Guinea pigs make great starter pets for kids due to their flexible nature. While not as fragile as rabbits, they are less skittish than hamsters and gerbils that don’t often welcome human touch.
Are guinea pigs nocturnal? Guinea pigs are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dusk and dawn.
As a fact, guinea pigs are neither nocturnal nor diurnal. They are classified as crepuscular, just like dogs, cats, rabbits, and hamsters. Read on to find out more about the interesting sleeping habits of guinea pigs.
Are Guinea Pigs Nocturnal?
Overall, guinea pigs don’t need much sleep, which is why you might find them awake at some point in the night. A four to five hours per day, are generally enough for a guinea pig to get its rest.
However, guinea pigs aren’t actually nocturnal. Nocturnal animals are most active during the night, whereas that isn’t the case with guinea pigs.
Guinea pigs are most active during twilight hours when it is dim outside. This peak activity at dawn and dusk instead of daylight or darkness has caused guinea pigs to be classified as ’crepuscular’ animals.
Guinea Pigs Sleep Schedule
Guinea pigs do not have a set sleeping schedule like us humans. You can’t expect them to catch up on all their sleep by laying low for a few hours straight.
What these creatures do is take short naps just a few minutes long at random times of the day. That is why you might have wondered if they ever sleep properly!
It is not uncommon to observe a guinea pig take a break from its activities for a short nap. This way, they recharge without having to stick to a sleep routine.
The restless nature of guinea pigs is part of the reason they are kept so popularly as pets. They offer more interaction and playtime, unlike house pets who may like to sleep for longer periods.
What is Crepuscular?
Crepuscular animals are those which are primarily active during twilight hours. They are neither nocturnal nor diurnal. You can see them up and about on those times of the day where it’s dim outside, meaning dawn and dusk.
The Differences between Nocturnal, Crepuscular, and Diurnal
There are a number of ways to classify animals, one of them being based on their sleep and activity patterns. Most animals depend on sunlight and darkness to adjust their sleeping schedule.
Nocturnal animals are those that sleep during the day and are primarily active at night time.
These animals have a specialized sense of sight, allowing them to view the world and wilderness even without the sun’s light. The senses of hearing and smell are also very well developed in these animals.
This is essential for them to survive in the wild and keep danger at bay by avoiding predators. It also helps them hunt in the dark in order to fend for themselves.
Some common examples of nocturnal animals are owls, bats, and fireflies.
Crepuscular animals are often mistaken for being nocturnal. That, however, is not the case with these creatures.
These animals are active during the twilight hours of dawn and dusk. The dim light from a few emerging or leftover sun rays is ideal for crepuscular animals to be out and about.
This waking time works for them since they are at less risk from their predators. Apart from guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, skunks, hyenas, and even tigers are crepuscular animals.
Diurnal animals are those that are primarily active during the day and sleep at night time. They need sunlight to do their daily tasks, getting most of their work done before nightfall.
Songbirds, hawks, deer, elephants, gorillas, honeybees, and even human beings are common examples of diurnal organisms.
Sadly, with the advent of urbanization, ’light pollution’ has caused many species of animals to become disoriented in terms of sleeping patterns. Those that depended on pitch darkness to sleep (diurnal) or be active (nocturnal) are now disturbed by artificial light.
How Long Do Guinea Pigs Sleep For?
Guinea pigs generally need around four to six hours per day, but will only sleep in short periods of time during the day. Sometimes this can only last for a couple of minutes to no longer than 10 minutes.
They can’t sleep for a continuous stretch of hours, with even the maximum sleeping time being about one to two hours at a time (usually a lot less).
Guinea pigs do not need as much sleep as humans. When guinea pigs get older they generally will need more sleep and If your guinea pig is ill they may need more sleep than normal too.
Once they wake up from their nap, they’ll continue their activity, only to go back to sleep for a few minutes when they feel like it. Some elder guinea pigs who have gotten weaker may sleep longer than the younger ones, although any unusual or abrupt changes in their sleep pattern should alert you for further health problems.
The total length of time spent sleeping in one day may vary from guinea pig to guinea pig.
Overall, they do need about four to six hours of sleep a day, which they get by resting for short spells in between their activity time.
Where Do Guinea Pigs Like to Sleep?
With many pet products available in the market, it is easy to think that the fanciest-looking one is the best thing you can buy for your pet. However, if you think your guinea pig is going to love a cutesy plastic toy house, think again!
First of all, they are naturally programmed to living in the wild and you are keeping them in captivity. That is why you should try your best to provide them with surroundings that mimic their natural habitat to at least some extent.
You can make this possible by ideally providing an earthy and grassy surface. If that is not an option, hay bedding added to a cage is a good choice.
Hay can be a multipurpose item for guinea pigs. They usually love it as a bedding material, and it is useful to chew on to prevent their teeth from getting too long. Timothy hay is part of guinea pig diet too, so it’s a sensible choice for bedding.
Hay or dried grass make good nests for guinea pigs. Sawdust and pine bedding may cause respiratory problems, so it’s better to steer clear of them for your pet’s safety and wellbeing.
Shredded paper may also make for a good bedding material, but while it is absorbent and controls odors, it has no nutritional value. That is why most people experienced with guinea pigs simply recommend hay bedding.
Also, you need to make sure that these naturally mountain-dwelling organisms aren’t kept somewhere it gets too hot. It would be best if you keep your guinea pig in a room that doesn’t get warmer than 85 degrees. Guinea pigs like to sleep in moderate temperatures, and can’t cope well with hot or cold climates.
Guinea pigs are used to sleeping in burrows when in the wild. They like to sleep in isolation, hidden areas away from prying eyes.
Providing your cavy with its own hiding box is a good idea to give it an added sense of security as they sleep. While domestic guinea pigs don’t have to worry about predators, their preference of staying hidden stays the same.
There are many kinds of mini hiding huts for guinea pigs available out there to buy. Alternately, you can always make it a DIY project to create a snuggly enclosure for your cavy.
It is best to keep your guinea pigs indoors or in a very secure area outside.
It isn’t uncommon for foxes, cats or other animals to break into their cage as they are prey animals. (It happened to my rabbit and guinea pig when I was younger, as my parents didn’t secure the cage well enough), so it’s extremely important to make sure that their cage is secured to the grown and is well padlocked if you’re keeping them outside.
By securing the cage to the grown, it stops any animals or the winds being able to move the cage and helps keep your guinea pig safe.
You should also add weight or something heavy to the top of their cage, as many cages have a foldable roof that can open. It also isn’t uncommon for strong winds or other animals to open up the roof.
In the winter you will need to wrap them up warm with extra layers or bring them inside, somewhere that is warmer. Especially in more northern areas where the temperatures drop dramatically.
Can You Change Your Guinea Pig’s Sleeping Schedule?
A guinea pig’s schedule is quite flexible as it is. Their habit of taking short naps instead of sleeping for long hours makes it quite easy to change their routine.
Since a guinea pig’s sleep schedule is quite convenient already, you shouldn’t have any problems unless your cavy has unusual sleeping habits. For example, if you have some free time on your hands and you find your guinea pig sleeping, you can expect it to wake up in a short while to play with you.
You can also gently wake up your guinea pig by dimming the lights, stroking it gently, or offering it food. One it is awake, you can play with it till you want, and let it go to sleep again.
Although they only really sleep for short periods at a time, trying to change their sleeping schedule isn’t very healthy or fair on the guinea pig. It’s best you let them rest and stick to a natural sleep schedule as that is what they are most use to.
By adding artificial lighting or by waking them up frequently will cause additional stress and will reduce their lifespan and happiness.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Sleep During the Day?
If guinea pigs didn’t sleep during the day, ‘diurnal’ would be an appropriate term to describe them. However, guinea pigs catch up on most or all of their sleep during the day.
This is because they are crepuscular animals, and are programmed naturally to staying most active at dawn and dusk, as is typical of crepuscular animals. Interestingly enough, a guinea pig may sometimes sleep with its eyes open due to its natural instinct of staying alert and sensing danger.
The daytime sleep/napping pattern of guinea pigs allows them to stay alert at twilight hours, as is their nature. It is how they are made to survive in the wild against powerful predators who are mainly at large during the day.
How Can I Help My Guinea Pig Get Better Sleep?
Guinea pigs have sensitive ears. They can hear everything that goes on around them, and may get disturbed due to the sounds from your home.
Once you notice that your guinea pig has started to take a nap, you should try to provide it with a quiet atmosphere. Try placing their cage in a part of your house that isn’t used by many people.
Your guinea pig’s enclosure should be somewhere it’s neither too warm nor too cold, about 18 to 24°C. Anything above or below this range make cause your cavy to feel overheated or too cold.
Since guinea pigs are used to burrowing in the wild, it is best if you could provide them some hiding space like a box or cover their cage to encourage them to go to sleep. This provides them with an added sense of security and helps them sleep better.
The quality and condition of your guinea pig’s bedding is an essential factor in determining its quality of sleep. Naturally, the best material for your guinea pig to sleep on would be hay, though you can use some fleece underneath.
Timothy hay, also being a part of a guinea pig’s diet, is a great bedding material due to its nutritional value as well as comfort.
Make sure to clean your guinea pig’s cage at least once a week to maintain hygiene and ensure that it stays comfortable during both activity and sleep. Replace soiled bedding with fresh material to protect your cavy from catching infections caused by bad hygiene practices.
Throughout the day, you should try to keep your guinea pig active. Don’t let it go hungry, and give it nutritious food.
A well-fed, energetic guinea pig will definitely sleep better than one that has just been lying around lazily.
Lastly, if your guinea pig is sleeping in unusual positions or shows signs of labored breathing, get it checked by a vet since it may be a sign of sickness.
A common reason for guinea pigs sleeping longer than usual is vitamin C deficiency.
Do guinea pigs sleep with their eyes open? Guinea pigs do sleep with their eyes open due to their natural instinct of staying alert to avoid danger. Only when you gain its trust, you might find your guinea pig sleeping with closed eyes.
Which bedding materials are not recommended for guinea pigs? Avoid softwood shavings, cedar, and pine. Fluffy synthetic blankets are also best avoided since they can’t be dissolved once eaten, and also may cause your guinea pig’s limbs to get stuck in them.
Can you take your guinea pig to bed with you? While you certainly can, it is not recommended. You could squish the poor thing when you move while sleeping. Also, your guinea pig will keep waking up and needing food or water while you sleep.