Many guinea pig’s owners are surprised when they discover that their guinea pigs almost always have their eyes open, even when they sleep. This leads to many misunderstandings and questions such as do guinea pigs ever close their eyes or do guinea pigs close their eyes when sleeping? This is also why many people think that guinea pigs are nocturnal animals, which isn’t the truth.
So, can guinea pigs close their eyes? Guinea pigs can close their eyes but they don’t do it very often. Unlike humans, guinea pigs will keep their eyes open for the majority of the time, even when they are sleeping. They will close their eyes only if they feel comfortable and safe in their surroundings. They blink to clear debris from their eyes.
Guinea pigs use their eyes very differently from humans. If you notice that your guinea pig always seems awake and alert, do not worry – this is entirely normal. Although you may not see it very often, guinea pigs can close their eyes and blink.
In the following section you can read more about guinea pig’s eyes, find out why our guinea pig’s don’t close them and why do they sleep with their eyes open. Let’s begin!
Why Doesn’t My Guinea Pig Close Its Eyes?
After you adopt your guinea pig, the first thing that you will notice is that they almost never close their eyes and you might even begin to worry that there is something wrong with your pet. Guinea pigs are prey animals who are used to danger and attacks from larger predators. Guinea pigs will keep their eyes open to remaining alert. In case any form of threat arises, this behavior allows them to quickly run to safety. Even though your guinea pig is domesticated and living the good life in a comfortable cage this behavior is an instinct to them.
Guinea pigs even sleep with their eyes open. Your pet will only sleep with its eyes closed when it feels completely safe. This is a behavior you will rarely see since guinea pigs hide in order to feel secure. If you catch your guinea pig laying down with its eyes mostly open and it doesn’t seem alert or engaged with you or its cage mates, do your best not to disturb your pet as it might be sleeping. Guinea pigs love their sleep just as much as humans.
Do Guinea Pigs Have Good Vision?
The reason why guinea pigs keep their eyes open has nothing to do with their vision. Guinea pigs have big eyes that are very expressive. They are naturally near-sighted and they can see different colors. Their eyes slightly stick out from their face on the sides, which gives them a special perspective of their surroundings. Guinea pigs can see down the whole length of their tiny bodies. This allows them to be more aware of their environment.
Guinea pigs will keep their eyes open to protect themselves from any possible threat but they are also naturally curious and social animals. Most of the time, when they are safe in their cage, they are just observing you and the activity outside of their cage.
If you and your guinea pig have a close relationship, they can sense when you are near, even if they can’t see you. Your pet may also meet you at the door of the cage, especially when its meal or treat time!
How Do Guinea Pigs Sleep with Their Eyes Open?
Since you will very rarely catch your guinea pig with its eyes closed, you may think that they don’t sleep that much. Honestly, your guinea pig probably sleeps more than you. Before guinea pigs were domesticated, they lived in the wild on one of the lowest levels of the food chain. They were prey to other wild animals.
Although they move fast to greet you, guinea pigs could rarely outrun a larger predator in nature. Over time, natural selection ensured the survival of guinea pigs by creating a new breed that could sleep with their eyes open.
Today, even though guinea pigs are domesticated, they still sleep with their eyes open. If you ever noticed your guinea pig laying around their cage with their eyes open, or partially open, they are probably taking a nap or resting. As you bond with your pet, you will learn the difference between your guinea pig’s behavior when they are sleeping and when they are awake.
Guinea pigs are very active during their waking hours. They take small naps throughout the day and night and they remain awake and active (and eating!) for the rest of the time. However, they may sync up with your schedule, which means that they will settle down when you go to sleep.
This isn’t always the case with guinea pigs. Sometimes your pets may feel more comfortable roaming and playing at night since there is less activity around (click to see if guinea pigs are loud at night).
In the rare event that you catch your guinea pig sleeping with its eyes closed, this means that it feels entirely safe and comfortable. They are more likely to sleep with their eyes closed when surrounded by their cage mates than when they are alone in the cage. Guinea pigs who share a cage have a close bond, and they will often huddle and sleep together. This makes them feel protected, especially if they are in their sleeping den.
Do Guinea Pigs Blink?
Since guinea pigs keep their eyes open most of the time, you may not know that your pet also has eyelids. Guinea pigs have eyelids and they can blink just like humans but they blink for different reasons. Humans instinctually blink, while guinea pigs do not have this habit and it is more of a controlled behavior for them.
Since guinea pig’s eyes are located on the side of their head, small bits of debris can easily enter their eyes. They blink to clear their eyes and eyelids of dust, pieces of bedding, and hay that may have accumulated in their eyes. Since guinea pigs’ bodies are so close to the ground, this is something that occurs very often. You will most likely see your guinea pig blink more than while they are sleeping with their eyes completely closed. This is their way of keeping their eyes healthy.
Should I Give My Guinea Pigs Eye Drops?
Since your guinea pig keeps its eyes open most of the time, you may be tempted to give them eye drops to keep their eyes from drying out. This is entirely unnecessary unless this was directed by a veterinarian. You should never attempt any pet-related medical treatment without the consultation of a professional.
What Should I Do If Something Gets in My Guinea Pig’s Eyes?
Although guinea pigs blink to clear their eyes from debris, this doesn’t always remove larger pieces. If these pieces of hay or dirty bedding remain in their eyes, they will irritate them. If your guinea pig eyes become red, inflamed, or swollen do not try to remove anything from them. Bring your pet to your local exotic veterinarian for treatment. You can sometimes do more harm even if you are trying to help your pet.
Guinea pigs are very social animals and they love attention. The best way to bond with your pet is to engage and cuddle with them. They will learn to love your touch and affection. When gently petting your guinea pig during these cuddle sessions, you may notice that your guinea pig sometimes closes its eyes. If this happens, this means that your pet trusts you and feels completely safe and secure around you. This is a victory for any guinea pig owner!
List of Sources
Shanidze, N. M., Coordination of Eye and Head Movements in Cavia Porcellus, 2011.
Williams, D. L., Ophthalmology of Exotic Pets, Wiley Online Library, 2012.
Jacobs, G. H., Deegan, J. F., Spectral Sensitivity, Photopigments, and Color Vision in the Guinea Pig (Cavia porcellus), Behavioral Neuroscience, 1994.
Zhou, X., Qu, J., Xie, R., Wang, R., Jiang, L., Zhao, H., Wen, J., Lu, F., Normal development of refractive state and ocular dimensions in guinea pigs, Vision research, 2006.
Friedlaender, M. H., Cyr, R., Contact sensitivity in the guinea pig eye, Current eye research, 1981.