You’ve just set up space for your guinea pigs; there’s plenty of room to run around, plus a ramp leading to a comfy loft: the perfect perch for guinea pigs to watch you bring over their favorite veggies and snacks.
However, your guinea pigs don’t understand how to use the ramp for some reason!
A ramp that makes sense to a human brain can be a scary challenge for a guinea pig, especially the first time they see one.
Luckily there are several ways to teach your guinea pig how to use their ramp. Keep reading to find out how.
Tip #1: Give them reasons to use it
Relocate their bed or kitchen
Your guinea pig may not need to use their new ramp if everything they want to access in their cage is on the floor where they already are.
Moving the area where you feed and water your guinea pig (their “kitchen”), or the house where they sleep to the other end of the ramp gives your guinea pig an incentive to try the ramp out.
There are some downsides to this method. Moving all of their favorite things to the new area could lead to the same problem as before. Only this time, your guinea pig wants to live on the other end of the ramp instead!
Your guinea pig may also decide to sleep in a new spot instead of going to the trouble of finding their bed. That new ramp might seem like an appealing shelter for your piggy to set up camp.
Put their water and food on different ends of the ramp
Another way to incentivize your guinea pig into using their ramp is to separate their food from their water by putting one on either end. It gives them a reason to go up and down the ramp when they want to eat or drink.
Of course, some guinea pigs never seem to use their water bottles or bowls. In that case, your pig may stick close to its food instead.
With multiple guinea pigs
If you have more than one guinea pig (which you should, guinea pigs need at least one piggy friend around), you can take advantage of that herd instinct by putting one pig at each end of the ramp. They will try to reunite very quickly.
Guinea pigs are great at encouraging each other that way. Once they see their friends doing something, most pigs immediately feel confident enough to try doing the same thing.
Even more so if they realize their buddies are getting treats!
Use treats to encourage exploring
Guinea pigs can be perfectly content with their current space and see no reason for anything to change. ‘If it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it’ describes this perfectly.
Fortunately for us pig lovers, they are often and very easily bribed with food. Using pieces of their favorite food or special treat may be enough to tempt your guinea pig into taking a step up on their new ramp.
A trail of delicious treats leading to the other side may be just what your little buddy needs for encouragement.
Then again, it might be that your guinea pig avoiding their ramp has nothing to do with them understanding how it works. There might be an issue with the ramp that makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe using it.
Tip #2: Making the ramp safer
Is the ramp too steep?
Unlike other pets, like hamsters or mice, guinea pigs can’t climb up a wall. Guinea pigs have a low center of gravity and a solidly built torso; those don’t mix with moving vertically.
If the angle is too steep, your guinea pig will see their ramp as a wall instead. If you have room in your pig’s cage to extend the ramp and make it a gradual incline, it can only help.
Is the ramp too slippery?
Depending on the material the ramp is made from, your guinea pig might not get a good grip on the surface when using it.
Some pigs will compensate for this by getting a running start and letting their momentum help them get to the top of the ramp, but what if the ramp is at an awkward angle and they can’t run straight up it?
A great, easy way to give your pig the traction they need on their ramp is with a small towel. The fabric of your average hand towel has enough texture for piggy footpads to get a solid grip and enough softness to keep them comfortable.
A carpet can also work – as long as you ensure your guinea pig’s toenails won’t get snagged on it when they run.
You should keep in mind that whatever you use, it must be something you can easily clean or replace.
While some guinea pigs might keep their ramps spotlessly clean, others will easily track soiled bedding and other nasty things onto the ramp every time they use it.
Some naughty guinea pigs even prefer to use their ramps as a bathroom!
Is the ramp too exposed?
Guinea pigs know they are vulnerable to predators and prefer to be safely under cover instead of up high and exposed. Even if your pig has never seen a predator in their entire life, instinct demands it.
You can ease your piggy’s mind by installing some barriers on the sides of their ramp. If your guinea pig can’t see anything over the sides, then there’s nothing there as far as they know.
Because of that, your pig will feel more confident and less worried – literally a case of “out of sight, out of mind”!
Are there other ramp options?
You should know all your options when choosing a ramp for your guinea pig. The material the ramp is made from can make all the difference between a pig ignoring the ramp and having it become part of their daily routine.
Maybe you’re working with limited space, and a straight ramp just won’t fit. You could set up a switchback-styled ramp instead.
Maybe your guinea pig is still nervous after you put walls on their ramp? A temporary roof will make it a sheltered tunnel. You could even swap out the ramp for a solid tube if your pig prefers the tunnel experience.
You could even make them a staircase: use solid platforms to let your guinea pig go step-by-step up and down from their loft.
Why do ramps give guinea pigs trouble?
Something that many pig parents around the world have wondered: why does a ramp so many guinea pigs trouble?
Are ramps dangerous?
Guinea pigs are solid and built for moving across flat areas. We’ve all seen how fast a pig can motor when they’ve got a case of the zoomies.
You’d think that means they’d have no trouble going up or down a ramp, but the opposite is true.
Not only do pigs prefer to stay low to the ground, but they also have bad depth perception. Your guinea pig can’t always tell what the area ahead of them is like until they get close.
Imagine how scary it might be if you ran at full speed and suddenly the ground dropped down underneath you before you saw it coming!
This also means pigs can’t easily judge how high off the ground they actually are at times. That can lead to dangerous things – like your guinea pig jumping from a high place and hurting themselves badly on landing.
Even a short fall can cause damage if a pig lands wrong.
When adding a loft to your guinea pig’s space, keep an eye on how far above the ground your pig will be. You may want to add walls to the sides to prevent any dangerous leaping.
Guinea pig stubbornness
What should you do if you’ve tried every method, swapped out the ramp for multiple versions, and your guinea pig still won’t use it? Sometimes the answer is to have patience.
Just like people, all guinea pigs are different. Where one pig might be a curious explorer, another may be extra-cautious.
They aren’t acting up to be brats or make your life more difficult. They’re nervous about this strange new object in their world and want to see if it does something.
You might see them hiding under the ramp or even nibbling on it while they’re checking it out. And you better believe they’ll be watching other guinea pigs using the ramp ahead of them.
If you have patience, you might find a new surprise one morning: your cautious piggy standing at the top of the ramp like they’ve been using it their whole life!
There are several methods to teach your guinea pig how to use a ramp. It’s important to give them a reason to try using it: put items they regularly use on the other side of the ramp to incentivize them.
Feel free to use treats to encourage exploration.
If they’re still refusing, ensure there isn’t an issue with the ramp that makes your guinea pig uncomfortable using it. A simple fix might be all you need to make your pig happy.
Lastly, you should always have patience with your pig. They’re small critters in a great big world: give them time to get used to new things, and you’ll both have a happier time.