cleaning schedule that you established last week. A predictable schedule will help your new friends feel at ease and secure your home.

This week begin offering gentle head rubs, light grooming sessions and teaching them to respond to their name. Offering treats during and after interactions will build a positive association with your presence.

It is important to be patient and avoid rushing interactions.

Things to DO, AVOID and WATCH OUT FOR this Week:


  • Maintain Consistency: Stick to the feeding and cleaning schedule established in the first week but gradually spend more time interacting with your guinea pigs each day.
  • Enhance Communication: Start calling their name to help them recognize it, which enhances mutual understanding. Reward them with treats for responding or approaching you.
  • Touch Gently: Begin offering gentle head rubs. Always conclude these sessions with a small treat to create a positive association.
  • Start Grooming Sessions: Implement light grooming sessions. Regular grooming not only helps in bonding but also gets your guinea pig accustomed to being touched.


  • Damaging Trust: Don’t try picking up or holding your guinea pig yet at this early stage, as it can cause stress and damage trust.
  • Overfeeding Treats: Be mindful not to overfeed treats. While treats are excellent for training, too many can lead to digestive issues.
  • Neglecting Hygiene: Keep them and their living area clean to ensure they stay healthy and comfortable.
  • Feeling Impatient: Understand that bonding may take time and each guinea pig is unique. Don’t rush the process and let interactions happen at their pace.


  • Signs of Trust: Notice if they seem more comfortable with your and other family members presence and touch.
  • Inappropriate Chewing: Notice if they are chewing on any exposed plastic of chloroplast.

Week 3


Increasing Interaction

At around the third week with your guinea pig, you can start taking them out of their enclosure for short periods. Most guinea pigs will retreat from hands and do not like to be picked up as this is instinctively frightening for them. Using a cuddle sack or cup or blanket can make moving your guinea pig from place to place safer and less stressful for you both. Start with short 5-10 minute sessions on your lap, bed or couch and increase this time as your bond grows. Incorporate food and treats into these sessions to establish a positive association. You can also start to train your guinea pig to “step up” onto your hand in exchange for greens or treats.

Start to incorporate a physical assessment into your grooming schedule this week. During the assessment weight your guinea pigs and check their eyes, ears, nose, mouth, fur, and nails for any signs that they might be ill or need to see the vet.

Things to DO, AVOID and WATCH OUT FOR this Week:


  • Take Them Out: Start taking your guinea pigs out of their enclosure for short, supervised periods. Use a cuddle sack, cuddle cup or blanket to move them safely. Make sure that your bed or couch are protected with a soft fleece blanket as the longer you keep them out the more likely they are to poop or pee.
  • Teach “Step Up”: Teach your guinea pigs to place their front paw onto your hand in exchange for greens or treats. Keep your hand, palm up close to the ground and offer greens just enough out of reach that your guinea pig will need to step into your hand. Eventually you may be able to train them to get all the way into your hand.
  • Incorporate Health Checks: Incorporate a weekly full body assessments into the grooming schedule. Document weight, and check their eyes, ears, nose, teeth, nails, and fur for any signs of health issues. Regular handling during these checks helps your guinea pigs get comfortable being touched and can prevent health issues from going unnoticed.


  • Not Allowing Downtime: Recognize the importance of alone time for your guinea pigs. Even as your interactions increase, remember that everyone values their personal space and alone time. Balance attention with giving them room to retreat and relax on their own terms.
  • Forced Holding: If guinea pigs resist being held, give them more time to get used to you. After you take them out of their enclosure allow them to roam on the couch, bed or the floor on a soft carpet next you and rewarding them with treats if they approach or “step up” to get a food
  • Neglecting Grooming: Grooming your guinea pigs regularly is vital for their health. Long haired guinea pigs can develop painful tangles in their hair if not brushed regularly, these can limit their mobility, leading to arthritis. Long haired guinea pigs will also need to have their hair trimmed every couple of weeks to prevent their bottoms from getting soiled. Nails should be trimmed every 1-2 months, long nails can cause their toes to turn out painfully and decrease their willingness to move about.


  • Behavioral Regression: It’s normal for guinea pigs to sometimes regress in their progress due to stress or environmental changes. Maintain patience and stay consistent with your approach to help them feel loved and secure.
  • Interaction Responses: Monitor their reactions to being taken out and handled. Observe how they adapt to new environments during out-of-enclosure time.
  • Monitor and Record Behaviors: Continue to observe your guinea pigs’ body language closely and update your journal with your observations. Keep an eye on any abnormalities, fluctuations in weight, eating habits or elimination that may indicate stress or illness.

Week 4


Strengthening Your Bond

As you enter the fourth week of bonding with your guinea pigs, you should be seeing clear signs of trust blossoming between you. Perhaps they eagerly run to the edge of their enclosure and greet you with wheeks. Continue to reinforce these positive behaviors with treats and affection.

You can begin training more complex commands like “come”, “turn in a circle” or “jump through a hoop” to enhance communication and mutual understanding.

It is also crucial to start planning ahead for your guinea pig’s future needs, especially medical ones. Guinea pigs are fragile and emergencies can be costly (often ranging from $500 to $1,000.) Have a look at our Veterinarians page for more information about veterinary care for guinea pigs, costs, signs that your guinea pig might need to see the vet and list of exotic veterinarians and emergency services that treat exotic animals in Florida and across the US. Setting up a medical savings account and contributing monthly, ensures you’re prepared should anything go wrong. It is also important to take your guinea pigs to an exotic veterinarian every year for a wellness exam and blood work, even if they seem completely healthy. As prey animals, guinea pigs are experts at hiding signs of illness. By the time we can tell that a guinea pig is sick it may be too late. Regular check-ups help catch any hidden health problems early, safeguarding your friend’s well-being.

Things to DO, AVOID and WATCH OUT FOR this Week:


  • Observe and Adapt: Continue to observe your guinea pigs’ responses to interactions. Adapt your approaches based on their likes and dislikes, which can help in building a more personalized and comfortable environment for them. Change out their toys, hideys, beds and tunnels to optimize their living space based on their preferences and to keep things interesting for them.
  • Teach More Commands: Use treats to teach commands like “come”, “turn in a circle” or “jump through a hoop”. This not only enhances communication but also provides mental stimulation, keeping your guinea pigs engaged and happy.
  • Start a Medical Savings Account: Regular veterinary care and unexpected medical emergencies can be costly, with emergencies ranging from $500 to $1,000 per day in diagnostics and treatment. To ensure you are prepared, set up a savings account specifically for your rabbit’s health needs. Aim to save at least $500 by contributing $50 to $100 each month. This proactive step can help cover annual wellness exams and any unforeseen medical issues.


  • Becoming Complacent: Do not stop following the schedule you have set for diet, tidying up, and socializing with your guinea pigs. Consistency in these areas is crucial for their well-being and your ongoing relationship.
  • Neglecting Health Checks and Grooming: Continue with regular grooming and health checks to maintain your guinea pigs health.
  • Being Unprepared for a Medical Emergency: Know the locations of the three closest exotic veterinarians and after-hours or emergency clinics that treat guinea pigs. For a comprehensive list of exotic vets and emergency facilities, visit our VETERINARIANS page. Be prepared to travel 30 minutes or an hour or more in the event of an emergency.


  • Trust Indicators: Signs of trust such as coming to you willingly or showing excitement when you approach.
  • Not Voicing Your Concerns: If you are having difficulties or concerns, don’t keep these to yourself. Reach out to a local rescue, a Facebook advice group or for advice and support. It’s essential to address issues as they arise to ensure the well-being of your guinea pigs and the health of your relationship.

Remember, building a strong and loving relationship with new friends takes patience, consistency, and understanding.

Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions along the way!