You may have noticed that guinea pigs often move around at night, and don’t seem to spend all that much time sleeping at this time. What does this mean? Do they like the dark?
Guinea pigs enjoy the dark for several reasons. They enjoy the safety that darkness provides. Also they are uniquely suited to navigating the dark successfully, using their excellent sense of hearing and also deploying their long whiskers to feel their way around.
Guinea pigs are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk. Also guinea pigs only sleep around 4-5 hours per day, which means they are active at both daytime and night.
I’m going to explore 14 facts that I am sure you will love about the link between guinea pigs and the dark.
What you are about to discover is that your guinea pig is going to get up to all sorts of things while it’s dark. If you thought they would just lie there and enjoy a good eight hours sleep, then you would be wrong.
So, let’s check out what your guinea pig gets up to.
Fact 1: They Love to Walk Around in the Dark
The first fact is that they love to walk around in the dark. However, your guinea pig can do this at any time, even though the dark is their favorite time of all.
You see, your guinea pig doesn’t sleep for hours at a time, so they must get up to something when it’s dark. They explore, they will play with one another in their enclosure, and they will love to eat. As you will see with the other facts, this is all to do with their anxiety levels, and if you know anything about a guinea pig, then you know how anxious these little guys can get.
So, the fact that they feel able to walk around a lot in the dark tells you a lot about what’s going on inside of them during that time.
Fact 2: They Feel More Secure in the Dark
Your guinea pig is going to be a very nervous creature, and we are sure that you are already well aware of that. However, the dark does help to provide them with more of a secure place to live, and it does help bring down their anxiety levels.
What you must remember is that your guinea pig will take time to get used to you, and to build their trust in you. Once they do, it then means they will feel completely content with you as their owner, where they live, and their ability to go about their business even in the dark.
Anything that is capable of reducing anxiety and stress in your guinea pig is something that any owner should be willing to embrace. Don’t force any kind of bonding thing with your guinea pig until they are ready. They will find being in a strange place stressful, whether it be day or night, so let them settle in and you will see a noticeable change in your guinea pig in next to no time.
Fact 3: In the Wild, They are Prey in the Dark
When a guinea pig is in the wild, then they are a prey animal in that there are a number of different predators that are going to see the guinea pig as food. They feel that it’s safer for them when its dark as they can stay in the shadows and hide better than they would be able to do during the day.
Also, a number of animals that would be a predator will tend to come out during the day. It makes sense that the guinea pig would learn to do the opposite, and that’s why they are more active at both dawn and dusk. To them, it’s the safest part of the day for them to go out and get some food or whatever they need to do.
Just because they are in an environment where they are not prey doesn’t mean they will drop those habits. These worries are built into your guinea pig. Sure, they will learn that they are safe, but that sort of thing stays with them no matter how relaxed they may get.
Fact 4: It Creates a Stress-Free Environment
This sort of fits into an earlier fact about the way in which your guinea pig is a scared animal. They see the dark as being more of a stress-free environment, and that’s surprising for most people.
They have poor vision, and they also lack the ability to understand the depth of what they are seeing. Thanks to it being dark, they have the feeling that all is well, and it’s thanks to the idea that if they cannot see anything, then there’s nothing to worry about.
This may sound basic, but it offers a sense of comfort to your guinea pig, so that’s a good enough point for us.
Fact 5: Navigating is Easy in the Dark
Your guinea pig may not have the best vision, but they do have an amazing memory. That does mean that, in the wild, they can remember runs to go along with ease. It also means they don’t bump into anything, as they have such a good idea of where everything is going to be. [Source]
That does also then tap into the whole idea about it being less stressful for them. The way in which they can move around with ease, and do so surprisingly quickly, means they have no worries about it being dark, as they are still able to escape from any predators, should they come across something.
Fact 6: Their Hearing is Amazing
Here’s another interesting fact that ties in with their ability to enjoy the dark, and it’s to do with their hearing. In the case of the guinea pig, their hearing is far superior to a human ear, and that does mean the dark is less scary for them than you may have imagined.
It means that a wild guinea pig is alerted to any noise near it, and that’s pretty much no matter how quiet or subtle the noise may be.
This helps them in two different ways. It not only let’s them know about any potential threat in the area, but it also makes it easier for them to orientate themselves to where they are. Both of these reasons will reduce the anxiety that they feel, and that’s always a good thing for a guinea pig.
Fact 7: They Use Whiskers to Basically Feel Around in the Dark
Those whiskers you see on your guinea pig are not simply there for some added sense of them looking cute. Instead, your guinea pig has a very specific reason for them to exist.
A guinea pig uses them in order to effectively feel around even when it’s dark. They don’t feel inhibited just because there’s no light, and that they are close to being blind at night.
These hairs at their muzzle will allow them to judge the size of gaps, and also let them know where the path forward is going to be. This is all part of their ability to still navigate even when it’s dark.
Fact 8: You Don’t Have to Supply Them With Any Light
Some owners have been known to provide their guinea pig with something that is akin to a night light as they feel that this is going to help them feel more settled. Well, there’s no need for that to happen.
Your guinea pig is able to survive in the wild without having any sort of light when it’s dark, so it’s their natural instinct to be able to do this even when they live in your home. You can keep everything as dark as you want, and your guinea pig is capable of surviving quite easily without it.
Actually, the most important thing you can do to help your guinea pig when it’s dark is to make sure that there are no surprises when it comes to sudden noises. Remember how we can jump at a surprising sound? Well, your guinea pig will react even to noises that do not make us jump, as they are that nervous.
Fact 9: They Get Up to All Sorts of Adventures
As your guinea pig is more active at dawn and dusk, it does mean they can be quite active in the dead of night. So, if you get up and hear scurrying around, then they are simply acting like a normal guinea pig.
You will often find that they will be grooming one another, if you have more than one guinea pig, or they will be playing away quite content with their life. You will also find them exploring their enclosure and checking out what’s going on, and this is all completely normal.
Keep in mind that they would feel more relaxed in the wild at this time, so they would be exploring their area, and searching for something to eat, while it’s dark. That means they could be chomping away at their food during this time, so those veggies may have vanished by the time you get up in the morning.
Fact 10: It’s Cooler
This is an important point that explains why it’s the natural instinct for a guinea pig to be more active at dawn and dusk, and it’s all to do with the way in which your guinea pig will find it rather easy to overheat. Of course, this is less of a problem when they live in your home, as the heat is closely regulated, but they cannot do this in the wild.
Considering a guinea pig will often live in a warmer climate, it does mean that overheating is a serious concern. They then come out and deal with everything at dusk and dawn as it’s the best time of day from a temperature perspective, as well as being safer from those predators.
This type of behavior is carried on into your pet as it’s a natural instinct. They feel quite comfortable with the temperature, and that helps them to become more active at this time. In other words, don’t put the heating up as they won’t thank you for it.
Fact 11: They Can Sleep Better
Now, so far, we have been covering reasons why your guinea pig loves the dark, and we have made it sound as if they are highly active during this time, but that’s only part of the story.
Instead, your guinea pig is also going to enjoy sleeping while it’s dark. Remember, crepuscular means they are mainly active at dawn and dusk. It doesn’t mean they are highly active in the dead of night.
The truth is that your guinea pig is going to have a wonderful sleep in the middle of the night. They can do this due to the way in which they feel more relaxed when it’s dark, as they are aware that they have to contend with fewer dangers.
This knowledge creates a more calming atmosphere, and your guinea pig will love this. It does mean they will tend to have a longer nap during the night compared to what they would normally have during the day. However, what we are talking about here is that they will have shorter gaps between snoozing. It doesn’t mean they are going to be sleeping for eight hours a night, as a guinea pig is just not going to be able to do that.
Fact 12: Their Digestion is Better
This fact is related to the stress thing in connection with the dark and your guinea pig, but it’s also going to help their digestion. A guinea pig that is stressed out, and let’s face it, they often are due to being highly anxious, can develop various digestive issues. It can change their poop, just like stress can do with us humans. [Source]
What this then means is a calmer environment, which comes with the dark for a guinea pig, is going to help their digestion to sort itself out, and for their poop to return to normal.
However, that’s only going to happen when you have created a safe environment for them, so if you realize that your guinea pig is having some trouble in that department, then something is going wrong. As their owner, you need to get to the bottom of it all, and take the appropriate action as a chronically stressed guinea pig is not a happy one, and who wants that to happen?
Fact 13: Don’t Suddenly Turn On the Light
OK, so this isn’t strictly a fact about the guinea pig and how they love the dark. Instead, it’s more of a request that will mean you reduce the chances of scaring your guinea pig when they are actually pretty chilled.
If you need to go into the room where you keep your guinea pigs, then don’t put on a main light all of a sudden. That kind of thing can make them jump and scurry off, and their little heart is going to be beating like crazy. Their vision may not be the best in the animal world, but they are still aware that it has suddenly become very light, and they will feel confused as well as scared.
It’s better if you have a smaller light that is softer and not so full on. In a sense, it creates a more subtle change in the environment that won’t freak them out, and we should always be doing what we can to help keep our guinea pigs as calm as possible.
Fact 14: They Will Still Be Up for Cuddles at Night
As long as your guinea pig is not sleeping, then they will still be up for indulging in cuddles and bonding with you even when it’s dark. Actually, as they are more relaxed, it makes it easier for this to happen after they have got to the point of trusting you.
The best way to do this is to spend time bonding with them when it’s dusk. They are more active at this point, but if you see them moving around and doing all sorts of guinea pig things in the dark, then make soft noises to let them know you are there. Never just appear and make a loud noise, that will scare them. Instead, be soft and gentle before restarting your bonding session.
So, there you go, 14 facts all about how your guinea pig loves the dark, and when you read through them, it’s easy to see as to why this is the case. All that’s going on is that your guinea pig is bringing forward their natural instinct from the wild, but the most important thing of all is the way in which it means they are less stressed and more relaxed.
Work at creating that perfect environment for them, and make sure they are able to have fun, sleep, eat and generally run around if they desire to do so. Don’t worry about them in the dark as they can get around without any problems. After all, they have honed their natural skills over time, so your pet guinea pig will find being in their enclosure to be a breeze even when it’s dark.