Is a Guinea Pig or Hamster the Right Pet for Your Family?
16 February, 2018
guinea pig or hamster

If you are thinking of bringing in a small, adorable furry addition to your family and don’t know if you should adopt a guinea pig or hamster, there are some basic fundamentals that might help.  In general, guinea pigs are substantially bigger than hamsters, but there also many differences between the two in terms of social needs, time commitment, and lifestyle.

Some things to consider before you bring a guinea pig or hamster home:

Hamsters are more nocturnal – just like cats!

Hamsters are nocturnal, meaning that they’re typically most active at night and sleep throughout the day. So if you’re looking for a pet that’ll entertain you with their antics during daylight hours, a hamster is probably not going to fit the bill.

Guinea pigs, on the other hand, generally keep the same hours as most of us do and are more awake during the day and sleepy at night.  Which is great but means they need socialization during the day.

Guinea pigs are much bigger than hamsters and their cages should be too

Guinea pigs are bigger than hamsters so they’ll need way more space in order to live healthy, happy lives. Syrian hamsters are typically between 5 to 6 inches long (even up to 7 if they’re female), while Dwarf hamsters can be anywhere between 2 to 4 inches in length. Guinea pigs can grow to be between 8 to 12 inches long, need lots of room to exercise, and make happier pets if they’re housed with a another guinea which means an even larger enclosure.

Hamsters, should be caged individually and need less room to exercise if they’ve got a hamster wheel. Though pet stores sell exercise wheels for guinea pigs, experts advise against them. Unlike hamsters, guinea pigs’ delicate spines are not suited to running on wheels, so they’ll need to get their exercise outside the cage.

Hamsters are not as expensive as guinea pigs

If you don’t have a lot of disposable income, a hamster is usually a better option than a guinea pig. Obviously, guinea pigs are bigger, so they need larger enclosures, more bedding material (e.g. paper, fleece, wood chips) and food! All of this adds up to a more expensive pet.

Guinea pigs are more social than hamsters but need more attention and interaction

Guinea pigs are social creatures that need a good amount of social interaction, which is why many suggest that you should keep them in pairs, especially if you don’t have an awful lot of time to devote to keeping them company. Guinea pigs can be very vocal (something else to consider if you want peace and quiet), and will often make noise when their owners walk by their enclosures if they’re yearning some love! Though hamsters are solitary animals, they still need some level of social interaction, and usually do just fine with about 15 or so minutes of play per day outside their cage with their owners.

Life spans of hamsters and guinea pigs

Guinea pigs normally live between five to seven years–even as much as ten in some cases. (Of course, if you grow attached to your little pig, this lifespan sadly doesn’t nearly seem long enough.) Hamsters, on the other hand, have a much shorter life expectancy–2 to 3 years for Syrian hamsters and only 1 to 2 years for Dwarf varieties.

Hamsters and guineas are both wonderful pets and whichever you choose, always try to adopt one first!

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