Most of us prefer a pet that’s awake when we are. There’s little point in owning a nocturnal creature when we are diurnal. Certain rodents sleep all day and come to life at night. As they are classed as rodents, are guinea pigs nocturnal too?
The sleeping habits of guinea pigs are unusual compared to some rodents. They are not nocturnal but they’re not diurnal either.
Guinea pigs are what we term crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. Guinea pigs take short naps throughout the day and night, usually without shutting their eyes.
Nocturnal, diurnal and crepuscular explained
Nocturnal animals sleep during the day and become more active at night, mostly to hunt. Most prey creatures realize this and have adapted their sleeping arrangements to steer clear of their predators.
Diurnal animals are active during daylight hours. People and dogs are good examples of this group.
Crepuscular animals are most active at dawn and dusk, the stage between sunset and darkness or between darkness and sunrise. You may hear these referred to as the twilight hours. Cats, rats, ferrets, hamsters, rabbits, and guinea pigs fall into this category.
Guinea pig sleep
Let’s look at the whys, whens, and hows of guinea pig sleep and uncover why as a prey animal they are often awake at night when their enemies are too.
How much do guinea pigs sleep?
Guinea pigs sleep for a maximum of 4 hours divided into an average of 24 lots of 10-minute naps throughout the day and night. This means your guinea pig could sleep twice every hour.
During these short snatches of sleep, guinea pigs are alert for dangers such as predators. They can be woken by the slightest sound or movement.
All guinea pigs are unique in their sleeping habits. Some may literally just catch 40 winks while others might snooze for as much as 30 minutes. Generally, younger more energetic guinea pigs tend to sleep for shorter periods whilst older ones sleep longer.
Guinea pigs can also fit in with our sleeping habits to an extent. If you are active more at night for any reason, your guinea pig may adapt to this and seem to be more nocturnal than crepuscular.
There is no one size fits all when it comes to a guinea pig’s sleeping habits.
How guinea pigs sleep
Guinea pigs sleep lightly not deeply. There are 4 stages to their sleep:
- Stage 1. This is the early stage of sleep when a guinea pig begins to slow down and doesn’t last very long at all.
- Stage 2. This is the point before deep sleep to complete deep sleep. This stage is shorter than stage 2. A guinea pig’s heart rate slows to prepare its body for deep sleep.
- Stage 3. This is when a guinea pig is considered to be in deep sleep although it’s not as deep as our deep sleep.
- Stage 4 (REM). REM or rapid eye movement sleep is the dream stage. A guinea pig’s eyes can be seen moving from side to side.
It’s hard to imagine all of this occurring within a 10 minute nap, but it does!
A guinea pig rarely closes its eyes so it can often be difficult to tell when yours is actually sleep. If you catch the REM stage, you will possibly notice your guinea pigs eyes moving.
Guinea pigs, like most other animals, can lie in a variety of positions to sleep. When a guinea pig is really relaxed and feeling safe, it will stretch right out.
Why guinea pigs don’t sleep very much
A guinea pig is historically a prey animal. Even though most are safe from predators in secure cages, their instincts mean they are always alert for danger.
Guinea pigs are sensitive to sound and movement and are aware of both even when they are asleep. It is important that guinea pigs get their sleep quota and are not woken up unnecessarily.
Where guinea pigs sleep
A guinea pig should have a cozy hutch within its run where it can retreat for a nap whenever it needs to. But guinea pigs also often sleep wherever they happen to be.
A guinea pig’s day
Because guinea pigs are awake a lot of the time it is possible for them to get bored. They tend to eat a lot and you should avoid giving them more than they need.
It’s easy to assume your guinea pig wants something to eat when it squeaks loudly at you. This may be true at first, but your guinea pig will learn that when it says “wheek wheek” you provide something to eat.
squeaking for food could mean your guinea pig is bored, so make sure it has a nice big run, and enrich its environment with ramps and toys. Give it plenty of your attention too.
Best spot for a guinea pig
Guinea pigs need space, so an outside run is ideal. This way, they will have space to be active or rest when they need to.
If you bring your guinea pig inside when the outside temperature drops, placing it in your bedroom will more than likely mean it will keep you awake throughout the night.
A utility room is better, and somewhere with natural light. Don’t shut your guinea pig in a windowless room as it will lose all its natural sense of day and night.
Don’t have your guinea pig in a really noisy indoor area as it won’t be able to relax enough to sleep when it needs to.
The ideal indoor spot for a guinea pig during cold spells is a large roomy shed with windows and room for an indoor run. This way your guinea pig won’t feel cooped up and will still have plenty of natural light.
Are Guinea Pigs Nocturnal? – Conclusion
Every guinea pig has different sleeping habits but on the whole they are not nocturnal creatures. If you had to describe a guinea pig’s sleep-wake cycle, it’s safe to call it crepuscular.
Some guinea pigs don’t follow this rule but that’s generally influenced by their environment and not their natural choice.
Most importantly, a guinea pig should be awake for a lot of the time that you are. meaning the two of you will have the opportunity to spend plenty of quality time to get to know each other.