Guinea pigs are pretty simple to take care of, but many first-time guinea pig owners wonder why their new pets are chewing on the cage bars.
There are so many reasons this could be happening.
Understanding the root cause is essential to nipping this troublesome behavior quickly.
Fortunately, many of the solutions are relatively easy to come by.
As a general rule, your guinea pig will chew on their cage because their teeth need a workout or as a result of stress or boredom. It’s possible you trained your pet to do this by giving them attention. They might also chew due to conditions relating to their cage size, cage mates, and more.
If you notice your pet is chewing on their cage more than usual, it does not necessarily mean you need to rush to the veterinarian.
Take some time to evaluate if any of these situations could be the culprit.
Chewing To Workout Their Teeth
One of the main reasons your guinea pig is likely to chew on their cage bars is because their teeth are in need of a bit of exercise.
The metal bars prove to be a popular choice when your pet has nothing else to chew on.
This behavior in guinea pigs is quite common, so it may not be a huge cause for concern.
It may just mean you need to substitute some other toys for them to chew on instead.
For example, they make wooden hidey houses as a safer alternative for your guinea pig to chew on.
In addition to regular pellet food, they can have hay cubes which prompt them to chew to get the tasty benefits.
Give them a few of these in addition to their usual guinea pig food.
If these suggestions fail, your guinea pig may love chew sticks flavored like apples instead.
Even if you place these new additions in your pet’s enclosure, you need to be mindful of just how much they are chewing.
In this case, contact your veterinarian to have them take a closer look at those teeth just to ensure nothing is amiss in the mouth of your friend.
It is better to find out early their teeth need attention than to wait for an overgrown tooth to become painful.
Chewing Because Of Nerves
Imagine being a small animal like a guinea pig in a house filled with other, much larger creatures like cats and dogs.
Chewing on the cage could be their way of telling you their stress levels are too high.
This is entirely normal behavior for guinea pigs who are frightened.
How can you tell if your guinea pig is chewing due to nerves?
Play detective to uncover whether something could be causing stress.
They might only chew on the bars when your other pets are nearby or after you have had company over.
Maybe they only resort to chewing on the metal bars when there is a lot of commotion or noise.
They might be social animals, but they also need some downtime for rest and relaxation.
If you think this could be the cause of the chewing, consider moving their cage somewhere quieter.
While you don’t want to completely isolate them, they should be able to relax a little more in a part of the home where your other pets do not often wander.
Remember, you might also be causing some of those nerves.
A first-time guinea pig owner might not realize it takes time to make your pet feel comfortable.
If they have never been handled before, you might have to work up to playing with them.
Spend more time near their cage or reaching your hand in quietly.
The more they get used to your scent and presence, the less nervous they will be around people.
Chewing Out Of Boredom
A bored guinea pig is highly likely to start chewing on their cage bars just for lack of better things to do.
Maybe your pet needs to have a little more stimulation in their life.
This could mean something as simple as taking them out to play more often.
Allow them to explore your home safely and under your supervision.
Give them a change of scenery from time to time, even if it is just momentarily.
A curious guinea pig owner should also consider the enclosure.
When is the last time you updated the place your pet calls home?
They get tired of having the same things around them all the time.
Spruce things up with some activities designed to get them active in both mind and body.
For example, pack a toilet roll with hay, so they have something to play with.
Some people even make little hides for their furry friends out of cardboard boxes so they can chew and take shelter all at the same time.
Cage Chewing As Learned Behavior
Consider this sequence of events: your guinea pig chews on the bars of her cage.
You are concerned about her behavior and worried she might not be okay.
As a result, you come running to her and give her attention by either petting her, encouraging her to do something else or taking her out of the enclosure.
What does this do for your guinea pig?
It teaches her chewing on the cage is going to get her attention for better or worse.
A bored guinea pig learns quickly if she does it often.
If you give her the same reaction time and time again, she will continue the behavior.
Every time she wants a little bit of attention, she is now going to chew on the metal bars instead of on the chew toy you place in her cage.
Correcting this common complaint is a bit more challenging.
This issue in guinea pigs does not quickly resolve itself.
You have to change your behavior patterns before your pet can learn new routines.
In other words, you have to show her you will not always come running just because her teeth are connecting with the cage.
It will take more time to unlearn this behavior than it will to correct boredom or alleviate their stress.
Maybe you never noticed, but your guinea pig is likely to eat all day long if you let it.
Your guinea pig nibbles at things throughout the day when they are available.
Unfortunately, this also means your pet is likely to consume everything you give them in one fell swoop.
Most new owners believe they can feed their guinea pig pellets just once per day.
While this is technically true, it may be the reason why your rodent is chewing on their cage.
Not only might they be feeling the uncomfortable pangs of hunger by the end of the day, but they may also be getting bored.
The habit of cage biting could be caused by more than one thing.
Read our post on guinea pig biting and how to stop it for some great additional info.
By dropping food in their cage more than once a day, you are distracting them.
The opportunity to eat breaks up the monotony of their day.
This is where commercial foods like pellets and nuggets come in handy.
While soft foods are okay to give your guinea pig as a snack, the bulk of their diet should consist of hard foods.
If you want to feed them fresh food, consider harder produce like broccoli, cauliflower, or cucumber.
To keep your pet healthy and happy, they should receive about a cup of these fresh foods daily.
To help with their need to graze constantly, owners should also consider leaving plenty of hay cubes for them to nibble on throughout the day.
It is quite possible your guinea pig is stressed out because their cage is simply too small.
Rodents need a decent size cage to run around in and relax in.
Many new guinea pig owners purchase small, cheap quality cages not really large enough for an animal this size.
These smaller cages are more built for hamsters and gerbils, much smaller rodents.
As a result, your guinea pig will tend to chew on the metal cage bars in an attempt to break free.
Cage gnawing could be a sign your guinea pig needs a bigger space to roam free.
If your rodent has a cage mate, the minimum size increases.
Two guinea pigs in one cage should have about 10′ square feet.
Meanwhile, three guinea pigs in an enclosure need a minimum of 13′ square feet.
Having the right cage size is essential to your pet’s health.
It gives them plenty of room to exercise on their own.
A giant cage also gives them the opportunity to go to the bathroom in one area of the cage while playing in the other.
It is a bit more sanitary this way.
If you have multiple guinea pigs in one enclosure, cage mates tend to get along better when they have more personal space.
Check out our guinea pig cage size and guide post for more direction on cages.
Unfriendly Cage Mate
If your animal cage contains more than one guinea pig, it is essential to note whether they get along.
As a result of stress, they may be more prone to cage gnawing.
The best thing to do is make sure they have space where they are able to be by themselves.
As mentioned previously, having a giant cage can undoubtedly be helpful.
Make sure to meet the minimum size requirements, but always feel free to go bigger if you want to.
The more guinea pigs you have, the larger the cage should be.
Prudent guinea pig owners should also ensure they both have enough items to entertain themselves.
This means you need to make sure there is enough enrichment for both.
There should be multiple hidey holes, chew sticks, and maybe even food dishes.
If you attempt all of the things above and still have no success, your guinea pig may benefit from not having a cage mate.
You might have to consider splitting them up into separate enclosures.
Just remember, a guinea pig who lives solo may get bored more frequently.
You will have to spend more time with them on the floor or give them an opportunity to interact with their former cage mate daily.
Chewing From Lack of Exercise
When is the last time you let your guinea pig run around freely?
A lack of floor time or exercise can often be the culprit when they start chewing on metal cage bars.
Particularly if this is the only time they get to interact with others, floor time and playtime is so crucial.
How much playtime should your guinea pig get per day?
Most people say an hour is an ideal amount of time for them to play.
If every day isn’t doable, it is okay.
However, most owners recommend getting in this piggie playtime at least three or four days a week.
You do not necessarily have to stay to supervise them the whole time.
Many owners section off part of a room to guinea pig-proof and then leave them to it.
Set up a small playpen for them or organize a run in your yard.
No matter how you go about it, your guinea pig will get more floor time, and it may lead to less chewing.