Guinea pigs are able to bite if they want to, but most choose not to. If they do bite it can hurt a lot, but most guinea pig nibbles are harmless. These friendly little pets will normally only bite if they are afraid, or mistake you for a snack!
Anything with a mouth can potentially bite. Today we are going to look at what might cause a pet guinea pig to bite. And how much biting can you expect out of your new baby guinea pig. We’ll let you know what guinea pig bites are like, when a nip might happen, and what to do if it does.
Do Guinea Pigs Bite?
Guinea pigs do bite. There are two main categories of biting: nibbles and actual bites.
Nibbles are a form of biting that typically cause no pain. Your guinea pig may nibble to explore a new texture or object. Guinea pigs may nibble to express affection towards you, each other or their young. A guinea pig might also nibble to groom themselves.
A nibble that gets stronger may be a warning, however. If your guinea pig starts nibbling you and the nibbles get stronger, it is time to notice and stop whatever you are doing or risk being bitten.
A guinea pig bite typically causes discomfort to some degree. If your guinea pig just bit you, we suggest you skip ahead to read the section titled “What To Do When A Guinea Pig Bites You.” Then you can come back and read through this section later.
In terms of preventing repeat bites, bite context and bite force can tell you a lot about why your piggie bit you. The more you can learn from a guinea pig bite experience, the better equipped you will be to prevent future guinea pig bites. Here are some examples to consider:
- Did you wake your sleeping piggie up suddenly?
- Or did you hold your cavy in a way that made them feel unsure or unsafe?
- Did your guinea pig mistake your finger for food?
- Or did you accidentally hurt them?
What To Do When A Guinea Pig Bites You
Did you just get bitten by your pet guinea pig? In this section we talk about what to do when a guinea pig bites you. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that guinea pigs rarely carry rabies and even when they do, there is no evidence cavies can transmit rabies to humans. However, any guinea pig bite should still be taken seriously and treated right away.
The first step is to assess the severity of your guinea pig bite. These are general guidelines only and are not meant to be a substitute or replacement for professional medical assessment and treatment!
Guinea pig bite didn’t break the skin
If the guinea pig bite did not break the skin, you may see a bruise form. But there is no real risk of infection. Simply washing the area with warm soapy water should suffice.
Guinea pig bite caused a minor scratch to the skin
If the guinea pig bite scratched your skin, this carries a slight risk for infection. Flush the wound thoroughly with tepid water and apply a topical antibiotic salve.
Guinea pig bite caused a deeper puncture wound
If your guinea pig bit hard enough to puncture the skin and cause bleeding, your first step should always be to flush the wound with tepid water. The deeper the wound, the greater your infection risk. Consult your doctor for further assessment and treatment.
Do Guinea Pig Bites Hurt
Animals bite because biting hurts. This makes biting an effective way to communicate! In time, you will learn to tell the difference between a playful nibble that doesn’t hurt and a serious chomp that is definitely meant to get your attention.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Bite?
The more time you spend with your guinea pig, the more you will learn about the different reasons why your guinea pig bites. This short list can help you speed through the learning curve to keep your piggie from biting you.
Guinea pigs don’t have great eyesight. But they are capable of seeing in a 340-degree radius. So what might look sharp and clear to your eyes likely looks shadowy and mysterious to your piggie. A startled or fearful guinea pig is likely to deliver a nip or bite as a method of self-defense.
Guinea pigs are quite susceptible to skin issues like mites. Many species of mites are too small to see with your naked eye, but their bites are very itchy and may cause your guinea pig to bite at their skin repeatedly. You may see other signs of guinea pig mites like hair loss, weight loss, crusty or oozing skin patches or redness. Contact your cavy veterinarian for help.
Guinea pigs are sociable animals. They like being with other guinea pigs – with some exceptions. Intact males may exhibit aggression at sexual maturity. Two females may exhibit aggression if no males are present. Your guinea pig may also behave aggressively towards you or other household pets if they feel threatened.
Improper handling is one of the main reasons guinea pigs bite. Even the largest guinea pigs may only weigh three pounds at maturity. These fragile animals can easily be startled or hurt if held or handled improperly.
It is also important to get your guinea pig used to being handled or you may risk being bitten. Always pick your piggie up slowly and gently and fully support their body, head and feet to reduce the risk of a bite.
If your cavy doesn’t feel well, you can expect their behavior to change. If you can’t find any other reason for guinea pig biting, it is time to contact your exotic pet veterinarian for help.
It’s potty time
A guinea pig that needs to pee or poop may bite to be released so they can go do their business.
What Does It Mean When A Guinea Pig Bites You
There are all kinds of reasons why your guinea pig might decide to bite you. You may want to bookmark this handy reference list of the most common causes for guinea pig bites.
- Your fingers smell like something interesting or tasty.
- The guinea pig got startled or scared.
- Your guinea pig isn’t feeling well.
- The cavy is trying to show you affection (nibbles).
- Your piggie is grooming you.
- The guinea pig needs to go to the bathroom.
- Your pet pig wants you to stop doing something you are doing.
- The pet cavy has skin itching or irritation.
- Your guinea pig simply doesn’t want to be handled.
How To Stop My Guinea Pig From Biting
Is there a way to stop your guinea pig from biting? Can you train your guinea pig not to bite? The best way to stop guinea pig biting is to not do the thing that caused the bite to happen. For example, don’t stick your fingers into the cavy enclosure or wiggle your fingers in front of your pet’s face.
You can also use positive reinforcement like treats to train your guinea pig to do a preferred behavior like not biting you. The more time you and your guinea pig spend together, the better you will get at anticipating when a guinea pig bite is likely and taking steps to make sure that doesn’t happen.
- Golovyan, S. DVM. 2021. Guinea Pigs – And Their Teeth! Animal Clinic of Milford.
- Buffington, L. 2021. Are You Sick? Animal Bite. Advocare Woodbury Pediatrics.
- Hess, L. DVM et al. Mites in Guinea Pigs. VCA Animal Hospital.
- Walensky, MD, MPH. 2021. Other Wild Animals (Exposure). Centers for Disease Control.
- Singh et al. 2020. Optical Aberrations of Guinea Pig Eyes. Visual Psychophysics and Physiological Optics.