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Is It Better To Get A Hamster or A Guinea Pig?

Hamsters and guinea pigs are popular pets, especially among families with young children. Both animals are loved worldwide, but their personalities and care requirements differ.

Guinea pigs are social animals that live in herds. You need at least two guinea pigs to prevent them from becoming bored and lonely. However, having several guinea pigs costs more money.

In comparison, most hamsters are solitary animals. They’re happy to entertain themselves as long as they have an exercise wheel and enrichment, but they can become tame with frequent interaction.

Guinea pigs are larger and slower movers than hamsters, making them easier to handle.

Differences Between Hamsters and Guinea Pigs

Hamsters and guinea pigs look significantly different:

  • Guinea pigs are much larger than hamsters and have stocky bodies.
  • Hamsters have short, stubby tails, whereas guinea pigs have no tails.
  • Guinea pigs have longer fur than most hamsters, except long-haired hamsters.
  • Hamsters have 4 toes at the front and 5 at the back; cavies have 3 at the back and 4 at the front.
  • Hamsters have cheek pouches they use to store food.
  • Guinea pigs have floppy ears that hang down, while hamsters have small, upright ears.

Do Guinea Pigs Live Longer Than Hamsters?

Guinea pigs live for an average of 5-8 years, while hamsters only live for 2-2.5 years.

Hamsters are at the bottom of the food chain, so they rely on procreation to survive. So, their bodily processes focus on reproduction, meaning that hamsters live short lives.

Hamsters are also smaller than guinea pigs and can’t manage their biological processes as efficiently.

guinea pig vs hamster

Are Hamsters Smaller Than Guinea Pigs?

Hamsters are smaller than guinea pigs. Syrian hamsters, which are the largest captive species, only reach 6-7 inches. Female hamsters are larger than male hamsters.

Guinea pigs can grow to 15 inches long. They’re bigger than hamsters, even at their smallest (8 inches).

Do Guinea Pigs or Hamsters Smell Worse?

Hamsters’ urine has a strong smell (like ammonia), and females produce a musky odor when in heat.

However, hamsters are easy to potty train and will urinate in the same spot. If you place a sand bath in the hamster’s enclosure, it can learn to use it.

Although hamsters and guinea pigs poop everywhere, it doesn’t smell. They both practice coprophagy (eat their poop) to glean as much nutrition as possible and hamsters fling poop.

Guinea pig pens are better ventilated than hamster cages, so the ammonia smell doesn’t build up as quickly. Like hamsters, Guinea pigs can learn to pee in the same spot.

Spot clean their cages regularly to prevent them from smelling. Scoop out and replace soiled bedding daily, and remove uneaten fruits and vegetables to prevent bad smells from accumulating.

Do Hamsters Bite More Than Guinea Pigs?

Hamsters are more likely to bite than guinea pigs. Small prey animals understand their vulnerability and may nip when threatened, mishandled, or picked up too frequently.

As children get over-excited and grip their hamsters too tightly, this can be a problem.  

Guinea pigs rarely bite. Instead, they attempt to wriggle away from threatening situations. The danger is that they could fall from their owners’ hands and drop to the floor.

Only handle guinea pigs and hamsters once you’ve established a bond.

Are Hamsters Smarter Than Guinea Pigs?

Hamsters are smaller than guinea pigs and have fewer brain neurons. Guinea pigs can:

  • Learn and respond to names.
  • Recognize their owners.
  • Remember pathways.
  • Retrace their steps.
  • Learn and remember tricks.

Guinea pigs are more confident than hamsters, so teaching them tricks is easier.

While hamsters are less intelligent than guinea pigs, they can recognize their owners’ voices and learn basic tricks, such as how to get through a maze and where to find food.

Are Hamsters or Guinea Pigs More Friendly?

Hamsters and guinea pigs can become friendly and affectionate, but it requires frequent interaction.

The journal Physiology explains that touching and petting animals releases the neurochemical oxytocin (the love hormone). So, hamsters and guinea pigs can display friendliness and affection.

Both animals are preyed upon in the wild, so they keep themselves safe from danger. So, taming them and encouraging them to be more friendly takes time.

Once you’ve proven you’re not a threat, many hamsters and guinea pigs are happy to be handled and petted as long as their owners don’t make sudden movements or loud noises.

Are Hamsters or Guinea Pigs More Active?

Guinea pigs are diurnal, so they’re more active during the day. Hamsters are crepuscular, emerging between dusk and dawn.

Guinea pigs only sleep for short periods and are awake for around 20 hours a day. When awake, they spend most of their time munching on hay, grooming themselves, and exploring their pens.

Hamsters sleep 8-12 hours daily, but it’s not necessarily in one period. They can run for miles on their exercise wheels and forage for food. That’s why scattering their dry mix across the bedding is better than putting it into a bowl.

Hamsters also clean themselves in sand baths and dig intricate burrows deep into their bedding.

Are Hamsters or Guinea Pigs More Social?

Syrian and Chinese hamsters are solitary animals, but some dwarf hamsters (Roborovskis or Winter Whites) don’t mind same-species companionship.

To prevent conflict, they must be separated from their littermates when 21-28 days old. Hamsters left in the same cage will fight, inflicting injuries that can lead to death.

Guinea pigs couldn’t be more different. According to Physiology & Behavior, guinea pigs live in social groups in the wild, experiencing casual relationships.

Wild guinea pigs live in herds, and their young stay with them until they’re old enough to mate. So, captive guinea pigs thrive in groups of two or more, becoming sad and lonely if kept alone.

Are Hamsters Cuter Than Guinea Pigs?

Both hamsters and guinea pigs are cute animals, making them popular with young families. However, everyone has their preferences, and whether you find hamsters or guinea pigs cuter is subjective.

Many things make hamsters seem cute. They’re small with big eyes and small feet. Many people are also amused by their cheek pouches, especially when they’re filled with food.

Guinea pigs also have many endearing traits. They have sweet mouths and resemble cuddly toys. They have friendly personalities, which makes them attractive as pets.

Are Hamsters Louder Than Guinea Pigs?

Guinea pigs are famous for their loud, high-pitched squeaks (wheeks). Their squeaks aren’t too loud, but guinea pigs can make a lot of noise when they’re in herds.

Guinea pigs scream when threatened, which is a much louder noise than wheeks.

Hamsters make certain sounds in different situations. For example, they:

These noises are rarely prolonged or loud, but a hamster may be trying to tell you something.

is a hamster or guinea pig easier to take care of?

Are Guinea Pigs Easier To Tame Than Hamsters?

Hamsters usually respond well to the taming process when given food and encouragement. However, guinea pigs come out during the day, giving owners more time to tame their pets.

Guinea pigs are skittish and nervous when arriving at a new home, so taming takes time. Even then, some guinea pigs continue to be wary around people.

The same applies to hamsters. Prey animals are hardwired to protect themselves from danger and will always retain some nervousness and apprehension.

However, many guinea pigs and hamsters grow to enjoy their owners’ company, even if they don’t always like being picked up and handled.

How Much Do Guinea Pigs and Hamsters Cost

The price of a guinea pig is $20-40 (you’ll need at least two), while hamsters cost $10-20.

Guinea pig cages vary in price. According to the Humane Society, the minimum sized cage for one guinea pig is 7.5 square feet (30 x 36 inches). For two, 10.5 square feet (30 x 50 inches) is recommended.

Ensuring the guinea pigs have enough room to exercise prevents stress and behavioral issues.

Hamsters need an enclosure measuring at least 39 x 20 inches, but bigger is always preferred. Hamsters also need an exercise wheel to run at night.

Both guinea pigs and hamsters require the following:

  • Food.
  • Bedding.
  • Toys.
  • Water bottles and food bowls.
  • Hiding places.
  • Veterinary care.
  • Pet insurance.

While some costs are fixed, others (like food) are ongoing.

Choosing between hamsters and guinea pigs is a personal decision, as they’re both sweet animals. A hamster is more suitable if you only want a single pet, but guinea pigs liver longer.