What Is the Difference Between a Guinea Pig and Hamster?

"Guinea pigs are just large hamsters, right?"

If you're a Guinea Pig owner, you've most likely heard that a million times. Well, now we have a handy guide to rebut those comments and enlighten your misinformed friends!

There are a bunch of differences when it comes to hamsters and guinea pigs. Although they are both related in a way, they are like distant distant distant distant cousins. They are both parts of the Rodentia order, but guinea pigs are from the genus Cavia family while hamsters belong to the Cricetinae family.

LIFESPAN - Guinea pigs have a longer lifespan than hamsters, almost three times longer! Guinea pigs can live from 4-8 years while a hamster's lifespan is 2-3 years. If you are debating between a guinea pig and a hamster, this is something major you should consider.

SIZE and WEIGHT - Size is another major difference. It’s pretty obvious that guinea pigs are a few times larger than hamsters. A guinea pig is around the size of a large potato and weighs 1.5-2.6 pounds while a hamster is the size of a strawberry and only weighs 1-10 ounces.

FEET and HANDS and TAILS - Guinea pigs have 4 feet and no tail while hamsters have 2 hands, 2 feet, and a tail. Guinea pigs are mainly on all fours and never use their front paws to hold things the way hamsters do. Hamsters tend to sit up on their hind legs and hold seeds in their hands to chew on.

ACTIVITY - Guinea pigs are more day active, but really only take short naps equalling 4 hours total. Hamsters are more nocturnal, so you may not want to keep them in your room if you have a squeaky running wheel.

OMNIVORE vs HERBIVORE - Hamsters are omnivores which means they eat both plant-based and animal-based diets. Although not a lot of new pet owners know this, you can feed mealworms to your hamsters! On the other hand, guinea pigs are herbivores which means they only eat a plant-based diet. Guinea pigs should always have an unlimited amount of hay to munch on, and it should make up the majority of a guinea pig’s diet. Guinea pigs also produce caecotropes, which is a softer stool that they ingest. Don’t be alarmed if you see this. It’s normal and they take back the nutrients in the feces.

COMPANIONSHIP - Guinea pigs are very social creatures and are best kept with a pack of guinea pigs. If it’s not possible to have more than one, spend lots of time with the guinea pig. However, hamsters are better left in solitude because they are very territorial. Keeping more than one in a cage could lead to fighting.

REPRODUCTION - Guinea pigs give birth to pups and each litter carries from 2-4 pups. Sometimes they may even carry up to 13 pups at one time. On average hamsters can give birth up to 6-12 pups, but the maximum can be up to 20 pups!

Now that you are informed about the differences between both types of pets, you'll be able to understand their behaviors and have the proper knowledge to be the best pet parent out there!