If you’re considering getting guinea pigs, you may be wondering if it’s common for guinea pigs to bite people. Do they bite hard or often? The good news is that guinea pigs are very docile animals that rarely bite. Many guinea pigs nibble, but this is not usually painful.
However, there are some reasons why guinea pigs may bite harder. It can also depend on personality; some guinea pigs are more prone to biting or chronically nipping than others.
Do Guinea Pig Bites Hurt?
First of all, how hard do guinea pigs bite when they do decide to bite you? The answer is that it depends on the reason. Guinea pigs are undoubtedly capable of biting hard and drawing blood, like any other rodent. However, usually, their bite is more of a warning nip. Guinea pigs also frequently nibble on things out of curiosity. A more intense nibble can feel like a nip sometimes.
Guinea pigs very rarely lunge and bite you hard. If this happens, it typically means the guinea pig feels imminently threatened and can’t get away. This generally is the last resort for guinea pigs.
How Common is it for Guinea Pigs to Bite?
In my experience, the vast majority of guinea pigs do not bite, even when scared or mishandled. All guinea pigs may nibble from time to time or nip if you touch a painful spot, but most are not chronic biters.
Out of nine guinea pigs, I’ve had one that tended to nip frequently. I’ve also fostered and volunteered with many more piggies who have all been very gentle and easy to handle. The percentage is small.
The guinea pig I had, who was a biter, was not outright aggressive per se. He was a very interactive guinea pig who was always trying to talk to me. His teeth were a form of communication. He never bit hard because I always listened to what he was trying to tell me.
For example, if he didn’t want to be picked up, he would turn around and nip you. If he wanted off your lap to explore, he’d start nipping at your arms and trying to squeeze away. Had I ignored that and forcibly handled him anyway, I’m sure he would have become increasingly more aggressive.
None of my other guinea pigs have been biters at all, even when it would be in their right to do so. One was even adopted from a family with young children who used to squeeze them far too hard. She has always been incredibly gentle and never once attempted to nip. Another came from a research lab, and she has never bit either. Guinea pigs are generally very passive and forgiving animals.
Are Certain Breeds Prone to Biting?
Short answer: Yes! Abyssinians (the crazy-haired guinea pigs) tend to “talk with their teeth” more than any other breed. This does not necessarily make them aggressive, but they are more likely to be nippy than other breeds as a whole.
Of course, you’ll find individuals of every breed that fit both categories, so it’s crucial to prioritize individual personality traits over the breed.
I currently have or have had 6 Abyssinians, and only one has been nippy with people. However, my other Abbies are more likely to nibble and tug on your clothes than the other guinea pigs.
They may be more likely be nip at your skin accidentally than other breeds because they often love to explore with their mouth.
Abyssinians are incredibly smart, with bold and fun personalities. They are one of my favorite breeds, and I’ll always have at least one. However, if you’re a first-time guinea pig owner or have young kids, you may want to consider another breed to start out or supervise young kids closely with them.
Do Guinea Pigs Bite Harder Than Hamsters?
I’ve had hamsters in the past and, of course, have several guinea pigs now. How often each animal will bite very much depends on personality.
I’ve been lucky to have a biter of both species, and I can tell you this; a hamster that wants nothing to do with you will usually bite harder than a guinea pig who wants to be left alone.
The main difference is that guinea pigs will often give a warning nip, and hamsters will go straight for the hard bite with no second chances.
With that said, guinea pigs are undoubtedly capable of biting just as hard if they want to. In most cases, they prefer to run away first and bite if all else fails.
A hamster can also make a great pet, as long as you can meet and handle them a bit before bringing them home. I’ve had two other hamsters who were very sweet and wouldn’t hurt a fly. Hamsters don’t live as long, so they sometimes make better pets for kids or other people who don’t want as long of a commitment.
They are also not as big or messy as guinea pigs, so their cage is a lot easier to clean. Guinea pigs are awake during the day, however, and usually are easier to handle than hamsters.
Do Guinea Pigs Bite Harder Than Rabbits?
No, rabbits have a harder bite and nip than guinea pigs. Most rabbits are very gentle, but their teeth are certainly capable of more damage than a guinea pig. I can say from experience that a nip from a rabbit is a much more noticeable pinch than a nip from a guinea pig.
I haven’t been bitten hard by a rabbit, but I’m positive it would be way harder than any guinea pig could do. Rabbits can also chew through toys or furniture at a much faster pace than guinea pigs due to their larger teeth.
Do Guinea Pigs Nibble on People?
Yes, it’s very common for guinea pigs to nibble. It’s how they investigate and explore the world. Guinea pigs will sometimes lick or nuzzle at your skin, and this can turn into nibbling.
If they start nibbling more intensely, you should move your hand away as this can lead to a gentle nip. Generally, it doesn’t hurt when guinea pigs nibble you. It’s a pretty normal guinea pig behavior that they do with almost everything in their environment.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Bite?
Guinea pigs can bite for various reasons. They may be in pain or discomfort or simply trying to communicate with you. If you know some of the reasons, you can avoid many of the common causes of biting. I’ll go over some of the most common reasons why a guinea pig may bite you below.
They Have to Pee
If you’re holding your guinea pig and they suddenly start to squirm around and bite at your clothes, they may need to pee. Guinea pigs need to pee quite frequently, usually every 15 – 20 minutes. Many guinea pigs will start nipping when their bladder is causing discomfort, and they want to pee in the comfort of their own house. Be sure to put your guinea pig down periodically to give them a chance to relieve themselves.
They Get Impatient and Don’t Want to be Held
Many guinea pigs don’t particularly love being cuddled. Some guinea pigs get impatient rather quickly and would much rather run around and explore.
If this is the case, your guinea pig will probably start trying to squirm away from you. If they keep finding your arms and hands in the way, they may begin to nip at you.
Guinea pigs also find comfort in being in their cage in familiar surroundings. After being out for a while, your guinea pig may get fidgety and simply crave the security of their home.
They Don’t Like Being Carried
Guinea pigs often feel uncomfortable being carried or held with their feet dangling in the air for too long. They like to have their feet on a sturdy surface to feel safe. Some guinea pigs will even nip to let you know they are feeling insecure in these cases. To avoid this, try to limit how much you carry your guinea pig around. Pick them up briefly and sit down on the floor with them where they feel most secure and safe.
Also, make sure you’re picking your guinea pig up correctly. Always use two hands to lift your guinea pig, with one hand under their belly and the other supporting the back legs. Guinea pigs may nip on occasion if you pick them up very awkwardly or squeeze them too hard.
They Feel Cornered or Threatened
99% of guinea pigs will run or freeze when they are frightened rather than bite. Most guinea pigs will only bite if they feel highly threatened, and fleeing is not an option. Therefore, it’s a good idea to approach your guinea pig slowly and pick them up calmly. Avoid chasing your guinea pig around too much and scaring them to the point where they might feel the need to defend themselves.
If you think your guinea pig is biting due to fear, try picking them up in a fleece house or snuggle sack. Give them a blanket to burrow in when they’re around you so they have a safe space where they can feel secure.
Your Fingers Smell Like Food
Guinea pigs have poor eyesight and tend to rely on their sense of smell to navigate things. Guinea pigs also have a blind spot right in front of their face, so they can’t see your finger if you hold it in front of their nose or under their chin.
If you recently cut up or handled some veggies, your fingers may smell like food to your guinea pig. This can cause them to nibble at your hand to see if it’s edible. However, this is usually not a hard bite, more of a curious nibble that doesn’t hurt.
To avoid this, wash your hands thoroughly and be cautious when putting your fingers near their mouth. Some guinea pigs like the scent of orange or fruit-scented soaps as well, so you may need to use a different kind of soap if your piggy is persistent about nibbling on your freshly washed hands.
Guinea pigs frequently nibble on things when they’re curious. It’s one way that they learn about their environment. Guinea pigs chew on nearly everything, including furniture, wires, and anything new you put in their cage. Fingers and clothes can sometimes be nibbled on too. These nibbles don’t hurt, but they can sometimes lead to little nips.
If your guinea pig is super nibbly, try giving them some veggies, grass, or something chewable like apple tree sticks to keep them occupied. It’s also crucial to guinea-proof any room where your guinea pig roams. Provide them with safe chew toys and unlimited hay to munch on in their cage.
They’re Itchy or Have Mites
Guinea pigs may accidentally nip you if they are trying to scratch an itch on themselves. Sometimes when you’re petting your guinea pig, it can trigger an itchy spot or make them ticklish. However, if they do this a lot, you may want to take a closer look for some kind of fleas or mites.
Mites can also make it appear that your guinea pig is trying to bite you intentionally. This can happen when a mite bites them. Your guinea pig may turn around and react to your hand, thinking that your hand is what bit them. If your guinea pig often turns and bites at you or themselves very randomly, this is a prevalent sign of mites.
They Are Developing Arthritis
If your guinea pig is getting older and they start nipping out of the blue when you pick them up or move them, this can be a sign of early arthritis. Guinea pigs with arthritis begin to become sore, most often in their back legs. This can cause pain and discomfort when you pick them up.
If you think this is the case, try to pick up your guinea pig gently and less frequently. You can also teach them to walk in a tunnel or carrier to be picked up, so there’s less stress on their legs. You may also want to talk to your vet about ways to alleviate their joint pain.
They Don’t Like Being Touched
Guinea pigs sometimes don’t like being touched on a specific part of their body. For example, many guinea pigs don’t like their bums or sides being petted. Guinea pigs also dislike their hair being stroked against the grain.
For this reason, funky-haired guinea pigs like Abyssinians are often more sensitive to being petted. To reduce this discomfort for the rosetted guinea pigs, try to pat them gently and with the natural layout of their hair as best you can. My Abyssinian didn’t mind head rubs but hated being pet all along the back.
If your guinea pig starts suddenly reacting to being touched when they didn’t mind before, this can be a sign of pain, bloating, or inflammation. Check your guinea pig over thoroughly and arrange a vet visit if you think their reaction could be a sign of an underlying health problem.
They’re Trying to Communicate With You
Guinea pigs sometimes nip or nibble as a way to communicate with you. Not all guinea pigs will do this, and the ones that do usually don’t bite hard. However, some guinea pigs can be more persistent and bite progressively harder if you aren’t listening to them.
They may start nipping when they want to go back to their house or put down on the floor to explore. They may also tug on your clothes if they want food or need to pee.
Try to figure out what they want so they have no reason to continue with the nipping. In the future, try to look for smaller signs that your guinea pig needs something, so they don’t start biting as their default method to communicate.
They Dislike Being Groomed
Grooming is not a guinea pig’s favorite pastime. However, nail clipping, at the very least, is a necessary evil. Keep an eye on your guinea pig’s mouth while you’re clipping their nails. It sometimes helps to keep a finger under their chin to block any attempts at nipping. Having a second person hold the guinea pig for nails helps a lot too. Some guinea pigs are much more cooperative if you give them some food to distract them at the same time.
Brushing is also usually necessary to keep long-haired guinea pigs from getting matted and tangled. If you need to brush your guinea pig, introduce the brush slowly and gently. Run a soft brush through their fur gently while they munch on some veggies. This will introduce them to grooming gradually and teach them that it can be a positive experience.
They Have a New Cage Mate
Sometimes guinea pigs can get nippy when a new cage mate is introduced. Sometimes a bit of nippiness can carry on for a few weeks after the initial introduction. However, this doesn’t happen in all cases, and it will fade away once everyone settles into the new arrangement.
During the initial introduction, guinea pigs have the highest chance of fighting and biting you or another guinea pig. When introducing new guinea pigs, keep your hands away entirely. If you need to separate or create space between two pigs, use a towel or thick leather gloves.
It is standard advice not to separate fighting guinea pigs with your bare hands, but this applies even if the guinea pigs are not actively fighting. Introductions are tense, and guinea pigs are often a little on edge at all times around a newcomer. This makes them more likely to bite or redirect that onto your hand.
The two worst bites I’ve ever received from a guinea pig were from guinea pigs in the middle of a new introduction that were not actively fighting. And the bites were from guinea pigs that would never bite on any other occasion. So it’s best always to keep bare hands away from guinea pig introductions completely, no matter how friendly your guinea pig is.
Warning Signs of a Bite
If your guinea pig starts chattering their teeth loudly at you, this is a serious warning sign that they will lunge and bite! They will usually have a tense body and be poised to jump at the thing they find threatening. If they do this, stop whatever you are trying to do and leave them alone for a while to calm down.
Don’t try to pick up or touch a guinea pig that is angrily chattering, even if it’s directed at another guinea pig rather than you. They can easily redirect that anger to your hand. If they need to be moved urgently or separated from another guinea pig, use thick gloves or a towel to get them away. However, try to leave them alone if at all possible.
If your guinea pig is softly chattering but not freezing or tensing up, this is simply a sign of frustration or annoyance. This doesn’t mean they’re going to attack you imminently, but it typically means they are annoyed with something you’re doing.
Do Young Guinea Pigs Bite?
Baby guinea pigs are prone to being nippier than adults normally would. In many cases, they grow out of this. The odd pig will continue to nip later in life. Baby guinea pigs use their teeth to nibble and explore their environment, much like older guinea pigs do.
However, babies are so much more curious about their new world and will nibble on things more often. They can sometimes get excited about something and start nibbling harder until it leads to more intense nipping. If their unfortunate object of interest is your arm, try giving them some yummy veggies to occupy their teeth instead.
Do Guinea Pigs Bite When You First Get Them?
Most guinea pigs will be scared when you first get them. However, usually, guinea pigs will not bite, even when they are scared. This can depend on personality, but guinea pigs will be more likely to run away from you than bite.
To help your guinea pig feel more comfortable around you, go slow and teach them that they don’t need to be scared of you. Pick them up in a tunnel or fleece house and then sit on the floor with them and offer some veggie treats. You can also find some more taming tips on our taming and bonding page.
Do Guinea Pigs Bite When You Pick Them Up?
Typically no, guinea pigs are much more likely to run when you try to pick them up than bite. This is a deeply instilled instinct from their days in the wild. When a bird swoops down on you, you run! Some guinea pigs will bite if they genuinely hate being picked up, but it’s not common.
Most guinea pigs will not bite even if they dislike being touched. If your guinea pig feels cornered and is extremely upset, there’s a chance they could bite. Again, it’s not common. Try petting them a little bit before lifting them if you think they may bite you. You can also usher them into a small carrier or fleece house to pick them up if you’re not comfortable handling them yet.
Do Guinea Pigs Scratch You?
Guinea pigs can’t scratch you intentionally as a cat could, for example. However, you can get scratched if they’re trying to scramble away from you or off your lap. The best way to avoid this is to be calm, pick them up gently, and wear pants instead of shorts.
Guinea pigs have sharper nails when they are young, and their nails get thicker and duller with age. Therefore, you’re more likely to get a scratch from a young guinea pig as opposed to an adult. Babies are also usually more jumpy and likely to scramble away, leaving these potential scratch marks.
Do Guinea Pigs Bite Each Other?
Yes, even bonded pairs will nip at each other from time to time. They frequently do this if one guinea pig invades the space of the other. In addition, guinea pigs will often nip back and forth when they’re bickering over food. These are not hard nips, however, and they don’t hurt each other. It is a form of communication between them.
When introducing new guinea pigs, biting is a more common occurrence, and it often gets harder than these little nips. It’s essential to keep a close eye on this and separate pigs that start fighting or excessively chasing and biting another guinea pig.
Overall, guinea pigs are not likely to bite people. Some guinea pigs like to nibble or even nip to communicate or express their intentions, but this doesn’t usually break the skin. Guinea pigs that lunge and bite are very rare, and it’s almost always a defensive behavior if it does happen.
Guinea pigs are very docile animals, and aggression is not typical of them at all. Because of this, they are very popular and wonderful pets. If you need more reasons to love these adorable little animals, check out our article on 25 reasons you should get guinea pigs.