Guinea Pig vs Hamster: Which One You Should Get?

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guinea pig vs hamster

Let me guess you either want to know the difference between Guinea Pig and Hamster or want one of them. They are very adorable rodents and are very popular small pets. Guinea Pig vs Hamster is a battle that goes neck and neck.

These two furballs look almost, but yet there are many differences. I will get these details in further sections. But if you are here to know about these two critters, let us not waste time anymore.

Guinea Pig vs Hamster: History

The Guinea pig has its origin as old as 5000 BC. The native tribes of South America first domesticated it. Archaeologists unearthed many statues of Guinea pigs in southern parts of Ecuador and Peru. The carbon dating techniques revealed that these statues dated between 500 BC to 500 AD.

The Guinea Pig does not originate in Guinea, and neither is related to the pig. They are known as cavy or domestic cavy. Selective breeding techniques during the 1500s laid the foundation of the modern-day Guinea Pig.

The local tribes gifted Guinea pigs to Dutch, English, and Spanish traders during trades. These traders introduced Guinea pigs to Europe, and they quickly rose to fame. They were adopted in Royal families, including that of Queen Elizabeth.

Hamster is a modern rodent that has its origin in the early 1800s. Although they are bit the latest addition to the rodent’s class, the domestication was impossible until 1939.

All the golden hamsters or Syrian hamsters have one common ancestor; a brother-sister pairing. Israeli zoologist Israel Aharoni later imported this pair to the University of Jerusalem. They successfully reproduced in Jerusalem and were exported to the USA.

There are many domesticated species of Guinea pigs and Hamsters. The most common Guinea pig species is Cavia porcellus, and Hamster is Mesocricetus auratus.

Guinea Pig vs Hamster: Physical Characteristics

Guinea Pigs are larger than Hamsters. They have a stout and a small body without a tail. Unlike Hamsters, Guinea pigs do not have a tail. They have strong legs with sharp claws. The hind legs are stronger than front legs, and there are four toes (digits) on front feet and three toes on the back.

The claws help them in burrowing and scratching themselves. Even though Guinea pigs’ legs are strong, they are not agile and cannot jump obstacles. The wild Guinea pigs have rough or coarse fur with black, brown, and grey color. Domestic Guinea pigs have wide variations in their fur color and are usually smooth.

They have small ears, yet they have a very high sense of hearing. The snout is broader than hamsters, and they have an excellent sense of smell. As the eyes are located on the head’s side, they can see both forward and backward. They can have difficulty seeing things directly ahead of them.

The first thing you notice when you see a Guinea pig is its large central incisors. They are very sharp and grow throughout their life. As there is no enamel protection on the palatal side (backside), the incisors wear off due to chewing or gnawing.

 Guinea pigs measure 8 – 10 inches (20 – 25 cm) and weigh 1.5 to 2.6 pounds (700 – 1200 grams).

Hamsters are smaller rodents than the Guinea pigs. The most common species of Hamsters are:

  • Syrian Hamsters: Most common type of Hamster
  • Dwarf Hamsters: Roborovskis and Russian
  • Chinese Hamsters: Uncommon

The size of the Hamster depends on the species. Smallest Hamsters (2 1⁄4 to 4 1⁄4 inches) belong to the genus Phodopus, and the largest (13 ½ inches) belong to European Hamster (Cricetus cricetus). The average weight of a Hamster is 7 ounces (180 – 210 grams).

The attractive feature of the Hamster is their cheeks. They out-pouch and extend from the head and neck up to their shoulders. These pouch-like cheeks help them carry food. Do not be alarmed if you see their cheeks fully distended. It is due to the fact they tend to carry as much food as possible.

As mentioned earlier, Hamsters have a small tail. It is quite difficult to distinguish their tail from their body physically. The tail measures about 1/6th of their total body length. There is an exception with the Chinese Hamster that has a tail length equal to the body’s length.

Similar to the Guinea pigs, Hamsters have large central incisors that help them in chewing. The color of their fur varies greatly between the same species and also between different species.

A characteristic feature of Hamster is the presence of a pair of scent glands between the abdomen and ribs. They use these glands to mark their territory and also to distinguish between different sexes. These glands are more obvious in males than in females. The glands are represented as dark spots on their flanks.

Hamsters also have great auditory and visual senses. Compared to the body to ear size, hamsters have larger ears than Guinea pigs. The snout is not as broad as the Guinea pigs and has a conical appearance.

Guinea Pig vs Hamster: Temperament

The two critters are very gentle and docile. As the Hamster is smaller than the Guinea pig, they are usually kept in cages. The guinea pig is a more vocal and social animal. They must be kept in pairs or groups. It is advised to house the same sex together. If there is a mix of males and females, the males may fight each other during the mating season.

The Hamsters are strictly solitary creatures. If you house two Hamsters together, they can develop stress disorders. They can even fight fiercely and sometimes will cause fatal injuries. An offensive persona to the same sex is evident or typical in Hamsters, but this is not seen in Guinea pigs.

There are some exceptions where the two Hamsters tend to get well together when introduced in the early stages of life. But there is no guarantee that this method is successful always.

Hamsters are excellent burrowers. You can see them digging in their cages more often. They are nocturnal animals and tend to be more active during dawn and dusk (crepuscular). But the Guinea pigs are strictly crepuscular. They do not form tunnels, and in their natural habitat, they will live in burrows of other animals.

Guinea pigs will greet their owners with their typical vocalization tactics. They may tend to run when you try to catch them, yet they are very gentle. You can house a group of Guinea pigs in a cage. Make sure you provide sufficient space to prevent civil war.

To summarize, Guinea pigs are generally very docile, whereas this character in Hamster varies between different species. Another question for many is, do guinea pigs or hamsters bite more? The Hamsters tend to bite, and is not a pleasant experience. Do not startle them, and you can hand tame them to inhibit biting. Instead of picking them up, make them climb on to your hand or body. This process will establish a bond between you and completely inhibits biting.

Guinea Pig vs Hamster: Diet

The Guinea pigs are strict vegetarians. They are fond of Alfalfa hay, a plant of the legume family. Do not overfeed them because they will develop obesity easily. Fresh grass hay and timothy grass are also good. Guinea pigs cannot synthesize Vitamin C. You should feed them with Vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables.

Add a mix of hay along with broccoli, apples, carrot, celery, and spinach. You must provide Vitamin C based foods because they can develop the fatal disease. The daily intake of Vitamin C is 10 milligrams, and in pregnant animals, it is 20 milligrams.

It is not that simple that you throw any grass or hay at your furball, and it will thrive. A complex diet that includes calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, and E) is mandatory.

Guinea pigs are coprophagous that eat their feces. They produce soft feces known as caecal pellets. These pellets help then absorb the unabsorbed Vitamin B and other digestive fibers.

Hamsters are omnivores that thrive on both animal and plant food. You can feed them a wide variety of foods but make sure they do not give junk food. Avoid chocolate, garlic, salt, and sugar foods. They are very fond of sweet and sticky foods, but you should feed them very carefully because they will get stuck in their cheeks.

Do not feed them foods that are high on Vitamin C. Domestic Hamsters will do well if you feed them Hamster exclusive food available in commercial stores. They will also survive in plant food alone. But respect their natural lineage and feed them both animal and plant food.

Hamsters are also coprophagous like Guinea pigs that eat their feces.

Guinea Pig vs Hamster: Health

The Guinea Pig’s average lifespan is five years, but it can extend up to eight years. Some common diseases seen in Guinea pigs are:

  • Pneumonia and other respiratory diseases (most common)
  • Scurvy (due to lack of Vitamin C)
  • Urinary infections
  • Parasitic infections

Hamsters are usually healthier than Guinea pigs, and they live no more than three years. The common diseases in Hamsters are:

  • Cold
  • Diarrhea
  • Mange

Guinea Pig vs Hamster: Cage Setup

The cages of these two critters will differ in size and options. Since Hamster is a solitary animal, most of the cages sold online or at local stores are small. Do not complicate the cage with additional fun activity options. It is difficult to maintain and clean.

The spacing between cage wires must prevent the Hamster from escaping, and they are great escape artists. A good cage with sufficient space that allows the Hamster to explore freely is recommended. Provide an exercise wheel, water source, soft bedding, food tray, and chew toys.

Hamsters are natural burrowers; certain items such as cardboard, wood, and plastic are not suitable for their cages.

Guinea pigs are larger than Hamsters and require more space than Hamsters. For each Guinea pig, you must provide a 30 X 36 inches cage space. The height of the cage must not be less than 18 inches.

A solid ground floor is a must, and you must refrain from filling it with pine or cedar as it can cause respiratory distress. Fill the floor with soft paper and provide burrow like space, so to hide or rest there. You can also provide some chew toys to prevent boredom.

The Guinea pig and Hamster cage floor must be solid and not a wired one. The wired floor will damage their toes. Make sure you house the cages in a quiet environment.

Guinea Pig vs Hamster: Can You Keep Them Together?

The first thing that comes into your mind is, do Guinea pigs and Hamsters fight? To answer this question, let me summarize the personalities of these two critters.

The Guinea pig is a social animal, whereas the Hamsters are a strictly solitary creature. Another critical feature is Hamsters defend their territory very aggressively and can pick fight with a larger pig in an instant. You have to intervene as soon as possible.

Hamsters are nocturnal animals; they sleep the entire day. In comparison, the Guinea pig will take regular naps throughout the day.

You can see a distinct personality difference between these two fur balls. It will stress the hell out of them when you mix these two animals.

In short, NO, you cannot keep a Hamster and Guinea pig together.

Guinea Pig vs Hamster: Which One You Should Get?

If you are a first-time pet owner, both fur balls are suitable for you. Most of the maintenance costs will be for their cage setup and toys. The commercial stores breed these rodents without considering their health. It is better to purchase from a reputed store.

Look for the signs of illness before you get one. Check if they are inactivity, fear, cold symptoms, and hair loss. These are some physical characteristics that indicate some underlying disease.

Note that the Hamster is a nocturnal animal and is suitable for those who work in shifts or a night owl. For those who wake up early in the morning, work, and come home by evening, the Guinea pig is suitable.

If I were you, I would go with Guinea pig because they are more social than Hamster.  Guinea pigs have dogs like socializing behavior, whereas Hamsters are independent like cats. Both of them are escape artists, but this nature is multifold in Hamsters. So, my personal choice is a larger fur ball, the Guinea pig.

Have you decided which one is best for you? I know that the battle of Guinea pig vs Hamster will not have an easy winner. But if you triumphed over this confusion, let us know. We would love to hear your story.

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We adopted a unique system of delivering our content by comparing two different pets. It helps you to choose the right one and also reduces the time for this process. The term ‘versus’ or ‘vs.’ is not interpreted as competition or fight here. It is about to make you understand better between two different species.

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