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Are Guinea Pigs Nocturnal?

Pet guinea pigs have a fun, quirky personality, full of comical play and a lot of squeaks. Often times guinea pigs are seen playing lightheartedly, and a few minutes later, fast asleep. So, should we expect to see guinea pigs sleep during the day or at night? Are guinea pigs nocturnal? What is normal and healthy?

Dr. Jess explains guinea pig sleeping habits below:

WHAT IS A GUINEA PIG?

A guinea pig is a type of pocket pet that resides in the cavie family of animals.

They are small animals that grow to a maximum of approximately 10-11 inches long, and can weigh up to 2.5 pounds as an adult.

In captivity and with proper care it is fairly common to see these pets live to 8 – 10 years of age.

One of their main anatomical (body) “quirks” is that they are constantly needing to chew in order to file down their teeth, as their teeth are constantly erupting (growing longer).

They are quite playful animals and love to socialize with the ones that they know and love.

They make great pets for responsible pet owners, and those living in small dwellings wanting a loveable pet that comes in a small package.

What Does It Mean To Be ‘Nocturnal’?

A nocturnal animal is an animal that sleeps during the day and is active – eats, plays, roams, at night.

Nocturnality is the opposite of being diurnal, or active during the day and sleeping at night.

Most nocturnal animals have physical traits that help them to live their best lives at night, in the dark.

Some of these helpful traits include special eyesight to see things better in the darkness, as well as highly-developed senses of both hearing and/or smell.

These heightened senses make it easier for nocturnal animals to hunt or to not be hunted, depending on if they are prey or predator-type animals, making it more likely for that animal species to continue thriving.

What Types of Animals Are Nocturnal?

When we think of nocturnal animals, most of us think of bats and owls first.

Bats are nocturnal animals as are owls.

However, there are many other types of animals that are also nocturnal. Here is a short list of nocturnal animals:

  • bats
  • owls
  • racoons
  • wolves
  • some frogs/snakes
  • hedgehogs
  • sugar gliders
  • some birds
  • some mice
  • and so many other species found on the planet!

Are Guinea Pigs Nocturnal?

No, guinea pigs are not nocturnal. Guinea pigs are an interesting animal, in that they do not fit, as an overall group, into any one category – not nocturnal, diurnal, nor crepuscular.

Out of those three categories, most guinea pigs would most usually fall into more of a crepuscular category, but not all guinea pigs, and not all the time.

Guinea pigs that are crepuscular, are more active during twilight periods, so they are more active at dawn and at dusk. This would make sense when you consider the wild guinea pig’s way of life…. more on that below.

You see, guinea pigs are awake most of the time, with multiple short naps throughout every 24 hours. In fact, most guinea pigs only sleep for a few hours a day in total.

A normal, healthy adult guinea pig will usually sleep between 4 and 6 hours of combined naps a day, but can sometimes adapt their sleeping habits to the environment around them (more on that below!).

Guinea pig naps can be as short as a few minutes, to as long as 30-40 minutes in length.

As a guinea pig matures, they will create their habits that last them for their entire lifetime, including their sleeping habits. Some guinea pigs will tend to be more active during the day, others at dawn and dusk, and yet others will seem to be most active at night.

It is so fun to see how your guinea pig matures and what habits they pick up from the environment that you put them in at home!

Wild Guinea Pig Sleeping Habits:

Wild piggies slept even more than their domestic counterparts do.

During their hours of activity, the wild guinea pig would come out of their burrows to find food at night, with their good sense of smell and hearing to help them on their quest.

Coming out of their safe burrow of a home at night, helps camouflage the little critters from dangerous predators that could devour them in a split second in the wild.

Daytime was when these wild guinea pigs would get most out of their beauty sleep. Dawn, dusk, and night were the safest times to come out and be active.

Pet Guinea Pig Sleeping Habits:

Domesticated guinea pigs can adjust their sleeping schedule to their owner’s sleep schedule quite easily.

For instance, it is very common for these social animals to want to play and be social with you when you are home, when you are making noise and moving about.

It is much easier for them to relax and possibly nap, when there is no stimulus around them keeping them up.

How Do Guinea Pigs Sleep?

Guinea pigs don’t really care how they sleep- as long as they’re comfortable, their positioning doesn’t matter.

They typically sleep on their belly, and sometimes their sides, or you may even see them stretched out if they are extremely relaxed and comfortable with their surroundings.

Guinea pigs usually will sleep with their eyes open, even though they can close their eyes while sleeping. They keep their eyes open due to their position as a prey animal.

Keeping their eyes open while sleeping allows them to quickly tell if a predator is coming toward them, even while sleeping.

Today’s domesticated guinea pig does not necessarily need to worry about predators eating them, but that natural instinct has stuck with most piggies.

How Long Do Guinea Pigs Sleep?

When guinea pigs are awake, they are typically playing or getting into some mischief, which makes a pet tired- that’s hard work!

No one guinea pig is the same and some might sleep a little bit more or a little bit less.

As a majority, adult guinea pigs sleep between 4 and 6 hours a day.

Young guinea pigs and older adult guinea pigs may sleep up to 6 to 8 hours a day.

However, a young guinea pig will spend more time awake than asleep, playing and exploring, just as an adult guinea pig does.

Guinea pigs won’t sleep 4 hours in a row– they can’t handle that much sleep in one long haul.

Guinea pigs will fill up their day with periods of activity, such as playing, eating, and running, with short periods of napping.

Where Do Guinea Pigs Sleep?

Wild guinea pigs burrow, so it should come as no surprise that pet guinea pigs also like to burrow and will sleep in dark and hidden places.

When a guinea pig is really tired it can fall asleep almost anywhere, but they tend to seek out hidden places.

For the pet guinea pig living inside your home, most will tend to seek a snooze spot like under blankets, under the bed, sock drawers, piles of laundry, and under rugs – so be CAREFUL where you step!

These silly pets can sleep practically anywhere!

Guinea Pig Hideouts

You can buy commercial guinea pig hideouts at your local pet stores.

The most important thing is to make sure that your pet is safe and secure while sleeping.

If your guinea pig can’t find a safe spot to sleep, they may just make a bed themselves, usually resulting in a lot of fun destruction as they dig their way to comfort.

Even when your guinea pig is in their cage, you should make sure that they have a comfortable place to sleep.

I recommend to have multiple hideouts for your guinea pig to choose from.

There are several kinds of hideouts, some are open and some are closed, so experiment with different hideout types to see what your guinea pig prefers and go with that.

Because of how important it is for guinea pigs to get their sleep, you should make sure to invest in some good hideouts for your guinea pig.

Here are my Veterinarian-Recommended Guinea Pig Hideouts:

Veterinarian-Recommended Guinea Pig Hideouts

Here is a list of client-recommended guinea pig beds from guinea pig owners with happy and healthy guinea pigs.

Adaptive Sleeping Habits

Like I mentioned above, guinea pigs are sometimes considered crepuscular pets that show activity during the day but are more active during dawn and at dusk.

However, like I also mentioned above, they are capable of changing their sleeping habits and become more diurnal, or awake during the day and sleeping at night.

The sleeping rhythm or cycle of your guinea pig can be adapted based on your own lifestyle and when you are awake and sleeping.

Summary:

Guinea pigs are not nocturnal, but are sometimes considered crepuscular- more active at dawn and at dusk – but not all guinea pigs fall under this category.

If your piggie sleeps at other times throughout the day/night, do not worry that there is something wrong.

If your guinea pig changes the time or amount of sleep abruptly, then inform your veterinarian to find out what they suggest as next steps – they will likely recommend to bring in your pet to be evaluated and make sure that everything is normal and healthy.

They sleep up to 4-6 hours a day, which means that when they are awake, they are busy, active, and playful.

If you have any question or concerns regarding your pet guinea pig and their sleeping habits, contact your local veterinarian for more information.

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