Guinea pigs are considered “crepuscular” animals, meaning they can be active during the day or night, but tend to be most active at dawn and dusk, in low levels of light. Guinea pigs do not have a preference regarding dark versus light, but they still need both to be healthy!
Guinea pigs may not have much of a preference for daytime or nighttime, but how does that work practically? And is there still an ideal amount of time for your pet to spend in the light versus in the darkness?
Guinea pigs are unique pets because of their lack of preference for activity at a certain time of day.
People have noted that the activity of their cavies is more often dictated by what time they feed them, rather than whether it’s dark or light outside (or inside).
To put things simply, there is really no “best” time of day for your guinea pig, they can be active (or fall asleep) at any time of the day or night!
How Do Guinea Pigs Function in Both Light and Darkness?
I’ll give you a hint, it’s not because they have super night-vision!
While guinea pigs have the ability to see (even in color!), they don’t rely on their eyesight to get around. Their eyesight is more suited to seeing objects at a distance, and their vision up close is less-than-clear.
However, guinea pigs have several other abilities to make up for this. Those abilities come into good use no matter what time of day it is!
Guinea pigs have great hearing, especially at higher sound frequencies. Their hearing is better than the hearing of people, and they can hear some sounds from up to two miles away.
Cavies also possess a sharp sense of smell, and sensitive whiskers called “vibrissae” that help them find their way in close quarters. They also have great memories, which allow them to navigate their homes quickly and accurately. This may have developed when guinea pigs still lived in the wild and had to get through their tunnels quickly to escape from predators.
These abilities contribute to the “up-at-all-hours” lifestyle of pet guinea pigs today. If there is fun to be had, they’ll be awake to have it… which can keep their owners up late at night or early in the morning!
Are Guinea Pigs More Comfortable in Light or Dark?
Instinctually, guinea pigs may prefer lower levels of light to a brightly-lit room. Because of their status on the food chain as prey animals, they feel more comfortable when they aren’t vulnerable and exposed to predators. This means that having places to hide, not to mention gentler lighting, will contribute to a feeling of security in your guinea pig.
However, if your guinea pig feels safe in the environment and home you’ve crafted for them, they will probably feel just as bold in bright light as in dim light.
If you give them plenty of places to hide or take cover when they are startled, they will be more willing to be out and about in their cages in bright light. If your guinea pigs look comfortable and relaxed in a brightly-lit room, you’re doing a great job caring for your critters!
Should You Leave a Light on at Night?
Guinea pigs, like most animals, require both night and daylight to function well and be healthy. They don’t need a nightlight to get around their cage in the dark, and it may actually be better for their health to have a time of complete darkness!
Some studies have noted that guinea pigs can have health issues from being under bright lights for days at a time. This can especially cause problems with female guinea pigs’ reproductive systems, causing them to be more stressed than under normal circumstances.
If you share living space with your guinea pigs and sleep with a nightlight on, or if they live in a room where lights are constantly on, consider covering their cage for half the time so your pets can still get some time in the dark to feel comfortable and secure.
(Pro tip: it’s probably best to make sure you cover their cage with an old towel or something you won’t mind being ripped up—if guinea pigs feel like chewing on something, they can be quite destructive!)
Should You Keep Your Guinea Pig in a Dark Room During the Day?
All this talk about guinea pigs enjoying darkness may make you think they need a lot of it… but not so fast!
It’s agreed that guinea pigs need at least 8 hours of darkness, although they certainly won’t be asleep the whole time it’s dark. Rather, guinea pigs nap on and off throughout the day and night, with periods of activity scattered throughout. Don’t feel like you need to have a special dark room for your pet. Guinea pigs need light as well as darkness.
To make your pet most comfortable in both daylight and nighttime hours, focus on providing enough shavings or bedding for your guinea pig to burrow in when it feels like taking a nap, as well as giving it options for little hiding places to retreat to in its cage when it wants to take shelter. This will ensure that your guinea pig can make the most of both situations in comfort, no matter what time it is!
Guinea Pigs Require Both Light and Darkness
Although guinea pigs don’t sleep or stay awake for half a day as humans do, they require similar amounts of darkness and light to lead healthy and happy lives.
Guinea pigs can easily adapt to their human family’s schedule since they are happy to both sleep and play at any time of day. To care for them well, simply make sure they get a reasonable amount of light and darkness to live their lives and enjoy the unique, crepuscular creatures for their unique lifestyle.