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How do Guinea Pigs see? Your questions answered

The article will explore how our guineas see their environment, including color vision, precautions within their cage, interesting facts regarding their eyes, what kinds of light are best, and different eye disorders you may encounter as a guinea pig owner. 

How do guinea pigs see?
Photo credit- Canva

How do guinea pigs see the world?

Guinea pig vision is best within a couple of feet around them. In relation to human vision think of a nearsighted person without glasses.

Able to see up close, but not at distances without glasses.

Guineas can see well for a rodent but still have poor visual acuity, meaning they have difficulty making objects out beyond their sight zone.

  • Depth perception: The guinea has poor depth perception due to the sides of their head. They have a triangular head, and their eyes are set back on each side, but the field of vision does not cross.

They have a wide field of view by having their eyes far apart. In contrast to a human, our eyes are close together using a smaller field of vision but will utilize both eyes to judge depth.

It would be similar if you only had one eye to see with.

Your depth perception is much better, relying on two eyes instead of one.

  • Distance: Cavies have limited eyesight beyond 3 to 5 feet.

Outside the particular range, the guinea pig eye becomes blurry and challenging to make out shapes.

Here is where the visual acuity is very poor and limiting to guinea pig’s eyesight.

  • Other senses: Guinea pigs use their excellent sense of smell, hearing, and memory to navigate their world in addition to their vision.

Since guinea pigs have relatively poor vision, they will need precautions set aside in their cage to keep them safe.

High sidewalls if you have an upper level and sidewalls on any ramp going up to the next level.

The depth perception of our piggies will make it easy for them to fall off any elevated surfaces, leaving them vulnerable to injuries.

Keeping the hay in a holder below eye level will minimize harm to the eye and is a good idea.

It is common for guineas to be poked in the eye due to hay, as they cannot see directly in front of their nose.

guinea pig eye health
Photo credit- Canva

Fascinating facts about guinea pigs’ eyes:

  • 340-degree field of vision– Guineas are on the lookout for possible predators at all times.

They have a freezing technique where they hold completely still but can essentially look all around them for possible exit strategies.

The facial structure of the guinea allows the eyes to see all but right in front of their nose and directly behind them.

The cavy has the advantage of seeing where the threat is coming from and quickly making a decision to avoid it.

  • Eyes almost always open- Our little cavies are prey animals and should try to maintain any advantage possible.

Guinea pigs sleep with their eyes open until entirely comfortable in their environment and rarely blink.

They also only sleep approximately four hours over 24 hours.

They take a series of short naps during those 24 hours.

  • Newborn piggies- are born with their eyes open, ready to take on the world.

Can guinea pigs see in color?

Our guinea pigs see color as similar to a person who is color blind in the human world.

The type of vision is called dichromatic color vision.

They can only see two colors out of the three primary colors (red, yellow, blue).

In contrast to the majority of the human’s vision is known as trichromatic color vision, being able to see all the primary colors. 

The guinea does see the color green well.

There have been scientific studies to prove this.

One will notice when providing green leafy vegetables.

The fact that they see green and in dichromatic color vision begs the theory that they do not see red and its variations nearly as well as blue and yellow combinations.

It makes sense that the color vision of guinea pigs is tailored to what they eat naturally in the wild. 

How do guinea pigs see infographic

When are guinea pigs most active?

The guinea pig is most active during sun up and sundown (twilight).

The group of animals that are most active during these hours is known as crepuscular.

Examples of other mammals in the crepuscular family include rabbits, deer, opossum, and even skunks.

Desert animals are the most common crepuscular animals.

They are out of the scorching sun and in bed before the frigid nights.

In contrast, the rat and mouse are nocturnal animals, which means they are awake at night.

These rodents rely heavily on their sense of smell, hearing, and touch with their whiskers.

These rodents do not see with night vision either, as they do not have it. 

Please be advised a guinea pig can be awake at night, creating a lot of noise.

When they are in their cage during dark environments, they remember their way around the cage. The way guineas remember is similar to a human being walking through their house in the dark.

One knows where light switches, couches, tables, etc., exist within the house when the lights are off and will avoid running into them.

Your guinea will do the same thing within the cage using their excellent memory as a guide.

It is unnecessary to use a night light near your pet’s cage.

Your cavy will do best with a natural day-night cycle, as it will not confuse them thinking it is earlier than it is.

Leaving your pets exposed to what happens in nature is the best way to keep your pet healthy and happy.

Your cavies will decide when they want to be awake on their own.

They will eventually be family members to interact with on their terms.

Still, they should look to enjoy your company as they are social animals.

guinea pigs eyes

What kind of light is best for guinea pigs?

Proper care of your guinea pig includes providing diffused light near your pet’s cage.

See-through or partially see-through curtains work well to decrease direct light.

Direct sunlight is poor, as it will overheat our piggies and make it difficult for them to see.

Like human eyes, guinea pigs have a hard time seeing well in really bright light.

Wild guinea pigs use tree and shrub coverage to diffuse light during the day.

Providing proper light to your cavies will keep them happy and healthy. 

Did you know? Guinea Pigs can only see 3-5 feet in front of them

What eye diseases do guinea pigs have?

From most common to least common:

  • Nuclear Sclerosis- A white, blue, or yellow milky pattern appears in the center of the eye.

It develops slowly over time and gradually decreases vision in the normal eye.

Generally, it occurs as the guinea gets older and the eye lens becomes more firm.

It is a common occurrence in older guineas.

The pattern can lead to cataracts over time for some.

  • Cataracts- A cloudiness within the lens of the eye creates a thickened lens that will reduce how clear the guinea sees.

These often develop with age, but can also happen due to diabetes, injury, and increased sun exposure.

They will need to be surgically removed by a trained vet in this specialty to return their sight. 

  • Eye infections like; Conjunctivitis- Also known as “pink eye,” is redness surrounding the eye with discharge.

The discharge is usually a white milky substance.

The eye can look like it is “squinting” at you. Your pig either has an infection or lacks vitamin C.

If infected, it’s almost exclusively bacterial.

Still, viral, fungal, and parasitic are possible considerations.

If your guinea lacks vitamin c, pay attention to your sources of the vitamin and provide additional supplementation.

Speak with a vet if a new discharge is coming from the eyes or you notice redness surrounding the eyes.

If the eye(s) is infected, it is highly contagious and will require additional treatment to any cage mates.

  • Corneal ulcers- or keratitis are an infection of the eye’s cornea.

The cornea is the most visible part of the eye, being the area that is the eye’s outer layer.

It helps prevent debris from entering the eye.

An ulcer is an open sore on the cornea.

It will be essential to pay attention to your guinea’s eyes for irregularities.

A cavies corneas are not sensitive like humans, and guineas rarely blink, leaving them open to eye diseases.

Ulcers can happen if the eye is poked, say with hay, or an eyelash overgrowth into the eyeball.

Corneal ulcers are most common due to a lack of vitamin C.

Scurvy will dry out mucous membranes, including the eye, leaving it susceptible to infection.

Did you know your guinea pig doesn’t need a night light? It could confuse their night and days.

In conclusion;

It turns out our cavy’s vision is tailored around their needs and how they live in the wild.

They have poor depth perception and vision limited to 3-5 feet surrounding them before it gets blurry.

They are able to see some colors and prefer to live during light hours when either the sun is setting or is rising.

By having color vision they are able to identify some of their foods by color alone, but they also have a superior smell that will help them as well.

It is important to monitor your piggies for possible eye diseases, as they cannot see directly in front of them and are susceptible to infection and injury.

If you are unsure, or you notice a new discharge coming from the eye(s), a consult with your vet is recommended.

Want to learn more about Guinea Pigs’ health?

Check out these other articles

A.D.A.M., Inc. (2020, October 6). Visual acuity. Visual acuity test. Retrieved March 10, 2022, from https://www.ucsfhealth.org/medical-tests/visual-acuity-test

Boyd, K. (2018, May 4). Depth perception. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Retrieved March 10, 2022, from https://www.aao.org/eye-health/anatomy/depth-perception

Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2022). Colour blindness. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/color-blindness

Caroline, M. (2019, January 1). Ocular Surface Disease in Rodents (Guinea Pigs, Mice, Rats, Chinchillas). Europe PMC. Retrieved March 12, 2022, from https://europepmc.org/article/pmc/pmc7110570

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Gelatt, K. N. (2022, February 28). Lens – eye diseases and disorders. Merck Veterinary Manual. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://www.merckvetmanual.com/eye-diseases-and-disorders/ophthalmology/lens

Guidry, A. (2018, May 14). Crepuscular. Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved March 10, 2022, from https://www.encyclopedia.com/earth-and-environment/ecology-and-environmentalism/environmental-studies/crepuscular

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Singh, S. E., Wildsoet, C. F., & Roorda, A. J. (2020). Optical Aberrations of Guinea Pig Eyes. Investigative ophthalmology & visual science61(10), 39. https://doi-org.lhs.idm.oclc.org/10.1167/iovs.61.10.39

Quesenberry, K. E., & Carpenter, J. W. (2012). Ferrets, rabbits, and rodents clinical medicine and surgery. Elsevier/Saunders.

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