If you want to get yourself a tiny cute furry friend, choosing between a guinea pig and a hamster can be a nerve-wracking task.
They are both adorable creatures, although certain aspects make them as different as day and night. It remains crucial to get conversant with these differences for you to know which pet best suits your lifestyle.
Differences Between a Hamster and a Guinea Pig
In the animal kingdom, there are more than a few species that seem like replicas of each other. The hamster and the guinea pig have several almost identical outward features.
However, the guinea pig is relatively bigger and has no tail, while the hamster is smaller and has a short tail. Here are a few other key differences you should know before choosing between the two.
Guinea pigs solely eat plant matter, and they are herbivorous. Hamsters, on the other hand, are omnivorous, so they eat meat as well as plant matter. While hamsters are nocturnal and mainly active during the night, guinea pigs are crepuscular, meaning they are active during the night and day.
The average life expectancy of a hamster is about 2-3 years. Guinea pigs live longer with proper care. They can live between 5-8 years. The expected life span of your pet will dictate the length of the commitment you need to make.
Guinea pigs are adorable, especially when they live in groups of two or more. They are social, active, outgoing, and quite friendly. Hamsters are more solitary creatures with docile personalities. They are not as enthusiastic or as friendly as guinea pigs.
6 Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing Between a Guinea Pig and a Hamster
What is beyond debate is that both guinea pigs and hamsters are chubby-cheeked and drop-dead gorgeous.
However, they differ in their social needs, the kind of living environment they prefer, and also the level of pet care they require. Before you choose the furry companion to take home, here are vital questions to ask yourself.
Is it vital to have a child-friendly pet?
Before you bring in a furry family member, you may want to think about how it will correlate with your little ones. Don’t be fooled by the tiny body size of a hamster. It can get aggressive, not to mention that the pet critter is only active at night, possibly when everyone in your house is sound asleep.
In case you have youngsters in your home, it makes better sense to choose a guinea pig over a hamster. These chubby little fellows are big enough for your kid to grasp them properly.
They are also active for a few hours during the day and have loads of personalities that can quickly help in creating an unbreakable child-pet connection.
The downside to having either of the pets in your home is that they are potential carriers of zoonotic diseases. These health concerns are transmittable to humans, and you must not forget that kids have lower immune systems when compared to adults.
Keeping the pet pen clean and ensuring that your kids have controlled contact with the critter is always advisable.
How much extra square footage do you have?
As I mentioned earlier, guinea pigs are bigger when compared to hamsters. They can grow to over one and a half feet long, so they need a bigger cage.
Additionally, guinea pigs are active creatures, and when alone, they could die of loneliness. This makes it essential to plan on getting at least two guinea pigs, and a more spacious cage may be required.
One guinea pig needs a floor space of a minimum of 7.5 square feet. This is about 30″ x 36″ when translated into the dimensions of a cage. If you are going to get a pair of pets, you need about 10.5 square feet, so the dimensions of your enclosure should measure at least 30″ x 50″.
If you have limited space in your home or apartment, a hamster may make a better pet than a guinea pig. Hamsters are smaller, and irrespective of the breed or species you choose, a cage that is 2 feet long and 1 foot wide will be enough. This will provide enough room for your hamster to remain active and entertained.
Hamsters are not social creatures. They are happy living solo and can keep themselves busy with hamster balls, tunnels, and other play items.
Do you love cuddling?
Cuddling a pet is therapeutic. According to scientific research, this can enhance your psychological well-being by relieving depression and anxiety. A snuggle session after a long, hectic day increases the levels of oxytocin in your body, a neurotransmitter known to help the body to cope with stress naturally.
So are you a cuddler? If you are, you are likely to have a blast petting a guinea pig than a hamster. Hamsters hardly grow longer than 7 inches, and they weigh a maximum of 4.5 ounces.
Petting a guinea pig is, on the other hand, quite similar to having snug sessions with a Chihuahua. They can grow as big as 14 inches long and weigh a maximum of 48 ounces.
Another reason why cuddlers are better off with guinea pigs is that hamsters are more defensive, perhaps because of their tiny bodies. They easily get nervous around humans, and you cannot tell how anxiety will impact their behavior.
In a wrap, hamsters can be anxious, aggressive, and nippy. These are not characteristics that can entice any cuddler type of person.
Do You Have Adequate Disposable Income?
You have all the right to become a pet parent, even if your budgets are limited. In this case, choosing a hamster may be a better idea.
Hamsters are smaller, prefer solitude, eat lesser food when compared to guinea pigs, and also need smaller enclosures and lesser bedding material. All points considered it is cheaper to take care of a hamster.
Is it better to have a social or independent pet?
Before you choose guinea pigs, remember that they are social creatures. You need to have time to interact with your pet, or you should at least ensure it has a playmate of its kind. The social nature of guinea pigs makes them more vocal, especially when they yearn for some TLC.
Hamsters are happier living solitary lives. However, they still require some social interaction. Your pet will be content as long as you can take it out of its cage and play with it or allow it to run around for about 15 minutes each day.
What level of escapism can you withstand?
Hamsters are the Henri Charrière’s of Papillon and always have an intense yearning to escape. They chew the bars and will even attempt to slide out through the space between the cage and the vertical bars. Their inherent desire to escape sometimes yields fruit.
Guinea pigs are also not great fans of imprisonment. They can also chew the bars, although they mainly do this to manage the growth of their teeth. Usually, they are less determined to escape, especially if they are getting adequate attention from their human companions.
Take Out Tip
So you love guinea pigs and hamsters in equal measure, and you want to have both pets. The question is; can you keep them in one cage? Heck no! Guinea pigs and hamsters differ in their dietary requirements, sleep patterns, and personalities.
Moreover, hamsters are territorial creatures, and they bite whenever they feel threatened. Guinea pigs can also bite back in self-defense. If you do not want to turn your home into a war zone, do not put the two together.
Choosing between two cute, chubby-cheeked fur balls is never an easy affair. For you to make the right decision, you must ensure that you select the furry friend that fits best into your lifestyle.
Based on your response to the above questions, you can easily choose between keeping a guinea pig or a hamster. Both of them are adorable, and they make excellent furry family members, although they have different pet care needs.