How to Teach a Guinea Pig to Stop Biting Cage Bars
When guinea pigs bite cage bars, it can be rather loud and obnoxious. Chewing the cage can also damage your guinea pig’s teeth or cause other problems in their jaw.
A little bit of cage biting is unlikely to cause problems, but if your guinea pig is doing it regularly, it’s a good idea to try to address the issue.
In this article, I’ll cover some of the most common reasons guinea pigs bite cage bars and how to discourage and prevent it from occurring. First, let’s dive into some underlying reasons that guinea pigs might engage in this undesirable behavior.
Why Is Your Guinea Pig Biting the Cage Bars?
The first thing to determine is why your guinea pig is biting their cage. Do they do it around feeding times? When you walk into the room? When they hear the fridge opening? Or is it completely random throughout the day or night?
Different reasons require different solutions, so try to determine which category your guinea pig fits into before determining the next steps.
Cage Biting Caused By Hunger or Impatience
Guinea pigs will often bite bars in anticipation or impatience with something they want. Perhaps they are trying to get your attention. Maybe they want you to bring them a treat or feed them faster.
In these cases, giving in to their demands reinforces the cage-biting behavior. They learn that biting the cage = getting what they want.
The first thing you want to do is ensure that your guinea pig has an unlimited supply of timothy or orchard grass hay. Guinea pigs need to be constantly eating hay to keep their gut moving and teeth worn down.
However, they do not need an endless supply of pellets and treats. If they are biting the cage bars for more treats, it’s time for some structure and a bit of tough love.
Set a Feeding Schedule to Reduce Cage Biting
First of all, it helps to set a feeding schedule. Be consistent about when you feed your guinea pig their pellets and veggies. This won’t eliminate cage biting entirely, but it will concentrate the cage chewing mainly around the scheduled feeding times.
If they are currently biting the cage all day, feeding schedules will reduce it drastically. Resist the urge to feed them when they wheek or demand food throughout the day. The more consistent you are, the quicker they will adapt to the schedule.
How to Eliminate Cage Biting At Feeding Times
You may have a guinea pig that frantically bites the cage bars every time you walk in the room or open the bag of food. In these cases, you can stop cage biting by choosing not to reward that behavior. There are a couple of ways you can do this.
The first is to anticipate the cage biting and try to feed before it occurs. This can be challenging if your guinea pig is quick to react.
However, you can do this by opening the bag and placing a scoop of food ready near the cage or placing some veggies close to the cage.
Leave the room and wait for the guinea pig to settle down. Once they are relaxed, quickly go in and dump the scoop of food or give them the veggies before they have an opportunity to think about biting.
Another thing you can do is ask your guinea pig to do a trick every time you feed them. A good one is to stand up on their hind legs or to run in a circle. These tricks are very easy to teach and pretty cute too!
If you consistently ask them to do the same trick every time you feed them, they will eventually switch from cage biting to doing their trick anytime they want to be fed. This is a much quieter and more positive upgrade from the constant cage biting.
How to Stop Guinea Pigs From Biting the Cage When You Walk in the Room
If your guinea pig is triggered to bite as soon as you walk into the room, start making a habit of randomly walking into the room throughout the day and walking out again. The guinea pig will soon get bored of running out for no reason, and they’ll begin to relax when you open the door.
What To Do If Your Guinea Pig is Biting the Cage Bars at Night
If your guinea pig is biting the cage randomly or throughout the night, this can indicate hunger, boredom, or pain.
Guinea pigs sleep in short intervals throughout the night and day, which means they spend a good portion of the night awake. This means you may hear them moving around or even gnawing on the cage bars at night. If your guinea pig does this, try giving them a big handful of fresh hay right before bed. In most cases, this will keep them satisfied while you sleep.
Whatever you do, don’t turn the lights on and give them pellets or treats. Give them hay before bed, and ignore them entirely once the lights are out. They will come to accept the bedtime routine and settle down when it goes dark. If they continue biting at night, this can indicate pain or illness.
Cage Biting Can Be a Sign of Pain or Illness
If your guinea pig continues to chew the cage bars or other items in the cage, this can also be a sign of pain. Often, this behavior is accompanied by subtle symptoms such as puffy fur or hiding more than usual.
If your guinea pig starts biting the cage bars out of the blue when they don’t usually do so, this is a sure sign of an underlying health problem. Get them in to see a vet asap if they start biting the cage bars randomly, especially at night.
How to Tell if Your Guinea Pig’s Cage Biting is Caused by Pain
Demand cage biting versus pain-based cage biting is generally easy to tell apart.
Hungry guinea pigs will often be triggered to start biting by something; hearing a bag rustle, a door open, seeing you walk into the room, etc. They will also be animatedly biting the cage, running around, and possibly wheeking excitedly.
A guinea pig in pain will be more withdrawn and chew just for the sake of chewing. They will do it more randomly and may chew their house or other objects near them in the cage.
They may be acting differently than usual too. However, guinea pigs try to hide their pain, so you may not see many other apparent symptoms.
How to Stop Random Cage Biting
If your guinea pig has been to the vet to have medical issues ruled out and they’re still biting the cage at random times, they may be bored or need more things to chew. You can fix these issues by providing them with a large cage, a couple of hours of floor time daily, or some chew toys or other forms of enrichment. Some toys and ideas are listed below.
- Apple tree sticks for chewing
- Chewable balls
- Hay tunnels to chew and run through
- Oxbow hay stacks to chew
- Paper bags
- Toilet paper rolls stuffed with hay (cut a slit down the length of the roll so they can’t get their head trapped)
- Piles of blankets to burrow in
- Hide treats around the cage for them to find
- Put pellets in a treat ball instead of a bowl
As you can see, there are many reasons why guinea pigs may bite cage bars. It’s crucial to first determine the cause of the cage biting. Once you know this, it’s much easier to choose the right solution. Most guinea pigs can learn not to chew on the cage with a little bit of patience and consistency. Reward the behavior you want to see, and eventually, the unwanted cage biting will phase out.
If you found this article helpful, be sure to check out our training page for even more practical tips and even some cool trick training tutorials.