Curious about a guinea pig vs. hamster as a pet and need answers to decide on which one to choose?
Then I must say you have come to the right place!
Below, we’ll talk about the differences and look at what each of these pets needs to live their life to the fullest.
So, read on to find out which one of these furry little creatures will fit your lifestyle the most.
Difference Between Hamster and Guinea Pig
We’ll start with the obvious- the difference between their appearances- and work our way all the way down the list to habitats, health concerns, and more. Let’s dive in!
Appearance and Size
By appearance, guinea pigs are round with shorter legs, and their lack of tail gives them an adorable plump look. They weigh around 1.5-2.6 pounds and grow up to 30cm long.
While hamsters are born blind and hairless, they have more rodent-like features. Hamsters are pretty small creatures that can grow 6 inches long and have a featherlight weight of around 1-10 ounces.
This comparison makes a teddy guinea 2-4 times bigger than the hamster. Meaning, considering a living space before choosing your pet is essential.
First and foremost, no animal should be inside a cage all the time. All pets should have the freedom to explore and get fresh air but under supervision.
Guinea Pig Housing
A guinea pig is a relatively larger animal than the hamster, and they require larger habitats (aka cages) to explore and stretch their tiny legs.
But since they are very social animals, you would want to have at least two — if not a herd — so they are happy and live to the fullest.
For that matter, a minimum guinea pig cage size of 10.5 square feet or 30X50 inches with nice bedding will do the job.
Since they don’t jump around or climb much, they only use the floor space to play.
Still, their house should have at least 12 inches of height with no top, so it’s good ventilation and keeping them safe from other pets like cat or a dog in the house.
But, if you are an enthusiast and love many piggies, you increase the cage size accordingly.
Bear in mind these measurements are the minimum requirements. The bigger the cage, the better they live. You get the point, right!
Pet Hamsters, on the other hand, are solitary, which means they are happy on their own.
By the compact size, hamster cages should be a minimum of 2-3 square feet or 19X19 inches and 6 inches high living enclosure.
If you select a detachable wire cage, the horizontal bars should have ½ or ¾ open space for their exercise to climb up and down.
But remember, the bigger the cage, the better!
After all, they are hamsters, and they will dig! They love to burrow, seek food and play on their exercise wheel.
So, with a roomier enclosure, you can put toys and hide treats for hamsters to be well-adjusted to their new home.
With that in mind, paper pellet bedding or a suitable wood shaving — no cedar or pine as these pocket pets have a sensitive respiratory system — deep enough for them to burrow and explore is better.
Behavior and Sociability Differences
There are some factors to think about when it comes to hamster or guinea pig behaviors. So make sure to read them and consider them before opting for either pet.
As we discussed earlier, hamsters are more solitary-natured, and they get cranky and aggressive in groups.
In addition, these little fellas are nocturnal creatures and are more active and busy at night, and sleep most of the day.
So, putting their cage away from your bedroom is going to help you sleep with no disturbance.
Also, they bite! If you handle them roughly, they are more likely to nip or bite in fear or self-defense. But don’t get me wrong, they tend to be affectionate and social to you and your children.
These cheeky creatures need your positive interactions more often to build a trustful relationship and grow them accustomed to you.
On the flipside, guinea pigs are loving and social creatures by nature.
But in the start, they would need your time and efforts to jump-start their friendliness with you in their new surroundings, as many pets generally do.
Overall, like many of us, they like to play and have a good time during the day.
They are not nocturnal, so it’s easy for us to interact and bond with our new friends when we bring them home.
Although they are larger than hamsters, they still need to be handled with care, as they have week spines.
As long as you know the ins and outs of these chubby piggies, you will feel overall ease in bonding and socializing with them compare to the hamsters.
Food and Nutrition
In this section, we will talk about healthy foods and the nutrition of hamsters vs. guinea pigs. So they are fit as a fiddle their entire life.
When it comes to guinea pig nutrition, they are herbivores. They live on leafy greens like cilantro and hay. Timothy hay helps them grind down their overgrown teeth and contains necessary fiber as well.
You need to provide them water and fresh vegetables rich in vitamins C daily, as their bodies don’t produce this vitamin.
Oh, and they sometimes eat their poop! Yes, you heard it right. It’s called Coprophagy, and it’s totally normal behavior for cavies.
In fact, their bodies actually produce a special type of poo- called cecotropes- specifically for eating. Gross, yes, but again, totally normal.
As for hamsters, they are omnivores and eat plants and insects.
If you own a hamster, you need to feed them 10 grams of food daily with a balance of 5% fat and 16% of protein.
Besides that, you have plenty of choices like seeds, nuts, grains, fruits, and vegetables to pick from for your pet.
In addition to that, they use their cheeks to store food for later. Which surprisingly, many people don’t know.
Health Conditions and Lifespan
Guinea pigs have a 5-7 year-long lifespan.
Some even live longer, depending on the breed and how well they’re cared for. They are healthy pets and do not encounter many major problems if you pay close attention to their diet and hygiene.
However, overgrown teeth and bumblefoot (loss of fur on the feet) should be prevented with basic precautions.
Hamsters have an average life span of 2-3 years. For instance, hamsters are prone to bacterial disease, diarrhea (wet tail), and they need medical care now and then.
Often they can be a victim of congestive heart failure for many reasons, which is unfortunately incurable.
Although the problem of overgrown teeth is common in guinea pigs and hamsters, and you must check their teeth once a week at least.
If you want more explanation, check the video below:
Can Hamsters and Guinea Pigs Live Together?
A guinea pig or hamster should not be left alone together as that likely end up unpleasant.
It’s definitely something you can try in a playpen if you keep them under strict observation, as long as they’re busy playing around.
But break that awkward contact or aggressive eyeballing right away because it can be stressful on your hamster.
Guinea pigs are social creatures, but hamsters can get stressed around other critters.
Now, if you mean “can they live together in the same house,” and not in the same habitat, yes, of course.
Just keep in mind that having both means having two habitats to maintain, two different types of food, and double the amount of time invested caring for them.
It’s doable but, it can be costly too!
What to Choose: Hamster or Guinea Pig?
Besides covering almost every obvious difference of these pets above, here are some more factors for you to decide which is better hamster or guinea pig?
If you’re deciding on having a guinea pig, then you must have adequate space for at least two of them to eat, sleep and play. Guinea pigs do better in pairs as these pets are very social.
However, space isn’t an issue for a hamster. They’re solitary creatures and their habitats aren’t quite as large. Since they can climb, you could easily build up instead of out, too.
Hamsters are prone to health conditions that can be costly and incurable. On the other hand, guinea pigs have very few health issues in general, so they don’t require as much in terms of emergency medical care.
To talk about the cost of each pet real quick, a guinea pig is more expensive than a hamster. Guinea pigs cost from $20 – $40 (and up to $150+ for certain breeds), and a hamster costs around $5 – $20 at the most.
Having guinea pigs as pets, a question you’re going to ask yourself is, can you afford them? As guinea pigs need more food and living space than hamsters, you’re likely to spend more money.
Between pellets, fresh produce, and a neverending supply of Timothy hay, and you’re looking at roughly $30 a month if you use reusable bedding and up to $75 a month if you use disposable.
By comparison, the average monthly cost of food and bedding for a hamster falls between $5-20. Neither of these ranges factor in things like toys or other occasional buys or healthcare.
While a hamster is a lesser financial commitment in terms of food and bedding, remember, they’re more prone to illness, so you’ll spend more on vet care.
When making your final decision, you’ll also want to factor in the life spans of each pet.
Typically, guinea pigs live longer than hamsters, up to 5-7 years. So they are a bit more of a commitment, but on the other hand you’ll have more time with them.
Hamsters have a shorter lifetime, and saying goodbye to a family pet can be hard on you and your children after such a short time together.
Which pet is easier to take care of hamster or guinea pig?
Both hamsters and guinea pigs have their own considerable responsibilities. But if you’re looking at overall daily care requirements, then a hamster is the easier pet.
Are guinea pigs or hamsters smarter?
Guinea pigs and hamsters are both very clever rodents. They are affectionate to you because they remember you as their caregiver. But hamsters can’t compete with guinea pigs as they’re quick learners and bond with you more than hamsters.
What smells worse hamster or guinea pig?
With proper care and habitat maintenance, neither pet is particularly stinky. However, if you let their habitat go too long between cleanings, hamster urine is definitely the stinkier of the two.
If you notice an odor on either pet’s actual body, make a vet appointment as it can indicate illness.
As with almost any other pet, both of these pets have drawbacks and benefits. But as of now, we hope you have a reasonably clear understanding of which pet is an excellent choice for you.
- “Guinea Pig Housing.” 2021. The Humane Society of the United States. 2021. https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/guinea-pig-housing.
- “Is a Hamster the Right Pet for You?” 2021. The Humane Society of the United States. 2021. https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/hamster-right-pet-you.
- “PetCoach – Ask a Vet Online 24/7.” 2021. Petcoach.co. 2021. https://www.petcoach.co/article/cecotropes-and-coprophagy/#:~:text=The%20digestion%20process%20of%20rabbits%2C%20guinea%20pigs%2C%20most,extract%20additional%20nutrition%20from%20the%20foods%20they%20eat..
- PetMD Editorial. 2010a. “Congestive Heart Failure in Hamsters.” Petmd.com. PetMD. July 9, 2010. https://www.petmd.com/exotic/conditions/cardiovascular/c_ex_hm_congestive_heart_failure.
- ———. 2010b. “Bacterial Disease of the Foot – Bumblefoot in Guinea Pigs.” Petmd.com. PetMD. July 22, 2010. https://www.petmd.com/exotic/conditions/skin/c_ex_gp_pododermatitis.
- “Selecting a Pet Rodent.” 2021. American Veterinary Medical Association. 2021. https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/petcare/selecting-pet-rodent.
Guinea pig vs hamster: which one do you prefer as a pet? Please share with us below!
Alina Hartley is a small-town girl with a ginormous love of bearded dragons. It all started with Winchester, a baby bearded who was abandoned at the shelter by his former owners because of a birth defect that caused one front leg to be shorter than the other. Alina originally went to the shelter looking for a guinea pig, but one look at Winchester and it was love at first sight. From that day on, Alina has dedicated her life to learning everything she can about bearded dragons. She loves helping new beardie parents start their incredible journey with these magnificent reptiles.
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