Do Guinea Pigs Hibernate? (Everything You Need to Know)

Do guinea pigs hibernate?

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Pet moms and dads who consider housing their guinea pigs outdoors commonly ask themselves whether their pets can hibernate. I have asked myself this same question, so I took some time to research it.

What I found is that guinea pigs do not hibernate. However, they will decrease their metabolic process and activity to keep warm throughout the colder temperatures.

Reducing their heart rate helps them save energy while staying warm.

This sounds a lot like hibernation to me, but is it?

Let me ask the question again and see if I can get a straight answer this time. Knowing whether guinea pigs hibernate is essential to keep these furry family members healthy and safe.

Do Guinea Pigs Hibernate?

Guinea pigs do not hibernate like other rodents but can go into a deep sleep called torpor. This protective mechanism helps conserve food and energy during the cold months.

Because guinea pigs are from South America, it’s natural to wonder whether they hibernate. Hibernation is a common practice among many animals to help conserve energy during times of scarcity, such as winter.

Specifically, torpor is a natural defense mechanism that allows guinea pigs to stay warm while conserving their food.

During torpor, guinea pigs will not drink or eat. However, despite going into torpor, which must be distinguished from hibernation, they may suffer from hypothermia if the temperature drops too low, which can lead to death.

Some breeds of guinea pigs can also go into torpor if they are not provided with adequate food and water. If this happens, you should take them to a veterinarian right away.

If you have a guinea pig, you must keep it warm and comfortable.

Consider providing your guinea pig with extra bedding or using blankets or old clothes as insulation. Also, consider providing a heated pad for your piggies.

Guinea Pig Care in Winter

Picture of a guinea pig in winter.

During the winter months, it is essential to take extra steps to ensure the health and safety of your guinea pigs.

Rapid temperature changes can be dangerous for their health. Thus, providing them with a warm environment is key to keeping them healthy.

A heated pad in your guinea pig cage is an excellent way to keep them warm. Although they are not as powerful as the heaters used for humans, they provide a warm area for your guinea pig.

Old socks stuffed with rice can also give your guinea pig extra warmth. Place the sock in a warmer and microwave it for 60 seconds. This will heat the rice and keep the sock warm for hours.

A heated hutch is also an excellent way to keep your guinea pigs warm during winter. These hutches should be insulated to prevent heat loss. The hutch should also have a tarp covering it to keep rain from getting in.

You can also use old plastic lunch boxes lined with thick fleece. Use binder clips to keep the fleece in place.

Old towels can also be used as bedding. Guinea pigs love to snuggle. So cuddling with old blankets and towels is one way to keep them warm.

A hot water bottle can also be placed in the cage to keep your guinea pig warm. You can even wrap a cloth around the bottle to keep it warm.

Guinea Pig Sleeping Habits

Picture of guinea pigs sleeping

Among pets, guinea pigs have a unique sleep pattern. They sleep in small bursts throughout the day. Some of these bursts can last up to 30 minutes.

The sleep cycle of a guinea pig is unique, and it may be unclear to you as a new owner. Aside from their irregular sleep patterns, they are also highly active during the day and night (although they aren’t strictly “nocturnal” even though they may be active during the night).

Their sleep is based on a crepuscular schedule, meaning they are active during the twilight hours, equivalent to dawn and dusk.

Although not scientifically proven, most animals dislike total darkness, so they use light to determine their schedules.

Guinea pigs can also detect predators and are naturally trained to stay alert. In addition, keeping their eyes open while they sleep is a valuable safety measure, as they can spot predators and may be able to avoid them.

When sleeping, guinea pigs may lie on their side, lay on their backs, or even lean their heads on something. In addition, while their eyes are typically open while they sleep, they may close them for a few seconds.

Ideal Temperature for Guinea Pigs

During the winter months, guinea pigs need to be kept warm. They are warm-blooded animals and do not survive very well in cold temperatures.

In cold temperatures, they can become sluggish and slow. Therefore, providing them with a warm and dry habitat is also essential.

An excellent way to keep your guinea pigs warm is to keep them in a heated hutch. The temperature should be around 65°F (18°C) to 75°F (24°C).

It is a good idea to check your guinea pigs’ temperature regularly. You can do this by using an external rectal thermometer. If its temperature is below 60°F (15°C), you may want to relocate them.

How to Keep a Guinea Pig Warm

Picture of a person snuggling a guinea pig

During the winter months, guinea pigs need extra warmth. This is because they cannot sweat to cool themselves, and their bodies cannot produce enough heat to maintain their body temperature.

If they do not get enough heat, they will get hypothermia, which is dangerous and even deadly.

To keep your guinea pig warm during the winter, you first need to create an environment that will keep them warm. It’s best to keep them indoors, especially during cold seasons.

It is a good idea to place a blanket or a heated pad in the hutch to help keep it warm. Heated pads are made of solid plastic and have a fleece covering.

The pad will automatically adjust the temperature to meet the animal’s needs.

Your piggies mustn’t be confined to a small area. You can also use blankets or old clothes to insulate them.

If your piggies are sluggish or show mental inactivity, they may be suffering from hypothermia. If this is the case, they should be taken to a vet immediately.

You should also ensure that your guinea pig has plenty of fresh water and is provided with a balanced diet.

Adding avocados, carrots, and kale to your guinea pig’s diet is a great way to ensure they get the proper nutrients.

Can Guinea Pigs be Kept Outside?

Keeping guinea pigs outside in hutches is not a good idea. Unless sheltered, piggies can become cold and ill in even the warmest weather.

It’s also a dangerous place for them to be because predators can attack. They can also be subjected to flystrike, which causes larvae to hatch from your pet’s flesh.

Also, please note that guinea pigs can get heatstroke in temperatures over 78°F (26°C) and freeze to death if they’re not kept warm. So they need a temperature range of 65°F (18°C) to 75°F (24°C).

Nevertheless, if you must keep your guinea pigs outside, make sure you provide them with a secure area. You can either build a hutch, run, or shed.

Make sure that your hutch is weather-proof and predator-proof. If you have a run, ensure a sturdy fence or wire encloses it.

The hutch is a large box made of wood raised off the ground. It comes with mesh fronts for ventilation. It also provides a secure place for your guinea pigs to get out of the rain.

If you choose to use a shed, ensure it has sides and is large enough to protect your guinea pigs.

It would help if you also considered purchasing a pet-safe heating pad. These can keep your guinea pig warm even in the colder months.

You can buy pet heating pads in many different sizes. Some of them are even heated to your guinea pig’s body temperature.

Final Verdict – Guinea Pigs Do Not Hibernate

Since we now know that guinea pigs do not hibernate, any uncommon decrease in their activity must not be dismissed.

Focus on guaranteeing all of your guinea pig’s requirements are fulfilled and look for a veterinarian’s assistance if their habits are unusual. For example, a diminished activity level, appetite, drop in body temperature, and reduced excretion might be a cause for concern.

Frequently Asked Questions

Additional Sources & Resources

  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9329049/
  • https://vet.purdue.edu/hospital/small-animal/primary-care/documents/CareofGuineaPigs.pdf
  • https://news.okstate.edu/articles/communications/2020/guinea-pigs-as-pets.html
  • https://dora.missouri.edu/guinea-pig/
  • http://bioweb.uwlax.edu/bio203/s2008/nickel_sara/classification.htm

We also have a number of other guides related to guinea pigs, including:

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