Imagine reaching for your beloved pet guinea pig, excited to share some bonding time together outside the cage. All of the sudden, you hear a rapid series of angry chirps before feeling a sharp pinch on the finger.
What in the world happened? Your hand instinctively snaps back, a steady stream of scarlet blood flowing like a river’s tributary.
Okay, maybe not that dramatic but what could you have done to warrant such a drastic response?
Is My Guinea Pig Aggressive?
No, just because your guinea pig has bitten you doesn’t mean he’s aggressive.
Pay close attention to your guinea’s body language. Guinea pigs are very expressive little fellows and will give you visual signs when aggressive.
Is he freezing, throwing his head up in the air, or fidgeting? Is he chasing other pigs and attempting to mount them, rearing up with an open mouth? Signs of aggression could include:
- Baring teeth
- Snorting sounds
- Raised hackles
- Loud rumbling
- Continuous teeth chattering
- Attacking face or rump of other pigs
- Rearing up in displays of dominance
Most of the time guinea pig bites are little more than licks and nibbles. Your little one is probably just trying to tell you something.
Younger guinea pigs are especially curious! You’ll see them nibbling all of the time.
On the other hand, your little piglet might not feel very good, or maybe he’s afraid of something and wants to be let go.
Bathing is a task that many cavies are trying to avoid and needs to be handled with special care.
Does your piglet bite you especially hard when you do something in particular?
Why Do Guinea Pigs Nibble?
Guinea pig nibbling could just be nothing more than a simple show of affection, or your little one might be trying to get your attention. Guinea pigs are social creatures and he could just be trying to groom you.
The little guys will often dig out bugs, dirt, and other fun items from his playmate’s fur. He could just be trying to keep you nice and clean.
Unlike full biting, nibbling can be a pretty clear show of affection from the little companion. As a natural part of bonding, nibbling your fingertips or feet should come normally as your pet grows more comfortable.
Beware, however. Guinea pig nibbling can also be a prelude to biting in the case of growing anxiety or discomfort.
It could also simply be the salt on your hands or the taste of your skin that appeals to the furry fellow. You might have just finished eating and smell like a tasty bit of food.
Do Guinea Pig Bites Hurt?
If your piglet is stressed, frightened, feeling trapped and trying to escape, or otherwise generally upset, he might bite you and can break your skin.
This won’t put you on your knees like certain venomous snakes, but you’ll know he’s not happy.
In short, no guinea pig bites don’t hurt badly.
The small degree (or large, depending on your age and tolerance) of pain isn’t really your problem though. If your guinea pig breaks your skin, any bacteria in your pet’s mouth now have an open window into your bloodstream.
Though rare in domestic pets, you could face very serious problems from certain bacteria spread by rodent bites. Rat Bite Fever, for example, has been spread through guinea pigs and can become fatal if not treated in time.
Guinea pigs aren’t any exception and bite wounds should be treated just like a bite from any cat, dog, or other wild animal.
The point is that you have to be sure to clean the bite wound well, no matter how small.
If your piggy has broken your skin, you need to treat the area with an antibiotic ointment after washing.
How do I Get My Guinea Pig to Stop Biting Me?
Besides the tiny chance of a serious infection, guinea pig biting just doesn’t feel good. For most of us devoted piggy parents, the emotional whip can be harder than that small amount of discomfort.
We only want our little ones to stay happy and healthy, living their little guinea lives to the fullest. How do we make our biting guinea pigs to feel better and stop biting us? Our fingers would sure appreciate the effort.
As with any behavior you want to treat correctly and eventually cure, you’ll first need to figure out why your guinea pig is biting you. You need to pinpoint the cause of the problem.
- What is he scared of?
- Why is he anxious?
- Is he injured or ill?
- How is he injured or ill?
- Is he an intact (and maybe aggressive) male?
- Is this “dominant” behavior?
- Is the enclosure large enough?
Once you figure out what has your guinea so rattled, ending the biting problem is usually a simple question of treating the cause. If you think the cause is medical, contacting a veterinarian might be necessary.
Help! My Guinea Pigs Bite Each Other
You already know guinea pig bites can break human skin, and we are about 100 or so times their size (1.5-2.5 lbs). Those cute little teeth can do a lot more damage to other guinea pigs.
Step One: Separate your piglets right away, but only if the situation warrants it (not for minor squabbles- i.e. bleeding, forceful biting). Of course, you’ll need to figure out why this is happening, but take care of the immediate problem first before one seriously injures the other.
Step Two: Carefully check either guinea for injuries once you are safely able to reach into either enclosure. Do you notice any odd, hunched posture, drooling, painful squeaking, refusal to move, eye squinting, grinding teeth, or the obvious bleeding wounds?
You may need to contact a veterinarian in the case of injury.
Step Three: What caused the biting, and is it really harmful biting at all? Thes piglets will often display dominant behaviors for a brief time, usually ending in short order.
If there is no obvious blood or extreme signs of aggression, you may only need to separate for a short time or even (carefully) be able to let the display carry out. As an owner, we tend to consider minor problems more serious than they actually are.
On the other hand, an obvious bullying pig should be cared for. Bullied guineas normally lose a significant amount of weight or show open wounds.
Try these tips to stop your guineas from fighting:
Consider a bigger cage.
These guys need space to run around and avoid each other if desired.
Include more hideaways or covered areas for each guinea to escape and feel safe if they want to.
Offer at least two of everything to prevent resource-related disputes. Make sure there is always enough food and plenty of hay.
Pick and chose your separations. Separating every time for even the slightest dispute can lead to problems, but you absolutely want to separate if there is forceful biting or injury.
Always remember guinea pigs are social creatures and biting to cause injury or kill isn’t common. Most of the time your little one will simply want to figure out his place in the social hierarchy.