When you bring a new pet into your home, you naturally have a lot of questions about caring for your new friend. Guinea pigs may be small, but they still need a lot of care and attention to be happy and healthy. A common question among new guinea pig owner is: Are guinea pigs nocturnal? The answer is more complicated than a simple yes or no.
Owners often want to know if guinea pigs are nocturnal because having a pet that is awake all night and sleeps all day can keep you awake if you keep their cage in your bedroom. Guinea pigs are not, in fact, technically nocturnal. A truly nocturnal animal is active at night and sleeps during the day. On the other hand, a diurnal animal sleeps at night and is awake during the day just like humans.
What is a Guinea Pig’s Sleep Schedule?
Guinea pigs have a unique sleep schedule. They don’t sleep all night nor do they sleep all day.
So when do guinea pigs sleep?
Guinea pigs actually sleep in short cycles throughout the night and day.
It’s like taking a lot of frequent naps instead of one long block of sleep. Given this information, are guinea pigs nocturnal or diurnal? This is actually a trick question.
Guinea pigs fall into neither the nocturnal nor the diurnal category. Instead, they fall into a special category known as crepuscular. Crepuscular animals are most active at dawn and dusk. This is common in house cats as well as small pets such as rats, ferrets, hamsters, rabbits, and guinea pigs. Each guinea pig will have its own routine for when it naps during both the day and night and for how long, but most will be particularly active in the evening as the sun is setting and again in the morning when the sun is rising.
This unusual sleep schedule can conflict with your own sleep schedule, especially if you are not a morning person. Having an active guinea pig running around their cage in the early morning may be distracting. However, there are many ways to solve this problem:
- Position your guinea pig’s cage in a room other than your bedroom.
- Provide quiet toys for your guinea pig to enjoy during the hours when you’re trying to sleep.
- Have at least two guinea pigs together. They are social animals and will keep each other company while you sleep.
- Wear earplugs if your guinea pig’s cage is in your room and they are noisy in the early mornings!
What is a Typical Guinea Pig Sleep Cycle?
Typically guinea pigs sleep anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes per nap for a total of about four hours of sleep per twenty-four hour cycle. They may prefer to nap during the day, off and on throughout the night, or evenly distribute their naps over both day and night. Guinea pigs developed this style of sleeping because they are considered prey animals in the wild and must be constantly vigilant for predators. By sleeping for short periods and not needing much total sleep they can spend more time awake and on guard.
The question then is not are guinea pigs nocturnal animals but instead does your guinea pig prefer daytime or nighttime napping? Once you’ve observed your guinea pig’s behavior for a few days you’ll have a good idea of their preferred routine.
How Do Guinea Pigs Sleep?
During their naps, guinea pigs will typically sleep with their head leaning forward to rest on the ground. Since they are so close to the ground already they don’t need to roll over to sleep. They may huddle together or snuggle up inside a hideout you provide. Often they look like they are standing awake and you only realize they’re sleeping when you see their eyes are closed.
Some warning signs that your guinea pig is not feeling well may appear in their sleep schedule or how they sleep. If your guinea pig is acting lethargic, that is, less energetic than normal, and sleeping for long periods of time compared to their normal behavior it could indicate illness. If they are sleeping on their side or in a position that doesn’t match their normal sleeping behavior and appear to be breathing too fast or are breathing hard, this may also indicate a problem. It could be that they are overheated or feeling ill. If you see any of these signs, it is best to take your guinea pig to the vet for a health evaluation.
How Can I Help My Guinea Pig Get Better Sleep?
To help ensure your guinea pig gets adequate rest during their frequent naps, be sure the cage is large enough for running around while also providing a sleeping space. Guinea pigs enjoy having areas to hide in during sleep, whether it’s a plastic hut or a furry bed. Have at least one bed per guinea pig.
Be sure to keep your guinea pig’s cage in a dry area out of direct sunlight. Sixty-five to 75 degrees is a comfortable temperature range that will keep your guinea pig warm without causing them to overheat.
Finally, don’t place your guinea pig’s cage or enclosure in an area of the home that has high foot traffic and activity. Since they nap frequently throughout the day, this constant noise may wake them up or make them nervous. A quiet area away from the main living space is ideal for setting up your guinea pig’s habitat. This will allow them to sleep when they want without interruption.
Watching and learning your guinea pig’s habits and preferences will help you create a setup that’s perfect for both your guinea pig’s sleep schedule and your own!