Are Guinea Pigs Nocturnal? This is How Guinea Pigs Sleep

Sleepy guinea pig yawns with mouth wide open.

Whether or not your potential pet is awake during the day or night can be a deciding factor.

There are many advantages and disadvantages to both and it’s important to know how your guinea pig will sleep before getting one.

Or you maybe already are a guinea pig owner and would like to learn more about your beloved pet.

In general, animals can have one of three different sleep patterns:

  • Diurnal (mostly awake during day, sleeping at night)
  • Nocturnal (mostly awake at night, sleeping during day)
  • Crepuscular (awake at dusk and dawn)

In case you’re away all day, you’ll probably welcome when they’re asleep anyway and you don’t have to worry about boredom or stress.

However, you’ll have to deal with their activity at night which might not fit into your schedule.

This is especially a problem if you don’t have an option to place the cage somewhere other than your bedroom and have to deal with the potential sounds and noises from your guinea pig moving around.

While many people believe that guinea pigs are nocturnal, they are actually crepuscular.

There have been several studies on this and also the behavior of other rodents. The same laboratory that did the study below did a similar study on female rabbits.

“Male and female guinea pigs maintained under controlled lighting and fed ad libitum exhibit a diurnal fluctuation in feed intake. This is characterised by periods of increased eating activity at the beginning and end of the light period and in the middle of the dark period. However, the feed consumption for the light and dark periods is similar. If the normal lighting cycle is retarded by 6 h, the guinea pigs adjust their diurnal rhythm of eating in the new cycle within 8 days.”

Ncbi – Diurnal variation in the feeding pattern of guinea pigs, 1975 study

Wanna know what other animals are crepuscular? Here’s a list:

  • Hamsters
  • Rabbits
  • Ferrets
  • Rats
  • Housecats
  • Stray Dogs

It’s interesting how the semi-domesticated cat is crepuscular while dogs are diurnal.

The fact that stray dogs do tend to display this behavior too signals that domesticated dogs adapt very strongly to human living.

However, the same can happen with your piggie. He or she may get used to your schedule and adapt accordingly.

This is not guaranteed though just as some dogs are active at 5 am while others welcome lazy mornings and sleep until you wake them up.

Keep in mind that your little friend might be especially active when you’re about to go bed or before you wake up.

Guinea pig in its hutch, possibly sleeping with eyes wide open.

In nature, there’s a reason why guinea pigs are active during twilight hours.

Do Guinea Pigs Sleep?

Like most other animals, guinea pigs do sleep. Just because their sleep cycle is different doesn’t mean that they don’t need any sleep at all.

You’re most likely to see your guinea pig sleeping in short intervals which sometimes don’t amount to more than 4 hours.

However, some individuals sleep as much as 8 hours a day. According to various studies, guinea pigs have only 1 hour of REM sleep.

Compare that to the 6 hours of REM sleep a ferret needs.

Most sleeping intervals won’t last for more than 30 minutes at a time.

Why do guinea pigs need so little sleep?

The answer is simple, it’s due to potential predators.

As you most likely guessed, guinea pigs are not at the top of the food chain and they definitely have predators in whose eyes your sweet little pet is just prey.

It wouldn’t be smart for the prey to be active when their predators are out and about to hunt and that’s why guinea pigs adapted their sleeping habit accordingly.

Should I Be Worried If My Guinea Pig Isn’t Sleeping Much?

As mentioned, their day doesn’t consist of much sleeping and you probably won’t see them in deep sleep much.

Their eyes often don’t close all the way as they need to be alert but don’t worry about that as it can be totally normal.

That doesn’t mean that they don’t need any sleep at all. You should keep an eye on their sleeping habit and if you notice something unusual consult your vet.

It’s also normal that young, small animals have short sleeping intervals while the older animals sleep longer.

How Can You Tell If Your Guinea Pig Is Sleeping?

Another factor might just be that you’re not really observing when your pet sleeps as they can look awake despite sleeping.

Do guinea pigs sleep with their eyes wide open? Yes, it is possible.

They often jump up immediately as a response to noise as they’re alert most of the time.

One way to make sure your guinea pig is asleep is when they’re vibrating a little bit and/or making soft sounds such as whistling or squealing.

These animals usually sleep with their head tilted forward and it’s not common to see them sleeping on their side which could be an indication of sickness.

Guinea pig laying on its side while sleeping.

However, your specific individual might just like sleeping on his side.

What Can You Do So Your Guinea Pig Sleeps Better?

There are some steps you can take to ensure your piggy is sleeping soundly.

Although they’re not diurnal like we are, they often still prefer darkness for sleeping.

Loud noises in the vicinity of their cage will startle them and they’ll stay alert. This may cause shorter sleeping intervals as well as less REM sleep which they definitely need to stay fit.

Although guinea pigs can adapt to both hot and colder climates, they prefer neither. Room temperature is perfect for them.

In the wild, they will be more active during the day when it’s cold and more active during the night when it’s too hot during the day.

Due to this ability to adapt from being diurnal to being nocturnal, it’s not entirely clear how your pet’s cycle will play out and how much they’ll adapt to your lifestyle.

Here are a few steps you can take you make your guinea pig’s sleeping environment as comfortable as possible:

  • Darken the room
  • Avoid noises in the vicinity of their cage
  • Make sure your room has a comfortable temperature
  • Avoid spots near the window if the sun is out or the heater on
  • Provide enrichment for the time they’re awake

Of course, providing them with a cage, bedding, etc. that they like will make them feel more cozy too.

In nature, they often seek out the burrows, tunnels, and other hiding spots created by other animals. Those will provide them with shelter until they’re safe to go and search for food.

It’s hard to mimic this natural behavior if they’re kept as a house pet but you can try and switch up their environment, give them time to roam freely (under your supervision, of course) and provide them with a hideaway.

Beware of plastic hideaways as they might feel the urge to chew on them. Instead, you can go and buy hidey huts made of woven grass or wood or fabric caves.

You can also make a DIY wooden house if you’re so inclined.

Can Guinea Pigs See In the Dark?

While the eyesight of guinea pigs is not fully understood by today’s science, it’s well accepted in the scientific community that they have poor eyesight.

Their ability to see clear in the distance is far worse than our ability to see in the distance. 

It’s estimated that they can’t see clearly beyond 3-5 feet (1-1,5 meters) of distance.

However, their field of vision has a wider angle than that of humans. Their field of view is estimated to be up to 340 degrees.

All in all, guinea pigs don’t see well in the dark and have to rely on their other senses, mainly hearing and smell.

Fun fact: When it comes to color, studies like The Molecular Genetics of Red and Green Color Vision in Mammals or Spectral sensitivity, photopigments, and color vision in the guinea pig explored whether or not guinea pigs can see in color.

While it’s not entirely clear which colors they can see, they can definitely see them to some degree.

Are Guinea Pigs Noisy at Night?

Guinea pigs can definitely be noisy at night. But there are ways with which you can reduce the possibility of being woken up in the middle of the night.

First of all, provide your guinea pig with toys and enrichment during the day and night.

In order to avoid loud noises or squealing at night, you can limit the toys you provide them with to mostly silent stuff.

Toys to enrich their lives will make your pet happier, more satisfied and you won’t have to ask yourself why your guinea pig is keeping you up all night.

If your furry friend has hay in his cage, it might also make sounds when your pet hastily runs around.

Another possibility is placing the cage somewhere else. However, for many owners who love to bond with their pet as much as possible, this is not a solution.

What Do Guinea Pigs Do at Night?

Guinea pigs can act just as the same in the night as they do during the day.

Their routine includes grooming, eating, gnawing and chewing on stuff to maintain their teeth, as well as playing with the toys you’re providing.

The fact that they can become rather active at dawn is much to the annoyance of many owners but you shouldn’t take away any food or toys just because you want them to sleep.

Guinea pigs just don’t have the same sleep cycle like humans and they will never sleep 8 hours from evening/night to morning like we do. There’ll always be periods when they’re more active.

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