From time to time, you may notice your guinea pig licking you, other guinea pigs, or simply objects in their cage! While it seems odd to us as an outsider, licking is actually quite normal for guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs can learn a lot about their environment through the tastes and textures of the things around them. There are a few reasons why guinea pigs may lick you or other things depending on the situation.
Below I’ll cover the most common reasons, along with explanations for the odd behaviors they may show, such as licking other guinea pigs’ eyes or even licking pee.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Lick You?
It is relatively uncommon for guinea pigs to lick people, but they may do it on occasion, and some more than others. There are a few different reasons why guinea pigs might lick you. It could be a sign of affection from your guinea pig, curiosity, or they may smell something intriguing on your skin that catches their attention.
Guinea Pigs May Lick as a Sign of Affection or Grooming
In some cases, guinea pigs may lick or try to groom you as a sign of affection.
Your guinea pig’s individual personality will likely play a big role in this. Some guinea pigs are more likely to nuzzle or groom people or other guinea pigs.
If your guinea pig is hanging out near you while they’re grooming, they may just redirect over to you and start grooming your skin as well.
This is generally a sign of trust and shows that your guinea pig is quite comfortable in your presence.
Your Guinea Pig May Like the Salty Taste on Your Skin
Some guinea pigs like the salty taste of the natural oils on our skin, and this may cause them to start sniffing intently, licking, or nuzzling your face, arms, or hands. Some guinea pigs even like to nuzzle your feet!
This is quite normal for guinea pigs, but if you’re worried they may start nibbling, you can wiggle your fingers in front of their face a little to distract them from the scent that piqued their interest.
Food Smells on Your Hand or Other Intriguing Scents
Guinea pigs will often repeatedly sniff or lick your hands and fingers if they smell food (especially veggies!) on your skin. If you’ve been cutting up tasty greens for them recently, they will know it!
If your guinea pig starts picking up a food smell on your hands, they may start sniffing and licking you and then follow up with a small bite or some nibbling.
Guinea pigs have a blind spot right under their chin, so they rely heavily on their sense of smell, touch, and taste to determine what’s in front of their mouth. Sometimes they don’t realize that the yummy thing they smell is part of you!
If you think your piggy may start getting nibbly, it helps to wiggle your fingers a little so they realize it’s not a piece of food. Some guinea pigs may get determined and try to nibble anyway, so you may have to take your hand away or rinse them off thoroughly to deter any further nibbling.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Lick and Then Bite You?
It is pretty common for guinea pigs to lick you and then follow up with a little nibble or nip. Guinea pigs get a little too curious sometimes and may chomp down harder than they should. They also may really like the smell of your hands or the salty taste on your skin and want to nibble at it more.
This is not typically ill-intentioned on the part of your guinea pig. Sometimes they get carried away with a smell or taste and forget that your fingers are not food!
I find that wiggling my fingers a bit when my guinea pigs are licking or intensely sniffing helps them realize your fingers are not edible and reduces the nibbling.
If your guinea pig does this often, it’s a good idea to wash your hands thoroughly after cutting up veggies or handling food so your guinea pig can’t smell their favorite greens on you when you hold them.
Baby guinea pigs are also more prone to nipping, as they tend to be very curious and explore with their mouth a lot more than adult piggies. This is quite normal behavior for baby guinea pigs, and usually wiggling your hands a little or redirecting them to something else helps a lot with the nibbling.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Lick You When You’re Holding Them?
Some guinea pigs may lick you while you’re holding them. This is usually a sign of being relaxed or interested in the smells on your skin. It generally means your guinea pig is curious and content.
If the licking is accompanied by some nipping and wiggling around, it could mean your guinea pig wants to be set down or they may need to pee.
As with all behaviors, it’s important to read your guinea pig’s body language. A calm and relaxed guinea pig is usually content and happy with you, whereas squirming around, whining, or biting indicates discomfort about something.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Lick Themselves?
Guinea pigs lick themselves while grooming, just like a cat or other animal. They will often lick their paws in order to reach their face and ears, similar to what a cat would do.
You may also see them biting or nibbling at their fur in between licks to get dirt or loose hairs out. Guinea pigs typically groom themselves several times a day and generally keep themselves pretty clean. For this reason, they rarely need baths.
Licking and chewing during grooming is quite normal. However, if your guinea pig is repeatedly licking and biting at one particular spot, it’s a good idea to check out the area and make sure there are no scabby or red patches that could be causing irritation.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Lick Each Other?
When a guinea pig licks or grooms another guinea pig, it is generally a sign of affection and a close relationship between the two piggies.
Grooming other guinea pigs is not super common, but some guinea pigs are more nurturing than others and are more likely to lick and groom their companions.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Lick Each Other’s Bums?
While quite gross, it is not uncommon for guinea pigs to sniff, lick, or even nibble each other’s bums. This behavior is most common in males as they are usually more interested in other guinea pigs’ smells. If the other piggy is not bothered by this behavior, you can leave them be.
However, if one guinea pig is very persistent about this behavior, it’s a good idea to double-check the genders of both pigs, as males often love to sniff the bums of females in particular.
You may also want to give the piggy that is being licked a bum bath, as there may be a build-up of smells that the other guinea pig finds intriguing.
If your guinea pigs are both female, it may be worth getting them checked for ovarian cysts, especially if the piggies are middle-aged or older and the behavior is accompanied by other forms of grumpiness. Ovarian cysts cause a guinea pig’s hormones to get out of whack and cause behaviors that they didn’t express prior to that.
Another reason that guinea pigs could be licking or nibbling at another piggy’s bum is to try to eat the caecotrophs (the soft semi-digested poop) from the other guinea pig. This is normal if the one trying to eat it is on antibiotics. When guinea pigs are on antibiotics, a lot of good bacteria are killed off, and eating the poop of other guinea pigs actually helps to replace this crucial gut bacteria.
Giving probiotics (such as Benebac gel) while your guinea pig is on antibiotics helps to keep their gut flora balanced and reduces stomach upsets for your piggy while on meds.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Lick Each Other’s Eyes?
Guinea pigs may lick each others’ eyes while grooming. This is generally very gentle and a sign of affection in most cases. As long as the other guinea pig seems content and happy, there is usually nothing to be concerned about.
However, if it is frequent and always the same guinea pig and the same eye that is being licked, you may want to examine the eye for any sign of irritation or mention it to your vet.
Sometimes other guinea pigs can smell or sense something wrong with the eye when it is difficult for us to detect.
Look for any signs of redness or watery appearance that may indicate a minor injury or infection. Sometimes guinea pigs poke themselves in the face by burrowing into hay. Dental issues can also be the root cause of a watery eye.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Lick Their Pee?
You may occasionally notice your guinea pig hovering their head over a urine puddle and bobbing their head quickly over the spot. This odd behavior looks a lot like licking, but the guinea pig is actually sniffing intensely and taking in information through scent. It is more common for guinea pigs to sniff pee than lick it, although some may also lick it a few times.
It is also generally more common for males to sniff pee, particularly that of another guinea pig. Boys will also be extremely interested in smelling pee from girls, and often make little happy chutting noises as they do so.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Lick Things in Their Cage?
You may notice your guinea pig from time to time intensely sniffing or even licking their cage or items in their cage. They may also lick new objects or toys that are put in their cage.
If they like what they pick up on, you may even see them popcorn happily! This is your guinea pig’s way of investigating their environment and taking in information about various objects.
Guinea pigs rely more on their sense of smell and taste than humans do, so although it may seem odd from our standpoint, it is perfectly normal for guinea pigs!
There are many reasons why guinea pigs may lick you or other things around them. Generally, it is a positive sign and a show of affection or curiosity about the world around them.
Guinea pigs explore their environment by relying heavily on smell and taste, so licking is a very normal way for them to pick up information that they can’t detect from the scent alone.
Guinea pigs have so many intriguing ways they communicate and behave, both verbally and silently. To learn more about how your guinea pig is trying to talk to you, check out our page on Guinea Pig Behavior.