If you’ve just built a new loft for your guinea pig, it’s naturally disappointing when your guinea pig won’t even go up the ramp to explore it. Some guinea pigs simply need a bit of time to adjust and start learning the ramp on their own. However, many guinea pigs will completely ignore it and have no interest in climbing it at all.
For these guinea pigs, you may have to teach them how to use their new ramp so they can enjoy their fun new loft. Below I’ll go over the simple steps you can use to teach any guinea pig to navigate a new ramp. I’ll also include some additional tips and tricks to make sure your training goes as smoothly as possible.
Is Your Ramp Suitable for Guinea Pigs?
If your guinea pig is hesitant to use a ramp, consider if there’s a reason behind it. Is the ramp too steep? Perhaps you can decrease the angle by putting a platform of fleece bed under the base of the ramp. Ensure your ramp is wide enough for your guinea pig to walk on easily. Adding side rails to the edges of the ramp often makes it much less intimidating to guinea pigs. Side rails can be made with some coroplast or even pieces of cardboard.
Make sure your ramp is sturdy and solid as well. Some guinea pigs don’t like to walk up something that moves as they walk. Finally, consider the surface of your ramp. Is it easy for the guinea pigs to grip as they walk up? Old carpets, mats, rubber slats, and fleece can all improve traction on your ramp.
How to Teach Your Guinea Pig to Go Up a Ramp in 5 Easy Steps
Follow along with these steps to teach your guinea pig to go up and down a ramp. Remember to work at your guinea pig’s pace. Take as much time as your guinea pig needs on each step.
If they become confused or hesitant about something, try rewarding them more frequently or going back a step. This is often the best way to get your guinea pig back on track quickly.
Keep your training sessions relatively short, ideally under 5 minutes. This prevents your guinea pig from getting bored or distracted. It also gives them time to process what they’ve learned between training sessions.
1. Lower the Ramp or Decrease the Angle
Find your guinea pig’s favorite veggie treats. My piggies really love green leaf lettuce and carrots for training treats. You’ll only need treats for the initial training process. Once your guinea pigs learn how to navigate the scary ramp, they’ll be able to go up and down freely as they please.
If possible, lower the ramp or take it out of the cage to lay flat on the floor. You can also decrease the angle of the ramp by placing a brick or some books under one end.
2. Lure Them Up the Low Ramp With Baby Steps
Lure your guinea pig across or up the low ramp gradually with a piece of food. Lure just a tiny step at a time and reward. If they don’t want to follow the lure, hold the treat still and let them take a couple of nibbles. Move the treat just slightly further away and let them come and take another couple of nibbles.
It may take several minutes to get your guinea pig up the ramp using this method, but it generally works well. Take baby steps and progress at your guinea pig’s pace. Work on this step slowly until your guinea pig reaches the top of the ramp. Give them a big piece of food once they get to the top.
If your guinea pig is really struggling with this, try making the ramp even lower. If you can take it out and put it on the floor, that is even better. Lure your guinea pig across the ramp a few times, rewarding every step they take.
Trying to lure them all the way up at once will not work with most guinea pigs. They will usually just stretch up towards the food as far as they can and then run away when the food is too evasive. This is why it’s essential to lure them up in small, gradual steps.
3. Lure Them Down the Low Ramp With Baby Steps
Some guinea pigs will find this easier than the previous step, and some will find it harder. Regardless, the process is exactly the same as the second step. Lure your guinea pig down the ramp in tiny baby steps. Give them a nibble or two of food for every small step they take.
If they start planting their feet and stretching towards the food, keep your hand still for a moment and let them nibble for a minute. Once they are relaxed again, you can move your hand a tiny step away for them to follow. Keep this up all the way down the ramp.
4. Rinse and Repeat
Practice luring your guinea pig up and down the ramp at least a few more times. They should follow the lure easier each time. You may be able to lure them further and reward them less frequently each time. Practice until they can go up and down the ramp pretty confidently.
5. Gradually Increase the Height
If you lowered your ramp for the previous steps, it’s now time to get it back up to the regular height. Do this very gradually. Each time you raise the height, lure your guinea pig up and down a couple of times before raising the height again. If they become stuck or hesitant to go up, lower it a bit and keep practicing.
There are a few tips you can use to encourage your guinea pig to go up the ramp on their own. These work really well in combination with the training steps above.
Scatter Some Treats on the Ramp
Spreading some pieces of your guinea pig’s favorite treats up the ramp can help encourage them to explore it on their own time. This can be good to do in between training sessions. Your guinea pig may use what they’ve learned so far to climb up and get their treats.
Make the Loft Into a Cool Secret Piggy Hideaway
If your guinea pig does happen to go up the ramp to their loft, you want them to think that their loft is the absolute best place ever. Make the loft appealing to your guinea pig by draping a blanket all the way across the top of the loft. Load it with piles of fresh hay for the guinea pigs to eat and run through.
Drape a Blanket Across the Ramp
Guinea pigs are very drawn to enclosed hidey spaces. They feel vulnerable trying to navigate an unknown object (ramp) out in the open. Oftentimes simply draping a blanket over the top of your ramp can give them enough confidence to investigate the ramp and even try climbing up.
Start With the Most Confident Guinea Pig
If you have multiple guinea pigs, try teaching your most confident guinea pig to go up the ramp first. Confident guinea pigs are the easiest to train. In addition, the other guinea pigs will often learn easiest by following the example of the boldest pig. If the ring leader of the group can confidently go up the ramp, the other guinea pig(s) are more likely to follow.
How Long Does it Take to Teach Guinea Pigs to Use a Ramp?
Most guinea pigs can learn to go up a ramp in about a week or two. This depends a lot on the guinea pig’s personality and age. Naturally, younger, athletic guinea pigs will have an easier time going up and down a ramp. Bold, outgoing guinea pigs also tend to be more curious and easy to train.
Older or shy guinea pigs usually prefer to stick to things that are familiar to them. Because of this, they generally take more time and patience to train. It helps if you have a more confident guinea pig to set an example for the other. Draping blankets over ramps and lofts often helps immensely with more nervous guinea pigs.
Are Cages With Ramps Safe for Guinea Pigs?
Ramps that lead to a small loft in a C&C or similar cage are perfectly fine for guinea pigs. Make sure your ramp is wide, relatively low, and easy for the guinea pig to climb. However, you do want to avoid high multi-level cages and the steep ramps that come with them. Cages made for rats, ferrets, sugar gliders, etc are not suitable for guinea pigs.
Most of the time, guinea pigs will not use the upper levels of these cages at all. Guinea pigs cannot climb ramps that are too steep. In addition, guinea pigs have poor balance and depth perception. If they do manage to get to a higher level, they can be injured if they fall or jump from even relatively low heights.
How Steep Should a Guinea Pig Ramp Be?
A guinea pig ramp should be no more than a 30-degree angle. Be sure to provide a ramp with adequate grip, as guinea pigs are not natural climbers. The loft height should be less than 16 inches. In addition, both the ramp and the loft should have side rails to prevent the guinea pig from jumping or falling off.
If your guinea pig is aging or arthritic, the ramp should be kept to a very low incline, ideally less than 10 degrees. If you have an older pig, do not put all the food and water sources in the loft. Older guinea pigs should have access to everything they need on the bottom floor of the cage, so they have the option of using the ramp or not.
Going up a ramp can be challenging for some guinea pigs. But with a bit of time and patience, any guinea pig can learn to go up a safe, sturdy ramp. With just a few adjustments and a bit of training, most guinea pigs will be racing up to their new loft in no time at all. I hope this article helped your guinea pig learn to navigate their new ramp quickly and easily! For more training guides, check out our guinea pig training page.