And so, to sleep…

Are hamsters nocturnal? Do guinea pigs spend more time awake or asleep? Do chinchillas sleep upside down? Do rats only come out at night? Some of our small pets’ sleeping habits seem a little odd to us, but there are some very good reasons why their snoozing patterns are different to ours, which are really rather fascinating… Are hamsters nocturnal?
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10th March 2022

Are hamsters nocturnal? Do guinea pigs spend more time awake or asleep? Do chinchillas sleep upside down? Do rats only come out at night? Some of our small pets’ sleeping habits seem a little odd to us, but there are some very good reasons why their snoozing patterns are different to ours, which are really rather fascinating...

Are hamsters nocturnal?

The short answer is yes. In the wild, hamsters come out mainly at night or during twilight to avoid predators. Although pet hamsters don’t have predators to worry about, they follow the same chronobiological patterns, meaning they’ll usually be asleep during the day.

So, if your hamster is awake and running around in their habitat at night, it’s a sign they’re happy. Keep them in appropriate hamster accommodation in a room where the lights are not left on till late in the night as they’ll be waiting for darkness to venture out and play. As dawn approaches, hamsters instinctively burrow or hide as a means of protection and staying safe while they sleep.

In the wild, hamsters are extremely good diggers and construct deep, dark, underground burrows. Your pet hamster will appreciate a thick layer of bedding in which they can dig and burrow to their heart’s content. There should be enough nesting material to make a proper, cup-shaped nest.

From a quiet location to a cosy master bedroom, bath with en suite and leisure facilities, find out how to create an ideal home for your hamster >>

When do rabbits sleep?

Bunnies are crepuscular, which means they like to be out and about early morning and early evening. The best way to enable your pet buns to come and go as they please is to have an exercise run permanently attached to their hutch. This could be a safe bunny-proofed room indoors, or a large run outdoors. Because they’re naturally most active at dawn and dusk, lifting them from hutch to run for a few hours in the daytime just doesn’t suit their body clocks and instincts.

A hutch is not enough is a mantra adopted by all bunny lovers. When thinking about creating the perfect rabbit house, pet bunnies need as much space as possible, with plenty of opportunities to exercise, tunnels to run through, look-out spots to keep watch from and cosy sleeping spaces. In the wild rabbits are prey animals, so it’s important that they feel safe. Your rabbits’ housing should have safe hiding places so that they can escape if they feel scared. Make sure you have a secure shelter with plenty of soft, safe bedding, either dust-free hay or bedding designed specifically for rabbits.


Rabbits are intelligent animals that have a range of needs that must be fully met so that they can be truly happy bunnies >>

Do guinea pigs spend more time awake or asleep?

Although crepuscular creatures, who are most active during dusk and dawn, guinea pigs are awake for up to 20 hours of the day. This means they need constant access to food, water, companion guinea pigs, safe hiding places and toys to keep them occupied, as well as an exercise area with tubes to tunnel along, shelters to hide in and deep areas of high-quality hay to forage in and nibble on, with some placed in hay racks and areas that are separate to their sleeping area.

The main shelter should be secure – and make sure any lining used in the main living area is dust free. The housing should also have toilet areas separate to their sleeping areas, where you can use a combination of newspaper, meadow hay and/or a paper based non-expanding litter.

Your guinea pigs’ housing should be permanently attached to a larger space within which they can exercise freely at any point in the day or night. This can be a safe guinea pig-proofed room indoors or a large run outdoors. The housing itself should be as big as possible but an absolute minimum of 1.5m x 1m with an additional 2m x 1m run. Your guinea pigs need as much space as possible so that they can relax and feel at home. The run area should also be as large as possible so that your guineas can roam like they would in the wild.

Do guinea pigs need much grooming? Are guinea pigs social and do they need company? What do guinea pigs eat? We’ve all the answers, which will help explain why these chatty little rodents deserve their status as one of the most popular pets >>

<<< Help your small furry friends get the best night’s (or day’s) sleep with Nap & Nest! >>>

BRAND NEW Excel Nap & Nest is a super absorbent, luxury paper bedding and litter for rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, and small animals that’s made from unused offcuts from teabag production. Soft on little paws, it’s easy to spot clean, reducing waste and making each bag last longer.

How to use: Remove the bedding from the pack a handful at a time and gently pull it apart. Add a 3-5cm layer to your small animals’ bedding and toilet areas. Remove and replace and soiled areas of bedding daily.

Are gerbils awake in the day?

Gerbils are diurnal, which means they’re active during the daytime, although they enjoy frequent snoozes throughout the day. Whatever time of day or night, gerbils are happiest when they’re hanging out in tunnels, just like they do in the wild. Digging and burrowing are very important behaviours for these curious little rodents. Wild gerbils live in dry climates, in large, deep burrows – that protect them from extremes of weather and predators – which they use their long hind legs and sharp claws to dig.

Supply plenty of material for burrowing  – the best natural bedding is organic soil with meadow hay or Timothy hay. Don’t use soil from your garden (as it might contain harmful bacteria or parasites), sawdust, or fleecy-style bedding as this can tangle in their long hind legs.

In addition to digging their own shelters, provide your gerbils with cosy nesting boxes (one each so they can choose to enjoy a solo snooze or a group cuddle). These should be large enough to set up a food store, to sleep in, and to comfortably move around in, ideally with multiple entrances to avoid the bossiest animals trapping others inside. A clay flowerpot cut in half makes a good sleeping area – don’t use anything made of wood or plastic or these crafty chewers will demolish it.

Find out everything you’ve ever wanted to know about these friendly, curious tunnelling experts who, despite their small size, are simply bursting with character >>

Do ferrets spend more time asleep than they do awake?

When they’re awake and fully recharged – dawn and dusk are the natural times for ferrets to be up and about – ferrets are extremely active and need accommodation that’s designed with plenty of ferret-friendly things to do to occupy their intelligent, inquisitive minds. However, when it comes to sleeping beauties, ferrets are the real deal as they like to snooze for around 18 to 20 hours a day.

As snoozing is one of a ferret’s favourite things – they like to nap in dark enclosed areas – it’s important that within their safe and secure accommodation they have a choice of cosy sleeping spots such as soft hammocks, a nesting box filled with dust-free bedding (don’t use straw) and some fleecy blankets – ferrets love to make nests in them. Giving a range of options enables your ferrets to enjoy a solo siesta or a cuddle with a friend.

Where do ferrets come from? Are ferrets good pets for children? What do ferrets like to do? How do you make friends with a ferret? Find out the answers to these questions and more >>

Do chinchillas sleep upside down?

Most active in the evenings and at night, crepuscular chinchillas sleep during the daytime, often while squeezed into very small spaces and usually upright in a huddled position. They will also sleep on their sides and yes, they can even sleep upside down!

Your chinchillas may choose to sleep on a platform or inside a hanging hammock or nesting box. In the wild, chinchillas are hunted by other animals, so even as pets, they like to have a range of hiding places so they feel safe and secure and will often try to wedge themselves into a tight space for protection, mimicking their natural behaviour of seeking cover in rocky crevices.

A good combination is a nesting box each, a spare one, plus an additional, large nest box where they can curl up and hide together if they want to, giving them plenty of choice. Nest boxes should be quiet and secluded and around 25cm x 25cm x 25cm, lined with shredded paper bedding or soft hay. Although they can survive quite cold temperatures (they originate from the rocky slopes of the Andes Mountains of South America), draughts can be very dangerous for chinchillas, so they should be kept as indoor pets in as big a cage as possible, located in a quiet, draught-free environment. Chinchillas can’t sweat and are prone to heatstroke, so their enclosures need to be shady with good air circulation, away from direct sunlight.

When did chinchillas first become pets? How long does a chinchilla live? How do chinchillas communicate and how do you know if your chinchillas like you? Find the answers in our chinchilla Q&A >>

Are degus active during the day?

Unlike many small furries, degus, which originate from Chile, are diurnal, which means they are active during the day. They love human interaction and enjoy living in busy, active homes where there’s plenty going on for them to keep a watchful eye on. Wild degus are extremely social, living in groups of up to 100, where they dig complex burrows to hide from predators, complete with highly organised nests and food stores.

Digging is super important to degus, so they need enough space in their accommodation for a deep layer of bedding on the floor for them to get their paws and claws into. Clay piping can also be added to provide a tunnel system for further happy burrowing.

When it’s time to sleep, a cosy nest box or two – around 20cm long x 15cm wide x 15cm high – will also be required. Provide a pile of shredded paper bedding so your degus can make a nest inside their sleeping box with it, just as they would naturally do in the wild.

How sociable are degus? What do degus like to do? What do degus eat? Find all the degu details you need here >>

Do rats only come out at night?

Rats are nocturnal and are most active at night and sometimes at dawn and dusk, so don’t house them in an area of your home that has lots of activity going on during the day. Also, schedule things such as cage cleaning, food provision and interactions with the times your rats are awake and active. Being woken from a rat nap is very stressful for these small animals.

After some busy nocturnal exploring, digging and playing, these little rodents need to recharge in peace and require a quiet, cosy area in their accommodation. Rats need a good amount of space as they can become stressed if they’re too confined. Your rats’ housing should contain lots of levels connected by tunnels so they can climb. Nesting boxes should be provided for each of your rat pack, as well as a larger enclosed space so they can sleep together. The floor should be covered with absorbent material, such as shredded paper bedding. Never use wood shavings, sawdust or fine litter. The dust may irritate and cause an allergic reaction. Also steer clear of straw – it’s too sharp and may damage your pets’ mouths.

Every rat has their own particular likes and dislikes and require a range of activities that enable them to exhibit their natural behaviours, how they like, when they like >>

Do mice sleep all through the day?

Mice are active at night and sleep for most of the day and so need a quiet, comfy nest box to curl up in, lined with shredded paper bedding. Mice absolutely love nest-building and use nesting material to help regulate their body temperature. Don’t use newspaper, as the ink can be toxic to these tiny pets, or cotton wool – this can cause a dangerous blockage in their gut or get wrapped around their legs, preventing them from moving properly.

Mice are clean pets. They create one place in their cages to put their food, one to use as a bathroom and another area where they like to sleep.

Find out all the mice info you need to help you enjoy caring for these tiny, epic explorers who love to forage, play, climb and interact with their cage mates – no wonder a group of these tiny rodents is called ‘a mischief of mice’! >>


  • Excel Meadow Hay Boxis our biggest hay pack yet! This high-quality British Meadow feeding hay is perfect for rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas. It comes in a handy, resealable and fully recyclable box! Subscribe and Save 10% >>
  • Also available is ourExcel Timothy Hay Box >>
  • Or how about Excel Green Harvest Feeding Hay, which is made from 100% first cut meadow hay, sustainably dried, and dust extracted for respiratory health. This extra green, yummy feeding hay is suitable for rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas.

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Are your small pets Burgess small pets? Join the Burgess Pet Club for exclusive offers and rewards.

  • You can also sign up to the Excel Bunny Base– a safe Facebook community for rabbit guardians that are looking for advice and friendly discussions from likeminded owners – and there are lots of cute bunny photos and videos!
  • Or why not join the Excel Squeak Squad on Facebook? You can join Berry & Bramble, our special G-force guinea pigs, on weekly missions and fun competitions.

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