Guinea pigs are pretty famous and interesting because of their eyes. Their eyes stay open for the majority of the time, even while sleeping. It’s known that guinea pigs are not blind, but the quality of their eyesight is debatable.
What about their color vision? Are guinea pigs color blind or can they see different colors just like us humans? If you search the internet whether guinea pigs see colors or not, you will find many different opinions based on scientific research or people’s stories.
So, can guinea pigs see color? Guinea pigs can see colors. They have a dichromatic color vision which means that they have two types of functioning color receptors or cone cells in their eyes. So, guinea pigs can distinguish different colors, but not so good as humans. Many experiments made by scientists and stories by guinea pig’s owners prove that guinea pigs can see in color.
In the following sections, we will talk more about the guinea pig’s color vision and different studies made on them to prove our initial claim that they can in fact see in color. Let’s start!
Experiments That Prove Guinea Pig’s Color Vision
Experiment Made by Scientists
Scientists tested guinea pigs by putting lettuce a vegetable without much of a smell in a colored bowl. In this experiment, they used multiple different colored bowls like red, blue, green, and yellow. They put the lettuce in the same bowl (for example red) every time, and the guinea pigs had to recognize which of the bowls had lettuce. They succeeded in recognizing the bowl (red) with lettuce multiple times, and they would succeed in this even if the bowls were rearranged.
This experiment shows that guinea pigs can be trained to associate food with colors. To do that, they need to see in color.
Experiment Made by Students
This experiment is about whether guinea pigs have color preferences or not. A bunch of students put four guinea pigs (three females and a male) in the same cage. Four different colored bowls and water bottles (red, green, blue, yellow) were placed in the cage as well.
Occasionally, there were given food in a black bowl. They were given the same amount of food and water in every container. The students recorded the data throughout three months.
They expected green would be guinea pigs’ choice just because they are used to this color as they eat green foods. For example, the grass is green, and nature is associated with green as well. Guinea pigs are alert animals, and they need to find comfort in things they already know. This is why the students were very surprised about the experiment’s actual results.
Results are kind of interesting and somehow not very useful. First of all, the guinea pigs never ate from the black bowl. Secondly, the results showed that they ate the most from the yellow bowl. They drank water mostly from the blue water bottle.
There is definitely no scientific explanation for this, and this is the part where we can say that this is not very useful. This experiment is irrelevant because color preference cannot be established based on four guinea pigs. The experiment would have been a lot more accurate if there were a lot more guinea pigs of different ages, genders and not influencing one another.
So, we would not consider this study relevant when talking about guinea pig’s color preferences but it can be proved that they really distinguish colors (because of that black bowl).
More Information About Their Dichromatic Vision
According to scientific discoveries about guinea pig’s color spectrum, studies say that guinea pigs have a dichromatic vision. Guinea pigs have a color vision of limited type and only two types of cone cells, or photoreceptor cells. It is thought that guinea pigs can differentiate red, yellow, blue, and green, with sensitivity to green.
Also, according to research, guinea pigs have rod cells with a peak sensitivity of about 494 nm. So, the researchers suggest that the guinea pig’s eye contains three classes of photopigments. One is a rod pigment, and the other two are the cone photopigments.
Scientists say that guinea pigs see much better than most animals. Some sources claim that guinea pigs can see 33 images per second while humans can only see 22 images per second. This means they see the dynamic motions more accurately than humans.
Their vision range is about 340 degrees, while people have a 180 to 200 degrees range of vision. This is allowing them to see their surroundings without moving. This ability is one of their adaptation in nature: they are prey animals, and they need to be alert and cautious every single second.
Proofs Based on People’s Stories
There are a lot of online forums talking about guinea pig’s sight. Most guinea pig owners think that their beloved little pets can distinguish colors. This is because these rodents have different reactions when seeing different colors.
For example, a lot of girls wrote on forums that whenever they wear bright-colored nail polish, guinea pigs would lick their fingers or toes. Almost the same thing goes for clothing, their cage accessories, and hideouts. Some guinea pig’s owners reported that their guinea pigs prefer hideouts that are brighter in color than the ones with dark color.
Do Guinea Pigs See in the Dark?
There are some speculations that they actually see in the dark, at least that they have limited vision in the dark (3 to 5 feet away). Although, we cannot be sure because they have a well-developed smell and ears. Their whiskers also play an important role at night. These three things are the trio that helps guinea pigs move around at night. This is the reason behind our confusion: we cannot know for sure how developed is their vision in the dark.
Why Do Some Scientists Think Guinea Pigs Have Poor Eyesight?
Some things may be contradictory and can confuse a lot of people. Guinea pigs can distinguish colors and see 33 images per second which is more than humans, but somehow they have poor eyesight? This phenomenon can be explained quite easily.
Basically, it goes like this; guinea pigs don’t have good eyesight because they really don’t need it. They have adapted in different ways to survive in nature. The only thing they need to see are movements and not clear details.
Animals, in general, adapt to their environment, whatever that is, in order to survive. Now, let’s take our particular case. Guinea pigs are definitely prey animals, so their main goal is to survive by keeping themselves away from danger/predators. Logically, they need to see accurately, as any second might save or take their lives.
Prey animals play dead when they sense danger, so it’s very important for them to be able to see the predator without moving at all. This is why they don’t need good eyesight, and they just need to see at a wide-angle (as they actually do). If they see the predator in detail, they are going to be scared even more.
In addition, it makes sense for them to distinguish colors because it might be their way of actually seeing movement around them.
The last reason why they don’t really need good eyesight is, as we’ve already said, is their sense of smell, hearing, and whiskers which help them identify obstacles and enable them to move around freely.
What Is a Guinea Pig’s Favorite Color?
There is no evidence to point to favorite color for guinea pigs. As we have already said, students from the experiment didn’t quite prove that guinea pigs actually have color preferences.
Guinea pigs might be more excited when seeing a bright color just because it stands out more; this doesn’t mean that they prefer bright colors. Being equally impartial, it’s the same with green color. Just because they are used to seeing green, they do not necessarily prefer it.
Another thing is that even though guinea pigs are not as evolved as humans, they are considered to be pets with personality. That would mean that every guinea pig has its own favorite color.
Many owners are trying to find out if they can make their little pet’s life better or in other words, to see if guinea pigs have color preferences.
We cannot be sure of any of this. Based on a lot of different studies and opinions, guinea pigs definitely can distinguish colors. They have a tendency to be a little more excited when seeing a bright color from the yellow-red spectrum (according to forums).
Hopefully, we have helped you understand your guinea pig better. Take care of your cute pet and best of luck!
List of Sources
Jacobs, G. H., Deegan, J. F., Spectral Sensitivity, Photopigments, and Color Vision in the Guinea Pig (Cavia porcellus), Behavioral Neuroscience, 1994.
Miles, R. C., Ratoosh, P., Meyer, D. R., Absence of color vision in guinea pig, Journal of neurophysiology, 1956.
Jacobs, G. H., The distribution and nature of colour vision among the mammals, Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 1993.
Jacobs, G. H., Evolution of colour vision in mammals, Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 2009.
Shanidze, N. M., Coordination of Eye and Head Movements in Cavia Porcellus, 2011.
Williams, D. L., Ophthalmology of Exotic Pets, Wiley Online Library, 2012.