why do guinea pigs eat hair

Why do guinea pigs eat hair?

Sometimes you may find that a guinea pig of yours is eating hair.

Why do guinea pigs eat hair?

When a guinea pig eats or chews hair it is called barbering.

What is barbering?

Barbering is a behavior where guinea pigs will chew or tear their own or each other’s hair. It often occurs in relation to conflicts between adult males or between adults and juveniles.

Barbering also occurs when a guinea pig is;
  1. Being bullied by a cage mate
  2. Has dominance over other cage mates
  3. Is in an environment that is too small for them.
  4. When they are frightened by predators or excessive noises.
  5. Housed with unsuitable cage mates
Symptoms of barbering are;

Where the skin is inflamed, bruised or carrying other signs of injury

There are very short, chewed hairs over an an area which looks like a bald patch on their fur.

Before deciding whether your guinea pig is barbering, make sure that any hair loss is not due to other things.

Hair loss can also be caused by;
  1. Problems with their metabolism
  2. Skin conditions
  3. Mites
  4. Genetic problems
  5. Dietary deficiencies
  6. It can also be caused by aging.
  7. Younger guinea pigs who are weaning from their mothers will have thinner hair than adults who have coarser hair.

How to prevent barbering

If your guinea pig is suffering from barbering then it needs to be separated from the offending animal and keep it away from from the dominant guinea pigs.

Provide it with hiding places to help them feel safe and relieve the stress that they will be under.

By removing them from this situation you will lower the stress levels which have helped to cause this situation and put them in a more peaceful environment.

If they are self-barbering, removing them from this aggressive environment, will also help to reduce this type of behavior.

Make sure you take them to a guinea pig friendly veterinary surgeon who will help to nurse them back to health and address the wounds that have been caused.


For further reading on this subject, check out Pet MD which has a particularly good article on the subject


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