Are Guinea Pigs Nocturnal?

One of the more important things when choosing a suitable pet are its sleeping habits. A lot of rodents are nocturnal or crepuscular. The opposite of this sleeping behavior is diurnal, which means that the pet is active during the day and sleeps at night.

If you have a busy schedule during the day you won’t mind having a nocturnal or crepuscular pet. But if you need a good night’s sleep or don’t have time in the evening to play and take care of your pet, a pet that’s diurnal is more suitable.

Are guinea pigs nocturnal? Guinea pigs are extremely odd creatures when it comes to sleeping habits. They’re neither diurnal nor nocturnal. A guinea pig needs only four hours of sleep each day and will spend most of the day awake. Guinea pigs will sleep in short intervals during the day and night and might even not close their eyes while asleep.

When you look at your guinea pig chances are that it will be active running around in the cage, playing or eating. You’ll almost never see your guinea pig sleeping. This is entirely normal and their sleeping habits are not comparable to humans or other rodents.

Although guinea pigs need little sleep, it’s still important for the health of your little guinea pig that they get enough sleep. So, in this article you’ll be learning everything there is to know about the strange sleeping habits of your guinea pig. I’ll also give you some tips and tricks to not disturb your guinea pig while it’s sleeping.

Why Do Guinea Pigs Sleep So Little?

So guinea pigs are neither nocturnal nor diurnal. They sleep in very short intervals during the day and the night. There are studies that concluded that guinea pigs are crepuscular and show more activity during twilight.

But why does a guinea pig need so little sleep and sleeps in short intervals?

If you don’t know a lot about the sleeping habits of animals, let me give you an intro. There are a lot of different sleeping patterns but basically a pet can show diurnal, nocturnal or crepuscular behavior:

  • diurnal: active during the day, for example, humans
  • crepuscular: active at twilight, for example, the crested gecko
  • nocturnal: active during the night, for example, owls

The sleeping behavior of an animal depends on a number of factors but the most important ones are the environment of the animal and their status as predator or prey animal.

Environment of guinea pigs

A lot of animals adapt their sleeping behavior to their environment and its climate.

In hot climates, an animal will often sleep during the day to conserve energy. At twilight or during the night they’ll become active and look for food. In cooler climates, most animals will be active during the day and will sleep at night.

Guinea pigs originate from South America in a mountainous environment. The temperatures in their natural environment vary from room temperature to below freezing. Guinea pigs don’t like cold or hot temperatures and will stay inside their burrow when it’s too cold or too hot.

Guinea pigs are happiest at normal room temperatures. In the mountainous Andes region, this kind of temperature will occur at twilight, so at dawn and dusk. At these times it’s not too hot and not too cold for the guinea pig.

Guinea pigs are prey animals

Predators and prey adapt their sleeping habits to each other. Predators will be awake at times when they’re prey is available. Prey, on the other hand, will try to avoid the times when their primary predators are out hunting.

You probably guessed that guinea pigs aren’t predatory in nature and are a so-called prey animal. The guinea pig’s main predators are birds of prey, cats, wolves, snakes, and coyotes.

Needless to say that guinea pigs will try to avoid to be outside when their predators are awake. Most of their predators are nocturnal and it’s natural that they adapted to being awake at the moment when their predators are not yet awake or just waking up. If guinea pigs would also be nocturnal they would be awake and looking for food at the same time their predators are. This would be an extremely bad idea for the guinea pig.

Guinea pigs have developed extreme alertness to danger and predators. They will sleep in short intervals so they have a smaller risk that a predator sneaks up to them while they’re sleeping. They also need very little sleep so they can have more time being awake to avoid predators.

What Are the Consequences of Being Awake Almost All-Day?

There are some consequences of the weird sleeping behavior of guinea pigs. It’s important to be aware of these consequences:

  • guinea pigs will be awake most of the day and night
  • they sleep in short intervals
  • guinea pigs will become more active at dawn and dusk

For most people, this will be no problem. If you’re at for work or school during the day your little guinea pig will be playing or chewing on hay. When you come home in the evening your chinchilla will already be awake and ready to play or cuddle with you.

But of course the active nature of the guinea pig also has its possible downsides:

  • cage location is important: the cage should be placed in a location that experiences a normal day/night light cycle. It’s also important not to place it in a bedroom if you don’t want to be wakened up during the night.
  • prevent boredom: guinea pigs can get bored if they’ve got nothing to do. Since they’re awake most of the day, it’s extremely important to provide enough cage space and toys for your guinea pig to be active and play. Also, make sure to spend each day playing and cuddling your little pet.
  • don’t make noise while it’s sleeping: it’s difficult to know when your guinea pig is sleeping. If you’re at home during the day, make sure to limit the noises in the vicinity of the cage. If there are a lot of noises the entire day, your guinea pig might stay in “danger” mode and not get enough sleep.

Guinea Pig Sleeping Habits

How long do guinea pigs sleep?

A guinea pig sleeps in short intervals and only spends a total of 4 hours asleep each day. Every guinea pig is different and some might sleep a little bit more when they get adjusted to your own daily routine.

The sleeping intervals can range from a couple of seconds to 10 minutes. There also are longer sleeping intervals that can last up to 30 minutes. These kinds of sleeping intervals are rare and will happen when your guinea pig is relaxed or extremely sleepy.

Younger guinea pigs sleep with shorter intervals than older ones. When a guinea pig gets older they also spend more time of the day sleeping. This might be the result of an adjustment to your routine or just have to do with their age.

How do guinea pigs sleep?

Guinea pigs can sleep in almost any “awake” position. Usually, they’ll sleep with their heads leaning forward. Your little pet will still be alert and can wake up really fast by any kind of noise or movement.

It’s very difficult to notice when a guinea pig is sleeping. They often sleep with their eyes wide open and will only sleep with their eyes closed if they’re extremely comfortable in their environment. So, if you notice your guinea pig sleeping with its eyes closed you can be sure that it’s relaxed and comfortable with you and its cage.

Where does your guinea pig sleep?

Guinea pigs don’t really create burrows of their own but they do seek shelter in burrows that are made by other animals. They also seek shelter in crevices and natural tunnels. In captivity, it will be difficult to mimic the natural environment of the guinea pig.

But you can mimic a safe sleeping nest by giving one or more hideaways. This hideaway is similar to a hamster house and can be made out of plastic or unfurnished wood. Although there are store-bought guinea pig houses made of plastic it’s best to buy or create a wooden house. If your guinea pig feels the need to nibble on his house, he can then do so safely.

Make sure the hideaway is located in the darkest place in the cage. Although a guinea pig can sleep anywhere in the cage, they will often prefer a dark place to take a longer nap.

Tips and Tricks

Guinea pigs are very sensitive to sounds and movements, even when they’re asleep. A healthy guinea pig needs its sleep and it’s important that you don’t bother them too much during the day. To help you give your furry pet the best sleep, here are some tips and tricks.

  • make sure that the cage is large enough so your guinea pig and has at least one hideaway to sleep in
  • make sure that the cage is in a room that experiences normal day/night light cycle
  • don’t put the cage near a window, this may cause overheating of the cage fast
  • if you’re at home during the day, place the cage in a room where you don’t disturb your guinea pig too much

Related Questions

Why do guinea pigs sleep with their eyes wide open?

Guinea pigs are prey animals that have to be alert to avoid getting caught by predators. The guinea pig has developed a sleeping behavior that is adapted to this. They also sleep with their eyes wide open to detect any danger very fast. Only when a guinea pig is relaxed, will they close their eyes to sleep.

Do guinea pigs lay down to sleep?

Guinea pigs usually don’t lay down to sleep and laying on their side might be an indication of health issues. This is not always the case, your guinea pig just might like sleeping on its side because this feels comfortable.

Do guinea pigs like to sleep in the dark?

Guinea pigs aren’t nocturnal or diurnal and will sleep throughout the day in short intervals. It has been noted that guinea pigs adjust their sleeping behavior to that of their human owners. They do like to sleep in dark hideaways and it’s extremely important that you get at least one hideaway for each guinea pig you have.

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