guinea pig sitting on lap
A good rule of thumb when playing with your guinea pig is to play on or near the ground or other safe surface. livianovakova10/pixabay.com

Guinea pig playtime is something both you and your guinea pigs can happily enjoy together. Sure, your guinea pigs can play among themselves or even amuse themselves, but nothing beats the daily stimulation of playing with their big buddy — you! Playtime not only strengthens your relationship, it’s also good for your pet’s health, and yours, too, according to numerous sources, including the CDC. This interspecies bonding is possible when you take time to consider the world through your guinea pigs’ eyes.

Before You Play

What is a guinea pig game? Almost anything! Find inspiration in daily life. Have your guinea pig “guess” which of your closed hands holds a treat. Play peek-a-boo when your guinea pig is in a hideaway. Hide-and-seek is another possible game. Before you dive in and start playing, take time to assess your companion and your home.

1. Pay Attention To Your Guinea Pig: Think about your guinea pig’s personality. Is he or she timid or curious? Rambunctious or quiet? Don’t try to force a boisterous game on a quiet guinea pig or a slow, thoughtful game on a piggie who has a short attention span. Always pay attention to your guinea pig’s reaction to something. If your little friend doesn’t seem to like something, don’t do it. Games should be fun for all involved.

2. Use A Safe Play Space: A guinea pig-safe space is imperative for any playtime. The floor is the best location, because it rules out any falling hazards. A pet playpen quickly turns part of a room into a fun zone. A pet-proof room is another option. Remove or safely cover any electrical cords, eliminate any floor-level hazards such as dropped medications or poisonous plants, bar any other pets during your playtime and block off any nooks where a guinea pig might become trapped. Think safety.

3. Test Out Activities: Find out what your guinea pig likes to do. Drag a toy across the floor on a cord. Does your guinea pig give chase? Try rolling a ball to your pal. Does he or she show interest in it? How does your furry friend react to guinea pig-safe toys? Is she a tosser, roller, or chewer? Your guinea pig’s reactions to daily events also give clues about what activities he enjoys. Create games built around these activities. Your buddy might even try to get you to play a game of his own. Be alert to any signs that your guinea pig is trying to get you to play a game.

4. Be A Guinea Pig: OK, it’s impossible to be a guinea pig, but the idea here is to put yourself in your guinea pig’s paws to get a guinea pig view of the world. They are nearsighted, so don’t sit too far away if you’re going to roll a ball to your pal. Their hearing is very good, so don’t try games that include loud noises. They walk on four legs and have a long back, so don’t try a game that would strain their anatomy. “Be” a guinea pig to keep your guinea pig safe.

5. Get Into A Routine: Guinea pigs are prey animals that instinctively flee, freeze, or sometimes fight when startled or afraid. Surprises are rarely welcomed, so never sneak up on your pet. Always announce yourself and get into a routine with feeding, playing, and cleaning out or rearranging the habitat. This doesn’t mean that nothing should ever change. In fact, minor changes are good. Just take care to do things gradually. For playtime, this means try to do it at about the same time every day or in the same situation. Announce that it’s playtime and also when play ends. Switch up what games you play, and explain games to your pal. No, he won’t understand everything you say, but your tone and actions can help him understand.

Let’s Play!

Once you have safety issues covered, let your creativity guide your guinea pig games. Game goals can vary, with some focusing more on exercise while others are more mental puzzles. Trick training and agility courses are certainly fun, but those are topics to fill other articles. Games are about fun, and even learning something new about your precious piggie pal.

Try some of the following that might suit your guinea pig, make up your own or watch for cues from your guinea pig for a game she thinks you should play. Most game sessions only last a few minutes. You don’t want to tire out your friend! Always be alert to whether or not your guinea pig is enjoying the game.

1. Guinea Pig On The Hunt: Chase games can be fun, as long as your guinea pig is doing the chasing. A toy, stuffed animal, or even a small treat can be tied to a cord dragged across the floor, just a bit faster than your guinea pig moves. Be sure your guinea pig never gets caught in the cord or could chew at or swallow part of it. Besides chasing something, guinea pigs might enjoy a food hunt. Break up a special treat into tiny pieces and hide these in a guinea pig-safe area or even your pal’s habitat when he’s out for a romp. Tell your pet it’s time for a food hunt, then show him one of the hiding places. Watch to see if he finds all the treats. Check all the hiding spots after a few hours and pick up any treats that remain.

2. Off To The Races: Does your guinea pig come when called? Try having a guinea pig race. Create a “track” using playpen walls or by lining up heavy, non-tip items that are taller than a guinea pig. Set your piggie at one end, walk to the other and call him. Or place a treat at one end, showing your pet the treat, walk to the other and let him go. Try timed trials once your pal gets the hang of “racing.”

3. Guinea Pig Journeys: Take your guinea pig on a tour. Carry your pal to different areas of your house and give him a close-up view of things that might interest him. If he doesn’t enjoy being carried much, place him in a safe travel enclosure for the tour. A twist on this is to give your guinea pig a ride on a blanket, but this only works if your guinea pig will sit still as you slowly pull the blanket across the floor.

4. Curiosity Test: A floor game to try is piggie explorer. This just means that you lie on the floor and wait to see what your guinea pig does. Will she come over to explore and climb on your arms or legs? What will she check out in the play space? Try setting up some toys or small items that your pal can knock over, or provide a small box full of soft bedding material for her to burrow through if she wishes.

5. The Not-So-Surprising Surprise: Lie on the floor in front of your piggie and pull a blanket over your head. Pull it off slowly and say, “Peek-a-boo.” Place a blanket by your piggie. Will he burrow into it? If so, slowly pull it off and say, “Peek-a-boo.”

6. Secret Checkup: During lap time when your guinea pig is sitting on a towel on your lap, you have the perfect opportunity to do a quick checkup. Pet your small companion, feeling under the fur for any lumps and looking for any discharge, discolored skin or other signs that something might be wrong. If your guinea pig seems to suddenly have a tender spot that seems to cause discomfort, make note of it. This type of checkup helps you monitor your friend’s health between annual veterinary visits.

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