Are Guinea Pigs Nocturnal? (Sleeping Habits and More)

You might be wondering about the sleeping habits of your guinea pigs.  I’ve been wondering the same thing lately. I mean, it seems like they might be nocturnal at times and not others. So, I did a little investigating to find out the answer to the question: “Are guinea pigs nocturnal?”

As a whole, guinea pigs are not nocturnal. They’re crepuscular – meaning they’re most active during the twilight hours of dusk and dawn.  In wild guinea pigs, this survival adaptation helps them avoid predators. It’s an instinct that domesticated guinea pigs still possess.

are guinea pigs nocturnal - image of a sleeping guinea pig

In this article, we will explore how being crepuscular affects guinea pigs, what guinea pigs do at night as well as other sleeping facts that you might not (but need to) know about your piggies. Let’s get started!

What’s So Great About Being Crepuscular?

You’re probably asking yourself why your little friends prefer being active around sunrise and sunset. 

With a little help from those twilight times, guinea pigs can avoid predators. The dimly lit in-between time is perfect for crepuscular critters (like these adorable furry potatoes) to be out and about.

And there are plenty of reasons why that should make sense now:

1. Most predators hunt during peak daylight or nighttime hours, so prey animals have less chance of being heavily pursued by predators during twilight hours. Around those times, many predators are wrapping up their day and going to bed or just waking up from a snooze to start their day. So, (in the wild) guinea pigs can use the light at dusk and dawn to forage for food – in relative safety.

2. Twilight (dusk and dawn) have lighting conditions that make it harder for predators to hunt effectively – they just can’t see as well in dim lighting.  The majority of predators either have excellent eyesight during the day or at night – not in between.

If guinea pigs were nocturnal, then they’d be in more danger.

It’s not always easy living as a predator’s potential dinner – luckily twilight provides some relief from these predatory conditions!

3. The timing of sunset and sunrise is especially beneficial to guinea pigs. Guinea pigs are at their best during sunset and sunrise because the sun is at its lowest point in the sky, which means that it’s less hot than other times of day.  

Piggies are sensitive to over-heating, so the times when the sun’s low in the sky and temperature is moderate makes a huge difference for them!

On average, they need the temperature to stay in the 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit range to be comfortable. Prolonged direct sunlight is too hot, night time temps are a little too cold, but twilight times are just right. 

How Often (And How Much) Do Guinea Pigs Sleep?

are guinea pigs nocturnal

Thinking of guinea pigs as little slumbering balls can be misleading. In fact, they sleep for only around 4 hours a day—and there’s no evidence that it’s a good, deep-quality snooze. At least not in the way, human beings consider a restful sleep.

It turns out your average cavy is quite unique when it comes to getting their ZZZs. Because unlike most creatures in the world who have one distinct sleeping time (monophasic), these critters are polyphasic which means they have multiple segments of sleep times (or naps) per day.

If you want more answers to quirky guinea pig behavior, check out this post I wrote: Why Do Guinea Pigs Twitch? (10 Surprising Reasons) and Why Do Guinea Pigs Eat Their Poop? (What You Need To Know)

The way an animal’s circadian rhythm is regulated determines when they’re active and how much sleep the animal gets.  It’s their “body clock.”

One thing scientists do know for sure: piggies live by a different set of rules with regards to sleeping habits, instead opting to nap whenever they feel like it.

Thinking about adding a piggie to your family or want to brush up on the essentials? Gotcha covered. What you need is a reliable, “all-in-one” resource to refer to when you’re struggling. A Beginner’s Ultimate Guide To Guinea Pig Care is a starting point with all the basics and more to get you on your way!

What Do Guinea Pigs Do At Night? (A.K.A Why Are They So Noisy)

I know what you’re thinking. “What could a guinea pig possibly be doing at night?”

Well, all depends on the mood your piggie’s feeling that day!

Trust me, it’s no different than what they do during the day time.

In the dead of night, your piggies are  foraging through hay, nibbling on healthy snacks left by their loving pet parents, playing and chatting with their piggie buddies – and sometimes taking a nap or two. 

So, does it seem like are our piggies so noisy at night?

Seriously, your guinea pigs are never this loud during the day.

…Or are they?

People just notice their guinea pig’s night time activities more because for us humans, the house is usually fairly quiet.

Everyone goes to bed at night time except for our guinea pigs (who have no pattern to their sleep cycle). 

No one is flushing toilets or running the dishwasher.

The TV and radio isn’t blaring, which means…

There are no loud noises to distract us from hearing those fun grunts, squeaks, or rustling sounds our furry potatoes make. Your piggie’s night time activities might catch your attention a little more if you’re home because they make noise when it’s otherwise silent in your home.

⭐Key Takeaway:

Be sure to keep this in mind when you’re deciding on the location for your guinea pigs’ cage. If you choose to house your little friends in your bedroom, it could make getting a good night’s sleep tricky for you.

How To Deal With Your Guinea Pig’s Noisy Nights

Now you know that essentially your guinea pig is awake all day. Let’s address the huge challenge of nighttime noise. Here are some potential solutions to help mitigate this issue:

  • Have Snacks Ready: You don’t want your piggies wheeking your out of your sleep. Be sure to provide a pig pile of hay to last your little friends through the night. Rule of thumb is that your guinea pig should be able to burrow into it. You can also toss a few treats in there for your piggies to forage through.
  • Ditch the water bottle (at least for the evening): Water bottles are incredibly noisy at night. If you can train your fur babies to use a bowel and a bottle, that would be excellent. If you can’t, you might want to invest in a valve water bottle that doesn’t have a ball – which are usually quieter. But, test it out first. You want to be sure that you can assemble it without it leaking excessively.
  • Avoid Noisy Toys: Do NOT clutter your guinea pig’s cage with noisy toys that rattle, rustle, or squeak. This will certainly become a problem when you’re trying to sleep and your piggies put them to good use when you’re trying to sleep. Only allow quiet toys and activities at night – like fleece forests or a stuffed animal.
  • Drown Out The Sound: Let’s say that you don’t have a choice; your little friends have to share a bedroom with you. No worries. Put in some ear plugs (for complete silence) or pop in some ear buds and play some quiet music or guided meditations. Your piggies get to play to their heart’s content – and you get some rest!
  • Find a Friend: When your fur baby is bored, then they’re likelier to get into mischief and display negative behaviors – such as bar chewing. And they’re likelier to be bored if they’re singletons, because there’s no one to keep them company at night during those 6 to 8 hours when you’re asleep. Solution? Get him a friend. Two compatible guinea pigs do a fantastic job of keeping each other entertained and might snuggled up with each other for a nap every now and then. It’ll also stop your piggie from trying to snag your attention in the dead of night.
Noisy Nights With Guinea Pigs: How To Stop The Noise Infographic (Nocturnal) by A Shepherd

⭐Key Takeaway:

You can easily manage your guinea pigs’ behavior if you understand what they need and take good care of them.  This ensures that your piggie’s won’t hold you hostage from sleep with a chorus of wheeks and whines!  Overall, guinea pigs are sweet, affectionate pets – they just need a little TLC from time to time.

How To Make Sure My Guinea Pigs Get A Good Sleep (When They Choose To Snooze)

As you know, guinea pigs don’t naturally have a set pattern for sleep. It’s literally anytime and anywhere for your furry friends. But, that doesn’t meant that they don’t need a good night’s…um nap’s sleep.

As a good pet parent, there are some things you can do to make sure your guinea pig is getting a good rest, while also sending the signal that human night time is also “quiet time” for them.

  • Make sure that your guinea pigs is in a relaxed and stress free environment. They’re likelier to sleep peacefully if they’re not anxious.
  • You should make sure that the bedding in your guinea pig’s cage is soft and cuddly. Fleece, aspen wood shavings, and paper bedding are all good options. Plus, they’re likelier to relax enough to take a quick nap if they are on a soft surface. In addition, you must not use either straw or cedar for bedding – both materials can be dangerous for guinea pigs!
  • If you want your piggies to get some good sleep, provide the “just right” temperature for guinea pigs, which is around 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Guinea pigs aren’t fond of the cold, but they’re especially sensitive to heat.
  • Try to simulate a light / dark cycle for your guinea pigs. They won’t totally sleep at night (because they’re not diurnal), but it’ll encourage them to be a little quieter during the day.
  • Provide your guinea pigs with a dark, quiet space to sleep. They’re not nocturnal animals, but they enjoy the protection of dark when they sleep. There are plenty of ways you can do this – for example: heavy curtains or blankets draped over part cage at night (don’t cover it completely, though; piggies need the ventilation). Turn off any noisy appliances that might disturb them during slumber time (like TVs or radios).
  • Make sure the cage is large enough and offers plenty of space for your guinea pigs to move around. In a small, confined area where they will never have any room or opportunity explore can lead them to feeling anxious, which could affect their sleep. Cage (and floor) space are one of the requirements of a happy life for your piggies. So make the cage as big as space and money allows.
  • Try not to handle your guinea pigs too much when they’re sleeping. Doing so can cause them stress and make it more difficult for the little guys or gals take a nap afterwards, which might have an effect on their overall mood as well (think of how cranky you get if someone wakes up from sleep). Instead try to play with them during their naturally active twilight times – early morning and evening.

An important thing to remember is that they need their sleep. It’s so vital for the health of your piggies and yours, too! Your guinea pig will thank you in many ways if it gets a good night’s rest – like being happy & social with other pigs AND their pet parents alike tomorrow.

How Do I Know When My Guinea Pig Is Asleep?

Being able to tell your guinea pig is asleep isn’t easy – am I right?   I mean, the don’t close their eyes (usually) when they drift off – hey, they rarely blink.  So, how do you know if your piggie has drifted into dreamland? 

A good way to tell if your furry potato is asleep is by noticing two things:

  • Your piggy is standing (or sitting) very still; but they’re not afraid of tense.
  • They’re someplace shady with some sort of covering or somewhere dark where they can feel comfortable and secure.  

Generally, these are your best bets to tell whether or not your little friend is asleep.

Can I Change My Guinea Pig’s Sleeping Schedule?

You can change your guinea pig’s sleeping schedule by changing their feeding schedule – in small increments. That way, you can gradually shift their sleeping schedule by a few minutes to an hour.

Even though piggies don’t sleep when their pet parents sleep, most guinea pigs eventually adapt to the rhythm of the house – becoming a bit less active when their “human tribe” is inactive and demanding food when their “body clock” tell them that it’s time to eat.

It’s the incessant demands for food that disturb a pet parents sleep – and earns them dirty looks from their fur babies when they dare to be late with a meal. 

And we’ve all been there:

Waking up to guinea pig screams at 6AM on a Saturday.

You’ve had an exhausting week and you just want some peace for one day, but those little critters are screaming their heads off demanding breakfast veggies!

Or maybe you live in an area that observes daylight savings time.

Maybe you don’t want to have to get up an hour earlier just because your guinea pigs don’t understand that it’s daylight savings time. And all they care about is eating – not about you resting.

So, let’s change that.

Typically, pet parents feed their piggies twice a day (one in the morning and once in the evening). This method makes that assumption.

  1. Start moving your guinea pig’s meals back 5 or 10 minutes at a time. Guinea pigs are creatures of habit, so you want to make the change as subtle as possible – but they might still notice that he is eating later each day.
  2. Adjust feeding times and stick with those new hours for about 3 days before changing again by 5 or 10 minute increments again.
  3. Do this until their meal falls an hour later (or whatever time you want your piggies wheeking for food) every morning and evening.
  4. Eventually, you’ll notice your piggies wheeking for their meals at the time you need them to.  That’s because you’ve slowly adjusted their “body clock” by adjusting their feeding times. 

Just remember not to stress out if they seem a little mad – those demanding little cuties! This is a very gentle approach to tweaking their sleeping (and eating) schedule. You’re simply training your little friends to leave you alone at during the hours you’ll be asleep and get hungry at the times when you’re ready to be awake – and ready to feed them!

(This process probably won’t take more than a week or two of incremental changes.)

This may earn you weeks of dirty looks from your little friends–but don’t worry: eventually, they’ll get used to their new routine and start sleeping better!

Are Guinea Pigs Nocturnal? (Sleeping Habits and More) by A Shepherd

Related Questions – Not So Nocturnal Guinea Pigs

Can My Guinea Pig Sleep With Me?

Your guinea pig can sleep in your bedroom – but this arrangement is likely to cause some difficulties. This is especially true if they are noisy or if you have an allergic reaction to them. It’s never a good idea for your piggie to sleep in the same bed as you while you’re sleeping too. Your piggie could tumble off the bed or be suffocated by either yourself (or a pillow).

Do Guinea Pigs Sleep With Their Eyes Open?  

As a rule, guinea pigs sleep with their eyes open. They’re prey animals, so they need to stay on guard against predators, even in their sleep.

Instinctively, piggies know that hawks (and other snack-hungry predators) aren’t going to wait for permission, or ask nicely before attacking.

Keeping their eyes open while sleeping gives guinea pigs an edge to detect approaching danger – like a hungry coyote or eagle – and wake up quickly to escape.

Guineas have a wide field of vision ( 340 degrees) in proportion to it’s body size; this lets them see everything around themselves without having move much (or at all).

This is a handy skill to have when you need to sleep with your eyes open!

Do Guinea Pigs Blink?

Guinea pigs blink, but not as often or in the same way that humans do. Actually, studies have shown that piggies blink faster than humans (and rabbits).

Which is pretty crazy.

So blinking one of those behaviors that – like sleep – pet parents aren’t likely to notice. Like sleeping with your eyes closes, blinking is a good way to get yourself killed if you’re a prey animal.

In that split second that you blink, a carnivore could be on a guinea pig in a flash.

Things To Remember About Whether Guinea Pigs Are Nocturnal 

As you can see, guinea pigs are not nocturnal. They’re crepuscular creatures that have very unusual sleeping behaviors and no recognizable sleeping pattern.

Keep the following tips in mind when you consider how to accommodate your piggies’ needs:

  • Guinea pigs prefer to sleep in a dark, quiet place and they love beds that are made out of hay or blankets.
  • They also prefer hiding spots like boxes (or hideaways) with holes cut into them for added security while sleeping at night so be sure you provide one.
  • Guinea pigs nap throughout the day and night, but they are most active during dawn and dusk.
  • Guinea pigs sleep in short bursts (or naps) of up to six minutes at a time, and they’ll be active during the times in between those naps.As prey animals guinea pigs don’t sleep very much and a lot of their behaviors stem from their instinct to stay alert to predators – and alive

Friend, it may seem like a big task, but understanding your piggies’ sleeping and activity habits will make you an even better pet parent. And it’s something that you can achieve if you use the information in this blog post.

It can seem overwhelming at first glance, as there are so many different factors that play into this area- from light cycles to socialization with humans or other animals.

However, being mindful of their sleeping and active times throughout the day should help give you some insight on what would work best for your furry, little friends.

Now go get to know your piggies’ habits and schedule!

You got this!

Are Guinea pigs nocturnal or diurnal; How long do they sleep? (2018, August 7). Pets. https://www.helpshelterpets.org/are-guinea-pigs-nocturnal/

Beck, A. (2013). Guinea pigs: Keeping and caring for your pet. Enslow Pub.

Cavia porcellus (Guinea pig). (n.d.). Animal Diversity Web. https://animaldiversity.org/site/accounts/information/Cavia_porcellus.html#behavior

DVM, S. L. (2015). The Guinea pig handbook. Barron’s Educational Series.

Environmental enrichment for Guinea pigs: A discussion by the laboratory animal refinement & enrichment forum. (n.d.). Animal Welfare Institute. https://awionline.org/content/environmental-enrichment-guinea-pigs-discussion-laboratory-animal-refinement-enrichment-foru

Gurney, P. (2011). Guinea pig: A practical guide to caring for your Guinea pig. Collins.

Species and techniques information. (n.d.). Office of Scientific Affairs | Office of Scientific Affairs. https://osa.stonybrookmedicine.edu/research-core-facilities/dlar/vet/training/species#g_main

What is a crepuscular animal? (n.d.). Treehugger. https://www.treehugger.com/what-is-a-crepuscular-animal-4864558

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