13 Simple Reasons Why Guinea Pigs Bite (+ Solutions)

Being bitten by your guinea pig can be very discouraging.  You love your little fur baby so much, but why does your guinea pig bite you? 

Although there are a variety of reasons why guinea pigs bite, the most common reason why guinea pigs bite is fear and discomfort.  Guinea pigs are high-strung and will bite because they’re startled by a noise, an unfamiliar environment, a new companion, or any number of things.  Biting is one of the ways that cavies let us know how they feel.

Anticipating situations where your guinea pig could bite you is critical to raising your guinea pig to be a delightful companion. I took some time to investigate this topic a bit more.  Keep reading to see what I discovered.

Why Do Guinea Pigs Bite?

Guinea pigs are very docile and rarely bite.  But, biting is one of the ways that they communicate.  

Your cavy can’t verbally tell you what’s wrong, so he expresses himself through biting-especially if you’re not picking up on his other nonverbal cues.

Skim through the table below to read through some common issues that would cause your guinea pig to bite and ways to prevent it

13 Common Reasons Why Guinea Pigs Bite (And Possible Solutions)

1. Scared of You

A guinea pig’s trust and love is earned over time. Patiently bond with your little friend, speak gently and softly, and bribe with treats…LOTS of treats.

2. Loneliness

Usually guinea pigs are happiest in pairs or in small groups. Loneliness can make a guinea pig grumpy, which might cause a biting situation. Considering bringing home a friendly cavy for your furry friend.

3. Too Noisy

Guinea pigs are easily startled by sudden, loud noises, which might cause an unfortunate bite. Handle your cavy in a quiet area without unusually loud sounds.

4. Wearing Jewelry

Your piggy might give you a little nip, trying to teeth your ring. Consider removing your jewelry before handling your guinea pig.

5. Mites or Other Parasites

Scratching at mites (and other things) makes guinea pigs very cranky. Very cranky guinea pigs are more likely to bite. If you notice your little friend scratching, take him to the vet to be examined, so that mites (which are very painful) can be ruled out or treated.

6. Hungry or Smells Food

Cavies have sensitive noses. They can smell leftover food (fruit, sweets, & treats) on your hands, which might make them want to take a big, guinea pig bite out of them. Wash your hands before handing your guinea pig to eliminate the smell, and always make sure that your furry friend has enough to eat.

7. Pain

You’d be grumpy too if you were in pain from a bruise, arthritis or other ailment. If you’ve eliminated the majority of other reasons why your guinea pig could’ve bitten you, it’s probably best to have him examined by a vet. Just to make sure there’s no underlying health issue that might make your little friend cranky enough to bite you (or someone else).

Check out these posts on basic guinea pig care and maintenance: Is Your Guinea Pig In Pain? (11 Ways To Find Out Now) and Daily Guinea Pig Must Dos (Free Chore Chart!)

8. Cage is Too Small

One of the quickest routes to a grouchy piggie is keeping her in too small of a space. One guinea pig needs at least 7.5ft2 of space (minimum) to run around, play, and hide in. Anything less negatively affects your little friend. Sometimes this can be a factor that causes your little friend to bite.

9. Time to Pee

Cavies like to pee privately every 10-15 minutes or so. If you’re holding your piggie and you don’t pick up her subtle cues (nibbling, squeaking, etc) that she wants to be put down, you might get treated to a bite. Be observant and pay attention to when your little friend is asking to be put down.

10. Mishandling

Your furry friend needs to feel secure when held. Fear might make your guinea pig bite you if she feels very uncomfortable. Make sure that you’re always picking up and holding your guinea pig properly. Only gingerly pick your guinea pig up by the rum and tummy with both hands.

11. Isn’t a Lap Piggie

Each guinea pig whether male or female – is an individual and some…unfortunately, just don’t like being held. Take time to observe, bond with, and get to know your guinea pig. Eventually, she’ll start giving you hints to let you know if she’s the kind of piggie that you can cuddle to your heart’s content or if she’s the kind that you need to let be more independent.

12. Exploration

Like babies, cavies will “explore” with the mouths. That exploration might results in an inadvertent bite or a searing, pinch of a nibble. Use positive reinforcement to redirect the behavior. Offer your piggie pal a chew toy or something else more interesting to bite on and to play with.

13. Growing Pains

In their “teenage years” guinea pigs will test boundaries. They’ll challenge older guinea pigs they share a cage with and sometimes they’ll challenge you. Once again, use positive reinforcement to redirect the behavior. And be patient. The stage will pass eventually.

What is the Difference between Nips (or Nibbles) and Bites?

Let’s take a look at the difference between a nibble and a bite. People often get the two confused. 

Very few guinea pigs bite.  They’re docile, compliant creatures-who would rather run than fight. 

But, if your guinea pig does, it’s usually for a good reason. 

Biting is one of your cavy’s only abilities to defend herself.  So, she uses it for extreme circumstances.

Nibbling is much more harmless.

Nibbles

  • Feels like little pinches
  • Can hurt depending on where it’s happening
  • Generally prompted by happiness or excitement
  • Can be given a warning first to let his parent know that something is happening that the guinea pig doesn’t like
  • Used to show affection, concern, and sometimes dominance

Bites

  • Involves full force with teeth
  • Will usually hurt A LOT
  • Commonly prompted by prompted by stress, unhappiness, anxiety, & fear
  • Will often draw blood
  • Aftermath of “fight” reflex kicking in; if it gets to this point, the owner didn’t notice previous warning signs
  • primary purpose is to allow the piggie to escape

If your cavy is more of a nibbler, it may not be that big of deal-particularly if the nibbles don’t hurt….

…or if you understand that your guinea pig isn’t distressed; she only want to love up on you a little bit.

But, be mindful that the nibbling doesn’t get out of control.  

Aggressive nibblers can occasionally turn into biters.  Use positive reinforcement to redirect your fur baby to more acceptable ways to show affection.

Thinking about adding a piggie to your family or want to brush up on the essentials? Gotcha covered. What you need is a reliable, “all-in-one” resource to refer to when you’re struggling. A Beginner’s Ultimate Guide To Guinea Pig Care is a starting point with all the basics and more to get you on your way!

Once a Biter…Always a Biter?

Here’s a little secret about training guinea pigs not to bite:

Training your guinea pig not to bite is more about training yourself how to respond to your guinea pig’s needs and cues, and less about making your guinea pig do what you want her to do.

Pet parents only need to do two things to be successful with training:

  • Be proactive.  Anticipate and deflect situations that might lead to your fur baby biting.  
  • Respond.  Respond NOT react when bitten.  If you are bitten, stay calm and reflective.  Respond to your guinea pig in kindness and plan for  
ReactRespond
In the moment; triggeredInvolves reflection
Can feel uncontrollableConsiders all possible outcomes
Often regrettedWeights alternatives
Happens without much thoughtLess heated
why do guinea pigs bite

Prepare to Be Proactive

Be proactive.  Make sure that you’ve made the environment as calm as possible to keep your piggie stress-free.  Provide everything that is necessary to keep your guinea pig calm and happy such as:

  • An appropriately-sized enclosure
  • Enough hay, pellets, veggies, and water
  • Making sure you’re picking up your cavy properly and at the right time
  • Giving your cavy lots of toys and entertainment, so she stays mentally stimulated
  • Bonding with your cavy before attempting to do any intensive cuddling
  • Review the 13 Common Reasons Why Guinea Pigs Bite table and secure a basic understanding of guinea pig behavior. 

Prepare to Respond with C.R.A.P.

So, your piggie pal bit you. Time for you to respond appropriately.  Even though you feel like howling like a wolf from the pain. 

Enter: The C.R.A.P. Method

The C.R.A.P. Method stands for Calm, Reflect, Affirm, Prepare.

  • Calm.  If your guinea pig bites you, take a deep breath and stay calm. Even if you have to bite your lip to keep from crying
  • Reflect.  What just happened?  And why?  Why?
  • Affirm.  Declare your care and consideration for your guinea pig and try to end the exchange on a positive note.  
  • Prepare.  Based on what you’ve learned, get ready for the next encounter.

So, look at this method in a little more detail.

CALM

This might sound a little strange.  But…

…if you get bitten, do not put your cavy down right away-even if the bite hurt.  That will reinforce the biting behavior.  And you don’t want to do that.

Just keep stroking her calmly. Wait a few minutes before you gently set her back down in her cage.

This will be easier for some people than others, because we all have different tolerances for pain.

Please DO NOT:

  • Yell and scream at your cavy
  • Squirt her with a water bottle
  • Pinch the back of your cavy’s neck
  • Dole out any other form of punishment

Guinea pigs are confused by punishment and don’t respond to it well.  They simply become scared…which is often why most cavies bite in the first place. 

If you don’t want your cavy to be terrified of you, stick with positive reinforcement. Reward the good your cavy does and ignore the bad.

REFLECT

While you’re holding onto your cavy (and maybe holding back tears from the pain), begin reflecting.  Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • What went wrong?
  • Am I holding onto her incorrectly?
  • Did I hold her too long?
  • Was my fur baby frightened by something?

If you want, you can review 13 Common Reasons Why Guinea Pigs Bite list. Sometimes it can be hard to put your finger on the cause of your piggie’s reaction.  The more familiar you are with your fur baby, the easier it will get.  

AFFIRM

Affirm your love for your cavy.  

Speak to her in soothing tones.  Then transfer her safely to her enclosure.  Don’t let her jump out of your hands. Place her gently on the ground. 

Then get that bite looked at and congratulate yourself, because you’ve completed the most difficult part of the method.

PREPARE

Armed with your knowledge.  Strategize for the next encounter.  Based on your reflection, you might have to make some changes to where you handle your little friend, arrange a vet visit, or attend to something else that you noticed might need correcting.

It takes patience, kindness, and consistency to “retrain” a guinea pig who bites.  But, it is possible.

Respond to Guinea Pig Bites with C.R.A.P. by A Shepherd

What Should You Do if You Get Bitten By a Guinea Pig?

Bites from wild animals are usually more concerning than bites from family pets. Guinea pigs have a low rabies risk.  

However, there are different diseases that guinea pigs can carry such as Salmonella, Lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCM), etc. Though rare, your guinea pig, if infected, can pass these diseases to you through her saliva and urine. 

So, take guinea pig bites seriously.   

If your guinea pig bites you, please call your doctor and see what she recommends that you do.  

Generally, your doctor’s treatment suggestions will depend on preexisting conditions you have  and the health of your guinea pig.  But, the type of treatment that is recommended will also depend on how severe the injury is:

  • Nonbleeding, superficial bites: Wash the injury with soap and water for about 5 minutes.  Avoid scrubbing, so that you don’t bruise yourself.
  • Bleeding bites or deep punctures: Applying pressure on the bite if it’s bleeding first and then washing it with soap and water.  

Dry the injury, apply an antibiotic ointment, and cover your wound with a sterile dressing.

Then you have to keep an eye out for infection. 

If you notice swelling, increased redness, pain, or discharge, call your doctor again right away.

So, Now You Know…

Why guinea pigs bite as well as some solutions to help decrease the biting.

As a pet parent, you know that thoughtfully understanding your fur baby is key to developing a happy, trustful relationship

….without biting.

You must know what makes your unique guinea pig tick. You must know which buttons to push and to avoid to make you guinea pig your biggest fan.

Go through the suggestions above.   This will give you a place to start.

If you put in the effort to be observant and learn to respond to the cues that your cavy is giving you (no matter how subtle), your guinea pig can’t help but respond positively.

That means less biting…and a lot more loving and peaceful snuggling.

So be patient, persistent, and consistent.  

You’ll know your piggie (and what causes her time bite) like the back of your hand in no time.

Then you can go ahead and push those buttons with confidence….and avoid the ones that you shouldn’t.

Related Questions

Why are my guinea pigs always fighting?  

Guinea pigs fight for a number of different reasons.  Sometimes they fight for dominance-to see who’s “in charge” of the herd.  They’ll also fight because their cage is too small, they’re in pain or sick, too.

Do guinea pigs recognize their owners?

Guinea pigs definitely recognize their owners.  Guinea pigs have limited eyesight, but they have excellent hearing and an amazing sense of smell.  Guinea pigs recognize their owners from their scent and their voice.

Why do guinea pigs bite their cages? 

There are several circumstances that can cause cavies to bite their cages.  For example, some guinea pigs bite their cages because they’re lonely or bored.  Others bite their cages looking for attention from their owners or because they’re hungry.  In other instances, guinea pigs bite their cages because they’re feeling sick.

Bites and stings: Animals – Health encyclopedia – University of Rochester Medical Center. (n.d.). Welcome to URMC – Rochester, NY – University of Rochester Medical Center. 

Guinea pig bonding basics. (n.d.). Animal Humane Society. https://www.animalhumanesociety.org/behavior/guinea-pig-bonding-basics

Guinea pig care. (2020, December 5). School of Veterinary Medicine. https://healthtopics.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/health-topics/exotics/guinea-pig-care

Guinea pigs as pets. (n.d.). Veterinary Partner – VIN. https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&catId=102922&id=4951552

Have more fun with your Guinea pig | Guinea pigs | RSPCA Queensland. (n.d.). RSPCA Queensland. https://www.rspcaqld.org.au/blog/pet-care/guinea-pig-enrichment

Microbiology of animal bite wound infections. (n.d.). PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3122494/#!po=0.877193

Small mammals. (2019, October 28). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/pets/small-mammals/index.html#bitten

why do guinea pigs bite

References

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