It’s common for one to be conflicted about which pet they should choose between a guinea pig and a hamster. I mean, they are both small, manageable, less costly than other pets, plus could be adorable playmates for your kids.
But in the end, you have to decide on one. Here is a guide on the differences and similarities between hamsters and guinea pigs plus pros and cons of having either as pet.
Guinea Pigs vs Hamsters: Differences
In this section, we shall take a look at some of the features that give these two animals their uniqueness. These features will also be the basis of our comparison.
The hamster has a smaller body between the two. Weighing only 0.8 to 3.5 ounces, they can easily fit in one’s pocket.They also don’t grow any taller 6 inches inclusive of their short tail.
The guinea pig, however, weighs over six pounds and can grow up to ten inches tall.
They are well known for their plump body, short legs, and no tail. Their huge size renders them expensive since they cost more to maintain and provide for.
Guinea pigs are strict herbivores meaning they exclusive feed on greens like plants. They also feed on caecal/ caecotrops – a type of fecal matter that’s lighter and softer than the usual kind.
This fecal matter is actually excreted by them. They would only survive on high portions of hay and plant-based foods, plus plenty of water.
On on other hand, hamsters are omnivores – they feed on both plants and animal foods. These foods, too, aid them to gain the much-needed nutrients and vitamins they need to age properly. This is why they feed on mealworms, hay, fresh fruits and vegetable for a balanced diet.
There are 13 species or breeds of guinea pigs while there are twenty-five types of hamsters, with only five that can be domesticated. That means you really don’t have much to choose from with the hamster
Hamsters are sometimes seen as greedy creatures. They love their solitude and tend to appreciate peace and quiet especially inside their cage. The guinea pig, however, they loves to be paired or even more. The extra companionship keeps them busy and occupied, which then keeps them happy for longer.
For some pet stores, you will see that they don’t allow you to take only one guinea pig as they are very playful and also love companionship besides that of humans. Hence, they would recommend you adopt two or more guinea pigs at once.
These two rodents may appear alike but their offspring tell a different story. A hamster’s young one is born without the ability to see and without hair. The hamster too can give birth to over 20 pups at a go but the average is about nine in total.
As for the guinea pig, they only give birth to two to four piglets. They aren’t big on giving birth and would be a good option for those not seeking many offspring.
Communication and Interaction
Guinea pigs have a sweet temperament hence they love to hang out and bond with humans, they love to be cuddled, stroked on their backs, and they want attention all the time. They are easy to interact with and can be a pleasant pet/ pal to you your ones.
The hamster, however, can be rather aggressive, especially in certain conditions like when their hungry or tired. They also don’t like to hang out as a group, they probably feel overcrowded and seek the need to be by themselves.
A major factor that people look at is how long these pets can actually last. The hamster, unfortunately, has a shorter span, living for only two to three years while the guinea pigs last for over five to eight years.
As mentioned earlier, the hamster loves to stay by themselves hence they would only require a tiny cage suited for them individually. The cage, however, can be slightly bigger to allow for space for playing and other activities to keep them busy.
A good size should be 24 inches in length and 13 inches in width. The cage has to be kept indoors and away from direct sunlight.
The guinea pig is more outgoing and adventurous. They don’t mind staying in or outside the house in its cage. They also don’t mind sharing the cage with other guinea pigs. The cage is definitely bigger than that of the hamster, the size can be 30 inches by 36 inches to allow for toys to be added as well.
It’s vital to note that guinea pigs ar every sociable and love to play around a lot, therefore requiring more space than the hamster.
Ease of Care
Guinea pigs are much easier to handle and care for than the hamster. This is because hamsters get agitated when they are stressed or kept intense situations like playing for long hours. They’re also very tiny which can be tiresome to control for your young ones.
Both rodents need regular cleaning bit the guinea pig needs it more than the hamster since they tend to play more and since they are zoo tonic carriers, they can cause diseases to your family when neglected the appropriate care.
In terms of general animal habits, the hamster is one cunning rodent. They enjoy playing hide and seek in the sense that they love to escape from captivity and hide plus they also love to gnaw on anything and everything. Which is why you have to keep your pet in an escape-proof cage.
Guinea pigs also love to gnaw on things but it’s more of a biological nature than habit. The constant gnawing is to aid with their ever-growing teeth. Guinea pigs also produce a very loud and squeaky noise compared to the hamster.
Lastly, hamsters are nocturnal in nature – very active in the night as they can easily see. Unless the pet is kept secure in their cage, they can result run around the house at night. Guinea pigs, however, aren’t nocturnal but they take several naps during the day. They can be kept in your bedroom since they sleep at the same time you sleep without causing any distracting noises every now and then.
As we’ve exhausted on the differences, let’s now look at the few similarities between these two rodents.
- Shades of color – you may notice that the guinea pig and the hamster can have a similar hue on to each other. White with brown or blonde patches is the most prevalent shade in these pets. You can also find a golden hamster, similar to a deep brown guinea pig.
- Activities/ exercise – the guinea pig is seen to have more zeal and energy than the hamster, but they both indulge in the same exercises. Using a wheel or a tunnel are their most preferred games.
- Care – you may see that the hamster is a lot harder to care for, but the two can be cared for using the same routine and they live for a long time.
Why Choose One Over the Other?
You’ve read about their similarities and you’ve also seen their differences, but what would make you choose one over the other?
First off, you have to ensure that before you make the decision to adopt either one of these pets that there aren’t larger pets in the house such as cats or dogs. This is because they will automatically turn to be predators causing the smaller pets to live in a stressful environment.
Once that has been sorted out, you can now get into the nitty-gritty of this decision. let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of having either of these pets.
Pros and Cons of Guinea Pigs
- Guinea pigs are very needy in terms of care and maintenance. They constantly need attention, grooming, and care to keep them happy and satisfied. If you opt to only adopt one, you have to dedicate a lot of time to cater to its needs.
- Guinea pigs are friendly with other animals such and the rabbit, but not something that can feed on it.
- They are very playful and more active, therefore a very excellent choice for children and busy homes.
- They can also be kept inside or outside the home offering you a choice for additional space. Do not keep it the garage as the fumes can be rather toxic.
- They are good-natured and sweet-tempered plus they rarely attack, if ever.
- Guineas need to follow a strict diet of plants such as hay and pellets to keep them in tip-top shape, otherwise, they can easily get sick.
- Unfortunately, their fur has been known to cause allergies more often than that of the hamster. This then poses a problem to those with allergy issues.
- They are very messy pets which means they cage cleaning should be done often. And not just changing the bedding, but slow cleaning out the cage as well.
- They are more costly to purchase than the hamster. Probably because of their weight other factors.
Pros and Cons of Hamsters
The hamster is a great pet for your kids since they can easily be carried around even by your children. Their care is also easy but can depend on your lifestyle and if at all the hamster is willing to adapt to it.
Besides that, here are a few facts, advantages and disadvantages you might want to take heed on as you decide on your next pet.
- They have a very short lifespan of about 2.5 years. If you’re looking for something to stay for longer, this may not be a suitable choice for you.
- They are very active at night since they’re nocturnal. This means it can be a good choice if you’re working or at school since you’ll get to spend time with them at night.
- They’re actually very quiet creatures that rarely make any noises or squeaks unless they’re moving about in their cages.
- They are actually very responsible pets hence you don’t need to regularly clean out their cage as often as you would for a guinea pig.
- Hamsters can be rather aggressive to their owners especially when they need something or they feel lacking in affection. This may not be a good choice for young children as they can get scratched.
- Hamsters don’t like to share their homes with other pets even if they’re hamsters. They have build personalities that may not blend well with each other.
- On the good side, hamsters are omnivores hence can have a variety to eat as compared to the guinea pig.
- Hamsters must be kept indoors regardless of the weather conditions.
- Having a hamster for a pet is illegal in Hawaii, hence be wary of these legal restrictions.
- These hamsters can carry zoo tonic diseases such as lymphocytic choriomeningitis and salmonella.
Further Reading: Guinea Pigs vs Pet Rats