Guinea pigs are very popular small pets and are great for both kids and adults. Guinea pigs are personable, don't take up a huge amount of space, and are usually very gentle. On occasion, however, guinea pigs may nibble or bite. This can be problematic, especially for kids that don't understand why their beloved pet would bite them. Knowing why a guinea pig may bite and how to avoid or stop it is very beneficial. This knowledge is helpful not only to prevent unwanted injuries but also to help improve the relationship you or your child has with your pet.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Bite?
Guinea pigs are extremely social creatures. They make many different noises or vocalizations to communicate with each other and feel a range of emotions. A guinea pig may occasionally bite as a response to their emotions or environments. Here are some reasons your guinea pig might bite.
If your guinea pig feels scared, is startled, or is being bullied by other guinea pigs, it may react by biting you or another guinea pig. This reaction is natural and is an attempt to protect itself or stop whatever is scaring it from happening. It may occur if your guinea pig is being held too high in the air, another guinea pig keeps stealing its food, or you attempt to pick it up while it's sleeping.
Guinea pigs love to eat and even have some favorite foods. If they are especially hungry or are fighting over a favorite food item, they may nip at you or another guinea pig. This behavior isn't unexpected from any hungry animal, but there are ways to help decrease the likelihood of it occurring.
If your guinea pig smells food on you or you are holding a chew toy, it may bite your fingers accidentally. Your guinea pig may have gotten confused and thought your fingers were actually its chew stick or snack. It probably didn't mean to bite you and realized your fingers wasn't food as soon as it made contact with them.
A guinea pig may feel stressed for a variety of reasons. In addition to being scared and being bullied by other guinea pigs, cages that are too small, not having a place to sleep, chronic competition for a mate or food, and an uncomfortable cage floor can result in your guinea pig being stressed. This can then cause it to be more reactive and likely to bite you.
Wearing Down Its Teeth
Your guinea pig may be biting you or its cage because it is trying to wear its teeth down. Guinea pigs have teeth that continuously grow throughout their lifetimes, so they need to chew on things to keep them short. This is a very natural and necessary behavior, and if your guinea pig doesn't have adequate items—such as a daily supply of hay—that it is supposed to chew, it will find something else to chew on.
Guinea pigs that aren't feeling well may be more likely to bite. They may not want to be bothered and if you are trying to handle them or force them to eat, biting may be their way of trying to tell you that they want to be left alone. If your guinea pig has never bitten before and suddenly nipped at you, this is a good indication that it may be sick.
If your guinea pig is sick, it may also be in pain. Other causes of pain can also result in your guinea pig biting. If you or your child are squeezing your guinea pig too tightly, its leg is stuck in the cage, it has been injured, or is experiencing pain from something else, biting is more likely. Make sure that your guinea pig doesn't appear to be in pain if it's trying to bite.
Puberty occurs in males around two to three months of age, and if two males are housed together, they may bite each other or be more likely to bite you because of their high testosterone levels. It's best to keep intact male guinea pigs separate to avoid wounds from fighting. Females guinea pigs have also shown to be less social when they are in heat and may be less tolerant of other guinea pigs and handling.
How to Stop Guinea Pigs From Biting
There are some simple things you can do to discourage your guinea pig from biting. Ensure your guinea pig's enclosure is not too small. Provide plenty of hiding spots and ample food sources. Don't wake your guinea pig up if it is sleeping, and provide it with plenty of chew toys.
If you suspect your guinea pig is sick or in pain, don't handle it more than necessary and bring them into the vet. If another guinea pig is bullying it, you may need to permanently separate them.