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Why Does My Guinea Pig Lick Me? 6 Reasons for This Behavior

Nicole Cosgrove

February 16, 2021

Despite their small size, docile and quiet nature, and calm personality, a guinea pig is still capable of strange behavior. From unique sounds and vocalizations to strange behaviors like jumping up and down and sleeping with their eyes open, these are all unique traits that make guineas such great and popular pets.

Another weird habit that many guinea pig owners notice is licking. Guineas are known to groom themselves or other guineas by licking, and they even lick their cages or toys sometimes, and this is all perfectly normal. But what about when they start licking you? Is this normal? The answer is yes, this is perfectly normal behavior, and there are several reasons behind it.

In this article, we’ll look at six common reasons that your guinea pig may be licking you. Let’s get started!

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1. Affection and bonding

The first and most common reason that your guinea licks your hand or fingers is a sign of affection and bonding. Licking is the same method that guineas use to show affection to one another, and they are simply passing it on to you, their caretaker! Through licking and grooming, guineas show bonding and affection toward one another, and them licking your hand is often their attempt to display affection or their way of asking for attention and petting.

2. Grooming

Guinea pigs lick themselves and other guineas as a natural method of self-grooming — have you ever noticed how rarely you need to bathe your guinea? They are particular about cleanliness, similar to cats, and will lick themselves and each other via grooming several times a day. Your guinea will often see you as a valued member of their family, and licking your hand may just be their attempt at giving you a good clean!

3. Salt

A human’s skin is naturally salty, and your guinea may be giving you a lick simply because you taste good! Guineas are attracted to the salty taste of your skin and just want to lap it up!

guinea pig licking human hand
Image Credit: Lipatova Maryna, Shutterstock

4. Food smell

Similar to salty skin, your hand and fingers may still have the smell and taste of food that you’ve prepared, and your guinea simply wants to explore the flavor. They have fairly powerful noses and may just be picking up a tasty smell on your hands. While this is perfectly fine most of the time, it’s better to wash your hands thoroughly before handling your guinea, just in case.

5. Discomfort

Although this is far rarer, the reason that your guinea may be licking you is from fear or discomfort. The licking is usually accompanied by nibbling and vocalization, though, so it’s usually easy to tell that there is something wrong. It could be as simple as the way that you are holding them, they’re not in the mood for being picked up, or they may even be in physical pain. In any case, if the licking is accompanied by nibbling, scratching, or biting, this is a sure warning that they want to be put down immediately.

guinea pig in girl's arms
Image Credit: Evgeniy pavlovski, Shutterstock

6. Hierarchy

While guineas are generally friendly animals both with their owners and other guineas, they do have a social order and hierarchy that they adhere to when living in groups. Displays of dominance or subservience are perfectly normal among groups of guinea pigs, and licking is just one of the ways that they communicate this. Your guinea may see you as the head of their social hierarchy and are licking your hand to display respect and subservience.

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Final thoughts

While there are several different possible reasons that your guinea pig may be licking you, it is generally out of affection and an attempt at bonding. When raised in a healthy environment, guineas are generally happy and friendly little animals, and they may simply be displaying their affection and gratitude toward you, their caregiver!


Featured Image Credit: Evgeniy pavlovski, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.