Guinea pig owners are often asked if their pets close their eyes when they’re asleep, and I wondered about this myself before I got my first guinea pig. I finally decided to do some research on whether or not it is normal behavior for guinea pigs to have their eyes open while they sleep. Here’s what he had to say…

Typically, guinea pigs sleep with their eyes open. In the wild, predators like hawks and wolves would be able to see them sleeping in order to catch them easily. So instead of closing their eyes while sleeping, most guinea pigs keep theirs wide-open so that they don’t miss any potential threats. 

So, how did all this come about? What’s the deal with guinea pigs’ eyes seeming to always be open? Let’s explore together:


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Do Guinea Pigs Have Any Other Unusual Sleeping Habits?

Why Do Guinea Pigs Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

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In the wild, every second counts – especially if you’re a prey animal with few ways to defend yourself (poor piggies!) against potential predators.

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One second can make the difference between becoming a meal or living to raise a new herd of piggie pups.  

Cavies have developed the habit of sleeping with their eyes open to give them an advantage over predators to avoid becoming their next tasty snack.

Think about it.

If your eyes were closed, you’d never if something was sneaking up behind you. You wouldn’t even notice until it was too late. That means you could get eaten before ever having a chance to react.

But if your cavies’ eyes stay open, at least they’ll be aware of anything coming toward them. And they might still have enough time to escape

That’s the genius behind guinea pigs keeping their eyes open.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “But, my piggie isn’t living in the wild. There’s no reason for them to keep their eyes open. They can relax.”

Yeah, nope.

Even domesticated piggies haven’t lost their prey instinct to keep their eyes open. It’s fused into their DNA (like their sleepyhabits) as something that helps protect them from danger – real or imagined.


Predator, Prey, and Sleeping Habits

Guinea pigs always have to be on the lookout for danger since they are such easy prey when they sleep. Even though they’re resting, their open eyes give them protection from any possible threats.

There is a stark difference between the sleeping habits predator and prey animals. For example, predators usually close there eyes while sleeping (hey, it’ a perk of being towards the top of the food chain!) while prey animals like guinea pigs don’t.

It’s only logical that your piggies’ eyes should always be open when sleeping since they don’t have any real physical protection from danger. If something mean and toothy approaches, a guinea pig’s main defense is to get out of dodge – and fast.

Having open eye tricks predators, too – which increases their chances of survival in the wild.

Predators like to sneak up on their prey. When they see a “sleeping” animal with its eyes open, it kind of throws the predator off. They’re like “What? An awake animal? Should I attack? What’s going on?”

If predators can’t instantly decide whether or not their prey is awake, then they might not be as quick to attack. So having open eyes gives the guinea pig a potential advantage.

Plus, the brains of guinea pigs can see things that happen in the world around them even when they sleep. This improves their reaction time to danger, too.


Do Guinea Pigs Have Any Other Unusual Sleeping Habits?

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First, let’s remember that what’s unusual to us is actually vital for survival in our furry friends. (I mean, it’s hard being at rock-bottom of the food chain, right).

Cavies’ sleeping habits (designed for survival) include:

short spans of sleepsnoozing lightlystrategic times awake

1. Short Spans Of Sleep

While humans typically take about eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night, guinea pigs only require four-to-six hours of sleep in a 24 hour span of time (or each day). 

Normally, they doze off for small increments of time – just a few short minutes and they’re awake again!

If your guinea pig is older, he’s likelier to sleep more frequently than younger piggies.

This is because, like us, when cavies age , they tend to drift off more during the day. It’s a way of conserving their energy and giving them enough rest so that they’re healthier for longer periods of time.


2. Light Sleepers

Doing this is another way that guinea pigs try to avoid getting caught by predators.

If you have a guinea pig, you’ll notice that it doesn’t take much to wake him up from his light slumber.

This isn’t surprising.

Reaction time = life expectancy

The faster your piggie is able to react, then the likelier it is to survive. If it misses its chance to escape, then it’s – well, some predator’s meal.

So how does a guinea pig stay alive? It sleeps very lightly!


3. Strategic Times Awake

Unlike most creatures in the world who only have one sleeping time (monophasic), piggies are polyphasic, which means they have multiple segments (or nap times) per day.

Additionally, cavies are crepuscular. This means their main activity times are at dawn and dusk

This doesn’t meant that they’re not active during other times of the day. They’re just more active in the early morning and evening.

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These two behaviors help them conserve energy in small spurts and increase their chances of surviving, because most predators don’t see very well in dim light.


Contrary to popular belief, guinea pigs aren’t nocturnal animals. They’re active whenever or wherever, because they don’t have a set sleepy-bye time.