Some people thought that hamsters and guinea pigs are the same. They are not. They may have the same preferences for beddings, treats, and toys. But, these two are entirely different in terms of personalities, sleep schedules, life expectancies, and more. In this article, we welcome you into the world of the two cutest pets and hope to answer the question, guinea pig vs hamster – which one is right for you?
Which One Should You Get?
As mentioned, hamsters and guinea pigs are different from each other. Depending on your circumstances, here are a few of the questions that you need to ask if you are debating what to get, guinea pig vs hamster:
- How much time can you devote to your pet?
- How much space do you have for your pet?
- Do you have kids at home?
- Can you commit an average of 5 years to look after your pet?
- Do you want an independent pet or not?
We will tackle each question and much more about guinea pig and hamster differences in various departments.
Guinea Pig vs Hamster – Some Comparative Physical Descriptions
The other way of referring to guinea pigs is a cavy. It is a mammal that belongs to the order of Rodentia and the family of Caviidae. There are 13 popular breeds of guinea pigs including the Peruvian and the American guinea pigs.
The hamsters also belong to the order of Rodentia under the family of Cricetidae. There are 19 species classified in 7 genera. The most popular hamster specie is the Syrian hamster.
Guinea pigs are herbivorous. By this, it means that their food is only limited to plants. But, guinea pigs are also known as coprophagous, meaning, they eat fecal matters as these provide them with vitamins and other nutrients.
On the other hand, hamsters are omnivorous, eating both veggies and meat.
Despite the chubby appearance, a guinea pig larger than a hamster. The length of guinea pigs is between 8 and 10 inches while the hamsters’ length can be from 2 to 7 inches depending on the species (not including the European Hamsters).
Guinea pigs can weigh up to 2.6 pounds. On the other hand, the hamsters are much lighter. Again, depending on the breed, the weight is between 25 and 120 grams.
Both pets are cute and chubby-looking. They have round, expressive eyes, and petal ears.
Is there guinea pigs and hamsters difference in appearance? The guinea pigs have no tails while the hamsters have very short and thin tails.
Plus, hamsters have cheek pouches that can double-up in size when full of food to be hoarded. Pigs do not have a secret or hiding spot of food in their heads.
5. Sound Produced
Guinea pigs are louder than hamsters. They are known for their screams, shrieks, and other unusual but cute sounds.
Hamsters are vocal, too but they are not as loud as the guinea pigs.
Guinea Pig vs Hamster – As a House Pet
1. How Much Time Can You Give?
How’s your schedule like? Don’t get us wrong, we are not asking you to change your schedule completely for the sake of your small friends. But, for those who work on a graveyard shift and are more active at nighttime, a hamster is your best bet.
This is because hamsters are nocturnal mammals. You can’t blame these little fellows because, in the wild, nighttime is the safest time for them to go out.
Now, if you try to wake-up your hamster at daytime to play, be ready because disrupting its sleep pattern will make it a grumpy pet.
However, if you are like most of us who call it a day at dusk, then the guinea pig is the right one for you. These small mammals have the same schedule as the majority of us, awake and active during the day and asleep at nighttime.
2. How Much Space do You Have?
Let’s talk about the living quarters of guinea pig vs hamster. Since guinea pigs are larger and heavier than the hamsters, then it goes without saying that the cavies require a larger space.
Regardless of your decision whether to buy or to make your guinea pig cage, the minimum size should be 7.5 square feet or 30 by 36 inches and a height of 12 to 14 inches. If you have two or more pigs, it should not be less than 8 to 10 square feet.
For purchasing or making a hamster cage, the minimum of a cage requirement is 40 by 20 inches and a height of not less than 20 inches.
3. Guinea Pig vs Hamster – Which One Is a Safer Pet for Your Kid?
If you are a parent, your top concern when it comes to pets is the safety of your kids. Should you get the guinea pig or hamster for a child?
Hamsters are more popular as pets for kids but the problem is that they are nocturnal fellows. Your kids might only get disappointed because they can’t play with them after school. If the hamsters are constantly disturbed while sleeping, they tend to nip.
Also, because of their small sizes, hamsters can easily slip out of your kid’s hands, thus, making them more difficult to handle by young children.
In comparison, the guinea pigs are easier to handle. The problem is if your kids get too excited playing with them, either the guinea pig would just wiggle its way out of the child’s hand or it may attack.
Despite the probable nipping issue of both animals, they are still good pets for kids. The important thing is for parents or any adults in the house to supervise the kids while playing with the small pets. It is a good start to teach them how to respect animals.
4. Guinea Pig vs Hamster – The Longevity
If what you are looking for is a long-term commitment, then the guinea pig is the right one for you. The lifespan of the cavies is about 5 to 7 years. That means you have to devote a good number of years for your chosen pet. That also means looking ahead of time, a majority of your plans should involve caring for your pig.
On the other hand, hamsters live a shorter life. For the Syrian hamster, it could live between 2 and 3 years while the Dwarf varieties live only between 1 and 2 years.
So, if you are not sure whether you can keep up with the tasks and commitment of being a fur parent, then choose the hamster.
5. Guinea Pig vs Hamster – Which Pet Is More Independent-Minded?
Guinea pigs are more sociable and can form a lifelong bond with their owners. Yes, cavies can be likened to dogs that need a lot of attention. If you fail to give it some TLC, be ready to hear shrieks and other forms of vocalization.
That being said, we recommend that you allocate time for social interaction with your guinea pig. If you can’t do that all the time, we suggest that you get a pair instead of one.
The hamster is the more independent-minded between the two, pretty much like a cat. A fifteen-minute playtime outside the cage is perfectly fine for a hamster. For as long as you provide it with its essentials like toys, you can just leave it alone and it wouldn’t mind at all.
Guinea Pig vs Hamster – Other Issues You May Want to Know
1. Do You Have a Tight Budget?
If yes, you are better off with a hamster. Why? Because being the bigger pet, the guinea pig requires a bigger space to live in, more bedding materials like fleece and wood chips, and more food than the hamster.
If you add all those little expenses, you end up paying more for a guinea pig.
2. Do You Love to Cuddle?
Do you see yourself cuddling 5 ounces with a length of a 3-inch dwarf hamster? But do you also see yourself cuddling a 3 pound and 14 inches long Peruvian guinea pig? Obviously, between the two pets, it is nicer and more comfortable to cuddle the guinea pig.
Not to forget that due to its small size, the hamster can act defensively around humans. When cuddled, the hammies can feel threatened and nervous, thus, may cause them to bite.
3. Do You Have an Issue With Escapism?
No pet wants to be ‘imprisoned’ in its cage. Both the cavies and the hammies have a desire in them to escape from their cages. But, the issue of escapism is more intense among the hamsters.
In case you choose the hamster, do not be surprised if you see it chew the cage bars. It will also try to look for other ways on how to escape from ‘imprisonment’. And, if you happen to own a Chinese dwarf or Roborovski hamster, be sure that the gaps between the cage bars are not too wide, lest it will squeeze its way out.
While guinea pigs do chew their cages, too, but the sole purpose is to sharpen and maintain the length of their teeth. Occasionally, the pig may try to escape but the desire is not as intense for as long as you shower it with TLC.
4. Do You Want to Have More Than One Pet?
Guinea pigs are friendlier with other pets, including their kind. Should you allow your pig to socialize with cats and dogs? Yes, it can. But, have a watchful eye because your pig may seem like potential prey to cats and dogs.
Unlike the guinea pigs, hamsters are not as friendly. They are very territorial and this is why it is not a good idea to house more than one hamster in a cage. You shouldn’t allow your hamster to play with other pets due to its aggressive tendencies to other animals.
Guinea Pig vs Hamster – Which Pet Is Easier to Take Care of?
Now, we talk about the other pros and cons of taking care of either hamsters or guinea pigs, and then it is up to you to decide which one is right for you.
Pros of having a guinea pig:
- It can live peacefully with other animals
- Active at daytime
- It can be kept either indoor or outdoor, depending on the weather
- It rarely bites as it is known as a good-natured small pet
Cons of having a guinea pig:
- If you only have 1 guinea pig, you need to interact with it every day and provide it with toys while you are away
- It needs a daily diet of fresh veggies, hay, and pellets
- Some people are allergic to the fur of guinea pigs
- It can be messy, so you need to change its beddings every day and clean its cage once a week
Pros of having a hamster:
- It has a shorter lifespan, thereby, less of a long-term responsibility
- It is quiet compared to the guinea pig
- Not as messy, so a change of beddings can be done twice a week
- Easier to groom
- Cheaper to take care of
Cons of having a hamster:
- It can be affectionate but it bites. You’d have to interact with it daily to tame its aggressive tendencies
- Can be kept indoors in a well-secured cage
- It is not a good choice if you have young children, 8 years old and below
- It carries zoonotic diseases like salmonella. Not a good idea to live with immunocompromised individuals
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Hopefully, the guinea pig and hamster differences we have talked about helped you determine which pet fits well into your lifestyle. Though the two animals are both small and loved by kids, they have entirely different personalities.
At the end of the day, based on the daily needs of the two animals, only you can decide which one is the right pet for you- guinea pig vs hamster. Whatever your choice is, for all its worth, both of these animals are delightful to be a member of your family.