Many aspiring pet owners are asking themselves if guinea pigs can actually be walked outside in some way shape or form.
Why would somebody think that?
The term “guinea pig leash” is plastered on various products these days. Naturally, this makes you think that the assumption of you being able to walk them is right.
Well, not really.
The longer answer is that it depends. It depends on why you’re planning to put a harness and a leash on your guinea pig.
Are you planning to walk your pet like a dog? You might be laughing right now but just as many people laugh at the notion of walking a cat.
Cats can definitely be walked and in fact, I do recommend it.
A cat that lives indoors and is walked regularly (provided he or she has the right temperament) lives much safer, bonds deeper with the owner and you can steer their behavior much better, resulting in an overall happier cat.
So why shouldn’t you be able to walk cavies?
Can You Take Your Guinea Pig Outside?
The question is simple at first because the answer is clearly yes, you can take your guinea pig outside.
However, that doesn’t mean that they need extensive walks in your city’s park.
Basically, getting your furry friend outside can mean a properly sized playpen set up in your garden.
Provide your guinea pigs with enrichment toys, safe ground and let them roam a bit. They don’t need a ton of space but they shouldn’t feel trapped either.
If you’re just introducing the playpen, make sure to start slowly so they can get used to the space.
Too many people make the mistake of throwing their pet in a situation they don’t want to be in.
Similar to how you wouldn’t force different kinds of harnesses and collars on a dog that has just been rescued and experience no training, you wouldn’t expect a guinea pig to fall in love with everything in their strange new home right away.
So, after some time of getting used to the space, can you start walking your guinea pig?
Can You Put a Harness on a Guinea Pig?
You can put a harness on a guinea pig but it’s not really necessary.
What we forget when we buy shiny stuff like a cute little harness for our little friend is whether we actually use it as intended.
So, what’s the intended use for guinea pig harnesses?
Besides appearance, there’s really not that big of a reason for them to wear one.
If your guinea pig doesn’t like being picked up, you can use a harness as a safety mechanism to avoid hurting them when they fall down (which shouldn’t happen, of course).
This also applies to extremely frightened guinea pigs and makes handling them easier for you. It’s there for your ease of mind basically.
To avoid situations like this in the first place, everybody handling the guinea pig should be careful and if you’re afraid that your kids might accidentally drop them, be there and supervise them as well as teaching kids how to pick them up and handle them properly instead of using a harness.
Another reason why a guinea pig could wear a harness is that they feel safe when something hugs their body, right?
Well, nobody faults you for thinking that since other pets like dogs actually love thunder shirts.
Not only do these tight shirts help dogs with thunder, fireworks, other noises but they also offer them a feeling of safety. A properly fitting thunder shirt can decrease anxiety dramatically.
Not all dogs like that feeling. Could it be right for your individual guinea pig though?
There’s no scientific research whether or not guinea pigs like wearing something like a harness.
An argument can be made that cavies actually do not like learning harnesses as this can give them the feeling of being trapped.
After all, these little fellows may be beloved pets in our homes but in the outdoor world, they are not exactly at the top of the food chain. Guinea pigs are prey animals and often behave as such. A tight grip around their body can be daunting.
Guinea pigs are very social creatures and you should always get them in pairs. This provides much more mental stimulation and overall happier life for your pet than having them deal with wearing a harness to feel safe or whatnot.
Can You Walk a Guinea Pig on a Leash?
Let’s get it out of the way: You should not walk your guinea pig on a leash.
It may seem thoughtful to put your guinea pig on the leash when you get them outside for the first time but in reality, attaching a leash to a harness can turn out to be fatal.
Your guinea pig might be afraid and escape from the harness.
Seems to contradict the purpose of the harness but you’d be surprised how quickly these pets can move if they feel that danger arises.
Unlike dogs, guinea pigs do not have strong necks and are built differently. Heavy jerking could seriously injure them and that includes unintentional jerks when your guinea pig has different plans than you do.
Now another question, in theory, would be whether or not you can actually train them to walk properly on a leash.
No, guinea pigs cannot be reliably trained to follow you on a leash.
Leisure strolls in the park might seem like a great idea but guinea pigs aren’t on the same level of dogs. Even though guinea pigs have been domesticated for thousands of years now (beware: they’re still on the menu in some countries), they do not share the same relationship with us like dogs do, for example.
The mental capability nature provided them with did not have walking on a leash in mind. They don’t learn commands as easily.
Of course, there are example that could be seen as proof that it is possible to train guinea pigs, more specifically training them to walk on a leash.
If your pet follows, it might be more of a coincidence than real training or will to please. Also, if you train with treats, they will surely follow you but we’re talking about reliably making your way through a routine walk which just won’t be possible (or necessary).
Are Guinea Pig Leads Cruel?
Guinea pig leads are not cruel as they’re just objects. It’s how we use them that matters.
If there are absolutely zero reasons why you’re handling your pet with a leash besides thinking it looks cool or can help with training them, then you shouldn’t put them on your pet, and doing so could certainly be considered cruel if it isn’t handled properly and puts their safety at risk (either through losing them when they run off or potential injuries).
In case you wish to bond with your piggy more closely, then there are other options.
Quality cuddling time can do wonders (start slowly though) and providing them with the appropriate diet, enrichment toys, as well as socialization with other furry buddies, will do much more for their health and well being.
Just because some shops or even individual Etsy sellers offer these leashes and harnesses does not mean that you should get one.