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Do Guinea Pigs Bite? (How To Train Them Not To Bite)

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Tim Rhodes

I think we can all agree, guinea pigs are some of the cutest animals in the world, but do guinea pigs bite?

Despite their small stature, these furballs are highly energetic, playful, and often very entertaining to watch.

Their gentle and intelligent nature makes them an excellent pet of choice worldwide.

But even then, it is good to be wary of even the most harmless-looking pets, as they are still capable of hurting you, albeit with no ill intentions.

Do Guinea Pigs Bite?

Yes, guinea pigs can bite and do bite.

Many factors can incite a guinea pig to bite someone or something.

They are just like us, with their personalities, likes, and dislikes!

They rarely bite without a reason and are usually pretty chill to hang around.

Why Would A Guinea Pig Bite?

There are a few reasons that may trigger their biting instinct.

And there are some tell-tale signs to look out for before a biting incident occurs.

So take notes and make sure you or anyone else knows how to read a guinea pig’s body language to detect and avoid getting bitten.

Guinea pig bites are not painful, but they can bite you hard enough to the point of bleeding.

So let’s explore some of the reasons they might choose violence over petting and peace.

They Are Trying To Communicate With You

Guinea pigs don’t know how to communicate with us with words.

But they do know that biting, scratching, making sounds, or wiggling results in being released from the grip of a person.

They sometimes use biting in urgent situations to communicate that they need a pee or potty break.

They might also bite if they are startled by sounds or sudden movements like lightning, thunder, or the wind.

Or maybe they’re just not in the mood to sit in your palm, and it’s best to let them be in such scenarios.

They Want To Nibble

You may have mistaken their desire to nibble as biting.

Their front teeth never stop growing.

And ideally, they spend their whole day chewing away at fibrous hay, which shaves their teeth down naturally.

Constant use of their front teeth keeps their teeth from growing too long, thus preventing malocclusion, which can be a pretty big problem if gone unchecked.

There’s Food On Your Hands

They might have mistaken your hand as food.

If your guinea pig sniffs remnants of food on your fingertips and it’s almost lunchtime, it might just bite in hopes to get some food off of your finger.

It might also bite to try and get food stuck under your fingernails, which is not good.

So please make sure to have clean hands before handling them.

They Have Petting and Grooming Preferences

Petting and grooming are two of the most soothing experiences for a guinea pig and an exercise of building trust.

Your pet friends know you mean no harm when you’re petting them.

But like all pets, guinea pigs will let you know they don’t like their paws, ears, or tummies touched by either showing signs of irritation or by lunging at your hand to bite.

A Vet or Pet-Groomer might’ve informed you about the fact that some animals are very protective of certain body parts and often bite when being handled.

So don’t take it personally and just respect your guinea pig’s choices, after all, you want petting to be an enjoyable bonding experience for the both of you.

They Are Afraid

If your guinea pig is a new companion, this is for you.

A guinea pig may not be used to being handled by a person.

Put yourself in the shoes of this little dude you have decided to welcome into your house or backyard, and the answer should be obvious.

Being handled by a creature as large as a human is sure to make them at least a little scared for their life.

By nature, they are anxious about trusting animals out of fear of being eaten alive.

This is because they don’t have sharp fangs, claws, or weapons to defend themselves, so they rely on their brain to calculate whether it’s worth letting another animal near.

And if you get too close too soon, they will bite out of fear and as a last-ditch effort to maintain distance between you and them.

But don’t worry, they’ll find their way around the initial fear, all you need to do is be patient with them.

They Show Affection

Yes!

Guinea pigs do nibble or bite very lightly when they want to show us affection!

It’s a commonly observed behavior in the rodents’ family.

It is also a sign they want to groom you, which is great because that means they love you a lot!

They might softly nibble at your clothes, your hair, or your shoes.

It is good to reward this behavior as they learn to associate showing you affection with food, cuddles, or petting.

You can also run your hands through their fur when they nibble to make them happy and relaxed.

A New Environment

Cavies are creatures of habit and don’t tolerate changes in food and water.

Even an alteration in the texture, odor, or presentation of food and water is enough to put them off.

So it’s natural for them to react in a negative way to a change in the environment.

Forcing a cavy to stand or stay in an environment that makes them uncomfortable can cause them to become anxious.

This will result in biting or chewing the nearest obstacle preventing their escape, especially if it’s another pet or person.

The best way to help them get used to a new setting is to let them explore the place on their terms.

Trouble Socializing

Guinea pigs are territorial and have social hierarchies of their own which are defined by several factors.

They might see you or other pet animals as a threat and be on guard as a result.

They aren’t fans of meeting new guinea pigs unless the purpose is mating.

They’re also shy and careful creatures, and hence often take time to adjust with each other or other animals.

Make sure you don’t put two animals, who are strangers to each other, in a cage, especially a small and confined one.

Because if things go south, it’s a one-way ticket to biting and territorial behavior.

Bored, Lonely, Or Depressed

We know that guinea pigs, despite their doughy shape, are athletic runners and parkour experts.

And despite not being fans of socializing, they can get lonely pretty fast.

Boredom or restricting them to a cage or a room 24×7 can cause them to bite.

We all know the feeling of being stuck indoors for too long, especially during times of quarantine, and it isn’t a pleasant one.

And is capable of damaging our mental and physical health especially when we have no company to keep us occupied and care for.

Guinea pigs can also go through a similar experience, if confined to a small space and kept alone, and this pain is usually expressed with odd behaviors, one of which can be biting.

If Sick or Hurt

You might have noticed, when you’re sick or feeling not so good, you tend to be in a snappier mood.

Some days you just want to be left alone to lay down and concentrate on fighting an infection or illness.

Guinea pigs can act the same as us humans when they are sick or hurt.

They have their personalities and ways of dealing with and expressing pain or discomfort, and they might bite to show it.

Fur or Skin Problems

The most common cause of biting in a guinea pig is due to skin disease or irritation.

These skin problems can be caused by a fungal infection, a mite infection, an abscess, a nutritional deficiency, an allergic reaction, or some kind of irritant.

Guinea pigs with mites do not like to be touched as it is painful to them.

Upset Stomach

Changes in diet, an undetected allergy to a food they cannot digest, poor dietary habits, viral, parasitic, or bacterial infection are all factors that can lead to a stomach upset.

Even extreme stress, fear, or constant anxiety is enough to rattle their tummies as well, so you should handle them with love and patience.

Injury

Injury can be a result of aggression between the guinea pig and another pet.

Or it could be an object in the surrounding that could have hurt them.

Unknown Illness

Some illnesses don’t have any external signs or symptoms, except for a change in personality, routine, or increased aggression.

So if you find that your guinea pig is biting for no apparent reason, and you’re starting to wonder where your happy companion is gone, it’s time to carry it to a Vet as they will know how to check.

Territorial Aggression

Territorial aggression is based on fear or dominance.

It can occur regardless of whether you keep your guinea pigs in small cages or large habitats.

While handling the Feeding and Water Bowl

Watch out for biting when handling their feeding dish or while refilling their water.

This is a result of fear or lack of trust.

When Interacting With Their Playpen

Maybe your guinea pig doesn’t like you sticking your hand in their playpen.

Sometimes you might get bitten if you place your hand on their pen.

If that’s the case, you need to train your guinea pigs to associate you with a positive experience.

Social Hierarchies & Dominance

Guinea Pigs can show signs of territorial aggression or dominance, especially when living with other animals or guinea pigs.

They have social hierarchies of their own, male guinea pigs have very strict social hierarchies while female guinea pigs have loose hierarchies under their male counterparts.

Sometimes a guinea pig dispute can lead to some vicious biting, in which case it’s best to keep the animals separate.

What To Do If A Guinea Pig Has Bitten You?

I strongly advise you to consult a doctor immediately.

Guinea pigs carry diseases, whether domesticated or wild.

They are carriers of many disease-causing bacteria, parasites, and viruses, such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, Trixacarus caviae, and Yersinia pseudotuberculosis.

Some of these microbes can also cause gastrointestinal distress and many other not-so-fun illnesses.

Please keep in mind, the bite does not have to be deep to spread one of these infections.

How To Train a Guinea Pig Not To Bite?

Guinea pigs rarely bite, but the possibility persists, which is why it is necessary to take measures against such negative occurrences.

There are several methods to train a guinea pig to communicate and coexist with you, your family, and any other pets you own without having to worry about your guinea pig resorting to biting.

Below are some questions that address daily interactions and provide measures to take to train them against biting you while interacting with them.

What To Do If a Guinea Pig Likes To Nibble?

You can give them a non-toxic chewable toy from your nearest pet store.

It is preferable to offer them fresh hay so they can nibble away in peace and also stay healthy in the process.

Keep in mind, your guinea pig requires enough fiber intake to maintain healthy teeth and also to satiate their hunger.

How To Pet Or Groom a Guinea Pig Safely?

Petting should be an enjoyable experience for your furry friend, so keep a keen eye on how your pet reacts when giving them pettings on different spots, and avoid those that make your guinea pig uncomfortable.

Don’t avoid the act of petting and grooming altogether out of fear, as both of these activities are vital to building their trust in you.

You can wear gloves if you think you could get bit in the process.

How Do I Train A Guinea Pig To Get Over Their Fear Of Me?

Food is the best way to grab an animal’s attention, and it is also an excellent tool to gain its trust.

So start by picking their favorite snack and approach them while sitting, as standing makes you tower over them.

You can also place them on a higher platform, give them enough free space to hide away from you, so they feel like they have a choice in a situation where they have to interact with you.

Then place the food near them or in your hand and call them, making sure the food is visible in your hand, repeat this action until they start approaching you without food.

How To Help My Guinea Pig Socialize?

When introducing your pet to another, some things make socializing easy.

A large room or an open field with plenty of objects to hide behind or play with, snacks, and a positive mindset.

Believe it or not, pets can read the room, so it is vital to keep a confident demeanor to let the animals know who’s the leader of this social gathering.

If not, the pet won’t trust you and won’t socialize with the animal you have bought along.

There are professional pet trainers who know how to make guinea pigs get along with other animals.

So if you’re in doubt, you can always get in touch with one.

How To Make Sure My Guinea Pig Isn’t Bored, Lonely, Or Depressed?

To prevent this, they need regular introduction to open spaces, away from the usual setting, to be active and burn off any excess pent-up energy.

Letting them out in nature and the wilderness is the best choice to prevent your pet from getting depressed.

Let them explore their surroundings and exercise their intellect.

Some other option you can try is a playground or a mini jungle gym.

Guinea pigs are pack animals so they must have company.

You can invest in getting a companion guinea pig, preferably a baby guinea pig as they’re the quickest to socialize with for your pet.

Remember, a happy pet is a healthy pet.

How To Know That My Guinea Pig Isn’t Sick Or Hurt?

Even though you smother your pet with love, care and affection, they’re still susceptible to getting sick or injured.

So don’t be too harsh on yourself, and know the solution to fix the situation.

How To Take Care Of Guinea Pig Fur and Skin?

Using proper bedding is vital, wood shavings or other drying agents can absorb the natural oils of their skin and fur, irritating.

Use guinea-pig-friendly disinfectants and clean their pen every two weeks.

Use only warm water to wash/bathe your guinea pig or a guinea-pig-friendly soap.

Always take your guinea pig to a vet if you suspect some kind of skin infection.

Taking care of the issue prevents further pain and discomfort for your guinea pig.

How To Prevent Upset Stomach?

To prevent stomach upset it is important to source good quality hay, which makes up the majority of their diet.

Research on foods that guinea pigs can, and cannot eat, as their stomachs are very sensitive.

How To Prevent Injury?

It is advised to carry them to the vet once a month to do a health checkup.

Make sure the cage and mattress below don’t have sharp edges, nooks, and crannies that can hurt them.

When you do take your pet out to play, it’s important to make sure the grass or land is clean and free of potential hazards such as shattered glass, harsh chemicals, harmful insects, or wild animals that have the potential to hurt your guinea pig.

How To Tackle Territorial Aggression?

Territorial aggression is important to resolve when dealing with pets, if kept unchecked it can transfer over to their interactions with other pets and people over toys, food, and more.

How To Hand Food Or Water to Guinea Pigs Without Getting Bitten?

Before you plan on solving this issue, it might be a good idea to invest in a pair of gloves to prevent getting bitten badly.

To win them over, you need to win their trust, begin feeding food, and give them water out of your hand.

In the beginning, try to avoid picking them up or hold them in place, let them approach your hand of their own free will.

Once they start getting comfortable with approaching your hand, start petting their fur with the same hand, or another to further build their trust.

After completing this exercise, you can introduce a feeding bowl, and place the food into it with the same feeding hand, this should help them realize that your hand is there to feed them and not take their food away.

How to Make a Guinea Pig Comfortable With Me Around Their Pen?

Start with spending more time near their pen.

You can move the pen over near your desk or work area, or you can sit by the pen to do your regular activities such as reading a book, folding laundry, or listening to music.

While doing so, reward them with food and let them out of the pen house once in a while.

You can also place your hand on their pen or lean against it lightly to help them understand that you are not invading their space or privacy.

Guinea Pigs & Their Teeth

Guinea Pigs can be recognized by the shape of their teeth, and their front teeth in particular play a significant evolutionary role.

These giant front teeth are called incisors, while the back teeth are called molars, similar to humans.

They use their front teeth to gnaw and their molars to chew on food.

Guinea pigs fall under the category of rodents, other animals under this category are squirrels and rats.

But despite their large front teeth, these animals have the weakest bite.

Guinea pigs, in particular, have evolved to have a strong bite force between their molars to allow better grinding of food.

If you look at the diet of a guinea pig, it is majority fiber, mainly hay, which explains the evolutionary benefit of having such teeth.

Guinea Pig Ancestry & Origin

According to Wikipedia, the Andes Mountains of South America are where guinea pigs originally resided and where the wild variety of guinea pigs can still be found.

The ancestors of guinea pigs can and have survived the harsh and unpredictable weather in these lands for thousands of years.

Guinea pigs play a significant role in the ancient folk culture of Indigenous Andean People.

But those were some tough times for domestic guinea pigs, as they were mainly herded to be eaten by humans or used for medicinal purposes.

There still exist wild guinea pigs, but they are not the same species as the domestic kind.

The guinea pigs we know and love as pets today can no longer be found in the wild.

Domestic guinea pigs are less aggressive and display lesser risk-taking behavior compared to their wild counterparts too.

This is because breeders picked the less aggressive and easy-to-handle variety of guinea pigs to breed over the years.

How Do Guinea Pigs Express Emotions?

Guinea pigs are very expressive creatures.

If you are a guinea pig owner, you may have noticed that guinea pigs give quick little jumps, squeaks, and run haphazardly when happy.

Well, this phenomenon has a name for it, and it’s called popcorning.

They hiss or chatter and toss their tiny heads around to express frustration and/or anger, anger is usually accompanied by bare teeth.

To express the feelings of sadness/loneliness or depression they display a lack of energy, drive to eat or drink, and a lack of desire to show affection, sometimes these feelings can be mixed with feelings of frustration.

Final Thoughts

Every pet bites, but if you are curious why a guinea pig bites, I hope your question has been answered.

This article was simply to help you analyze the behavior of your pet.

So I hope the information I have provided has not only helped you learn why they bite but also how to care for them to keep them happy to prevent a biting incident.

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