If you are a guinea pig owner, you’ve likely noticed they like hair, incredibly long human hair!
Eating it, chewing on it, hiding in it, sleeping in it, you name it–but why do our little furry friends engage in these oddly adorable behaviors?
Guinea pigs enjoy hiding in hair because it’s soft, often warm, smells like you, and makes them feel safe. They will sometimes eat hair if they don’t have enough fiber in their diet, are bored or stressed, have a Vitamin C deficiency, or simply want to bond with or “groom” their owner.
Let’s look at why your piggy is so obsessed with your hair, whether it’s normal, and if you need to do anything about it.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Like To Hide In Hair?
There are a lot of theories as to why pet guinea pigs enjoy hiding in their owners’ hair so much.
It’s hard to precisely know why these popular companion animals love hanging out in our hair.
After all, we can’t read their minds or ask them questions about their behavior.
One popular theory has to do with guinea pigs’ keen sense of smell.
While their eyesight is relatively primitive and underdeveloped, they can identify many familiar objects, animals, and people by their scent.
Guinea pigs bond pretty closely with their owners, and your piggy likely finds your scent comforting and reassuring.
Because of this, when handling them, you’ll find that they probably inevitably travel up your arm and onto your shoulder to snuggle up in your hair (especially if you have long hair!).
Another possible reason for this bizarre guinea pig behavior is your pet merely finds your hair warm, soft, and comfortable.
Your piggy probably likes cuddling up with your hair to stay warm and cozy, depending on your hair texture.
Wild guinea pigs don’t often dig very deep or expansive burrows, but they spend a decent amount of time digging about in shallow piles of dirt, rocks, and plant material.
As common prey animals for various predators, they feel most comfortable when they’re hidden.
Your hair likely provides a comfy “substrate” to dig and hide in.
Alternatively, your guinea pig probably simply enjoys your presence and knows they’re safe around you.
Of course, the body heat coming from direct contact with your neck and shoulders probably helps, too!
But what about when they start nibbling on your hair?
Why Do Guinea Pigs Like To Eat Hair?
There are a few reasons why guinea pigs tend to eat hair and other hair-like materials such as:
First, like most rodents, guinea pigs have teeth that grow constantly.
Their teeth never stop growing!
They need to engage in chewing activities regularly to file down their teeth, as their teeth become pretty irritating and sometimes even painful if they grow too long.
If you provide your piggy with lots of hay, ideally Timothy hay or orchard hay, and chew toys and edible chewables like hay sticks, they will generally be able to chew as they please and keep their teeth in check.
In turn, they’ll cut down on their constant hair chewing.
However, if they don’t have enough hay to chew on, your guinea pig will start to look to other things to chew on.
Perhaps they’ll start nibbling on objects in their enclosure or, in this case, your hair when you’re handling them.
In this case, they likely simply need more safe things to chew on in their enclosure.
In addition, a sick guinea pig who doesn’t have enough fiber, both digestible and indigestible fiber, in their diet will also look to other places to satisfy their cravings.
They need both types of fiber to properly digest the rest of their food.
Finally, some guinea pigs will eat their owners’ hair if they are bored or stressed out.
Sometimes, they engage in a behavior known as “barbering,” where they will rip out and chew either their hair or patches of another nearby piggy’s hair.
This is typically due to stress, but extreme boredom is sometimes the culprit.
Is It OK For My Guinea Pig To Eat My Hair?
In general, it’s not a problem if your guinea pig nibbles on or even eat a little bit of your hair from time to time.
They often eat indigestible fiber to assist with digestion and file down their long, perpetually-growing teeth, so they don’t risk digestive impaction, hairballs, or any major intestinal issues by eating some of your hair now then.
Just be aware some guinea pigs will occasionally tug on your hair or bite down a bit too hard, accidentally biting your skin or even ripping tiny clumps of hair out! If your guinea pig is prone to this behavior, it’s probably best to prevent them from doing it altogether.
Consider tying your hair up if it’s long to keep it out of their reach while handling them if continuous hair chewing becomes an issue.
Also, if you notice your piggy eating large amounts of your or someone else’s hair, they are likely bored, stressed, or need more “stuff” to chew on in their enclosures, both digestible and indigestible.
Providing your guinea pig with more hay and chewables will prevent them from eating too much of your hair when you handle them.
Check out our full list of what guinea pigs can eat.
What Is “Barbering” In Guinea Pigs?
As we briefly touched on earlier, barbering is a behavior sometimes seen in guinea pigs where they will chew on and tear out their own or each other’s hair, often in small patches.
This nervous habit usually goes far beyond simple, casual social grooming or even occasional, light hair chewing.
They typically do this either to resolve conflicts or to stress and anxiety.
In some cases, this leaves behind irritated patches of skin, rashes, and even open bite and scratch wounds.
If not treated, barbering will sometimes lead to bacterial and fungal infections.
Many guinea pigs prone to barbering will also chew on human hair if they have access to it.
If you’ve noticed you have a rather nervous piggy, make sure they have enough enrichment, hides, hay, and other chewables in their enclosure to keep them occupied and comfortable.
This will help calm them and, in turn, curb their urges to engage in barbering.
Other ways to stop barbering in guinea pigs include using spray deterrents which, while not toxic, taste very bitter.
Alternatively, you’ll likely need to separate any guinea pigs who tend to fight with and constantly “barber” each other.
These animals are creatures of habit, and habits take time to break, so be patient with them!