If you just acquired your first guinea pig—or if you haven’t had very many—you may be wondering whether guinea pigs bite.
Nobody wants to find out the hard way, but the fact is that there are occasions when these cute little furry pets do, in fact, chomp down; so let’s figure out why so that when they do their chomping it won’t be on your finger.
By nature, guinea pigs are gentle and social creatures. They don’t bite out in anger or hostility. Most often when they bite, the reason relates to one of these areas:
• Being held or carried the wrong way
• Discomfort or illness
• Growing from one stage to another
Avoid Carrying Your Guinea Pig
By and large, your pet will not enjoy being carried. He likes to be in his castle, with you nearby. He does not crave to be held and stroked.
Certainly you can pet him, but there’s a right way to go about it. Guinea pigs tend to become frightened when they are lifted and carried.
When you first get your guinea pig, he will be a little fearful. The same holds true even if you’ve had your pet for a while but if you put him into a new cage.
He is timid about changes in the world around him. So when you first bring him home, don’t assume that he will enjoy being held and cuddled. The first thing you should do is just put your hand inside his cage in a nonthreatening manner.
Do not reach at him or try to pet him—just let your hand lay in his cage. He will eventually come over and explore it, and you can talk to him in a kind, calm voice. Only once he appears to be comfortable with that should you attempt to stroke him slowly and gently.
There will be times when you want to coax him to sit in your lap. The best thing to do is to have a containment area at the ready near to your sitting area—a child’s wading pool works nicely. To pick him up, corner him slowly until you can lift him carefully and take him to the sit-down area immediately.
As you lift him, support his whole body with your hand. The base of your hand should curve around his chest and belly, and you can curl your index finger over one of his paws. Place your other hand behind him, cupping his back legs gently and supporting his rump.
Once you sit down, hopefully he’ll let you cradle him in your lap so that you can pet him. Be certain you stroke his hair along its natural growth pattern; otherwise he’ll feel uncomfortable and that alone may cause him to nip at you.
He may want you to avoid his hindquarters. If he struggles to get away, you can persist for a few moments—otherwise he’ll never become accustomed to this playtime—but if necessary you can deposit him, rump first, into the containment area you’ve placed nearby.
It Could Be His Age
Guinea pigs get growing pains just like any little teenager, and sometimes they bite for that reason. When they are babies, they get over the behaviour within a few weeks’ time. If they are between the ages of 4 to 12 months in age, they tend to nip a bit more quickly but will quiet down as they reach the one-year mark.
Illness or Discomfort
Some guinea pigs bite when they don’t feel well. If he is suffering from skin mites or parasites, his skin will be itchy, and he will bite at you in irritation. If he seems to be fidgety and biting or scratching himself, take him to a vet for examination. If he does have mites, you cannot eliminate them with a store-bought shampoo. The vet will prescribe the right treatment.
Sometimes guinea pigs bite when they are physically well but they are experiencing a sense of unease.
It can be that his housing is too confining. If you haven’t created an environment with enough square footage he may express his dissatisfaction through biting. If you’re holding him and he has to urinate, he will squirm to get down, and if you’re not responding he will bite.
What Should You Do?
Your guinea pig’s biting is instinctive. He has no idea that he is misbehaving. Not only that, he cannot comprehend any kind of discipline.
So if he bites, you should never holler at him, hit or tap him, squirt water at him, or respond in any kind of punitive way.
Instead, try to figure out what the cause is. If he seems to dislike being held and carried, you might want to wrap a towel loosely around him as you transport him, because it will shield him from seeing the open air around him and give him a better sense of security.
Make certain his housing is adequate and that he has plenty of water and timothy hay. You might even want to stuff some hay into a cardboard roll from toilet tissue so that he can gnaw on that.
Whatever you do, remember that his biting is his way of communicating something to you. It will take time to figure it out. Be patient with him and handle him in such a way to minimize his biting opportunities.
With time and perseverance, he will get over it.