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Do Guinea Pigs Bite?

Do guinea pigs bite?

When people come to our ranch to adopt one of our rescued guinea pigs, we do a lot of educating. One of the things we ask as a part of the introduction and adoption process is for the adopter to pick up the guinea pig from their habitat.

Often, I see the person reach into the cage with trepidation and some fear of getting bitten, especially if the guinea pig being picked up is scared, skittish or makes sudden movements to avoid the hands reaching into the cage. And with good reason. “Do guinea pigs bite?” Is a totally fair question to ask or to wonder about.

Most rodents are not as friendly as guinea pigs, and if you don’t know them very well, it’s an easy and understandable assumption that you should be afraid to get a bite. In fact, I’m like that when I reach into a cage to pick up a pet rat or a hamster; I’m just not that familiar with the species.

So during every adoption, we cover how to pick up a guinea pig and how to hold them. I always say, “Don’t worry, he is not going to bite.” I can say this with confidence because I’ve already gotten to know each particular guinea pig and have assessed their personality.

It’s very rare to come across a guinea pig that aggressively bites and actually breaks the skin. So rare, in fact, that in all my years with guinea pigs, I have only been bitten badly once and this was when I was relatively inexperienced; I accidentally startled a guinea pig reaching into his cage and went for a fast grab. In turn, he got so scared and may have thought I was another guinea pig and bit down hard on my finger. 

Since then, I have dealt with only two guinea pigs that I had to handle carefully. Both of them are brought by their human parents regularly for a bath, nail trim and haircut. Eva and Rene; two sassy ladies. Both are extremely confident guinea pigs and have to be handled carefully. I remember their names because it is so unusual for me to come across these types of aggressive piggies. And even with aggression displayed by these two ladies, I do not believe they would have broken the skin if they hadn’t been given the chance to nip. Once I got to know these guinea pigs well, I learned the proper way to approach them in their cage to minimize the chances of getting bit.

When guinea pig bites do happen, it’s usually because the human parents try to break up a fight with their hands. The animal will accidentally bite, thinking your hand is the other guinea pig. And in this case, they do bite hard. So, the key is to never use your bare hands to break up a guinea pig fight. These types of fights among guinea pigs usually only occur in the first days after introduction, so don’t worry about fighting among guinea pigs being a regular and normal thing; it isn’t at all.

So, the best way to pick up a guinea pig is to make sure the animal is aware of you. If they’re aware, the less likely they are to be startled. Most guinea pigs (even tame ones) will run away when you try to pick them up, so I advise using both hands. You can use one hand to block the immediate area in front of the piggy, and the second hand will go to approach the guinea pig from the side. Then, slowly and gently, slide your hand underneath the guinea pig from the side. Next, bring in that other hand to take her out with both hands. This way, you will have a lot of control and the guinea pig will feel safer when being held and picked up securely. Don’t worry if she starts to struggle and squeak loudly, this can be common and is not a precursor to a bite. Once calmly held she will settle down in your hands. 

Now, nibbles are far more common and are not considered a bite. Interestingly, usually the very tame guinea pigs are the ones who may nibble or nip to make you aware that you’re doing something they don’t approve of or agree with. These nibbles do not break the skin and serve as a gentle warning of sorts.

Guinea pigs are one of the most docile and friendly animals in the rodent family and it’s these characteristics that make them such lovely, lovable and suitable family pets. It’s not common for guinea pigs to bite… so, the answer to “do guinea pigs bite?” is: not usually. However, they can. If you follow my steps and recommendations, though, the likelihood that they will is very, very slim.

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Interested in learning more about guinea pigs? Check out these articles! ⬇️⬇️⬇️

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