If you’ve read our other blog posts, then you’ll already know the answer to the question: Can guinea pigs and rats live together? Guinea pigs are very social animals, but only when it comes to each other! Guinea pigs can’t live with rats, and it’s due to a multitude of reasons that boil down to a very simple fact—they are incompatible.
That’s not to say that guinea pigs and rats aren’t similar, because they are, aside from the fact that they are both rodents. They’re both active throughout the day and don’t sleep a whole lot, and have some similarities in their diet, but despite these similarities, guinea pigs and rats should not be housed together.
Origins of rats
Rats originated in southeast Asia and then found their way to northeast Asia around 200,000 years ago. These rodents are known in history for eating and contaminating food stores and for killing poultry. They’re also credited for the extinction of different species of small mammals, birds, and reptiles especially on smaller, less populated islands. They’re also responsible for the spread of diseases amongst humans, including the bubonic plague, food poisoning, a variation of typhus, and others.
The brown rat is used in laboratories for medical, biological, and genetic research that is meant to be used towards improving human health as a whole. The first form of rat domestication comes from Japan around 1603, also known as the Edo period.
Differences in diet
As you know, guinea pig diets consist of mostly hay, leafy vegetables, some pellets, and water. They never eat meat or animal products in general. They’re considered prey herbivores, which means they eat vegetation and are considered prey to other animals in the wild.
Rats, on the other hand, are omnivores and will eat just about anything, including meat. Even pellets meant for rats contain meat, and they’ll also eat fruits and vegetables. Rats are actually considered predators to many animals because of their violent nature in the wild, but they’re also prey to larger animals that eat both them and guinea pigs.
While they may eat some similar things, minus the meat when it comes to guinea pigs, they still have different overall nutritional requirements between the two of them. For example, guinea pigs need lots of vitamin C, while also needing to watch the amount of calcium that is in their foods.
Differences in physical activity
Both animals need exercise of some kind, but the requirements they have in order to do it are quite different! Guinea pigs need plenty of open space for them to be able to run around and explore their enclosures, and they need plenty of spots to hide in. Guinea pigs are naturally prey animals and their tendency to hide and burrow comes from that.
Rats also like to run around, but they can do so in a smaller space with the help of a running wheel. Guinea pigs aren’t able to use a running wheel because it’s bad for their spines, hence why they need a large cage or enclosure to accommodate their exploratory tendencies. Rats also like to climb, which is why rat cages are always enclosed spaces. They tend to climb on the bars on their cages, which is why there are so many videos out on the internet of rats climbing around in their cages and falling.
You probably already know this, but guinea pigs are not climbers and they get plenty of exercise by zooming back and forth between hiding spots and their hideys.
Differences in temperament and personality
Rats can be quite territorial, and while guinea pigs can be too, they’re not as aggressive about it as their fellow rodents. It’s pretty likely that there would be some conflict between them for dominance in the cage if they were to be kept together, especially if you have males of either animal. Guinea pigs are already easily stressed out, and excess stress is bad for their immune system! Stress weakens it and leaves them vulnerable to infection and illness.
If a fight were to occur between the two animals, it’s very likely that the guinea pigs would lose, and in many cases, even die. Rats have very large and very sharp teeth, as well as sharp claws. Remember that rats are responsible for the spread of lots of disease among humans, and the same is possible if they’re put into living environments with animals outside of their own species.
Guinea pigs are already so susceptible to infection naturally, keeping them in the vicinity of a rat that could attack and bite them is putting them at a risk for something that you could easily prevent by not housing them together.
Both animals are social and it’s advised that rats are raised together in small groups just like it’s recommended that guinea pigs live in groups and herds. However, rats and guinea pigs should not be in herds together.
If you really want to own rats and guinea pigs…
It’s important that you do not house them together. Get the rats their own cage separate from the guinea pigs cage or enclosure. You can keep the cages in the same room if that’s something you want, but try to keep them separated by putting them across the room from each other.
We know, it can be pretty disappointing that even though both pets are small, furry and cute, they can’t be housed together. But you have to remember that it’s for their own safety! If you’re afraid of your rat getting lonely, you can get another for companionship.
You may have seen the videos on the internet of different species of animals being kept as pets playing together but this isn’t something that you want to try with guinea pigs. Guinea pigs are so timid and skittish, and being in the presence of other animals is already stressful enough for them. It wouldn’t be a good experience for them or the rats you’re trying to get them to befriend.
And as mentioned before, there is also the chance that the rat is feeling particularly aggressive and territorial and could attack your guinea pig. This isn’t something that you want to risk, as it could end badly for your guinea pig.
The bottomline: Guinea pigs and rats can’t live together!
Your first priority when it comes to any of your pets is their safety and well-being, so keeping your guinea pigs and rats separate is the best way to do this. Guinea pigs are perfectly happy to be in the presence of their piggy friends, and there’s no need to put them in danger by trying to introduce friends of different species!