Do Guinea Pigs Dream and Can They Have Nightmares?

Do Guinea Pigs Dream And Can They Have Nightmares

Guinea pigs, much like other mammals, need sleep. They sleep for approximately 9 to 12 hours a day. It is important to note that they do no sleep for a few blocks of hours but they usually take short naps through 24 hours. This, in the end, accumulates to 9 to 12 hours of sleep a day.

Also, guinea pigs can sleep with their eyes open and their naps are usually around 10 minutes long. But back to the main topic, are guinea pigs capable of dreaming and having nightmares?

Do guinea pigs dream? Yes, guinea pigs do dream. Guinea pigs have different stages of sleep and they can dream only during the REM stage (rapid eye movement sleep). Daily REM time in guinea pigs is around 1 hour and this stage is only about 10% of their total amount of sleep. Now, can guinea pigs have nightmares? We can only presume that guinea pigs can experience dreams, that can be in some cases defined as nightmares. Also, people shouldn’t try to compare our dreams to theirs as our anatomy and perceptions of the world are quite different from theirs.

Every mammal dreams, whether it’s a dog, a cat or any other animal. Contents of their dreams are almost impossible to interpret. We can’t know the content of guinea pig’s dreams since they can’t talk.

But, we can maybe see or presume by watching the guinea pig sleep when they are having nightmares. Twitching or similar movements during their sleep could indicate this but it is not a proven fact. Now, let’s examine different stages of guinea pig’s sleep and see when can guinea pigs dream.

Guinea Pig Dream | Stages of Sleep in Guinea Pigs

Guinea Pig Dream Stages of Sleep in Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs can have different sleep patterns, this happens because they can synchronize with the owner’s life schedule. This means that this animal can either sleep through the night or simply sleep multiple times a day. The amount of sleep they get drastically influences the dreaming sequences.

For example, if guinea pigs take most of their naps during the day, dreams are less likely to occur. However, if your guinea pig sleeps at night for a long period, it will successfully pass through the several sleeping stages of sleep.

Related: Are Guinea Pigs Nocturnal? | Guinea Pig Sleeping Habits

Humans begin their sleep with a light sleep where we can easily be wakened up and progress towards the deeper sleep. Also, we have a well-known REM stage which usually involves dreaming and increased brain activity during the rapid eye movement. Now, let’s see what happens with guinea pigs.


Stage 1

Guinea pigs pass through this stage very quickly, and during this stage, dreaming is impossible. This stage is the time when your guinea pig is still somewhat awake, but their eyes are moving much slower, and the muscle activity is much lower. Since guinea pigs can sleep with their eyes open, this you will very often see this stage of sleep in guinea pigs without even being aware that they are sleeping.

The reason behind this is that guinea pigs are prey animals and they have evolved this ability to stay one step ahead of its predator.


Stage 2

Stage 2 is just close enough to complete deep sleep. In guinea pigs, this stage lasts even shorter and it is immediately followed by a stage 3. However, during stage 2, the brain waves are much slower, and the heart starts beating much slower, preparing the body for deep sleep.


Stage 3

Stage 3 is simply a deep sleep and although guinea pig’s deep sleep is much different than human’s deep sleep, they still can experience it. During this stage, the brain emits very slow waves which are often called delta waves, and in some cases, these are combined with fast waves.

This stage represents a transition between NREM and REM sleep. NREM sleep is non-rapid eye movement sleep and REM is rapid eye movement sleep, during which dreams can occur.


REM Sleep | Guinea Pig Dream Stage

Finally, this is the stage in which guinea pigs and all mammals dream. Interestingly enough, the brain waves in this stage are very similar if not the same as if a guinea pig is awake.

Rapid eye movement means that the eyes move from side to side as a result of intense dreams and brain activity occurring during this stage. The same applies to guinea pigs as they can often express emotions from the dreams quite intensely.

Some guinea pigs owners even mentioned seeing their guinea pig rapidly moving eyes in their REM stage of sleep, which is pretty interesting. Some of them even mentioned seeing the guinea pig chewing with their empty mouth while asleep, and the list goes on and on.

If we compare that to human behavior during sleep, similarities can be found. But, humans sometimes exaggerate and even perform sleepwalking or have night terrors.

That’s not to say that guinea pigs can’t have the same sensations. In fact, we can presume that guinea pigs can also have night terrors as a product of nightmares and overall bad dreams.


What Do Guinea Pigs Dream Of?

What Do Guinea Pigs Dream Of

This is a tricky question and it is almost impossible to give a solid answer. The reason for that is because animals can’t talk and it is very hard for them to express their feelings and experiences to us. However, you can sometimes try to interpret what the guinea pig is dreaming, simply by examining its behavior during the deep sleep (REM stage).

As it is a similar case with humans, if the guinea pig seems overly anxious, chews, and sometimes produces unpleasant sounds, there are chances that it is having a nightmare. But, what if the guinea pig doesn’t show any signs of having a dream?

Well, in most cases, that means the dream isn’t disturbing or isn’t disturbing enough to cause the animal to show a reaction. It’s probably dreaming of some stuff that it has done that day or simply ruminating about stuff from the past. That’s simply a healthy dreaming.

Related: Are Guinea Pigs Loud at Night?


Can Certain Events Trigger Nightmares in Guinea Pigs?

Much like humans, guinea pigs dream could be dreaming of the stuff they’ve done before or simply have a mixture of past events and some future thinking. The lifestyle of the animal can drastically impact their dreams.

If you don’t take care of your guinea pigs like you should, it can have nightmares or even various sensations during the dream. If it’s hungry, it can dream of food or even refuse to sleep! This is not a joke, guinea pigs are very smart animals.

If it lives a peaceful life and enjoys your company, a guinea pig could dream about good stuff like you petting it or giving it delicious portions of food.

When it comes to pregnant female guinea pigs, they could also have bad dreams. Females who are pregnant or who just gave birth are extremely prone to being anxious and have nightmares. These nightmares can either could be something bad happening to its new-born pigs or something completely different.

Note: Everything that is related to the content of guinea pig’s dreams is just an assumption based on certain facts that we are familiar with.


How to Recognize When Your Guinea Pig Is Dreaming

This one is pretty simple. If you ever saw a human dreaming, you will be easily able to recognize when your guinea pig friend is having a dream sequence. While humans dream, our muscles are sometimes twitching, and our eyes are almost always moving around, especially during the REM stage.

The guinea pig’s behavior is pretty similar to that. Many owners reported seeing their guinea pigs twitching and even producing sounds that sound strange. However, this isn’t any reason for concern in most cases.

Your guinea pig is having a dream, and that’s all. But, since guinea pigs often sleep when they’re alone or in their cage, it’s unlikely that you’ll see things like that except if you do it on purpose. Comparing guinea pig’s dreaming to let’s that of a dog, you will see very similar results.

Dogs can also dream, and they sometimes show it by twitching or moving in an erratic pattern. In this regard, the guinea pigs aren’t all that different from the other animals.


Guinea Pig Dreaming: Examples of Typical Behavior During REM Stage

The first typical behavior is, of course, rapid eye movement. This is the first proof that your guinea pig is dreaming. As much as this can look terrifying, it is not a reason to worry. Since guinea pigs can sleep with their eyes open, in some cases it is possible to see their eyes moving up and down, as well as from side to side. This indicates that your guinea pig is going through the REM stage of their sleep.

Chewing is another typical behavior that many owners have reported. This one is very common among guinea pigs. Some even speculate that the guinea pig is probably dreaming of food when doing this, but who knows as it could be dreaming of something else!

Finally, we have the twitching of their body. The twitching is a body’s response to slow brain waves accompanied by the fast waves. While the slow waves are here to calm down their bodies, the fast waves could occur at some point, leading to muscle twitching and flexing.

This also happens to humans as well and it’s not a reason to worry. In some cases, this could indicate that the nightmare is happening, although there is no certain proof that this is true.

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Summary

Now you know that your guinea pigs could be dreaming of something while taking a nap. Guinea pigs have much more character and intelligence than many people think. Although these tiny animals were living in less urban areas, their domestication has led them to behave in a way that makes them great animals to have in any household.

They can probably dream about everything that is in close relation to their daily lives. As an owner, do everything to please your guinea pig and provide it with the excellent living conditions and the guinea pig will be much happier. Which in the end means, that it could have more pleasant dreams as well!

Related: Where Do Guinea Pigs Sleep?


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Kato, T., Masuda, Y., Morimoto, T., Patterns of masseter muscle activities during sleep in guinea pigs, Archives of oral biology, 2007.

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Kato, T., Masuda, Y., Kanayama, H., Nakamura, N., Yoshida, A., Morimoto, T., Heterogeneous activity level of jaw-closing and -opening muscles and its association with arousal levels during sleep in the guinea pig, American journal of physiology. Regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology, 2010.

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Siegel, J. M., Sleep in Animals: A State of Adaptive Inactivity, Sleep Mechanisms and Phylogeny.

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Tobler, I., Franken, P., Sleep homeostasis in the guinea pig: similar response to sleep deprivation in the light and dark period, Neuroscience letters, 1993.

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NC State Veterinary Hospital, Caring for Your Pet Guinea Pig, Exotic Animal Medicine Department.

Clarissa Moolbrock

Clarissa Moolbrock is one of the founders and editor at Guinea Pig Tube. She is also an author of "Complete Guinea Pig Care Guide: The Essential, Practical Guide To All Aspects of Caring for Your Guinea Pigs" (available on Amazon). Being a veterinary technician helping animals and sharing her experience and knowledge with other guinea pig owners is her passion. Her life goal is to popularise guinea pigs as pets and that is why she has started Guinea Pig Tube website.