Do Guinea Pigs Bite?
Here's what new guinea pig parents need to know 🐹
Guinea pigs are popular family pets, bringing happiness to every family they get to be a part of.
But if you have kids, you might have an important question: Do guinea pigs bite?
We spoke to Kimie Smothermon, director of the Guinea Pig Sanctuary in Salisbury, Massachusetts, for more insight into whether or not guinea pigs bite (and some of the most common reasons why you might get gently nipped).
Do guinea pigs bite?
Just like any animal, guinea pigs have the ability to bite, but it’s not really in their nature to be aggressive or bite you for no reason.
“Guinea pigs generally are not biters,” Smotherman told The Dodo. “There are always exceptions, though.”
It’s important to note that if you ever do get bit by a guinea pig, it’s very unlikely to cause any harm — their bites are more like a nibble than anything else and won’t break the skin.
Why do guinea pigs bite?
When it comes to why your guinea pig might bite you, there are a few different scenarios that can explain this outburst.
“If a guinea pig is scared or hurt, sometimes she will bite,” Smotherman said.
The way she’s being handled
Guinea pigs are small, fragile creatures, so they should be handled gently. If you (or someone else) has a heavy hand or is spooking her out in any way, she might bite out of fear.
“Most of the bites we hear about involve children or overly aggressive handling by adults,” Smotherman added. “Never grab your guinea pig where they can’t see you (behind or above). Always let the piggy know you’re there before picking them up. Friends of children are often not familiar with this. They try to grab the piggy in a snatching motion, and it ends up scaring the guinea pig, and a bite will often follow.”
To make sure this doesn’t happen, always handle your guinea pig gently and with care and be gentle. This is especially important to tell kids (and their friends), since they’re more likely to roughhouse accidentally.
Out of hunger
A hungry guinea pig might nip at you if she’s feeling particularly hangry — especially if you’re bringing her her favorite snack that she’s really trying to scarf down.
“She can mistake fingers for veggies if the smell of veggies is on your hand,” Smotherman said. “As a good rule of thumb, always hold the vegetable from the farthest end so there’s no finger/veggie mistake.”
Always make sure your guinea pig is getting her meals when they’re scheduled to avoid her getting too hungry.
If you’re playing with your guinea pig and are holding one of her favorite toys, it’s possible that she’ll bite you by accident thinking you’re a chew toy. This is pretty normal, and even dogs and cats can both accidentally mistake their person’s hand for a toy in the excitement of playtime.
A mother protecting her young
Females will take on a motherly instinct if they have new babies, which means they’ll do whatever it takes to protect them!
“The mother will sometimes show dominance over a human trying to touch her babies,” Smotherman said. “Only one person should be allowed to touch the babies for the first 10 days to make sure that the mother doesn’t feel threatened.”
How to stop your guinea pig from biting
The best thing you can do to avoid your guinea pig biting is to ensure all of her needs are met — this will help reduce the chances that she’s bored or hungry.
While guinea pigs can bite from time to time, it’s not super common. If she does, it’s likely for a good reason, and the best thing you can do is keep her happy and healthy.