If you own a pet guinea pig, then you will soon notice that they have their own set of unique behaviors. It’s not always clear exactly what they mean or why your guinea pig may even be doing them. Licking is one such example. Curious, I decided to research what this means and decided to take a closer look into it. I will be sharing my findings here with you today.
So, why does my guinea pig lick me? Guinea pigs usually lick their owners as a sign of affection. Licking is one way that guinea pigs show affection towards each other, so take it as a compliment; they could be extending this gesture to you. It’s also possible that your guinea pig likes the taste of your skin; perhaps you had some food in your hand that they could smell and want to taste. Nevertheless, either reason shows that your guinea pig is comfortable with you and it is a positive sign.
Guinea pigs are sociable and friendly creatures that like to be seen and heard. Licking is actually a very common behavior, and it is not a cause for concern.
In fact, it can be a good indicator that your guinea pig feels safe and comfortable in your presence.
While licking is a sweet gesture; biting or nibbling is different.
It’s likely a fearful reaction, and they are actually trying to convey that something is wrong.
Maybe they do not like the way you stroke or handle them, maybe they want some alone time. Either way, whatever you are doing they are not content and want you to stop.
Nibbling can also mean other things like they need the toilet, or they are in physical pain. Sometimes even a noise may have frightened them.
So, if your Guinea pig nibbles your hand, take heed, and carefully put them back down, if that’s what they seem to want.
Let us now take a closer look at the main reasons why guinea pigs lick their owners.
We’ll also be covering why this is in fact a good thing if you can stop it and other ways your guinea pig may be displaying or trying to show their affection towards you.
So, be sure to keep on reading to the end to get all the information you need!
Reasons Why Guinea Pigs Lick Their Owners
Guinea pigs lick their owners for many reasons, all of which are good signs. At the center of this action is that a Guinea pig trusts its owner implicitly.
If a Guinea pig dislikes and distrusts its owner, they are simply not going to lick them. Its often why new owners or strangers never typically obverse or take part in this kind of interaction.
Guinea pigs take longer than most pets to adjust to their new owner and surroundings, but the signs couldn’t be more evident if they don’t bond closely with you.
A cavy distrustful of their owner, will back away, try to hide, will dislike being held, may nibble or bite, and may even try to escape.
With this all in mind, let us look at the exact reasons guinea pigs lick their owners:
If your Guinea pig licks your hand, it’s likely that they are happy and content to be with you. They want to show their appreciation and love.
Licking may also accompany squealing, which is cute and should be seen as a positive sign.
They’re Grooming You
Guinea pigs are fanatical about grooming themselves and others, sometimes that will extend to you, and it means they love you.
Occasionally Guinea pigs wee a little when they groom you, and this means that they really think you need the full Guinea pig spa treatment, lucky you!
Licking Up Salt
If you handled food and picked up your Guinea pig, they might lick your hand because they like the smell.
Perhaps you have salty skin, and your cavy wants more of this mineral!
Is A Guinea Pig Licking A Good Thing?
It usually takes a while for a Guinea pig to get used to their new surroundings and family.
You will find yourself doing all you can to ensure your Guinea pig eventually feels safe with you and even in the company of others; this will include housing two Guinea pigs together as they are sociable creatures.
You will also be careful where you locate your pet’s enclosure; you will want to place them in a quiet part of your home, but not too quiet.
The room must be warm but not too warm, they need the right temperature, and they need natural light. You get the idea.
It takes a lot of work to eventually earn their trust and get them to like you.
If your Guinea pig approaches you and isn’t afraid to show you its true self, you will be undoubtedly delighted. And rightly so.
If they show their tongue and lick your hand, this is a perfect sign as it shows they accept and trust you enough to want to stay nearby and do not feel threatened by you.
Whether your cavy is licking you because they like the taste of your skin or they are simply contented to be with you, both are a good sign and should be considered as such.
You may or not like having your Guinea pig lick your hand; some owners find it adorable while others find it strange. If you don’t enjoy your fingers being licked by your Guinea pig, you may even consider it not to be a good thing or something you want to happen regularly.
New Guinea pigs are often standoffish and skittish, which can be highly disappointing for a new Guinea pig owner.
During the adjustment phase, Guinea pigs spend most of their time watching their humans while hiding.
The bonding process between owner and Guinea pig requires patience and understanding of the owner’s part. If your Guinea pig licks your hand, take it as a huge compliment – regardless of your personal opinions of it!
Can You Stop A Guinea Pig Licking?
It is possible to stop a Guinea pig licking, but this is a common behavior and trait of them and they do it for a reason.
Many of their interactions with other Guinea pigs involve licking, so getting them to stop could be difficult and even problematic.
Licking your hand shows that they accept you, and it’s an affectionate gesture on their part, so stopping this is likely to be breaking the bond that you have built with them.
However, if you find licking strange or uncomfortable, consider handling your pet less, if at all possible.
If you see your cavy sticking their little tongue out, give them a toy to play with instead.
Natural wooden chew toys (like this excellent set on Amazon) are popular with Guinea pigs. Better yet, the materials are safe and natural and the toys have exciting shapes.
Your Guinea pig can chew, bite, lick, and interact with these toys in any way they like and keep themselves busy and entertained.
Distraction is the key to minimizing licking, even if it is an affectionate behavior.
Beyond this, always be sure to wash your hands well before holding.
Especially after handling food. Use a hand soap that is gentle on your skin and odorless, as strong smelling hand soaps made with harsh chemicals can entice your cavy for an exploratory lick.
Try rubbing a little lemon juice on your hands; sometimes the bitter smell is enough to deter your Guinea pig from having a lick.
Lastly, you can analyze your Guinea pig’s diet.
Licking may not have any connection to the diet, but it can indicate they are low in certain minerals, like sodium.
It’s a great idea to have a talk with your vet to see what diet they recommend for your guinea pig; high-quality pellets are essential.
You may want to reduce the amount of fruit you offer your Guinea pig as well – as it could be a mineral imbalance.
Other Ways Guinea Pigs Show Affection
Guinea pigs show affection in a variety of different ways that are unique to each individual. As long as your Guinea pigs are not trying to hide from you and don’t freeze when you come into their presence, then you likely have a close and trustworthy bond.
You will know that they truly love you and are confident in your presence when they are not too shy to be their true selves.
If they yell at you for their food, sleep in your presence, take food out of your hand, or approach you in any way, those are all good signs.
You will truly feel loved if your Guinea pig seeks out cuddles, petting, attention, or takes naps on you.
Let’s discuss in more detail how Guinea pigs show affection, besides licking:
If your cavy is feeling happy or excited, they are likely to let out a little squealing sound.
You should check to make sure your cavy isn’t in pain, but you can generally tell the difference between happy and unhappy squealing.
Popcorning is intrinsic to Guinea pigs, this is when they leap up in the air, and it’s quite a sight to behold. Guinea pigs popcorn when they are pleased about something,
Nuzzling is something Guinea pigs do when their owners hold them close; they nuzzle their heads against your hand.
Cats also nuzzle, and Guinea pigs are talented nuzzlers too.
If you are holding your Guinea pig in a way that they like, you may hear a little purring, and it will sound a little like a cat purring.
Guinea pig purring is very soothing to hear, and it means your Guinea pig is very relaxed.
I’m sure by now, it must come as a relief to know that your Guinea pigs’ licking is a good sign. They trust you implicitly, are comfortable in your presence and they accept you; which should be the goal with any pet.
That being said, not everyone appreciates having their hand licked by their Guinea pig.
Thankfully there are some simple things you can try to minimize it from happening like holding less, providing toys, washing your hands, and optimizing diet.
For most owners, licking is something that is noticed in time. Developing a bond takes a while along with continued effort on the owner’s part.
Your cavy must feel comfortable in your home and be well taken care of from the moment you bring them home.
From there, you shouldn’t rush the adjustment period as they get used to their new surroundings. This is vital if you want your guinea pig to trust you and accept human contact.
Achieving hand-licking status often comes following a lot of time being spent with your Guinea pig.
It’s also about knowing how and when to pick them up.
For new owners, not picking them up for the first few days is advised. Instead getting them used to seeing you and hearing your voice is a way to build your bond and confidence.
Other than this, owners should always offer their guinea pig time out of the cage, interact with them regularly, join in during playtime, and hand-feed veggies, hay, and treats.
These are the best ways to keep a guinea pig happy and to build up a strong and loving relationship with them.
If you have been doing this already, then it should come as no real surprise that you are being licked!
Wondering what other behaviors your guinea pig displays may mean? Then check out my guides below:
- Why Do Guinea Pigs Vibrate?
- Why Does My Guinea Pig Run Away From Me?
- Why Is My Guinea Pig Biting Me?
- Why Do Guinea Pigs Chew On Their Cage?
- Why Does My Guinea Pig Stare At Me?
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.