When considering a guinea pig for a pet, one of the most important things you want to know beforehand is “Do guinea pigs bite?”, especially if you have small children who will be interacting with him or her. Here we’ll talk about biting behavior in guinea pigs.
Do Guinea Pigs Bite?
Of course, guinea pigs can bite. However, guinea pigs are gentle creatures, and biting is not a behavior you have to worry about when considering a guinea pig as a pet. Most guinea pigs will not bite unless they have a good reason to do so.
That being said, there are some guinea pigs who will bite. The majority of biting behavior can be considered “nipping”, where they don’t bite very hard and don’t break the skin. Then there are those guinea pigs who really, for one reason or another, bite hard. They can break the skin and even take a chunk out of your flesh.
Biting is a form of communication, believe it or not, so if you have a biter, you need to figure out what the guinea pig is trying to say to you.
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Why Would a Guinea Pig Bite?
He is frightened
Any animal that feels frightened or threatened will enter “fight or flight” mode, and guinea pigs are no different. If he feels insecure, threatened in any way, not safe, or something scares him ( a loud noise, for example), he might lash out and bite.
You Touched Him on a Sore Spot
Sometimes a guinea pig will bite while you’re handling him because he has a sore spot or gets touched somewhere he doesn’t want to be touched. Sometimes guinea pigs will get mites and have sensitive skin as a result, and when you touch them, they instinctively bite.
He Got Handled Roughly
Sometimes if handled roughly, like when a small child doesn’t know how to properly handle him, he will react with a bite. It goes back to the “feeling frightened or insecure” reason above.
He Has to Pee
There are some guinea pigs who have been known to bite or nip if they are being held but need to urinate. It’s one of of telling you to let them go do their business.
He Mistook your Hand for Food
Guinea pigs have an excellent sense of smell, and if your hands have the scent of food on them and you go to hold him, he might bite your hand thinking that it is food. It’s always a good idea to wash your hands before and after handling your guinea pig.
He Does Not Want to Be Held
It’s not very common, but a guinea pig might bite if he does not want to be held and feels annoyed. If you’ve been holding him for a while and then he suddenly just lashes out and bites you, this might be the reason.
He Wants to Groom You
Guinea pigs groom each other, and if you’re holding yours and he nibbles on you, he might just be trying to groom you.
You Petted Him Wrong
When you run your hand against the lay of the hair, it can be painful for the guinea pig, and he might bite in retaliation. Always pet from head to rump, not the other way around.
He’s Just Young
Very young guinea pigs are still learning and testing their limits, so biting can be common among babies and adolescents. If the guinea pig is under a year old and is a biter, it could very well be that he’s just young and will outgrow the behavior as he matures.
He Feels the Need to Chew
Guinea pig teeth are continually growing, and they need to chew to keep the teeth from growing too long. If your guinea pig has nothing to chew on or suffers from a poor diet, and he really feels the need to chew on something, it’s quite possible that that could translate into biting. Make sure your guinea pig has opportunities to chew on things.
He Has a Dental Problem
If there’s something wrong with his teeth or mouth, a guinea pig will bite to instinctively attempt to fix what’s ailing him. For example, an older guinea pig can develop malocclusion if he doesn’t get enough hay or roughage in his diet. Have your guinea pig examined by a vet to look for potential problems that can lead to biting.
He’s a Guinea Pig with a Bad Attitude
Guinea pigs have moods like anyone else, so an occasional bite could just mean that your guinea pig is in a bad mood. However, if your guinea pig bites hard and often, and you’ve done everything you can to determine what the cause is but come up with nothing, it could be that you have a guinea pig with an attitude. It’s not very common, but once in a great while you will encounter a guinea pig with a bad disposition. Oftentimes, patience, love, and security showered lavishly over a long period of time can change his sour disposition into a friendlier, more peaceful one. But patience and time are the keys.
Why Would a Guinea Pig Bite the Bars of His Cage?
Sometimes guinea pigs don’t bite people, but you observe them biting the bars of their cage a lot. Here are some possible reason for that behavior:
He Needs More Room
If you keep a guinea pig penned up in a small cage with little chance to run around, he’ll often bite the bars to signal his discontent. Give him some free range time every day, or get him a bigger enclosure.
Try interacting with him more or supplying toys. If he’s solitary, maybe you should consider getting another guinea pig. In the wild, guinea pigs are social animals, and they need companionship. They are not meant to sit alone in a cage all day, every day.
He Wants Your Attention
Maybe he sees you and wants to get your attention. Maybe he sees or senses food in the area and wants some.
How Do I Stop the Biting?
Of course, the best way to stop it is to figure out exactly why it’s happening and fix that problem. Do not punish or inflict pain on the guinea pig. Some people lightly tap them on the nose, and I don’t see a problem with that. But inflicting any kind of pain on a guinea pig is not going to get him to stop biting. It will only serve to make him afraid of you and feel more insecure.
If your guinea pig bites a lot, try gradually introducing your hand into the cage – slowly – every time you attempt to pick him up. Wrap him with a small cloth or blanket when you go to pick him up. It makes him feel secure, and it protects your hands from a bite.
Guinea pigs learn from each other, so if he’s a solitary animal, try getting another guinea pig to keep him company – and learn from. It might make him happier and calm him down a bit.
Make sure to get him checked out out by a vet to pinpoint any health problems that might be causing the bad behavior. Behavior doesn’t change overnight – you have to be willing to be patient. Work with him daily and, over time, his behavior will change for the better.