Do Guinea Pigs Hibernate? Unveiling the Secrets of Guinea Pig Behavior

Guinea pigs can’t talk and depend on their owners to keep them warm and comfortable through winter. When a cavy gets cold, it may become inactive, lose its appetite, or even have difficulty breathing. This behavior may mimic the start of the big winter sleep in some animals, which can leave piggy owners wondering if guinea pigs hibernate.

Guinea pigs do not hibernate and are sensitive to drops in temperature. A cavy that is too cold can die if it is not provided with adequate shelter and care. Cavies require stable environmental temperatures between 65 and 75⁰F to thrive. Anything lower than 60⁰F is too cold.

Bears, groundhogs, bats, chipmunks, and hedgehogs hibernate, but what about guinea pigs? Should cavy owners be concerned that their lively little pets will one day become less active and shut down for a few weeks over winter? Let’s find out.

Do Guinea Pigs Hibernate?

When temperatures drop below 60⁰F, guinea pigs do not go into hibernation. They simply become very uncomfortable, like a human would if they were getting cold.

Guinea pigs are small mammals that are highly sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity. Although cavies are typically more likely to be affected by high temperatures, they are not adapted to cope with extreme cold.

Hibernation is a way that some animals conserve energy to stay alive during times of extreme cold when there isn’t much food available. The ancestors of domestic cavies originate from South America, in areas with more moderate temperatures.

As prey animals, hibernating would also make guinea pigs extremely vulnerable to predators. As temperatures cool, cavies will try to stay warm using mechanisms like huddling together or covering themselves in hay to keep warm.

Some signs to look out for that a piggy is too cold:

  • Shivering
  • The animal may become lethargic.
  • Loss of appetite
  • May curl up or huddle in its bedding more than usual.

Guinea pigs do best in a narrow temperature range between 65 and 75⁰F. Older or younger animals may be more sensitive to extremes in temperature and could quickly get seriously ill or even die if they get too cold.

How Do I Know If My Guinea Pig Is Hibernating?

Guinea pigs do not hibernate. If your piggy is inactive or seems fast asleep on a cold day, it is most likely trying to conserve energy and should immediately be moved to a warmer area.

Pet guinea pigs that receive enough healthy food and are kept in the optimal temperature zone should never show signs of slowing down. Animals kept in outside hutches must be closely monitored to ensure they don’t develop cold-related conditions or freeze to death.

What Is Torpor?

Several online sources mention the term ‘torpor’ to describe the less energetic or unresponsive state that a cold piggy may exhibit. This can be misleading.

Torpor is not the same as a deep sleep. When an animal enters a state of torpor, its body temperature plummets and it uses very little energy. Unlike hibernation, torpor is a short-lived condition that may only last a day or two.

Guinea pigs should never become so cold that their bodies are forced to conserve energy in the same way as animals like bats or hummingbirds. Some animals are specifically adapted to slow down their metabolism for short periods. For guinea pigs, entering a state that resembles torpor means they have become uncomfortably cold.

There is a fine line between a torpor-like state and freezing to death for piggies. They are simply not equipped to deal with very low temperatures. Cavy owners should ensure that the minimum ambient temperature for their pet is always above 60⁰F and below 75⁰F.

What Do Guinea Pigs Do In The Winter?

Just because guinea pigs have fur does not mean they cope well in chilly conditions. Unlike many other rodents, cavies don’t hibernate. Getting too cold can be extremely dangerous or even life-threatening.

When temperatures cool, guinea pigs will try to keep themselves warm. They may huddle close to one another, curl up in cozy hideouts, or bury themselves in hay. All of these measures can only be temporary, though, since piggies must eat almost continuously to stay healthy.

Cavy owners can help their piggies get through the cooler months by being mindful of the following:

  • Remain aware of the ambient temperature – anything below 60⁰F is too cold.
  • Piggies housed in outside hutches must be protected from icy winds and moisture. Cages should be insulated and padded to keep them cozy inside. If possible, move guinea pigs inside during cold weather.
  • Provide extra high-quality food so the animals have more calories to expend on staying warm.
  • Bedding should always be dry. The combination of damp bedding and icy temperatures can be deadly.
  • Add more hay – piggies can eat it and cover themselves in it.
  • Ensure that the guinea pig cage is kept in a draft-free area where the animals won’t experience puffs of cold air each time someone opens a door.
  • Some piggies, especially seniors, can benefit from a pet-safe heating pad in one part of the cage that they can use if they want to.

Why Is My Guinea Pig Not Moving?

A lethargic or unresponsive guinea pig is always an emergency. Since guinea pigs don’t hibernate, causes could include illness, injury, extreme heat or cold. A sick piggy’s condition can deteriorate quickly, so fast action is essential.

If you find your piggy not moving, it should immediately be moved into a safe, comfortable pet carrier and taken to a veterinarian as a matter of urgency. Check the ambient temperature around the cage to ensure that any cage mates remain within the comfortable range of between 65 and 75⁰F.

Cavies may also freeze from fear and remain motionless if they perceive a threat in their environment. This usually only lasts a few minutes until the animal has assessed the situation and feels safe enough to move.

Conclusion

Cavies are not adapted to hibernate and are most comfortable in the narrow temperature range between 65 and 75⁰F. When temperatures fall below 60F, it is too chilly for guinea pigs. They will initially show signs of discomfort like shivering and moving around less, but getting too cold can ultimately be fatal for the small rodents.