Guinea Pig vs Hamster. Should I Get Hamster or Guinea Pig? What is the Difference Between a Guinea Pig and Hamster?
If you are reading this article, you might be trying to decide whether you should get guinea pigs or a hamster. Or, maybe you just want to know the difference between guinea pig and hamster. Either way, This very detailed guide will help you find out the difference and choose the right pet for you!
"Guinea pig is NOT a big hamster. They are completely different!"
1. How much space can you dedicate to your new pets?
Guinea pigs are bigger and heavier than hamsters. The guinea pigs can weigh around 1.5 to 2.6 lb, whereas hamsters only weigh around 1 to 10 oz. The guinea pigs are also 2-4 times bigger! This means guinea pigs will require much bigger space than hamsters.
Humane Society says one to two guinea pigs require a minimum of 7.5 square feet of living space and recommended space of 10.5 square feet. The guinea pigs require roomier enclosure, so they can exercise on their schedule and have some private space. Most pet store cages (usually much smaller than minimum size requirement), may be acceptable for the first couple weeks when guinea pigs are only babies. However, the owner must quickly look into expanding the cage size.
Here are couple cage options that are appropriate for the guinea pigs.
The good ol' C&C cage. This DIY solution has been one of the most popular method among the guinea pig enthusiasts, lovers, and experts. The C&C cage uses two main components, C&C grids (used as a wall) and coroplast (used as waterproof base). Although C&C cage requires some building time, building it does not take too much time or skill.
The 2 grid by 3 grid size (left picture below) would provide your guinea pigs with the minimum size of 7.5 square feet, and 2 grid by 4 grid size (right picture below) would provide recommended size of 10.5 square feet.
DIY (Do it Yourself)
You can also try the DIY options if you are handy. GuineaDad built a cage with IKEA furniture, and it provides about 2 grid by 6 grid space for his three guinea pigs. You can click the picture to watch the video. The possibilities are endless!
Pre-built cage (least recommended)
More than 90% of pre-built cages "made for guinea pigs" are not appropriate for the guinea pigs. Most of them do not reach the minimum requirement of 7.5 square feet. One brand that barely meets the minimum size is called MidWest Guinea Habitat. However, many experts will recommend that you upgrade to the C&C cage or DIY options as soon as possible.
The size of the cage isn't everything when it comes to setting up the proper guinea pig habitat.
Guinea pig should not live on the hard, wet or dusty floor. They have sensitive feet and respiratory system. Whether you decide to create your own C&C or DIY cage, or even if you decide to go for the pre-built cage (hopefully one that is large enough), GuineaDad Liner is the best bedding option that hundred thousands of guinea pig owners trust and use. I would strongly encourage you to check out GuineaDad Liner to ensure your guinea pig health.
The Humane Society of the United States say hamsters require minimum 2 to 3 square feet of space for a hamster. Unlike guinea pigs, many hamster breeds are recommended to be kept alone.
Although hamster need smaller space than guinea pigs, they also do better in a bigger and roomier environment. There has been studies that positively correlates the size of the cage with hamster's life-span (they live longer and happier in a bigger cage!).
For hamsters, there are some pre-built options available, ranging from wire cages to wooden cages. You can go for many pre-built cages, but remember that bigger is still better.
There are also some DIY options where you can use the plastic bin to crate cages for hamsters. Many experts will recommend a bit that is larger than 30 gallons.
Some other options are using 40+ gallon aquariums and converting the IKEA furniture to make the cage! Again, the DIY possibilities are endless.
The most popular substrates for the hamsters are paper beddings and wood shavings. Since hamsters love to burrow, hamster enthusiasts ask the owner to have the bedding thick enough for hamsters the burrow under and navigate.
Just like guinea pigs, hamsters also have sensitive respiratory system. The respiratory infection in hamsters could come from bacteria and irritation/inflammation from the dust. Many hamsters with respiratory disease (or history of it) use the smaller sized GuineaDad Liner. Still, we recommend providing a section of a cage or a box where hamsters can still burrow.
2. How do you want to interact with your pet?
The guinea pigs are social animals and very loving. It is extremely rare to see a guinea pig bite. They are very gentle and mild-mannered. You can cuddle with your guinea pigs as soon as they become familiar with the surrounding and get comfortable with human interactions. Since guinea pigs are bigger than hamster and also have weak spines, they need to be handled with both hands supporting their bottom and belly. The guinea pigs love the floor time during when they can explore the new area. We recommend you to use the GuineaDad Liner to help them navigate the floor and protect their sensitive feet during the floor time.
The guinea pigs are expressive and can make different sounds. They can wheek to welcome you home. They can also wheek if they hear the refrigerator door open to let you know that they want vegetables. The two guinea pigs can rumble strut at each other to establish dominance. The guinea pigs express their emotions very well, and as a owners you often see yourself smile and crack up just looking at them.
The guinea pigs live around 7 to 10 years under a good care so the owner must be able to commit to taking care of these loving creatures during that time.
Hamsters are more solitary and quieter than guinea pigs. Hamsters can be affectionate to humans, but many bite. They require daily handling and interaction to be tame. Hamsters are small, so they can be handled with one hand once they become tame.
The hamsters are also nocturnal so you will see them more active in the evening, night, and early morning.
The hamsters live two to three years, but they can become very attached to the owner during this time.
3. How much time can you dedicate to spend with your pet?
Guinea Pig eats more and poops more than hamsters. The guinea pig cage needs to be spot cleaned (poop and hay on the floor removed with broom or vacuum) once or twice daily.
Guinea Pigs not only need another companion guinea pig to interact with, but also thrive with human interaction. You need to be willing to talk to them, spend time with them, and provide them with sufficient floor time daily.
In terms of nutrition, you must provide unlimited amount of hay and fresh water, along with 1 cup of fresh vegetables (bell peppers, cucumber, red leaf lettuce, and etc) daily. GuineaDad Nourish Series provides the freshest Timothy Hay in the most convenient way.
You can also click the image below to watch the recommended meal planning for the guinea pigs video.
Hamsters also require daily interaction to keep them tame enough to be handled. They can eat various types of food (seed, grains, nuts, fruits, vegetables and even insects!). According to the Humane Society, hamster's diet should be at least 16% protein and 5% fat. They do eat much less than guinea pigs, so the cage maintenance work is less than guinea pig.
I hope this will help you in deciding to go for guinea pigs or a hamster! Being GuineaDad, I have to admit that I am biased. I would highly recommend guinea pigs to anyone who is willing to commit to taking care of guinea pigs for their whole life span. However, it is up to your preference as they both have their pros and cons.
Based on my years of experience with guinea pigs and raising three girl piggies myself, I have never regretted a single moment. I got so committed to them that I decided to start GuineaDad. You can imagine how much love and emotional support I get from guinea pigs.
Last thing I want to tell everyone is to do enough research about the pets before adopting them. They totally deserve all the time and work!
You can find more information about guinea pigs and hamsters below, along with the infographics. Enjoy!
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 equaling 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 meal worms 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