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What Does It Mean When a Guinea Pig Licks You? 5 Possible Reasons

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

guinea pig licking human hand

Guinea Pigs have some odd quirks and unusual habits. It’s part of their appeal to their proponents and fans, but even experienced owners will sometimes experience something odd that they don’t recognize from one of their Piggies. As well as having a somewhat extensive vocabulary of chirps, squeaks, and squeals, another habit that you might experience from your Guinea Pig is it licking you. Generally, this is perceived as a positive sign and it usually means that your Guinea Pig does love you, but other potential causes lead to this seemingly odd, but undoubtedly cute, behavior.

Below are five reasons your Guinea Pig might be licking you and whether you need to do anything about it.

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The 5 Possible Meanings of a Guinea Pig Lick

1. Affection

Guinea Pigs might not enjoy curling up on your lap like a cat or snuggling in for a cuddle like a dog, but if yours has been handled regularly from a young age and has developed a strong bond with you, licking your hand or arm may be a strong sign of affection. Guinea Pigs lick one another to groom and also to show affection, so yours may be replicating this by licking you. There is no need to stop your Guinea Pig licking you unless it turns to biting or you have something on your skin that might not agree with your Cavie.

2. Grooming

In the wild, and even in captivity, groups of Guinea Pigs have a hierarchy and one of the ways that they cement their social status with one another is through grooming. Guinea Pigs are clean animals and grooming is an important part of this cleaning process. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your Piggy thinks you need a wash, but it is a sign that they think of you as being part of their social group.

close up of a guinea pig
Image Credit: Miroslav Hlavko, Shutterstock

3. Taste

While some animals need a salt lick to supplement their intake of salt, Guinea Pigs don’t. But, while they might not need salt, some Piggies still love its taste. And, human skin has a naturally salty taste to it because of the salt in sweat. Again, there’s no need to stop the licking and there’s no need to add salt to your Guinea Pig’s cage or increase the salt intake in their diet. If you’ve recently eaten, you may have other food or other flavor on your skin and your Cavie might simply be enjoying the flavor.

You do need to be sure that whatever they are licking off you isn’t dangerous for them to consume.

4. Smell

Even if your skin has a pleasant smell, your Guinea Pig might lick you to investigate that smell. Some natural perfumes and other items may contain certain herbs that are especially attractive to Guinea Pigs. If yours can smell something intriguing and potentially tasty on you, it may give you a quick lick just to determine whether it wants more.

5. Fear or Anxiety

While most reasons for a Guinea Pig licking you are innocuous, this isn’t always the case. If your Guinea Pig is anxious or afraid, it may lick you as a means of comforting itself. You should try to determine the cause of the fear or anxiety and take steps to remove the cause. Even if your Guinea Pig is in some discomfort or pain, it may lick you in this way.

female cuddles with guinea pig
Image Credit: Ocskay Mark, Shutterstock

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Should I Let My Guinea Pig Lick Me?

Many owners refer to Guinea Pig licks as Guinea Pig kisses because it is seen as a sign of affection. It certainly shows that your Guinea Pig trusts you and is comfortable in your company because it wouldn’t lick a potential threat. Therefore, it is fine to let your Guinea Pig lick you. While licking the salt from your skin should be perfectly safe for a Guinea Pig, it is still best to wash your hands before handling one just in case you have something potentially harmful on your skin.

Why Does My Guinea Pig Lick Me Then Bite Me?

While licking is likely a sign of affection, biting usually has some other reason. It may be that your Guinea Pig can taste something it wants to eat, but it may also be a sign of discomfort, pain, or fear. Try to identify the likely cause and put your Cavie’s mind at ease by removing or rectifying that cause. Alternatively, it could be a sign that your otherwise friendly Guinea Pig doesn’t want to be handled right now.

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Guinea Pigs may not be able to speak our language but, as well as having a language of their own involving different squeaks, squeals, and chirrups, they have a multitude of other ways to communicate their feelings. One action that many owners refer to as Guinea Pig kisses is licking.

Guinea Pig licks can be a sign of affection. Or it could mean that you have something on your skin that the Guinea Pig finds tasty or intriguing.

Featured Image Credit: Lipatova Maryna, Shutterstock

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