Aww – the adorable, friendly little Guinea Pig – the perfect first pet for your child.
There’s no doubt that Guinea Pigs are cute and overall they have a pretty good temperament.
But before you jump in and buy a Guinea Pig, it’s important that you understand more about their behavior and nature.
After all, the last thing you want to do is buy a pet just to find out that it’s not the right fit for you.
So this leads us to a common question about Guinea Pigs –
Do Guinea Pigs bite?
The answer to this question is yes, Guinea Pigs do bite.
Though they have a generally friendly temperament and good nature overall, it’s not uncommon to get the occasional nip from your little furry friend.
Like people, Guinea pigs have their own way of communicating. But because they don’t have voice boxes like we do, they can’t actually speak to one another (or to us).
In return, they use their body language to communicate. One way that they communicate is by biting, and as we will learn later, biting can mean several different things.
As we dive deeper into this topic we will answer several questions about the biting habits of Guinea Pigs including:
- Why Guinea Pigs bite each other
- Whether or not Guinea Pigs bite humans
- How hard a Guinea Pig bites
- What to do if a Guinea Pig bite bleeds
- How to treat a Guinea Pig bite
- And how to teach a Guinea Pig not to bite
Why do Guinea Pigs Bite each other?
Guinea Pigs are relatively social animals and usually do pretty well when living in the same vicinity as other guinea pigs.
With that being said, if you put two or more guinea pigs in a cage with one another, it’s not unlikely that you will see them bite each other at some point in time.
In moderation, biting is completely normal.
In fact, guinea pigs frequently bite to establish hierarchy. This is why you will often see younger guinea pigs biting the ears of older guinea pigs.
While this behavior can occur at any point in time, it’s more frequent during the adolescent years.
In some cases, however, biting can go beyond the hierarchy establishment and can reach the point of aggression.
Putting two males and a female in the same cage with one another will almost inevitably lead to aggression between the two males who will become at odds for the attention of the female.
Even without a female in the equation, two male guinea pigs may become at odds with one another in an attempt to establish dominance.
In such a case you may notice behaviors of circling or shaking, or you may even see the guinea pigs bare their teeth.
In this situation, if one of the guinea pigs backs down, it’s likely that the aggression will end there.
With that being said, if neither male is willing to back down, a full out fight could break out leading the guinea pigs to lunge at one another.
If this happens, you will need to separate them to prevent injuries.
Do Guinea Pigs Bite Humans?
While it’s very unusual for guinea pigs to bite humans, it does happen. With that being said, guinea pigs don’t usually bite for no reason.
So why might a guinea pig bite a human?
- They have mistaken you for food
Guinea pigs most commonly bite when they are being fed.
As humans we often hand feed our guinea pigs and sometimes our fingers can simply get in the way.
Other times we may be holding our guinea pigs and our hands smell like food. If your hands smell like pellets, grass, fruits, veggies, or other foods that guinea pigs enjoy, they might nip down on your finger.
This isn’t an act of aggression. Rather, it’s simply a case of mistaken identity.
- It’s too loud
Guinea pigs are easily startled and frightened by loud noises. If you are holding your guinea pig and it is startled by a loud noise like a vacuum cleaner or thunder, it could nip down on your hand.
Not only does this let you know that your pet is frightened, but it’s also your guinea pig’s way of saying, “put me back in my cage where I feel safe”.
- They are Fearful
Loud noises aren’t the only thing that can frighten your Guinea Pig, and therefore aren’t the only thing that may cause your pet to bite.
Anytime your Guinea Pig is afraid and your fingers are nearby, there is a chance that you could get bitten.
This is especially true for guinea pigs that have been abused by previous owners, so always be cautious around new pets if you don’t know their history.
- You are handling them too recklessly
Like any other type of pet, guinea pigs like to feel safe and secure.
If you are holding them and acting in a way that can make them feel otherwise, it’s likely that you will get bit.
To prevent biting, always be gentle when handling your guinea pig and avoid situations that may make them fearful.
Always hold your pet securely in your hands so that they feel safe and protected when with you.
- They are in Pain
If a guinea pig is in pain, the last thing it will want is to be held.
Whether they have been nipped by another guinea pig, have skin irritation, have a sprain, or have some other type of illness or injury, you should avoid holding guinea pigs when they are suffering from an injury.
- They are in a bad mood
People aren’t the only ones who can have bad moods – so can guinea pigs. And if you are holding them when they are in a bad mood, you could get bit.
For this reason, you should avoid handling your guinea pig before feeding time, when they are sleeping, or when they are playing happily on their own (or with a cagemate).
- They have to pee
The metabolism rate of a guinea pig is high which means that they have to urinate every 15-30 minutes (on average).
Once a guinea pig has been litter trained, it always likes to pee in the same location.
So if you are holding them while they have to pee, they could bite you to let you know it’s time to go back in their cage.
Like human babies, guinea pigs are curious and their curiosity can lead them to test things with their mouths.
If they are curious about you or your fingers, you could end up getting nibbled.
How hard does a Guinea Pig Bite?
In most cases, such as if a guinea pig is being curious, bites are more of a nibble than they are an actual bite.
In cases like these the skin is rarely broken and the bite is unlikely to hurt much (if even at all).
With that being said, bites can also be quite hard. Harder bites are common in situations where the guinea pig is fearful, in pain, or mistakes your fingers for food.
Bites like these can break the skin and can be quite painful for the person being bitten.
What to do if a Guinea Pig Bite Bleeds?/How to Treat a Guinea Pig Bite
If your Guinea Pig has bitten you hard, it could break the skin and draw blood.
If this is just a small cut or bleed, you can treat it from home by washing your hands with soap and water, and then cleaning the wound with alcohol to prevent infection.
Once disinfected, use some Neosporin to help it heal and then apply a bandaid to keep the cut covered.
If your wound continues to bleed for several hours, or if your wound is deeper than the average cut, it is advised that you see a doctor instead of treating the wound at home.
Though it is rare, severe bites can lead to infection and should be looked at by a professional.
How to Teach a Guinea Pig Not to Bite
Guinea pigs bite for many reasons, so “training” them not to bite isn’t always a one size fits all solution.
With that being said, because we understand the reasons why Guinea Pigs bite, it’s not difficult to prevent bites from occurring.
Here are some steps you can take to prevent your guinea pig from biting you:
- Wash your hands before handling your Guinea Pig to prevent the smell of any foods being on your fingers.
- Wait until your Guinea Pig has urinated before holding it.
- Avoid placing your guinea pig in situations that may cause anxiety or fear
- Avoid holding your guinea pig when there are loud noises
- Let new Guinea Pigs explore their space and become comfortable with their new surroundings before attempting to hold them.
- Cup your Guinea Pig using a towel as opposed to holding them with your hands
- Reinforce good behavior with treats.
- Avoid handing your Guinea Pig during feeding or nap time.
And finally, treat your Guinea Pig with respect at all times.
Don’t expect your Guinea Pig to treat you with respect if you don’t do the same. Respect their space, respect their fears, and help them to feel comforted and safe.
A guinea pig that feels safe is a safe guinea pig to hold.
Guinea Pigs are not aggressive pets, but they can bite under certain situations. The key to avoiding bites is to understand guinea pig behavior and avoid putting yourself in situations that may prompt biting behaviors.
The best way to do this is by getting to know the personality of your guinea pig and understanding their triggers.
If you are being bitten regularly, monitor which behaviors or situations proceed or follow the bite, and then amend handling time accordingly.