Hello carefresh friends! In this blog we will look into the senses of the guinea pig and address many popular questions about them.
One of the most popular topics about the senses of a guinea pig is their eyesight. There are a few opinions that contradict others in this area, but for the purposes of this blog, I will use the most agreed upon information among studies.
Can guinea pigs see colors?
Guinea pigs have been found by scientists studying their eyes to be dichromatic, that is they see two of the three primary colors. They are able to detect yellow, blue, and hues associated with them. It is likely that the colors they see are less vivid than the color we see.
How well do they see?
Overall a guinea pig does not have great eyesight, but they have some really interesting abilities that help protect them in the wild and those have been passed down through the centuries to our friendly friends today.
Guinea pigs can see an amazing 340° around them. For example, using both eyes, we humans can only see 180° around us. The guinea pig eyesight range is perfect to react to any predators. The 340° vision is also what allows them to quickly react to any object coming toward them without moving their head. That helps account for their super quick reaction times.
But Guinea pigs can only detect what an object actually is from roughly 12-16 inches away (30-38 cm). And they can only see movement/objects from a distance of 5-6 feet (1.5 metres). But at that distance, it is very hard to make out what the object might be. Guinea pigs also have very weak depth perception. This is important to know because if you have them on a bed or chair, they can't recognize how high up they are which could result in them feeling it is safe to jump off when it is not.
Can my piggy see in the dark?
The short answer is, maybe. There isn't a definitive answer to this, but scientists believe they can have a mental map of their surroundings and when combined with their sense of smell and whisker sensors, they can zip around in the dark without crashing into things!!!
How well does my guinea pig hear?
Guinea pig hearing is much better than humans. They can hear in lower, and especially higher, frequencies than we do. Their hearing ability helps make up for their relatively poor eyesight. This is one of the reasons you can, for example, try to quietly open the refrigerator and your guinea pigs might start wheeking thinking a treat is on the way! Your guinea pig can also distinguish your individual voice! However their sensitive hearing also means that they are not a fan of loud noises or bangs, such as fireworks.
Are those whiskers just there for cuteness?
Whiskers on a guinea pig act in very similar ways to other animals. Loaded with nerve endings in them, they are used to measure the width of tunnels and objects. Basically, if the whiskers fit, the piggy will fit. They can also use them to measure the size and depth of an object right in front of them (think lettuce!). They also act as a warning for any object approaching the eye so they may protect it.
Can my guinea pig actually tell who I am compared to others?
Guinea pigs have an amazing sense of smell. Since their eyesight isn't good at detecting predators in the wild, their sense of smell, along with hearing, helps make up for those deficiencies. So the answer to the question concerning if they can recognize you specifically, yes they can! You may see an example of this when you have a visitor over and they approach the guinea pig’s habitat to say ”hi”, the piggy most likely takes off and hides, but they won't do that with you. They know who you are by your smell and know that there is no threat to them and recognize you as a friend!
How well do things taste?
The taste buds of a guinea pig's tongue are highly developed and as such taste flavors well. Naturally they prefer foods more to the sweet side, but over time get to accept slightly less sweet/ bitter tastes. Of course, like humans, some piggies will like one thing while their friends may not. The sensitive taste buds also help determine if a new food is acceptable when their nose and whiskers don't convince them. You may have seen this when introducing a new food and you will see them sniff it and then slowly give it a lick or quick taste. If they don't like it they will often let it fall out of their mouth or will finish what they took, but not eat any more of it.
Hopefully this basic overview of a guinea pig’s senses, and how they work together, will help you understand and appreciate your guinea pigs more than ever!
Guest Post by Craig N. - long time Guinea Pig parent, currently of Bentley and Cosmo (pictured above), and they invite you to follow their antics @ https://www.facebook.com/briochepig
Until next time….