Guinea pigs are odd creatures that have their ways of doing things. For example, they can ‘popcorn’ when they get excited. But their sleeping habits also make them somewhat unique compared to other (pocket) pets.
Guinea pigs are neither diurnal nor nocturnal. A guinea pig needs only four hours of sleep each day and will be awake most of the day. 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, there’s a high chance that it will be actively running, playing, or eating. It’s very rare to see a guinea pig sleeping. But this is entirely normal. You can not compare the sleeping habits of guinea pigs to that of humans or other pets like gerbils and degus.
Although guinea pigs need a minimum amount of sleep, they need sleep to stay healthy and happy. So let’s find out more about their sleeping habits!
Why Do Guinea Pigs Sleep So Little?
Guinea pigs are neither nocturnal nor diurnal. They sleep in very short intervals during the day and the night. Research has indicated that (wild) guinea pigs are crepuscular and show more activity during twilight periods (dawn and dusk).The Laboratory Rabbit, Guinea Pig, Hamster, and Other Rodents. (2012). Netherlands: Elsevier Science.
Crepuscular animals will become more active at twilight and rest during the day or night. An example of a crepuscular animal is the crested gecko. But there are a lot more animals that are crepuscular.
Some crepuscular animals sleep primarily during the day, while others sleep primarily at night. However, they all have in common that they show higher activity levels at twilight.
The sleeping behavior of an animal depends on several factors, but the most important ones are the animal’s environment and its status as a predator or prey animal. But why does the guinea pig need so little sleep?
Environment of guinea pigs
Many animals adapt their sleeping behavior to their environment and climate:
- An animal will often sleep during the day in hot climates to conserve energy. They’ll become active and look for food at twilight or at night.
- Most animals will be active during the day and sleep at night in cooler climates.
Guinea pigs originate from South America in a mountainous environment.https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Cavia_porcellus/ The temperatures in their natural environment vary from room temperature to below freezing. Guinea pigs don’t like cold or hot temperatures and stay inside their burrow when it’s too cold or too hot.
Guinea pigs are happiest at average room temperatures but can tolerate temperatures ranging from 60 to 85°F (15 to 30°C).https://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_welfare/downloads/guinea-pig/acaid-guinea-pig-temp.pdf In their wild habitat, their ideal temperature will occur at twilight, so 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 and are so-called prey animals. 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 being outside when their predators are awake. Most of their predators are nocturnal, and, naturally, they adapted to being awake at the moment when their predators are not yet awake or just waking up.
Guinea pigs have developed extreme alertness to danger and predators. As a result, they will sleep in short intervals, so they have a smaller risk of predators sneaking up on them while sleeping. They also need very little sleep to have more time 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
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.