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Do Guinea Pigs Clean Themselves?

Many guinea owners want to know ‘do guinea pigs clean themselves?’ and if yes, do they need any additional grooming.

If you already have a guinea pig or two, you might have seen them cleaning themselves often.

But if you are about to buy/adopt a guinea pig, and are preparing yourself for its upkeep and maintenance, then we have valuable information about guinea pig grooming in this guide.

Do Guinea Pigs Clean Themselves?

Yes. Guinea pigs are fastidious little self-groomers. Like cats, guinea pigs constantly lick themselves to get clean. They also produce a whitish liquid from their eyes which they use to clean their tiny faces.

That is why guinea pigs do not need to be bathed too often. In fact; most guinea pigs hate water baths. You only need to bathe your pet if it is very dirty or stinky or has developed mites or other skin issues.

Guinea pig ruffled feathers
Guinea pig ruffled feathers

How Do Guinea Pigs Clean Themselves?

There are a number of ways in which guinea pigs groom and clean themselves. When your pet is young, its siblings/littermates or its mother will clean its fur by licking it.

As it grows older, it will learn to self-groom through licking, rubbing, nibbling, etc.

Young guinea pigs

As mentioned above, the mother guinea pig licks her babies clean- it is also a way in which she shows her affection to her babies.

That is why it is very important not to separate young guinea pigs from their mothers.

Self-grooming

As your cavy grows up, it learns to self-groom.

  • Guinea pigs secrete whitish liquid from their eyes. They spread this liquid around their tiny faces with the help of their paws and rub their faces clean.
  • Your pet may also use its front and hind paws to gently eliminate mats, tangles, debris, or parasites from its fur.
  • Sometimes, they nibble their fur to remove hardened, crusted dirt from their coats.

Why Do Guinea Pigs Clean Themselves?

In addition to keeping their fur clean and free from dirt and parasites, guinea pigs self-clean for a variety of reasons. Some of these include instinctual behavior, self-soothing to feel safer, body temperature regulation, etc.

Guinea Pigs just finished cleaning
Guinea Pigs just finished cleaning

Instincts 

Every animal is born with certain instincts. Likewise, guinea pigs are “hard-wired or programmed” to instinctually clean themselves.

This information is coded into their DNA. The young pig instinctually learns to self-clean and groom as every pig is literally born with this knowledge. 

Moreover, young pigs also observe their grown-ups self-cleaning and continue the same behavior through observation.

For Safety

Guinea pigs also self-clean to eliminate and mask any odors that could attract predators in the wild.

In captivity, they continue self-grooming even though they do not have any predators around. Sometimes, a guinea pig who is anxious may self-soothe itself through cleaning, licking, and rubbing behavior. These actions release endorphins to reduce stress in the pig.

For Regulating Body Temperature

Guinea pigs do not have sweat glands, so they do not sweat. That is why they lick themselves extensively to lower their body temperatures in warmer months.

Their saliva helps them wet their fur and brings down their body temperatures, particularly when the weather is hot.

Why Do Guinea Pigs Clean/Lick Each Other?

Guinea pigs living in groups often clean and lick each other. This behavior also helps cagemates lick and groom the parts that the pig cannot clean on its own. Other reasons for this behavior are:

  1. To Assert Dominance

Guinea pigs follow a social hierarchy. They may lick and groom each other to assert dominance or submission. A meeker guinea pig will allow the dominant one to lick its coat to indicate complete surrender. 

  1. Courtship

Male and female guinea pigs follow a courtship protocol that involves sniffing each other followed by a licking session. This allows them to get familiar with each other’s scent and also get to know each other better prior to mating.

  1. To Show Affection

Older guinea pigs clean/lick the younger ones as a display of affection. A mother guinea pig will usually clean her babies to not only eliminate dirt from their fur but also as a sign of love.

Do Guinea Pigs Need to Be Cleaned?

Guinea pigs do not really need too much cleaning because they manage this job very well on their own. As far as possible, avoid bathing your guinea pig, because guinea pigs dislike water.

Also, water tends to leave their fur wet and, if not dried properly, could invite fungal skin infections.

Here are some factors to consider when it comes to guinea pig cleaning:

  1. It depends on the variety of guinea pig

Short-haired guinea pigs do not need too much cleaning, but if you see their fur is very dirty, you may consider wiping it down with a damp cloth or giving it a bath (if your pet is very dirty) once a month.

A long-haired guinea pig needs more grooming. Without daily brushing and regular hair cuts, its long, silky fur could get matted and tangled.

Brushing every day (or every other day) can eliminate these mats/tangles and also keep parasites at bay.

  1. Need to check your pet for health problems

Regular grooming of your guinea pig gives you an opportunity to watch out for lumps and bumps, and ensure your pet is healthy.

If your pet’s coat isn’t as glossy as it used to be, or you notice any skin lesions or parasites, it may be a good idea to check it out with a vet.

How to Clean Your Guinea Pigs

guinea pig is stinking
Guinea pig is stinking
  1. If they are extremely dirty or smell foul
  •  If your guinea pig is stinking, has rolled in mud or its own urine, or smells really foul, then gently wipe down your pet with a damp cloth.
  • Short-haired guinea pigs may be bathed once a month in summers and every 2-3 months in winters.
  • Long-haired guinea pigs do not need too much bathing – once every 3-4 months is sufficient.
  1. If they need anti-parasitic baths
  • In case your guinea pig has developed mites or parasites, then you may consider an anti-parasitic bath.
  • Speak to your vet and choose the right shampoo for the job.
  1. Boar and Sow Cleaning
  • Guinea pig boars or male guinea pigs need special cleaning around their genitals or testicle sacs. We have discussed it in this guide, in detail. 
  • Sow is a guinea pig that has just given birth. Please discuss with your vet whether it is safe to bathe her.
  1. Hair Trimming and Grooming of Long-Haired Guinea Pigs

Long-haired guinea pigs need regular trimming to keep their flowing silky coats manageable and free from mats and tangles.

Please check out this detailed guide on grooming long-haired guinea pigs.

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  1. Clipping Nails

Guinea pig nails need regular clipping to prevent problems like ingrown nails. Do check out our guide on How to Clip Guinea Pig Nails.

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Do Guinea Pigs Care If Their Cage Is Dirty?

Not really. Guinea pigs may clean themselves fastidiously but they do not really care if their cage is clean. They poop a lot and also urinate everywhere. 

Their eating and drinking habits are also quite messy.

However, dirty cages are a surefire invitation to diseases.  While a dirty cage may not kill your buddy, it could lead to various health issues which can be a hassle to treat.

This is why, as a responsible owner, you may want to clean your pet’s cage regularly.

What to Do When Guinea Pigs Have Stopped Cleaning Themselves?

If a guinea pig has stopped cleaning itself and is stinky, dirty, or has a dull and matted coat, then it could be a sign of a serious underlying health issue.

Your pet could be depressed or sick. Watch out for other symptoms such as a lack of appetite, hiding, and being inactive.

It is important that your get your pet seen by a vet. Please also check out our article on guinea pig dying.

Guinea Pigs Clean Themselves – An Interesting Fact

Did you know that guinea pigs often attempt to clean and lick their owners?

They do so to show love and affection to their humans.

It does not mean that you are dirty or stinky- guinea pigs are just wired that way to show that they care about you!

Allow your pet to lick you – the action helps release oxytocin-the love hormone – in both you and your pet!

Key Takeaways – Do Guinea Pigs Clean Themselves?

Yes, guinea pigs clean themselves and they do a great job of it too. That is why they do not need too many baths.

They tend to rub, nibble, and lick themselves and may even rub their faces with the white secretion from their eyes to clean their small faces.

We hope this guide helps you understand more about guinea pigs’ natural behaviors.

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