When owning a pet guinea pig, one of those unfortunate events that may occur is biting. Whether it is intentional or not, it can hurt. There is usually a reason behind it and of course, we do not want this behavior to continue; especially if it has just started to happen or has become a regular thing. I decided to do some research, searching for answers as to why guinea pigs bite. I would like to share this information with you here today.
If you own a Guinea pig that happens to bite, you may be wondering, why is my guinea pig biting me? Guinea pigs bite for several reasons – both intentionally and unintentionally. The main reasons include your guinea pig feeling threatened, insecure, stressed, or irritated. This can happen due to the way you are handling them, interrupting their feeding/defecating or backing them into a corner, and not giving them enough space.
Additionally, many guinea pigs do not like being carried around your home, they want to feel safe, and having their feet up in the air only increases their sense of insecurity.
Most Guinea pigs are very sweet-natured, not to mention cute. It is little wonder why these creatures make such popular pets.
Many websites and pet stores recommend Guinea pigs as an ideal pet for children or beginners; however, you should know that they do bite on occasion.
The most common reason why your guinea pig may be biting you is due to the way that you are holding them.
Biting or nibbling you is their way of communicating that they feel uncomfortable, insecure, or unsafe.
Some Guinea pigs don’t like to be petted and given a lot of attention.
If you suspect that this is causing biting, you must stop immediately. This is because you may be causing them stress; they don’t want to bite but will do so if they feel it is necessary.
Guinea pigs rarely bite their owners; it’s not in their nature.
When they do, it is not personal, they are just feeling uncomfortable and need to communicate this.
Let us now explore biting in guinea pigs further; including what you can do and how to teach your guinea pig not to bite going forward.
Do Guinea Pig Bites Hurt?
Guinea pig bites can hurt, especially if they bite down hard. Usually, Guinea pigs nibble and lick you without breaking your skin. Be aware that even nibbling can hurt small children.
If your cavy feels threatened, insecure, or irritated, they may bite down hard and even break the skin, and this would certainly hurt you.
It is fair to assume that the harder the bite, the more threatened your guinea pig feels in the present moment, and the more they are looking to escape such a situation.
Guinea pigs occasionally bite the fingers of their owners unintentionally, mistaking them for food.
For this reason, you must be very careful in how you feed your cavies, as such bites can be painful.
By and large, Guinea pigs are very gentle creatures, and aggression is out of character for them. But if they feel stressed out or if they get a little too excited, they can become aggressive, which often leads to them biting.
So as an owner, you must avoid stressing out your Guinea pig as much as you can.
What To Do If A Guinea Pig Bites You?
If a Guinea pig bites you and pierces your skin, you must wash the wound immediately with soap and water to prevent infection.
Better yet, using an anti-microbial ointment like Neosporin from Amazon will improve the healing time and ensure that no bacteria can build up and result in infection.
If you are bleeding from the bite, apply pressure on the area for 5 to 10 minutes with a bandage or a clean cloth. Depending on how severe the skin is broken, will depend if you need to seek prompt medical attention.
Thankfully rodents, like guinea pigs, are at low risk of carrying rabies. However, they can transmit other infections.
Whether your guinea pig is carrying such bacteria will depend on a number of factors; including their age, the cleanliness of the cage, and where you got your guinea pig from.
Medical treatment following the bite of a Guinea pig depends on the type of injury, its location, and the severity of the wound.
After seeking appropriate medical attention, you must consider a long-term solution for how you plan to stop your Guinea pig from biting you and others; this is especially important if children are living in your home.
We will consider the method in the following section, and resolve to have a plan of action to prevent further bites.
How To Teach A Guinea Pig Not To Bite
Guinea pigs rarely bite. Instead, it is more likely for them to run and seek a place to hide.
However, if you have a cavy with dominance issues, you may run into trouble with biting.
You must give your Guinea pig the right kind of attention so that they do not feel the need to exert their dominance over you.
Condition your cavy to expect kindness and affection from you whenever they see you. If you can achieve this, your pet will likely refrain from biting you anymore.
Let’s look at how to stop your Guinea pig from biting you, (step by step).
Never Stick Your Fingers Through The Cage
Do not stick your fingers through the bars of your Guinea pig’s cage. This will likely stress your guinea pig out.
If your cavy feels threatened, they are likely to lash out and bite you. Do not give them an opportunity to hurt you.
Wash Your Hands
Make sure to wash your hands before and after coming into contact with your Guinea pig.
These rodents have a very keen sense of smell; they associate certain smells with danger and can react negatively to those smells.
Consider The Causes
Consider the reasons your Guinea pig bites. Biting occurs out of fear, but environmental and biological reasons can also play their part.
You must think about how and how often you are handling your pet.
If you own a non-neutered male, they tend to show more dominance than females, and it may cause them to act out aggressively.
Does your Guinea pig bite the bars of his cage? Perhaps they are lonely and want attention. This may not be threatening behavior initially and may biting may be accidental.
Either way, approach with caution, nonetheless.
Consider The Cage Location
Consider the location of your Guinea pig’s cage. If the cage is placed in a busy part of your home where there is a lot of activity and noise- this can stress out your cavy.
Put their cage in a quieter and calmer part of your home; this will make an enormous difference to their behavior.
Ensure that the room is sufficiently warm, with no drafts and no other causes of stress. For example, if you were to own other pets – like cats, refrain from letting them enter and be in this room.
Allow your Guinea pig to explore their space freely; if your pet is new, it will take time for them to adjust to their new surroundings.
Letting them investigate their surroundings and find suitable hiding spaces will help them to feel more comfortable.
If you do not have a sufficiently large cage, consider upgrading it. Guinea pigs need to be able to roam freely and can be very stressed out if they are living in cramped conditions.
The Midwest Deluxe Habitat Plus is a favorite among guinea pig owners; you can get it for a great price on Amazon.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to give your guinea pig time outside the cage daily to have a wander, exercise, and explore.
Using a safe indoor/outdoor playpen is ideal here. You can minimize their movement to a confined space and not risk them harming themselves with something in the environment.
If you plan to do so outside be wary of the sunshine and other potential predators.
Getting a playpen with a roof is best here, like this one on Amazon.
Giving your guinea pig time to get out of the cage and explore a new environment will give them a lot of happiness and satisfaction.
It can calm them down and put them in better spirits – resulting in less likelihood of biting.
Just be careful with how you hold them and pick them up from the cage (which we will cover shortly below).
Let your Guinea pig get used to seeing you, but do it slowly. They need to get used to hearing your voice, just make sure you speak softly to them at all times.
You can offer greens and other pieces of vegetables to your pet when you notice them becoming more comfortable with you; just make sure you cut them into thin strips to prevent any unintentional biting.
Carrots for example work particularly well when cut length-ways.
You can work at holding your Guinea pig but only do so for short periods at a time.
Do not grab them or hold them against their will and only do so when they appear relaxed and are not busy eating/defecating or playing.
If your cavy appears to accept your hand, try to pet them for a few seconds at a time.
You can pet them behind their ears and on top of their head.
Lift them from under their chest off the ground and put them back down straight away.
Rewards and Treats
When your guinea pig behaves well, reinforce their good behavior by giving them treats.
But never reward bad behavior, either by giving them attention or offering treats.
You can give your Guinea pig attention, once they have later calmed down.
If you ever try to appease their biting behavior with treats, they will associate biting with receiving a reward and is likely never to stop biting you or others.
Therefore, if your guinea pig does bite. Simply put them down/secure them in the cage and leave. Give them time to calm down and do not return for a sufficient amount of time.
Thankfully, Guinea pigs are fairly docile, sweet-natured rodents. It is unlikely one would ever bite you.
If you happen to own one who is biting you, naturally you will wonder, why they are doing so.
There is always a cause; and it is very likely that it is because they feel threatened, unsafe, uncomfortable, or insecure.
If you can work out why they are feeling this way, it will really help you to not put them in this position and reduce/eliminate biting altogether.
It can be very hard to not take biting personally, but you must consider how your guinea pig is feeling.
You need to communicate this to your children and any other person who comes into contact with your guinea pig. They must know how to properly look after and care for them.
For example, if you have children living with you, they too must learn how to handle Guinea pigs correctly, under your supervision.
After you have had your Guinea pig for a while, you will pick up on their behavioral patterns, and you will soon learn when is best to approach them, how to handle them, and what is likely to provoke them.
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 Does My Guinea Pig Lick 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.