Taming the Wild Creature (aka Reading to My Cavy)

I know the saying actually goes “Taming the Savage Beast.” I just can’t bear to call my Gwenie Pig a savage beast.

You see, I’ve been wanting a guinea pig for a couple of years now and my husband decided that a baby cavy would make the perfect Christmas gift. We’ve had her for almost a week now and she’s come a long ways from the shivering little bundle of fur that we brought home. 

I can’t help but think that our Guinevere did not have an easy first six weeks. She was taken from her mother to be sent to a pet store, but along the way she was also separated from the siblings that she was supposed to be quarantined with. We adopted her the day that she got out of quarantine. Confused. Alone. Scared. Never having eaten vegetables or been handled for humans for long periods of time.

I had been researching guinea pigs for two years, so I knew the basic rules:

  1. Give them some time alone to adjust to their new cage.

2. Constantly talk to them in soothing tones, using their name a lot.

3. Try to hand feed them treats so that they associate their love of food with you.

4. Spend as much time as you can handling them, petting them, holding them, and talking to them.

5. Never pick them up with just one hand or handle them harshly.

Gwen still doesn’t like to embark on the long journey from her cage to the couch or the play pen, but she has learned to not run away every time my husband or I reach in to the cage to stroke her or give her a slice of cucumber. She settles down on our laps during cuddle time and allows us to pet her and hand feed he. She roams around her play pen, discovering new hidey areas and treats. More over, she has started coming out of her hidey corner when I come to her cage with food.

She is only six weeks old…well, seven now…so she has a long way to go. She isn’t completely tame yet, but my heart soars every time she popcorns (runs around and randomly hops) after being put back in her cage after floor time or after she discovers a new treat in her food bowl. (Seriously, it is so cute! Look up “guinea pigs popcorning” on YouTube.)

What has been the best method of success?

I’m sure the cuddling sessions in the morning and afternoon are helping her get used to human touch, and showing her that her food doesn’t just appear out of thin air is a big help. The route to a guinea pig’s heart is through their stomach. However, I think reading is a very important tool in my taming arsenal.

Reading?

Hear me out. Baby cavies aren’t used to humans talking. It’s their owners’ responsibility to help them get used to hearing sounds all day long, especially the sound of human voices. For the best results, this is supposed to hear the voices for more than ten minutes at a time. In fact, many guinea pig owners will tell you that, for best results, guinea pigs need to immediately and constantly hear human voices around their cage. The faster they get used to hearing voices, the easier it is to handle them. We tried to take at tip from a useful friend and leave a talk show on Pandora while we were out. It was a good idea…but we didn’t want to leave the TV on and our laptop only plays Pandora for so long before it shuts down. And besides, it wasn’t our voices. We wanted her to get used to our voices and associate them with pleasant things.

As much as I love Gwen, I didn’t want to spend an hour at a time on my knees next to her cage just talking. That’s when I came up with the idea of reading next to her cage. I can read for hours if I have the time. I just place a chair to the side of the cage, just outside of range of Guinevere’s line of sight, and read. That first night, I read to her for over an hour. She hid in her corner at first, but she soon realized that she wasn’t about to be plucked from her cage and she started to move around her cage. The next day, she began to explore her surroundings more. She still hid every time we opened the cage door, but she didn’t seem to mind our voices or our presence outside the cage as much.

I’ve continued to read to her every day. It’s a win win situation. She gets used to my voice and I get reading breaks. A thirty minute reading break after lunch and an hour reading break before bed seems to make everyone happy.

I’m not saying that Gwen’s progress is all do to my reading…but it definitely isn’t hurting matters.

Everybody loves a good book. 😀

Has anyone else read to their pets before? Why? What happened?

P.S. In case you were wondering, Gwen has been reading Anne of Avonlea with me and helping me finish my Old Testament bible study. .

 

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