Do guinea pigs sleep with their eyes open

When was the last time you saw your guinea pig take a nice long nap? If you’re anything like most piggy parents, the answer will likely be that you can’t exactly remember. So, if you never see your piggy sleep… then when do they rest? Do they even sleep at all?

Well, fear not, because your cute cavy absolutely does get some shut-eye, even if only a little. Guinea pigs are crepuscular animals which means that they’re most active at dawn and at dusk. As they aren’t strictly nocturnal or diurnal, they’re kings and queens of the power nap. In fact, they’re some of the lightest sleeping mammals and as they’re naturally nervous, fretful animals, they even rarely close their eyes when they’re asleep. In this article, we’ll attempt to unpick this strange behaviour. 

When did guinea pigs start sleeping with their eyes open and, more importantly, why?

Sleepy guinea pig in their cage next to a bowl of food.

Do Guinea Pigs Sleep With Their Eyes Open or Closed?

A piggy can occasionally be spotted getting some (literal) shut-eye but it’s actually quite rare. Believe it or not, it’s much more common for guinea pigs to sleep with their eyes wide open.

If you feel like you’ve never witnessed your guinea pig sleeping, then the chances are that you have, the wide-open piggy eyes have just been tricking you into thinking they’re awake! Sometimes, the only way to catch your cavy in the act of napping is to notice a distinct lack of movement. They may look like they have drifted into a trance-like state or be staring aimlessly into the distance. In fact, you’re likely to find your piggy sleeping upright on their feet but unusually still.

You can tell a piggy feels really comfortable and safe around you when they close their eyes. This is a rare sight and points to a strong bond of trust in your human-furball relationship. However, don’t be upset if they never get to this point with you! Cavies are nervous little creatures and they often can’t help but keep their eyes open when sleeping.

Two guinea pigs next to each other under a ray of sunshine.

Why Do Guinea Pigs Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

Why are piggies such nervous little animals? To establish this, we need to travel a long way back in history to the cavy’s wild South American ancestors.

Nowadays, your furball won’t really have as many things to worry about when snoozing in their warm and cosy pet palace. But life hasn’t always been so reliable for your pampered piggy. Before they became domesticated, guinea pigs roamed freely in the mountainous region of the Andes, and although that meant they could roam around with no limits… it had its downsides.

In the wild, guinea pigs are prey animals at the bottom of the food chain, so they developed certain quirks as a survival mechanism. To avoid becoming a bigger animal’s next meal, it was essential for piggies to stay as alert as possible and be able to escape danger at a moment’s notice. Sleeping with their eyes open was one way to do just that.

Prowling predators tend to sneak up on vulnerable, sleeping prey, so being confronted with a curiously awake-looking little piggy may just make them pause before attacking. With their excellent sense of smell and hearing, this tactic would have given sleeping cavies a little more time to sense nearby danger and take swift action!

Try not to feel hurt if your guinea pig still displays this behaviour, even though you’d never dream of hurting them. It’s hardwired into their DNA, so just focus on building a trusting bond and making them feel as comfortable as possible.

Guinea pig on grass in the wilderness.

FAKs - Frequently Asked Kavees

Are guinea pigs able to close their eyes?

It may be rare to catch your piggy when they’re resting their eyes but it’s possible! Guinea pigs do have eyelids and are therefore able to shut their eyes (even if it’s not a completely normal behaviour for them).

Can guinea pigs blink?

Yes, guinea pigs can blink. But blink and you’ll miss it! Piggies only blink to moisturise their eyes or to remove the odd speck of dust.

How long do guinea pigs sleep?

Guinea pigs are masters of the power nap! They require a very small amount of sleep for a mammal, typically a mere 4-6 hours per day.

Are guinea pigs the only animals that sleep with their eyes open?

Surprisingly, guinea pigs aren’t the only animals to sleep with their eyes open. In fact, it’s quite a common trait among small furry animals. For example, rabbits also prefer to sleep on high alert with their eyes wide open. Snakes too, although, they have no other option since they lack any eyelids!

Do guinea pigs sleep better when they are in the dark?

Like many of us hoomans, guinea pigs also prefer the darkness when trying to get some much-needed rest. The bright light of the day would leave them exposed to the dangers of predators so historically, they’ve always felt safer sleeping in dark spots.

Do I have to worry if I see my guinea pig sleeping with their eyes closed?

While it's rare to glimpse a guinea pig sleeping with heavy lids, it’s certainly nothing to be concerned about. In fact, if anything, it speaks volumes about the deep bond of trust between you and your piggy. If a guinea pig falls asleep in your presence with closed eyes, they must feel really safe and comfortable with you.

Do guinea pigs sleep during the night?

Guinea pigs are crepuscular, which means that they aren’t strictly diurnal or nocturnal. They are mostly active at dawn and at dusk, and they tend to nap in small bursts throughout the day. 

Guinea pig fun

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