Guinea pigs are not known for their phenomenal eyesight. They do have other sensory organs that work very well, but their vision does not come close to human vision. But what about color vision? Are guinea pigs color blind?
Guinea pigs are not colorblind in the way other rodents are. But it’s not entirely clear how well they can distinguish colors and shades of color. They have only two color receptors, while we humans have three. Guinea pigs lack the color receptor for the color red. However, they can see colors better than other rodents.
It is not yet clear in research how well guinea pigs can see colors. Since they have only 2 color receptors, it is obvious that their ability to see colors is limited compared to humans.
To understand in more detail how guinea pigs see colors, let’s first look at what color blindness means. We then cover why guinea pigs are thought to be colorblind and why it is thought that they can nevertheless see colors better than other rodents.
Finally, we look at the other senses that guinea pigs have and explain whether these senses work better than the eyes.
What Does Color Blindness Mean?
The National Eye Institute, one of the US National Institutes of Health, states that color blindness means that a person sees colors differently than most people. Color blindness can cause different limitations in eyesight. These limitations may be in the following areas:
- Seeing differences between colors
- Noticing the brightness of colors
- Sensing different shades of colors
Color blindness is defined by human perception. However, many animals have eyes that are constructed a little differently than human eyes. Therefore, many animals are also color blind from a human perspective.
But many animals also do not need good color vision. If they live in deep darkness in a cave without light incidence, recognizing and distinguishing colors does not help them. Other sensory organs are more important there.
Are Guinea Pigs Color Blind?
Guinea pigs, unlike other rodents, can see and distinguish quite a few colors. Various studies have investigated this and found that guinea pigs cannot see colors as limited as hamsters, for example.
But chinchillas might also be able to distinguish colors better than other rodents. So guinea pigs are not alone in this.
Therefore, many people also claim that guinea pigs are not color blind. However, guinea pigs have only two types of color receptors, called cone cells.
Compared to humans, they lack the color receptor for the red light. This means that they only have a limited color spectrum that they can see. Recognizing and distinguishing red tones is not one of their strengths.
Nevertheless, guinea pigs can distinguish colors very well compared to other rodents. They are also able to recognize different shades of color.
It seems that the favorite color of guinea pigs is green. Your houseplants may also experience this, as guinea pigs love to eat them.
But be careful! Many houseplants and also wild plants are poisonous for guinea pigs.
Can Guinea Pigs See Well?
Compared to other rodents, guinea pigs can see quite well. They also recognize colors better than other rodents such as hamsters.
Another amazing ability that guinea pigs have is that they have a very wide field of vision. Guinea pigs have a large field of vision of about 340°.
Compared to humans, whose field of vision is about 180° to 200°, that’s an incredible amount.
The reason for the guinea pigs’ large field of vision is the arrangement of their eyes. The eyes are located on the side of the head, so they can also see a lot to the back.
In fact, a field of vision of 340° means they have almost all-around vision! They are only 20° short of a full circle. These missing 20° are directly behind them, so they can’t see what’s going on there.
Guinea pigs are also sensitive to light. They try to avoid bright light as much as possible because they can’t shield it by contracting their pupils
Why Can Guinea Pigs See Colors Better Than Other Rodents?
It is relatively easy to find out how well guinea pigs can see colors. All you need is identical food bowls in different colors and a little patience.
Put your guinea pig’s favorite food in one food bowl, and something they don’t like so much in another. Place the food bowls in different corners of the cage.
Repeat this for a while, at least for a few days or a week. Your guinea pigs should learn where to find the yummy food.
Then switch corners where you put the food bowls. When the guinea pigs can recognize the colors of the food bowls, they should notice the difference and go to the other corner.
That’s about the experimental setup for finding out what colors guinea pigs can see. You can also try the experiment with two food bowls in different shades of red.
If the guinea pigs are able to distinguish the shades of red, then the experiment should also work with these feeding cones.
However, even then it is not clear whether they can only distinguish the brightness or actually see a different color. To find out, the experimental setup would have to be more complex.
Why guinea pigs can see colors better than other rodents has not yet been definitively researched.
Compared to hamsters, for example, guinea pigs have a higher proportion of cone cells. The cone cells are responsible for color vision.
Perhaps these additional cone cells enable them to distinguish colors better.
Which Sensory Organs Function Particularly Well in Guinea Pigs?
Most rodents are known to have a good sense of smell, can hear well, and have a good sense of touch. This compensates for the poorer sense of sight that many rodents have.
However, we have already learned above that guinea pigs can see better than other rodents. Is that why their other senses are less well developed? Let’s look at the guinea pigs’ other senses in detail.
Guinea Pigs’ Sense of Smell
Guinea pigs have an excellent sense of smell. Their sense of smell is much better than that of humans.
They recognize both conspecifics and their human friends with the help of their sense of smell. They can also detect and judge their food with their noses. Both food and conspecifics like to be sniffed extensively.
If the guinea pigs notice a special smell, they stretch their heads upwards and virtually suck up the smell.
With such a sensitive sense of smell, it stands to reason that guinea pigs may find extreme odors such as cleaning products, kitchen smells, and toiletries unpleasant.
Guinea Pigs’ Hearing
Not only the sense of smell is excellent – also the hearing is developed above average. They will be able to recognize you already by your steps.
Through the combination of the sense of smell and hearing your guinea pigs miss nothing. They especially won’t miss opening the refrigerator door or the door to the storage closet where their food is kept.
Guinea pigs often respond to noises by whistling loudly. Try rustling a bag of lettuce and you’ll probably be able to get a reaction.
Noise and sounds from the high-frequency range can cause them to panic. This applies, for example, to noise from the radio or television. They then fall into fear paralysis or quickly crawl into a hiding place.
Guinea Pigs’ Sense of Touch
The tactile or sensory hairs are located on and next to the notched upper lip. They are firmer than normal fur hair and stand out clearly from the body.
They are about as long as the body is wide. These hairs allow guinea pigs to navigate in the dark.
If the tactile hairs do not bump anywhere on the left or right, then the guinea pig can slip through the bottleneck without any problems.
These hairs must never be plucked or cut!
Guinea Pigs’ Sense of Taste
These little creatures quickly turn out to be small eating machines. They are very sweet-toothed and will not eat anything you put in front of them.
They disdain limp lettuce and sour things completely. Everything has to be fresh and crunchy. But let’s face it, you can understand that, right?
Since the color green has a magical effect on them, they also sometimes attack houseplants, many of which are unfortunately poisonous for guinea pigs.
Houseplants should generally always be placed out of reach of the small rodents. This is in the interest of both the guinea pigs and the plants.
Conclusion: Are Guinea Pigs Color Blind?
Guinea pigs are not color blind in the way that other rodents are. Although they have only two types of color receptors, they see colors comparatively well.
They have an almost full all-around vision and particularly like the color green.
Like most rodents, their other senses are very well developed. Guinea pigs can smell, hear, touch and taste very well.