Well, if you’re new to the world of guinea pigs, you might be taken aback the first time your little ball of fluff bites you. But don’t be too surprised. Your docile cavy hasn’t turned rabid, it’s probably just trying to tell you something important.
Does your guinea pig go from this…
It’s always a bit of a shock when your pet bites the hand that feeds it, but you’ve got to remember that a gentle nibble or nip is a guinea pig’s only real way of communicating with you. Typically, if they’re injured, unhappy, or feeling stressed they’ll let you know with a bite.
When A Guinea Pig Bites You What Does It Mean?
Understanding why your guinea pig might bite can help you prevent it from happening in the future. Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons cavies might nibble, nip or gnaw.
Your guinea pig is stressed out
Guinea pigs need loads of stimulation, space, and preferably the company of other cavies. Without these, your guinea pig can start to feel unhappy, anxious, and stressed. This means when you want to take it out of its hutch for a cuddle, it’s probably going to let you know with a good ol’ bite.
Your guinea pig needs to ‘go’
You may have noticed that your guinea pig may start getting a little fidgety in your arms when you’ve been holding it for a while. This is because it probably needs to pee. If you ignore this more subtle sign, a gentle nibble is its way of telling you “enough already!”
Understanding a guinea pig’s behaviour, and that it needs to pee every 15 minutes will stop your cavy biting you.
Your guinea pig is in pain
We all get a little grumpy when we’re in pain, but as humans, we can tell someone exactly what we’re feeling. Unfortunately, when your guinea pig wants to let you know it’s in pain or suffering from a serious health issue, it will usually let you know by gently nibbling or nipping you.
If this happens, you need to take your guinea pig to the vet as soon as possible for a complete health check.
Your guinea pig feels threatened
As a prey animal, your piggy’s survival instinct is to run and hide. Unfortunately, when it’s unable to do this, it’s next line of defence is to bite. If your guinea pig is feeling threatened or afraid, make sure you always handle it with care. By spending lots of time with your pet, it will feel safe and loved, and be less inclined to nip.
If you’ve adopted a cavy and it’s still settling into its new environment, remember to give it time to adjust. Don’t handle your new pet too much at first, especially if it’s scared or timid.
Your guinea pig has a skin condition
If your usually happy-go-lucky piggy suddenly bites you, it could be suffering from an irritating (and often painful) skin condition. Guinea pigs are prone to fungal infections, ringworm, mites and lice. Often, when trying to groom itself and stop the mites or lice biting, your cavy might accidentally nip you.
Either way, you must make an appointment with your vet as these conditions, if left untreated, can prove fatal.
Your guinea pig thinks your finger is food
If your cavy’s feeling particularly peckish and you’re holding the piece of fruit or veg close to your fingers, you might be bitten accidentally. Remember to keep your fingers away from the tasty morsel, so this doesn’t happen. While it’s not painful, it’ll still give you (or a small child) a bit of a scare.
Something else to be aware of is a guinea pig’s excellent sense of smell. If you’ve been handling any food that your piggy might fancy tasting, you’re bound to get nipped. It’s always worth washing your hands before you go near your pet.
Teach Your Guinea Pig Not To Bite
As already mentioned, guinea pigs are not usually aggressive, but they will bite if they feel threatened, bullied, mishandled or are ill. Of course, all piggies are different, and while one guinea pig might like being cuddled, another won’t. Getting to know your pets and their personalities is an effective way to avoid getting bitten.
So what happens if you have a Nipper, Gnasher or Chewbacca? You can teach it not to bite by doing a few simple things. Take a look at 6 possible ways you can do this.
1. Don’t stick your fingers through the hutch or run
Remember, your guinea pig will bite if it feels stressed or afraid. Sticking your fingers through the hutch or run, or allowing someone else to, will most definitely result in a bite from your piggy.
2. Always handle your guinea pig with care
Never be rough with your cavy. And understand its likes and dislikes. If your guinea pig doesn’t like being held for long periods, then limit the time you do this. Also, holding your guinea pig when it’s eating or playing will more than likely annoy it and result in a bite.
3. Remember to wash your hands
Before you handle your piggy, remember to wash your hands. With their sensitive noses and excellent sense of smell, they associate certain smells with food or danger. They are more inclined to nip or bite if they pick up a scent they like (i.e. food) or are afraid of (i.e. a dog or a cat).
4. Give them plenty of space
For a relatively small animal, a guinea pig needs a lot of room to roam freely and explore. A bored or unhappy cavvy is more likely to feel stressed, which is one of the main reasons it’ll bite. Invest in a good-sized hutch, a run and plenty of tunnels, toys and places to hide.
5. Look at the possible cause
Guinea pigs are not aggressive animals by nature, so there is usually a reason that it’s biting. Fear, stress or illness are possible causes, but it could also have something to do with their environment. Male guinea pigs that aren’t neutered might be aggressive towards other males, vying for a female’s attention, or it may be a show of dominance.
Another reason for a guinea pig biting could be that you’re being too rough with it, holding it incorrectly, or putting it on its back.
6. Reward good behaviour
Should your guinea pig bite you, you mustn’t hurt it back. Instead, put it back in its cage for a little time out, and only return once it’s calmed down. Don’t make the mistake of giving your biting piggy a treat or attention straight after. This will be seen as a reward and may encourage bad habits. Instead, when your cavy is behaving well, reinforce that behaviour with a cuddle or a snack.
Do Guinea Pig Bites Hurt?
As a general rule of thumb, no, guinea pig bites are usually more of a nip or a nibble. However, if you ignore these warning bites, there’s a chance your piggy may feel the need to make its unhappiness or discomfort more obvious. This is when the bite can be far more painful and even draw blood.
How To Treat a Guinea Pig Bite
If your guinea pig does sink its teeth into you, accidentally or otherwise, you need to treat the bite as quickly as possible.
Clean the wound
If the skin has been broken, you must clean the bite mark with some soap and water.
Use an antimicrobial ointment
Use an antimicrobial ointment on the wound to prevent bacteria from building up and causing an infection.
If you see blood, apply pressure to the area for a few minutes, with a clean cloth or a bandage. If the bite mark isn’t too bad, use a plaster to stop the bleeding. Should the injury look more serious, you will want to have it treated by a GP as soon as possible.
Always remember that it’s not natural for a guinea pig to be aggressive and bite. Should this be happening, you need to look at the possible reasons why and take action as quickly as possible. Leaving this type of behaviour to get worse can lead to far more serious consequences, sadly for both you and your piggy.
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