9 Reasons Why Guinea Pigs Bite Their Owners

9 Reasons Why Guinea Pigs Bite Their Owners

It is a well-known fact that all-in-all guinea pigs are gentle and friendly animals. But, of course, there can be situations when even the most docile animals lose their temper.

Why guinea pigs bite their owners? There are plenty of reasons why guinea pigs will bite their owners. Usually, this happens when something is wrong with guinea pigs physically or when they are scared. The guinea pig could be feeling some sort of pain or maybe it needs to pee but you are holding it for too long. These are just some of the reasons why your guinea pig has already or could bite you in the future. 

You might be a proud owner of a cavy that recently got bitten by his beloved pet. Or you’re just considering adopting a guinea pig and want to know about everything that comes with it.

The main thing that you have to bear in mind is that, in the majority of cases, if the guinea pig bites you then there is something wrong with them. And you, as a great owner, have to know how to fix the situation and ensure that your guinea pig feels safe and comfortable.

With our 9 reasons why guinea pigs bite their owners, this won’t be a problem. Let’s start!

9 Reasons Why Guinea Pigs Bite Their Owners


1. Your Guinea Pig Is Scared

Your Guinea Pig Is Scared

One of the most obvious reasons why a guinea pig might bite – the little thing is simply scared of something. And the chances are high that the subject evoking fear in the guinea pig is you!

If you have had the guinea pig for a while, then it might start biting you, if you have been constantly mishandling it. It goes without saying that the guinea pig would be afraid of the human that had made the fluffy ball suffer from pain.

But what can you do, if you had just gotten the guinea pig and it immediately started biting you? Well, the little one might simply need some time to get used to you. Make sure that the guinea pig remembers your voice and smell and only after that attempt to handle it.

But there might be another scenario. If you got the guinea pig from a shelter, for example, you have no idea about what the guinea pig had to face in the past. It could have been hurt by different people.

Unfortunately, even if you spend a lot of time trying to become friends with a guinea pig that has a psychological trauma, there is a chance that it simply won’t ever be able to fully get rid of the fear.


2. The Guinea Pig Is Feeling Pain

The Guinea Pig Is Feeling Pain

Another reason that we may immediately consider is – pain. The instant reaction of a guinea pig to pain is, of course, aggression and biting. The guinea pig might have a bruise or some strains that will hurt once you try to handle it. Moreover, sick or extremely tired guinea pigs might have their whole body aching. That’s certainly not the best time to try and cuddle with your beloved pet.

By the way, your guinea pig might be having a toothache. Did you know that the teeth of a guinea pig grow throughout their whole life? That’s why it is essential for the guinea pig to always have something to chew on. Otherwise, malocclusion might develop. A state that causes a lot of discomfort and pain. Your guinea pig might also be suffering from arthritis, a state that can also cause a lot of pain.

Anyway, if your cavy had never bitten you before and you know exactly how to handle the guinea pig – you better pay a visit to the vet, as the reasons for the biting might be health-related.

Related: Guinea Pig’s Health Symptom Checker: Top 10 Warning Signs


3. Your Guinea Pig Might Simply Need to Go to the Toilet

Your Guinea Pig Might Simply Need to Go to the Toilet

Guinea pigs need to go to the toilet. A lot. On average, guinea pigs need to ‘go’ every 15-20 minutes! In case you have been handling the guinea pig for quite a while, it might start to try and wiggle out or even bite you.

At first, it might be a light bite that you wouldn’t even want to pay attention to. But bear in mind that if you won’t let your guinea pig empty its bladder the second bite will surely be harder.

Related: Can Guinea Pigs Be Litter Trained?


4. You’re Handling the Guinea Pig the Wrong Way

You’re Handling the Guinea Pig the Wrong Way

This is an essential thing that every guinea pig owner has to learn. You should know exactly how to handle your guinea pig so that it feels comfortable. So make sure to do your research.

However, there are a few other general rules. All guinea pigs like to feel secure. In case you are holding the guinea pig loosely, it will let you know that it’s not feeling safe.

By the way, some cavies don’t like being held high above the ground. They are also not fond of walking up and down the stairs with you. There are guinea pigs that even hate simply walking around the house with you. So make sure to pay attention to the reaction of your pet every time you handle it.


5. Mites and Parasites

Mites and Parasites in Guinea Pigs

Usually, your guinea pig is friendly and gentle, but recently it decided to start biting you? Well, the reason for that might be parasites or mites.

Firstly, these tiny creatures make the skin of your beloved guinea pig more sensitive. So once you try to handle it, the guinea pig will feel pain.

Secondly, mites certainly do itch. And the only way a guinea pig can try and ‘scratch’ itself is with the help of teeth. In such a case, the cavy didn’t intend to hurt you. It was simply trying to bite its own body to try and get rid of the itching.

The thing with parasites is that it is practically impossible to spot those with a naked eye. Of course, there are other symptoms that your guinea pig will have. But, anyway, a trip to the vet is a must in such a case.

Related: Can Guinea Pig Mites Transfer to Humans?


6. Noise Pollution

Noise Pollution scared Guinea Pig

This one, once again, has to do with the poor little things getting scared. Loud and unexpected noises can frighten the guinea pig a lot.

If you try to handle your beloved guinea pig during a thunderstorm or whilst someone else decides to clean the house with a vacuum cleaner – you might end up getting bitten.

Simply let your guinea pig get back to the cage so that the little fellow can hide in its house until everything is safe and sound again.


7. Your Guinea Pig Has Mistaken You for Food

Your Guinea Pig Has Mistaken You for Food

Yep, even such things can happen. Remember to wash your hands every time before handling your guinea pig. And not just for health reasons.

In case your hands smell like food that the guinea pig is used to or hay, for example, the little fellow might bite you simply because it had mistaken your fingers for food.


8. The Guinea Pig Just Wants to Be Left Alone

The Guinea Pig Just Wants to Be Left Alone

If you have been a guinea pig owner for quite a while, you certainly have already figured out that they have extremely strong personalities. Yes, they are just like us, humans. Some like to ‘party’, others need a bit more time on their own.

Once you adopt any pet you should get used to the fact that the animal is certainly not a toy. And its interests should be taken into consideration at all times.

You might want to handle and cuddle with the guinea pig badly, but the guinea pig may simply not be in the mood for it. And the best thing you can do, as a great owner, is leaving the fellow alone for a while.

Related: Where Do Guinea Pigs Like to Be Petted?


9. Guinea Pig Needs More Space

Consider Getting a Bigger Guinea Pig Cage

Does it look like neither of the reasons mentioned above suits your particular situation? If you still have no idea why your guinea pig bites? Then you might want to get a bigger cage for your beloved pet. Even though guinea pigs are small animals, they still need quite some space to be able to run around and play.

If the cage is too small for the guinea pig, it might start getting grumpy. If you can’t decide on what guinea pig cage you want to get take a look at our detailed guinea pig cage buying guide.

Related: What Guinea Pig Cage Size Is the Best? (Proper Accommodation)


What Should You Do, If Your Guinea Pig Bites Other Guinea Pig?

Now you know exactly what to do if your guinea pig bites you. But what measures can you take if one of the guinea pigs attacks the other one from time to time?

In general, experts recommend getting girls (sows), if you decide to adopt more than one guinea pig. They are certainly going to live in peace and love. A girl and a boy (boar) might also work great together. But in case there are a few boys – then there can be problems.

The fights usually occur when the males try to prove to each other who is the boss. One boar might end up giving up and there will be no fight. But if the guys start biting one another – it’s a dangerous situation. The only thing you can do is separate the guinea pigs.

Make sure to leave them in different rooms for at least a night. Later on, you can start placing two cages next to each other so that the boys get used to the smell of one another. Also, consider buying a bigger cage where both of the cavies could live in peace.

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Summary

Now you know for sure why guinea pigs bite and what you should do in such an unexpected situation.

The biggest piece of advice that we can give is that if you can’t spot any obvious reasons why your guinea pig started biting – it is always better to pay a visit to the vet. Just in case.


Related: How to Tame a Guinea Pig – 7 Simple Things You Need to Do


List of Sources

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Abrahamian, F. M., Goldstein, E. J., Microbiology of animal bite wound infections, Clinical microbiology reviews, 2011.

Sachser, N., Lick, C., Social experience, behavior, and stress in guinea pigs, Physiology and Behavior, 1991.

Kohn, D. F., Martin, T. E., Foley, P. L., Morris, T. H., Swindle, M. M., Vogler, G. A., Wixson, S. K., Public statement: guidelines for the assessment and management of pain in rodents and rabbits, Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science: JAALAS, 2007.

Boehmer, E., Crossley, D., Objective interpretation of dental disease in rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas, Schattauer, 2009.

Brismar, B. H., Lei, W., Hjerpe, A., Svensson, O., The effect of body mass and physical activity on the development of guinea pig osteoarthrosis, Acta Orthop Scand, 2003.

Meredith, A., Skin diseases of rodents, Companion Animal Practice, 2016.

Griffiths, J. H., Some common parasites of small laboratory animals, Laboratory Animals, 1971.

McNicholas, J., Gilbey, A., Rennie, A., Ahmedzai, S., Dono, J. A., Ormerod, E., Pet ownership and human health: a brief review of evidence and issues, BMJ, 2005.

Ando, R., Watanabe, C., Vocalization response used for evaluation of pain-related behavior in guinea pigs, Nihon Yakurigaku Zasshi, 1998.

Bino Sundar, S. T., Harikrishnan, T. J., Bhaskaran Ravi Latha, Gomathinayagam, S., Srinivasan, M. R., Ramesh, S., Incidence of fur mite infestation in laboratory rodents, Journal of parasitic diseases, 2017.

Pye, A., The effects of short noise exposures in the guinea pig, Arch Otorhinolaryngol, 1984.

White, W. J., Balk, M. W., Lang, C. M., Use of cage space by guineapigs, Laboratory animals, 1989.

Sachser, N., Lick, C., Stanzel, K., The environment, hormones, and aggressive behaviour: a 5-year-study in guinea pigs, Psychoneuroendocrinology, 1994.

Stefanski, V., Hendrichs, H., Social confrontation in male guinea pigs: behavior, experience, and complement activity, Physiology & behavior, 1996.

Clarissa Moolbrock

Clarissa Moolbrock is one of the founders and editor at Guinea Pig Tube. She is also an author of "Complete Guinea Pig Care Guide: The Essential, Practical Guide To All Aspects of Caring for Your Guinea Pigs" (available on Amazon). Being a veterinary technician helping animals and sharing her experience and knowledge with other guinea pig owners is her passion. Her life goal is to popularise guinea pigs as pets and that is why she has started Guinea Pig Tube website.