Last Updated on 07/05/2021 by Veronica Jones
First-time cavy owners are usually excited to take care of their new, furry small friends. However, most owners will also quickly realize that their guinea pigs aren’t always active whenever they go to their enclosure. Guinea pig sleeping patterns and habits are quite different to those of humans. The aim of this article is to give you answers to all the key questions that you might have. Let’s start with ‘do guinea pigs sleep at all’?
Do Guinea Pigs Sleep?
Yes, guinea pigs do sleep. They sleep a lot less than the average pet, and they take “naps” instead of having a long sleep as a cat or dog would. They sleep for about 4-6 hours a day in intervals, so they will likely be awake when people check on them.
Most small pets like rats and hamsters are often caught snoozing for longer hours throughout the day. However, guinea pigs function differently. They have no true sleeping patterns, sleep with their eyes opened or closed, sleep while partially standing up, etc.
How Much Sleep Does a Guinea Pig Need?
The main reason why cavy owners think their piggies never sleep is that guinea pigs do not need a lot of sleep. On average, guinea pigs sleep for about 4-6 hours a day. When they do sleep, it does not last long. Piggies will take naps for 10-30 minutes at a time, so they will sleep throughout the day.
There are no studies that say if guinea pigs need more or less sleep than 4-6 hours a day. Guinea pigs in the wild slept around the same amount as a domesticated guinea pig, but wild piggies likely slept less than domesticated ones. Guinea pigs will be awake for up to 20 hours a day, and they are fairly active during those times. However, there is no recorded time for the longest a guinea pig can sleep.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Sleep So Little?
Animals are often put into two categories, which are predators or prey. The predators hunt for the prey while the prey tries to avoid the predator. Guinea pigs fall under prey, which is why they sleep so little. Prey animals have to be on high alert to stay away from predators if one is nearby. For example, cats and dogs are relatives of lions and wolves, so they can sleep more because they are strong predators. However, guinea pigs need to wake up easily to run away when needed.
Guinea pigs are on the bottom of the food chain in the wild. Nearly every animal would hunt them, from cats to birds, and even humans would hunt them for food. Guinea pigs heavily rely on their eyesight to watch out for predators, which is why they evolved to sleep for short times. Even when guinea pigs sleep, they can have their eyes open to look out for danger.
So, if most guinea pigs are household pets, why do they still sleep so little? Even if a guinea pig came from many generations of domesticated piggies, their instincts of avoiding predators are deeply rooted in their DNA. Guinea pigs were prey animals long before they became small, furry pets. Therefore, it would be unlikely for a cavy to evolve out of their learned instincts anytime soon.
How Does a Guinea Pig Sleep?
Most guinea pigs will lie down to go to sleep. However, the way most guinea pigs lie down will just involve resting their legs and head, so it can look like they are still standing up from far away. Occasionally, guinea pigs will sit still for 10-30 minutes, and they will look relaxed. Guinea pigs can have their eyes either open or closed when they sleep.
What Time of the Day Do Guinea Pigs Sleep?
Guinea pigs do not have a time preference to go to sleep because they are not nocturnal or diurnal. Some studies state that guinea pigs are crepuscular, meaning that they are the most alert at twilight like a crested gecko. Guinea pigs tend to sleep whenever they feel like it, but they are likely the most energetic at twilight. However, guinea pigs do not have a true sleeping pattern since they frequently nap, so they are quite unique as mammals.
How Do I Know if a Guinea Pig is Sleeping?
Guinea pigs like to move around throughout the day, so a key sign that a guinea pig is asleep is when they are placid. A guinea pig typically “melts” into a sleeping position with its legs and head resting, while others can stay somewhat seated. Since it is hard for most pet owners to know if their cavy is asleep because their eyes can stay open, a good rule to follow is that a still piggie is likely asleep.
Can a Guinea Pig Sleep While Standing Up?
Some guinea pigs can sleep while standing up, but it can be difficult to tell if the guinea pig is furry. Most guinea pigs will lay flat, while others may lay on their side. It is possible for a guinea pig to sleep while standing up, but they will likely lie down if they feel safe in their surroundings.
Should Guinea Pigs Sleep in Beds?
Beds are not essential for guinea pigs to survive. While bedding (like fleece blankets to line their cages) are crucial to keep their feet protected, beds themselves are not a requirement. However, guinea pigs can greatly benefit from beds, particularly ones that let them hide in because it can give them a space to relax and hide.
Guinea pigs love to burrow because it is in their nature. So giving them beds where they can enter and hide whenever they want can give them another place to sleep comfortably. While covered beds are not a must, they can make a guinea pig feel safer in its enclosure.
Does a Guinea Pig Want to be Held While Sleeping?
Guinea pigs are prey animals. While they like being petted and handled by their owners, many guinea pigs may feel stressed when their owners pick them up and hold them. A guinea pig’s natural prey instincts will make them assume that a bird picked them up. Therefore, it would take a long time for a guinea pig to enjoy being held, but a guinea pig may never learn to like it. It would depend on the particular cavy’s personality.
Furthermore, it would be unlikely that a guinea pig would want to be held while they sleep. Firstly, they sleep for short periods because they want to stay alert for predators, so they would not sleep comfortably in a person’s arms. Secondly, many guinea pigs do not enjoy being picked up and held in the first place, so they definitely would not like to be kept like that to go to sleep.
Can Guinea Pigs Sleep in the Dark?
As mentioned earlier, guinea pigs do not have a time preference to go to sleep. They can sleep at any time of the day, so they will not mind if there is light or if it is dark. They will simply sleep whenever they want to sleep. Some guinea pig owners think that guinea pigs need a light to go to sleep. However, it is not necessary.
Additionally, it would be best to keep your guinea pig away from harsh light. Keeping a light bulb or the sun directly on their enclosure can irritate their eyes or make it too warm for them. Therefore, keeping a guinea pig in indirect sunlight during the daytime is fine, but they do not need light at night.
Do Guinea Pigs Sleep with Their Eyes Opened or Closed?
Guinea pigs can sleep with their eyes open because of evolution. As mentioned earlier, guinea pigs had to adapt and be on alert to avoid predators, which is why they sleep so little. So, guinea pigs can sleep with their eyes open, especially if they feel unsure of their surroundings.
A cavy will only close its eyes to sleep when it is completely asleep. Guinea pigs are very sensitive to noise and movements, so they will easily wake up if a door opens or from a small sound. Guinea pigs are highly alert, so they will not sleep as soundly as a dog or cat would. Therefore, piggies can sleep with their eyes opened and closed, but it is rare for pet owners to find their guinea pig’s eyes closed while they are asleep.
It is somewhat unusual for a mammal like a guinea pig to sleep with their eyes open, making them unique pets. Many reptiles, fish, and birds have no eyelids or opaque eyelids that allow them to sleep with their eyes open. However, guinea pigs learned how to sleep with their eyes open because of survival. Sleeping with their eyes open allows a guinea pig to be more alert, so they can run away if they see a predator. Even if a guinea pig feels safe in their home, it is unlikely that they will stop sleeping with their eyes open.
If a guinea pig sleeps with its eyes closed, there is no reason to worry. It only means that they feel completely comfortable and safe. Therefore, a guinea pig will feel confident enough to disengage and let their guard down when they trust their surroundings.
Do Guinea Pigs Blink?
Guinea pigs blink as much as needed. They may not blink as much as a dog or a human, but a cavy will still blink since they have eyelids. Typically, a piggie will blink when its eyes feel dry. They will also blink to keep dirt and dust out of their eyes.
Does a Guinea Pig’s Diet Affect Their Sleep?
Similar to most living creatures, a guinea pig’s diet has an impact on their sleep patterns. When a person eats too much, the body will focus most of its energy on digesting food, and the same will occur in a cavy. Therefore, a cavy will feel sleepy because all the body’s energy will be busy digesting food. However, it is not ideal to overfeed a guinea pig to help it sleep more because it can cause more health issues.
Can a Guinea Pig Sleep Near Predators?
Due to years of survival instincts, a guinea pig cannot sleep near predators. If a guinea pig sees that a predator is watching them, they will stay alert until the predator goes away, or the cavy will try to hide until they leave. Therefore, it would be ideal to keep a guinea pig away from predator pets, like cats or dogs, to help them sleep peacefully.
How to Help a Guinea Pig Go to Sleep
While guinea pigs do not have a scheduled bedtime, it is still crucial that they know when it is day and when it is night. Try to keep a guinea pig’s enclosure near a window but away from direct sunlight. That way, a guinea pig will still have a day and night cycle.
As mentioned earlier, guinea pigs do not require beds to go to sleep. Having fleece bedding to line their cages is usually fine. However, guinea pigs like to burrow, especially when they want to be comfortable or the temperature changes. Offering your guinea pig covered beds in the corner of their cage can give them a nice place to rest.
Guinea pigs are prey animals, so they are always on high alert. They will likely not sleep if there is too much movement or noise in the room. Therefore, it would be best to keep guinea pigs in a fairly quiet area of the home. However, a guinea pig may stay in the living room of a home if the room is only noisy for a part of the day, as they will likely not mind the commotion for part of the day. Since they do not need to sleep that much, the room does not have to be quiet all the time, but the noises should not be too loud.
Guinea pigs also find it very difficult to go to sleep with predators in the room. Even if a pet cat or dog is docile and does not bother them, they may know that a predator is there and will stay on alert. Therefore, it would be best to keep other predator pets out of the room for most of the day. If the predator pet goes up to inspect the cage, it may make a guinea pig stressed, so it would be ideal to keep the predators away at all times.
What is the Best Temperature for Guinea Pigs to Go to Sleep?
There are no specific temperatures for ideal sleep in guinea pigs since they sleep for a short time. However, a guinea pig may sleep more comfortably if the temperature is several degrees higher than the regularly maintained room temperature, but that is not necessary. Moreover, it is crucial that the temperature does not go above 90 degrees or below 70 degrees Fahrenheit because it is dangerous for a cavy’s health.
How to Tell if a Guinea Pig Needs More Sleep
It is difficult to tell if a guinea pig needs more sleep. However, if the guinea pig looks sick, loses weight, etc., it could mean that a guinea pig is ill and lacking sleep, so they will need to see a veterinarian. Additionally, signs of a sleepy guinea pig include lethargy, but it would still be ideal to bring the cavy to the vet.
Guinea pigs only need to sleep for a few hours a day, and it is hard to catch a sleeping guinea pig because they only take short naps throughout the day. Guinea pigs will be active for most of the day and have no sleep schedule. They also can sleep with their eyes opened or closed, depending on how comfortable they feel.
- RSPCA, ‘Guinea pigs’, https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/rodents/guineapigs, Accessed – 10 May 2021
- Pocket Pets 101, ‘Are Guinea Pigs Nocturnal?’, https://pocketpets101.com/are-guinea-pigs-nocturnal/, Accessed – 10 May 2021
- PETA, ‘Caring for Guinea Pigs’, https://www.peta.org/living/animal-companions/caring-animal-companions/caring-guinea-pigs, Accessed – 10 May 2021