Guinea pigs can bring a smile to everyone’s face. They are funny, have a lovable personality, and amazing pets to have. Yes, they are rather small, cuddly, and sweet, but can they surprise you and bite you when you least expect it?
Guinea pigs can, in some cases, bite their owners or other guinea pigs. They will bite their owners when they experience discomfort or pain. This can happen often during improper handling, especially when picking them up or if someone is holding the guinea pig for too long in their lap.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Bite?
Biting is a part of guinea pigs’ communication, but you also need to pay attention to this type of behavior. Guinea pigs will bite and nibble occasionally. There is no problem with that, but if you notice that your pet is biting more than usual and it is showing signs of fear and aggression, then this is a problem that needs to be further investigated.
We have created a checklist of the main reasons why guinea pigs bite. With this list, you can try to determine what caused your guinea pig to show this aggressive behavior.
- Fear – Guinea pigs can bite if they are afraid of the person who is holding them. The root of the problem can be something from their past, such as abuse from previous owners, animals, or other forms of trauma. They rarely forget those things and this can be the underlying cause of their scared behavior.
- Pain – If your guinea pig is in pain or sick, it can be a cause for the biting. That is their way of saying that something is wrong.
- Noisy environment – Loud and continuous noise can scare and disturb guinea pigs. Guinea pigs can get easily frightened when there is a lot of noise around them. If someone goes to pet them during this period, they will in some cases bite that person.
- Owner gets mistaken for food – When you are feeding your guinea pigs, they can accidentally bite you while trying to eat their meal.
- Bad mood – Even guinea pigs have a temper and different moods. If they feel like they want to be left alone, they will bite you to let you know that the playtime is over. You need to learn when your guinea pigs have had enough socializing and want to be left alone.
- Bad handling – It is essential to learn how to handle, pick up, and carry your guinea pig. If you are doing it incorrectly and causing it discomfort, the guinea pig will quickly show you how it feels by biting you.
Should You Worry If Your Guinea Pig Bites You?
In most situations, the guinea pig’s bite will be harmless. Usually, they just nibble a little and rarely scratch the skin. In either case, wash your hands with soap and water. If you want to be sure that no infection will happen, use alcohol to disinfect the skin.
Do Guinea Pig Bites Hurt?
Sometimes guinea pig bites can hurt. Guinea pigs bite and nibble in order to communicate something to the owner. Also, in some cases, when they are just craving attention, guinea pigs will nibble you a little. But if they are feeling scared, intimidated, or aggravated, their bite can even pierce the skin, draw some blood, and hurt.
Are Guinea Pig Bites Dangerous?
Guinea Pig Bite Infection
Guinea pig bites can be dangerous only when they pierce the skin and draw blood. Through the bite, they can cause an infection. If you think that something is wrong, check for the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Stiff neck
- Muscle and joint pain
- Rashing and itching
- A painful wound that just won’t go away
- Abdominal pain and diarrhea
If you have had a few of these symptoms for a while now, it is best to visit your doctor to take a look at the bite.
Guinea Pig Bite Rabies
You don’t need to worry about getting rabies from a guinea pig’s bite because just like with other small rodents, guinea pigs are not carriers of rabies.
Guinea Pig Bite Tetanus
Any animal bite that penetrates the skin comes with the risk of getting tetanus. If you got your tetanus shot more than 5 years ago, you should visit your doctor to schedule a new tetanus shot.
Allergic Reaction to Guinea Pig Bite
There are usually no allergic reactions to the guinea pig’s bite. Some people can be allergic to their fur but their bite contains no allergens.
Guinea Pig Bite Wound Treatment | What to Do When a Guinea Pig Bites You?
If you own guinea pigs, you will be often in a situation where they will bite you. To ease your mind, in most cases, their bites are completely harmless because they rarely pierce through the skin or drew blood. In those cases, washing your hands after handling the guinea pig is enough.
Guinea Pig Bite Drew Blood | Treatment
In more serious situations where the guinea pig has actually inflicted pain, punctured your skin, and drawn blood, you should follow the following few ways, just to be sure:
- Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water.
- Use alcohol to clean the wound. That way you are preventing infection.
- Use some ointment like Neosporin.
- Apply a bandage to the pierced spot and keep it on for a couple of days.
In those extra rare cases when blood doesn’t stop for a couple of hours or the wound looks weird, pay a visit to a doctor.
How to Teach a Guinea Pig Not to Bite? | Bite Prevention Training
If you know the old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” this can be completely applied to guinea pigs. If your guinea pigs are still young, you will be able to train and teach them how to behave.
Step 1: Scent and Connection
The first step is to allow your guinea pig to get to know you. You can accomplish that by daily keeping your hand on or in their cage for a few minutes. That way, the guinea pig will remember your scent and develop a trusting connection. Do this for a few days.
Step 2: Reward System
From there, you should monitor their actions. If the guinea pig comes to your hand without biting it, reward it with a treat. But if they bite you, don’t give them any treats. With this system, they will slowly start learning how they need to behave around their owner.
Step 3: Holding the Guinea Pig
Now, start with holding the guinea pig for a short time. Let them adjust in your lap. As time goes by, hold them longer, until they are able to relax completely.
Step 4: Have Patience
If they continue to nip you, don’t punish them, as any form of punishment can cause even more serious problems. Don’t give up and continue to try. Talk to them in a soft voice and don’t show anger or fear.
They will eventually stop nipping you. Always remember to give your guinea pig reward treats for good behavior. A guinea pig will slowly understand how to behave and they will acknowledge the treat as a reward for their good actions.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Bite Each Other?
If you are keeping more than one guinea pig in a cage, it is rather normal for them to bite each other. If this behavior develops into frequent violent clashes and fights, that could be a sign of battle over dominance. In these situations, it is best to separate them and keep the two guinea pigs in separate cages for some time.
There is another way that biting can happen and that is when they are cleaning each other. That is normal so you don’t need to break your head about it, but keep an eye out just in case.
Check their behavior from time to time, see how they are getting along, and look for changes in their relationship.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Bite Their Cage?
If you have noticed that your guinea pig is biting the cage, these are the 4 most common reasons for it.
- Your guinea pig is bored. Sometimes their daily routine can be a little bit dull. In order to prevent this, add some new toys to the cage. There are a lot of items you can choose from. They can get easily bored if they don’t have something to do in the cage.
- It only craves attention. Guinea pigs can also feel rejected or ignored. Try paying more attention to them. Play or talk with them and show interest. If they have gotten used to having playtime with you, they will react negatively when you start skipping it.
- They are nervous. If something new is happening around them, like argues and fights, new pets, or anything significant that can impact their daily routine, it will cause them to be nervous. So, try paying more attention to your guinea pigs and find the reason for their anxiety.
- They just need to wear down their teeth. If the cause for biting the cage is their teeth, you need to add something they can wear down. Get them some chewing sticks to practice their teeth. You can also add a house or a hideout that they can chew on.
But if you notice that the chewing is becoming more intense and that the guinea pig is just not stopping, you should get an appointment with a veterinarian for a check on their teeth and gums.
What to Do if My Guinea Pig Bites Me When I Pick Her Up?
Learning to pick up and hold your guinea pig is very important. It is best to know all the tips for doing it properly.
Step 1: Getting Used to Each Other
For starters, let your guinea pig get to know you. Put your hand in the cage and let the guinea pigs learn your scent. Don’t take it out of the cage for a couple of days until it learns that it can relax around you. You should also be relaxed because they can sense anxiety.
Step 2: Petting
After a couple of days, put your hand in the cage and try to approach the guinea pig. Avoid chasing it around the cage but let it comes to you instead. Approach the cage carefully not to startle it and try to touch it softly with your fingers.
Avoid any erratic movement and loud noises. If you feel that it will bite you, just stop and leave this operation for some other day. It takes time for them to accept the owner.
Step 3: Learn How to Pick It Up
If your guinea pig now feels safe around you, try to gently pick it up. Use one hand to lift it, place it under the guinea pig, and use one finger to get around one of its legs. After that, use the second hand to add support to the guinea pig’s backside. Be sure that the grip is solid and firm. That way your pet will feel secure.
Step 4: Treat
Now you can put it against your chest and carry it. Don’t carry it too high and don’t walk too fast. Try sitting when petting your guinea pig. Understand that they need to go to the bathroom very often, so limit the cuddling sessions to around 10 min.
When you are finished, feed it with a treat. Slowly, your guinea pig will learn that after you pick them up, they will be rewarded with a treat.
Guinea Pig Bites Fingers During Direct Feeding, Is This Normal Behavior?
One of the most common cases when guinea pigs bite is when they are being directly fed. You shouldn’t be worried about it because guinea pigs love to eat and their bites are mostly accidental, as they are associating you with the food.
They can also bite you to remind you to feed them. Usually, these bites are just gentle nibbles, so you don’t need to worry about them. This is just their normal behavior.
Knowing the reason behind the bite will help you understand if something is wrong with your guinea pig, so you can act accordingly and help your pet. Always monitor your guinea pig’s behavior and look for any change in their routine. Get to know them as much as possible in order to develop an amazing long-lasting relationship with your guinea pig. Best of luck!
List of Sources
Normal Behavior and the Clinical Implications of Abnormal Behavior in Guinea Pigs
Microbiology of Animal Bite Wound Infections
Social Experience, Behavior, and Stress in Guinea Pigs
The Environment, Hormones, and Aggressive Behaviour: A 5-Year-Study in Guinea Pigs
Rabies Virus Infection in a Pet Guinea Pig and Seven Pet Rabbits