Difference Between Guinea Pig and Hamster
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 a guinea pig or a hamster. Or, maybe you just want to know the difference between guinea pigs and hamsters. Either way, this very detailed guide will teach you the difference and help you decide which is the right pet for you!
"A 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 a much bigger habitat with more room to play, and more food than hamsters (which leads to more clean up).
Guinea Pig Cage Size
The Humane Society says one to two guinea pigs require a minimum of 7.5 square feet of living space and a recommended space of 10.5 square feet. The guinea pigs require roomier enclosures, so they can exercise on their schedule and have some private space. Most pet store cages are much smaller than minimum size requirements. They may be acceptable for the first couple of weeks when guinea pigs are only babies. However, the owner must quickly look into expanding the cage size as the guinea pigs grow.
Here are a couple of 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 methods among guinea pig enthusiasts, lovers, and experts. The C&C cage uses two main components: C&C grids (used as walls) and coroplast (used as a waterproof base). Although a C&C cage requires some assembly, 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 the 2 grid by 4 grid size (right picture below) would provide the 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 that are "made for guinea pigs" are not appropriate for the guinea pigs. Most of them do not reach even the minimum requirement of 7.5 square feet, let alone the recommended space of 10.5 square feet. One brand that barely meets the minimum size is called MidWest Guinea Habitat. However, many experts recommend that you upgrade to the C&C cage or DIY options as soon as possible.
Don’t Forget the Bedding!
The size of the cage isn't everything when it comes to setting up the proper guinea pig habitat.
Guinea pigs 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 hundreds of thousands of guinea pig owners trust and use. I would strongly encourage you to check out GuineaDad Liner to ensure your guinea pig’s health.
Hamster Cage Size
The Humane Society of the United States says hamsters require a minimum of 2 to 3 square feet of space for one hamster. Unlike guinea pigs, many hamster breeds are recommended to be kept alone.
Although hamsters need smaller space than guinea pigs, they do better in a bigger and roomier environment. There have been studies that positively correlate the size of the cage with a hamster's lifespan (they live longer and happier in a bigger cage!).
Pre-built & DIY cages
For hamsters, there are some acceptable 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 create cages for hamsters. Many experts will recommend a bin that is larger than 30 gallons.
Some other options are using 40+ gallon aquariums and converting IKEA furniture to make the cage! Again, the DIY possibilities are endless.
Don’t Forget the Bedding!
The most popular substrates for the hamsters are paper beddings and wood shavings. Since hamsters love to burrow, hamster enthusiasts encourage owners to have the bedding thick enough for hamsters to burrow under and navigate.
Just like guinea pigs, hamsters also have a sensitive respiratory system. The respiratory infection in hamsters could come from bacteria and irritation/inflammation from the dust. Many owners of hamsters with respiratory disease (or history of it) use the smaller sized GuineaDad Liner in their hamster habitats. 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?
Guinea Pig Behavior & Lifespan
The guinea pigs are social animals and very loving. It is extremely rare for a guinea pig to bite. They are very gentle and mild-mannered. You can cuddle with your guinea pigs as soon as they become familiar with their surroundings and get comfortable with human interactions. Since guinea pigs are bigger than hamsters and also have weak spines, they need to be handled with both hands supporting their bottom and belly.
Guinea pigs love floor time when they can explore a larger area. We recommend using a guinea pig fleece liner to help them navigate the floor and protect their sensitive feet during their floor time. And since guinea pigs are neither strictly diurnal nor nocturnal, they can play with you throughout the day.
Guinea pigs are also 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. Two guinea pigs may rumble strut at each other to establish dominance. The guinea pigs express their emotions very well, and as an owner, you’ll often find yourself smiling or cracking up just listening to them.
Guinea pigs live around 7 to 10 years with good care, so the owner must be able to commit to taking care of these loving creatures during that time.
Hamster Behavior & Lifespan
Hamsters are more solitary and quieter than guinea pigs. Hamsters can be affectionate to humans, but many do 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.
Like most rodents, hamsters are nocturnal so you will see them more active in the evening, night, and early morning.
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 an unlimited amount of hay and fresh water, along with 1 cup of fresh vegetables (bell peppers, cucumber, red leaf lettuce, etc) daily. GuineaDad Nourish Series provides the freshest Timothy Hay for guinea pigs in the most convenient delivery method.
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, a 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 for a guinea pig.
I hope this guide helps 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 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.
The 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!
More Fun Facts
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 for 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. Guinea pig feet are sensitive, so it’s best to provide guinea pig fleece lining in their habitats and where they play.
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 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 Timothy hay for guinea pigs 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 2-4 pups. Sometimes they may even carry up to 13 pups at one time. On average, hamsters can give birth to 6-12 pups, but the maximum can be 20 pups!