The Truth About Sunlight and Guinea Pigs (Explained Here)

Lately, I have been thinking about what it means to be a new guinea pig owner. Sure the basics are important: food, water and cleanliness but another consideration is around their natural light exposure – Do guinea pigs like sunlight? So, I decided to conduct some research into their natural light preferences.

As a general rule, guinea pigs like sunlight – in moderation. Excessive amounts of direct sunlight or heat is not recommended for guinea pigs. It leads to a variety of conditions including heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and dehydration (all of which can be deadly to guinea pigs).

If you’re also wondering about the best times to take your piggies outdoors, if guinea pigs prefer lighter or darker conditions, and how to protect your piggies if you take them outside, you’ve come to the right place. Pull up a seat, because you’re going to get some answers today!

Guinea Pigs Like Sunlight (Here’s Why)

Guinea pigs like sunlight, but they prefer filtered (shaded light). While guinea pigs do enjoy strolling across a lawn, nibbling on patches of green grass, they’re not huge fans of direct sunlight. In fact, they’ll often seek out shade to avoid feeling too hot.

To understand why, just consider two factors:

  • Guinea Pig Anatomy: Cannot Handle the Hot
  • Guinea Pig Behavior: Crepuscular Cavy’s Kick Sunlight To The Curb

Did You Know?

A guinea pig’s body temperature is between 102° and 104° F (39 – 40°C).  What could send some of us humans to the hospital is quite normal for our piggies.

Guinea Pig Anatomy: Cannot Handle the Hot

Let’s analyze a guinea pig’s anatomy first.

Guinea pigs are deadly sensitive to sudden changes in temperature-especially to sudden changes in heat. Guinea pigs are most comfortable at temperatures ranging from 65 -75 degrees Fahrenheit.  

Piggies can’t sweat like humans do to regulate their body temperature, so they have a hard time regulating themselves if it gets too hot. It’s also why guinea pigs are so vulnerable to dehydration, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke if they don’t have access to a cool place.

Subsequently, guinea pigs rely other methods of cooling down-like air conditioning (thank you, pet parents!) or a cool patch of shade.

⚠️Warning

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can even happen in the shade. Indoors or outdoors, when the temperature climbs, always keep an eye on your guinea pigs to make sure they’re not becoming overheated. Plan activities carefully and take precautions during extreme heat, cold or other bad weather conditions .

Guinea Pig Behavior: Crepuscular Cavy’s Kick Sunlight To The Curb

Guinea pigs are hardwired for crepuscular behavior. So, they scatter their activity throughout the day (and night) – only sleeping for short periods of time.

As crepuscular animals, they’re most active at dawn and dusk. Those two periods of the morning and evening twilight have dim light, but not completely dark. This is an advantage to the guinea pigs because they’re less likely to get eaten by a predator, as most of them are nocturnal animals and will be hunting at night when it’s dark!

Typically, you wouldn’t see a guinea pig prancing around in the sun at midday – when the sun is at its brightest.

And it’s no accident that piggies are likely to be up and moving during times of day when they sun is low in the sky and the temperature is a little more moderate. In fact, they avoid intense sunlight at all costs!

This is because of their sensitivity (or lack thereof) toward heat. Low sun means that piggies can stay nice and cool (and out of danger) while they enjoy their favorite activities – exploring, eating yummy food, burrowing, playing, and socializing.

???? Tips & Tricks:

Knowing what time of day your guinea pig is most active can help you plan their daily routine and take better care to keep them healthy! You’ll know when they’re likelier to enjoy some floor time or lap time. Or when they might be ready for a piggie trick training session ( if you’re into those types of bonding activities).

Here’s a quick video on crepuscular animals:

Do Guinea Pigs Prefer The Light Or Dark?

As a general rule, guinea pigs prefer the dark for two main reasons: it’s makes them feel safe and secure.

A dark space (such as a tunnel or burrow) can protect them from predators – and make them feel relaxed. In the wild they would use tunnels to escape predators 24/7 ; these same protective instincts are present today!

Guinea pigs don’t fight – they run and hide.

And where better to hide than in a dark place – am I right?

But, this doesn’t mean that you should let your piggies live in a dark room their entire lives. That would be horrible for them!

Plus, there are so many benefits to letting them play in the light – like their pet parents being able to enjoy watching and playing with them!

So, here’s what you can do to strike a nice balance between light and dark for your furry potatoes:

  • Be Generous With Hideaways. Even with the lights on in a room, hideaways are dark, cozy and private places for your guinea pig to enjoy (and to calm their nerves when necessary).
  • Darken their room at night. This could be considered their “resting” phase because it mimics natural sunlight patterns (sunrise/ sunset).
  • Provide filtered sunlight, when possible. Keep your guinea pigs in a place where they can enjoy either filtered sunlight (through window shades or window screens) or even artificial light. They’ll be much happier and healthier than if they’re confined to a dark room all day long!

Your piggies need natural sunlight; not too much, but just enough to experience it in a way that they would if living outdoors (in the wild) the majority of their lives!

This is an important point to keep in mind when picking out a new home for your guinea pigs.

⚠️Warning

Never put your guinea pig’s cage in direct sunlight or anywhere near a window that has direct sunlight coming through it. Your fur baby can easily overheat. Too much or too little sunlight (or heat) can have adverse effects on their health, so don’t forget: “just enough” is key for them!”

Although guinea pigs prefer the dark in different situations, you should still make sure that your piggie is able to enjoy fresh air and sun light – closely monitored by you, of course.

But what should you do to keep your little friends safe from the heat?

Let’s look at some….

Tips to Protects Your Guinea Pig From Overheating (Inside or Outside)

As the pet parent, keeping your guinea pig healthy and safe is a big responsibility.  Here are some tricks and tips to keep your little friends safe and sound:

  1. Keep Eyes On Your Piggie: Never leave your guinea pig outside without supervision, especially if they are in a hot environment. They could overheat or (depending on your location) fall victim to a predator.
  2. Provide Pet Friendly Cooling Solutions: Make sure they have plenty of cool places – like water bottles or ice packs (wrapped in a towel) that you can place in their cage for the first few days in a hot environment. If you have air conditioning, great! Just don’t let the cool air blow directly on your piggies because they can easily catch cold and upper respiratory infections.
  3. Grab That Shade: You should also try and provide a shady spot for your guinea pig when they are outside in summer months if possible, as well make sure that there’s plenty of shade on any surface where he may be sitting. *Note: If you do provide shade outside don’t just use any old thing to block the sun– use a fabric that doesn’t retain heat.
  4. Have A Spa Day: Your little friend’s coat can hold a lot of shed hair, which can be bothersome for your pet. Use a curry comb or brush to get all of that extra hair off of them – especially if you have a long-haired piggie. It’ll help them cool off from the heat. You can also dampen their coat with water (using a moist-not drenched-wash cloth). Or lightly spray your little friend with an atomizer or mist if they are too hot. Avoid your piggie’s face.
  5. Watch Out For Your Water And Food Dishes: Avoid keeping your little friend’s water bottle (or bowl) in the sun. It’ll be too hot for them to drink from. You should also make sure that their food dish is out of the sun, and in a cool place if possible– just don’t forget where you put it!
  6. Beware Of The Hideaways: Guinea pigs love hideaways (or hideys).  And plastic ones are very popular with pet parents. However, just like the temperature inside of a car becomes dangerously hot in the sun, a plastic hidey temperature increases and your little friends can overheat if they spend a lot of time inside them. Think of more appropriate shade options such as the shade of a tree or an umbrella.
  7. Watch Your Little Friends Carefully: It’s really important to monitor your guinea pigs and understand their body language (see below) because if they become overheated, , it can lead them towards death by heat stroke!
  8. Air Out The House (Your House, That Is): In the early morning and later evening, open the windows and doors for a few minutes to let fresh air in. In the daytime, close curtains and shades so that your little ones can rest comfortably while enjoying filtered sunlight indoors.
  9. Block The Wind:  Weather can change very quickly , and your guinea pig may be sensitive to the cold. Whisk your guinea pigs away to good, warm place if it gets too chilly out! 
  10. Provide Water (Lots of It): Provide plenty of fresh, clean water and change it often to avoid a potential bacteria outbreak from stagnant dirty liquid! Guinea pigs need plenty of water to replenish their fluids and stay hydrated.

⚠️Warning

If you have a hairless guinea pig (yeah, those cuties, keep an especially close eye on them. They don’t have fur to protect them from the sun’s direct rays. Just like humans, UV rays from the sun can cause skin cancer on their exposed and vulnerable skin!

do guinea pigs like sunlight? - quote

Frequently Asked Questions: Do Guinea Pigs Like Sunlight?

Is Sun (Or Outside) Bad For Guinea Pigs?

Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight is bad for guinea pigs. This is because piggies can easily overheat, get heat stroke, and even die.

In the wild, guinea pigs have the freedom to scuttle away from warmer spots of sun (to cool down). Domesticated piggies need a little help from us humans to cool down. 

As long as you take a few precautions to keep your piggies safe (like keeping them in a partially shaded area and providing fresh water), then they should be fine with some sunlight.

Some pet parents use a partially shaded “guinea pig hutch and runs” or cubes to contain the little friends when they’re outdoors.  A run is an open-air enclosure – usually made of wood and mesh.  It helps to :

  • Prevent your furry potatoes from escaping
  • Give them a shady spot from the sunlight to relax and rest when outdoors
  • Protect your pets from predators

Be sure to buy a sturdy hutch and run. The lock on the door of it shouldn’t be able to twist open like some do – it needs bolts that will stay locked tight! That way you can rest assured that your piggies are safe.

With them, it’s possible to give small pets all of the freedom they need while still keeping them safe from predators ( and from overheating). Guinea pig owners who live where it’s warm enough will find themselves using one year round in order to give their furry friends fresh air, a bit of sunshine, and exercise sessions away from noisy children or other distractions indoors.

⚠️Warning

Do not let guinea pigs eat grass that has been treated with fertilizers, pesticides, or that has been sprayed with dog (or any other animal) urine.  It’ll make your piggies sick.

Here’s a quick video on how to make a DIY outdoor run for your little friends:

Do Guinea Pigs Need A Light At Night?

Although guinea pigs can’t see in the dark, they typically don’t need a light at night. Generally, guinea pigs do quite well navigating the dark due to the following:

  • Their Whiskers. Guinea pigs have whiskers on their faces that help them to feel their way around. They’re very sensitive and guinea pigs rely on them for navigation around unfamiliar (and familiar) territory.
  • Their Sense of Smell. Their sense of smell and hearing are also heightened in the dark, so they can easily find their food dish, water bowl, or litter box with ease even without a light on at night . However there may be some exceptions to this rule– for instance if your guinea pig is not used to his new home then he may need some time to adjust .
  • Their Spatial Memory. Additionally, domesticated guinea pigs have an awesome spatial memory , so they can remember where the food and water bowls are even when it’s dark.

So, don’t feel guilty about turning off the lights in your piggies’ room at night. Your guinea pigs will be okay and they will sleep (or play) soundly.

Do Guinea Pigs Like Blankets?

In general, guinea pigs enjoy items that are warm and snuggly, cozies, hideys, and, yes – even blankets. Think about the types of bedding that are recommended (and popular) for guinea pigs – such as wood shavings, fleece, and soft fabrics.

If you want to give your little friend a blanket, it’s best that the fabric is not scratchy or rough– this can irritate their skin when they’re resting on top of them during sleep time! Anything made from fleece or soft cotton would be perfect. Make sure that you clean the blanket before putting it in the cage to avoid any bedding related illnesses and to also wash it weekly to keep it fresh.

If you’re not sure what sort of fabric your piggie would like, just give them one and see how they react! Guinea pigs are known for enjoying new things as long as there’s enough space that allows their instincts of hiding or exploring (or burrowing).

Do guinea pigs like sunlight? - fact

When Do Guinea Pigs Sleep?

As a general rule, guinea pigs take a series of naps (around 3 minutes long) spread throughout the day and night. On average, they’re awake 20 hours a day!  Guinea pigs rarely slip into a deep sleep—it’s more of an in-between state where their eyes stay open.

Piggies can thank their prey animal status for their dubious sleeping habits. When you’re at the bottom of the food chain, the lightest sleepers (ready to scram if they sense a predator) are the ones who survive.

Many guinea pigs are instinctively on alert all the time – yes, even domesticated ones.  That’s why they rarely sleep deeply or for long periods of times (except in their cage where there are no predators). This is one reason you should never wake them up from a deep snooze unless it’s absolutely necessary!

????NOTE

If you don’t have a piggie, who closes his eyes to sleep – in your presence, pat yourself on the back! That’s a true sign that your guinea pig loves and trusts you.

The Bottom Line: On Guinea Pigs Liking Sunlight?

In conclusion, if you take steps to protect them properly, you’ll find that guinea pigs will enjoy moderated sunlight – without becoming sick.

Just keep a couple things in mind to care for your piggies and be sure to follow through. Be sure to:

  • Keep a portion of their habitat in low light or darkness at all times to allow them some time away. Or provide hideaways (hideys) that will serve this purpose, too.
  • Be generous with fresh, clean  water – they drink more frequently in warmer weather.
  • Monitor your piggies carefully in the sun (and, yes shade) to ensure that they aren’t overheating.
  • Reference the avoid overheating “bag of tricks” mentioned at the being of the article to keep your piggie cool and happy.

This process may sound tedious, and the truth is – it can be.

It will take some time and effort to protect your little friends properly.

But…

As a pet parent who loves your piggies, you’re not afraid of putting in the effort – if it gets results, which are happy piggies enjoying a lovely balance of time in the sun and time in the dark.

What are you waiting for, friend?

There’s a furry burrito in your home that’s dying to catch a few (filtered) rays.  

Don’t keep them waiting!

Clemons, D. J., & Terril-Robb, L. A. (1997). The laboratory Guinea pig. CRC Press.

Crepuscular creatures and animal sleeping habits. (2014, February 21). Durango Herald. https://durangoherald.com/articles/69040

Description and physical characteristics of Guinea pigs – All other pets – Merck veterinary manual. (n.d.). Merck Veterinary Manual. https://www.merckvetmanual.com/all-other-pets/guinea-pigs/description-and-physical-characteristics-of-guinea-pigs

DVM, S. L. (2015). The Guinea Pig Handbook. Barron’s Educational Series.

Hypervitaminosis D in Guinea pigs with α-mannosidosis. (n.d.). PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3625056/

IDEALS @ Illinois: Evaluating the clinical and physiological effects of long term ultraviolet B radiation on Guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus) and rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). (n.d.). IDEALS @ Illinois: IDEALS Home. https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/handle/2142/50499

Q & A (Published 2005). (2005, May 17). The New York Times – Breaking News, US News, World News and Videos. https://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/17/health/science/q-a.html

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

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