Guinea pigs are domesticated rodents from the Cavy family. They originated from Peru more than 3000 years ago as a food source. Since the 1800s, they have been beloved house pets as well as laboratory animals that aid in research and development. They are highly social animals that thrive in environments that allow physical contact with other guinea pigs. They are wonderful, friendly companions that make for great company at home.
When choosing a pet, you will be considering many things such as their upkeep, diet, care, and space requirements. However, another factor most people overlook is sleeping patterns. If you have a busy schedule and want to rest at night, you would not appreciate an enlivened companion at night when you want to relax and unwind. Animals are either nocturnal or diurnal. Nocturnal animals sleep during the day and are awake at night while diurnals sleep at night and are active in the daytime.
Guinea pigs are small and fuzzy creatures but they need a good amount of attention and care to keep them healthy. Most guinea pig owners will say that they don’t ever seem to notice if their little pets sleep at night or if they have any sleeping habits at all. One thing you have to remember about our docile friends is that they are creatures of habit. You may notice that your guinea pig will give you morning greetings and will initiate play and eating at the same time each day. Therein lies the most common question, are guinea pigs nocturnal?
Are Guinea Pigs Nocturnal, Diurnal, Or Crepuscular?
The answer to that question is a little tricky to say the least. Most owners will say that they don’t particularly notice sleeping habits from their guinea pigs. This may lead to another query, do guinea pigs sleep at all? Of course they do. Sleep is essential for all living creatures, guinea pigs included. Having said that, each species sleeping habits, cycles, and requirements vary. Guinea pigs sleep but unlike humans that require 6-8 hours at the minimum, they do not particularly need a large amount of sleep to function properly.
There are 3 different types of sleeping patterns, nocturnal, diurnal, and crepuscular. Its rodent cousins are examples of the first type, the nocturnal animals. Because guinea pigs are rodents, it has lead many to think that guinea pigs sleep during the day as well. Some like to refer to guinea pigs as crepuscular which is a term used to describe animals that are active during dawn and dusk. A guinea pig leans more toward being crepuscular. To put it simply, they are quirky creatures that take several siestas throughout the 24 hours of the day but remain active both in the day time and night time.
The guinea pig sleeping cycle is scattered over the course of the day. We can actually call them short naps instead of the typical nocturnal rest that is common for mammals. It may be a surprise but a guinea pig actually sleeps quite often. You may not notice it, however, because guinea pigs sleep with their eyes open! Yes, you read that right! In fact, you may never or very rarely catch a guinea pig close their eyes. This phenomenon is due to their natural inclination to watch out for predators or danger.
Research into guinea pigs sleeping habits, nonetheless, shows that the time they are most highly active is during the transition from day to night and vice versa. In the same way that they have varied sleeping times, they also have different hours of high activity. It just so happens that most guinea pigs are found to be most lively and energetic during dusk and dawn. Therefore the answer to “are guinea pigs nocturnal?” is a NO.
Adjust Your Guinea Pigs’ Nocturnal Habits
Because our beloved friends have been domesticated for over 3000 years, guinea pigs have also learned to adapt to the typical human’s sleep patterns. If this is the case, then we go back to the question, “are guinea pigs nocturnal?”
This is still a big N-O. While guinea pigs sleep in fragmented cycles, they still don’t follow nocturnal sleeping habits. They will be both asleep and awake at night. They have adjusted to the human lifestyle but this is something to consider especially if you’re thinking of putting their cage inside your room at night.
A guinea pig is generally more relaxed than the usually fidgety rat or hamster pet. They occasionally squeal when they need to be fed or when they’re excited but guinea pigs are conventionally mellow creatures. Guinea pigs can have 5-10 minute sleeping intervals but you can make guinea pigs less nocturnal in a sense by “training” them to have longer sleeping times at night. These few tricks can help:
- Make sure your guinea pig has another guinea pig companion. These creatures love the company of their own kind. If left alone, they become lonely and have a high tendency to be agitated. This can cause them to make noisy and disturbing sounds when they need attention.
- Interact with them more during the day and keep their environment dark and relaxed at night. They will get used to activity when there is light and calm during the night.
While they don’t usually cause much disturbance, especially if they are in the company of other guinea pigs, those simple tips can help in making sure nights are peaceful so you and your pet can both have a good night’s rest.
What Do Guinea Pigs Do At Night?
Now that the question, “are guinea pigs nocturnal?” has been answered and armed with the knowledge that they are both awake and asleep during the night, it leads us to ask, what then do they do when the lights are turned off and everything is quiet? It is best to remember the origin of the guinea pig. They were bred to be prey from many predators. Their instinctual behavior makes them more comfortable when they are in the dark. This allows them to feel more secure.
Being crepuscular in nature, you can expect them to remain active even at night. But if you keep their environment quiet and dark, it allows them to feel more relaxed and the skittish behavior is lessened. Guinea pigs are social creatures and having a companion to play with keeps them calm and happy. Providing a cage that has toys or a playpen can keep them engaged at night. A guinea pig cannot see in the dark but they have a keen memory and they can still go around and move especially in routine environment settings.
Another thing you can add to the guinea pig sleeping habit is to make sure they have snacks on hand at night. A guinea pig is surely not nocturnal but if you make it a practice for your pet to eat at night, they become satiated. Take a few pieces of greens and your guinea pigs will have something to munch on at night. They will feel full for hours! This will make your guinea pigs more lethargic which can prolong their sleep sessions. They become happy with their playmate/s, they have activities, and the snack can be another fixation which also helps them be less active and quieter at night.
Do Guinea Pigs Like To Sleep In The Dark?
Guinea pigs will always be more comfortable in the dark. They thrive in the comfort and solace they get from being in the shadows. In the wild, a guinea pig finds shelter in gloomy tunnels or they hide under thick and tall grass. Their compulsion for the unlit and shadowy places comes from their natural instinct. But even when they prefer the dark, it does not mean that guinea pigs can only fall asleep if there is no light.
A guinea pig will still sleep during the day, even if the sun is up and shining or the room is very well lighted. It will usually need 2 to 4 hours of sleep in a day and this will be divided into 5-10 minute naps. These are all variable and will depend on the guinea pig’s needs. However, if you are able to train your guinea pig to adjust to your wakeful and sleeping hours, you can prolong its nap time to 15-20 minutes at night. Guinea pigs will sleep regardless of the time or light setting. Having a more dimmed out environment, however, can add to a guinea pig’s relaxation and can result in prolonged and more restful naps during the evening.
Guinea pigs, given the choice, do prefer to sleep in the dark. It is in their nature to look for the shaded areas as it makes them feel more at ease. You may notice that even during the day, it will look for the more dimmed or covered areas when it wants to rest. Provide a safe haven your guinea pig will thank you for, a dark space, and a calm environment with a playmate will keep your pet content and protected.
Having read everything above has definitely answered the most common question regarding these unique creatures, “are guinea pigs nocturnal?” Now that you know they are crepuscular, you can be a better guinea pig parent. Train your guinea pigs to be more adapted to the human timeline by engaging in more lively activity during the day and wean off these interactions as the sun sets so they can get used to the relaxation and winding down that you do to prepare for sleep.
Always remember that getting pets is a responsibility. For this reason, if you are planning to get a guinea pig, make sure you are getting at least two. Having one will result in extreme loneliness. Guinea pigs are extremely social and they need constant attention and company to thrive. Their need for companionship is also coupled with their desire for different activities. Provide toys, playpens, or mazes for them to go through. Make sure your guinea pig pets are happy and satisfied.
Give your guinea pigs a safe place to live and consider their preference for darker areas. During the day, place their cage in a lit area but never under direct sunlight. Guinea pigs are temperature sensitive and since most cages are metal, too much heat will cause great discomfort. Because guinea pigs are prey animals, their nature will always put them on edge if they feel disturbed. Peaceful areas without too much foot traffic will allow your guinea pig to feel relaxed and at ease.
During the night, allow your guinea pig pets to relax the same way you do. If you want to train them to adapt to human patterns despite being crepuscular, be mindful to place them in dark areas in the evening. If you plan to watch loud television, pull an all-nighter, or have friends over, you can prudently place your guinea pigs’ cage in a room that is quiet and dark so as not to destroy the pattern you have trained your guinea pigs to master.
Another consideration for the well-being of your guinea pig is to get a roomy cage. They will appreciate having more space to move around in especially during the times when you are not at home. Even if they have a playmate, a bigger area to move around will let them roam around better.
Much like most domesticated pets, consistent training, and being intentional in spending time with your guinea pig will keep it happy. If you set a regular and dependent timeline for your guinea pig to follow, there will be no problems with dealing with noise or any disturbance at night. They may remain active but you shouldn’t be worried that your sleep will be disrupted at any point during the evening. These tips will surely decrease any chance of your pet showing any nocturnal animal habits. Enjoy your guinea piggy pets and spend a lot of time with them!