Hamsters and guinea pigs are often seen as similar pets.
After all they are round, small, furry, very active and inquisitive animals who are relatively easy to look after.
So if you are wondering which pet is right for you, then this post is going to delve into how they compare as pets and look in an unbiased way which might suit a particular person.
Of course we love Guinea pigs here, but piggies aren’t right for everyone and to look after them well means meeting certain requirements to ensure they live a good life.
So lets dive right in…
Guinea Pigs vs Hamsters: How do their requirements compare?
Hamsters are nocturnal animals which means they are active at night. This means that they are running around their cage, using their wheel and rustling whilst doing so.
Unfortunately, this means they may need to be kept in a separate room away from your sleeping area preferably with the door closed.
Do you have the space to make this happen?
Conversely, if you have a lifestyle which means that you are around the home for most of the day and are looking for a pet to keep you company, then they won’t be much good as they’ll be sleeping most of the time!
Guinea pigs however, sleep in small bursts and are active during the day and night. They sleep when they need to which means that they too will be running around.
However guinea pigs can be kept outside if you live in warmer climates which is much different from hamsters and more beneficial if you are looking for peace and quiet at night.
Hamsters are often considered good pets for children because of their small size and relative ease of maintenance.
However because they are nocturnal animals, by the time your child is going to sleep your hamster is waking up. This means that they times when your child can play with the hamster will be few.
Because they sleep during the day they are not that keen on being woken up. So if they are woken, they could well bite.
So if they are handled during the day, then children under 8 years old will need to be supervised by an adult. They do need to be handled with care and consideration and young children do not usually have the handling skills to be able to handle the hamster with the careful touch it needs.
Hamsters are also very agile and quick and so can leap out of hands that do not have a considered grip on them.
Guinea pigs are also a pet that can be handled with ease. They are best handled with consideration and a gentile touch.
I would recommend that children under 8 are supervised when they are with guinea pigs as if they are picked up roughly and are squeezed in a way that hurts, they will scratch you and possibly bite if they are hurt.
Both guinea pigs and hamsters are capable of carrying zoonotic diseases which are those types of diseases that can be passed from animals to humans and a child with an immune system that hasn’t fully developed.
When handling both animals, even adults have to wash their hands afterwards.
Personally, there have been times when I have handled my guinea pigs and have neglected to wash my hands afterwards and have suffered the consequence afterwards.
Hygiene is very important when handling both animals which is why the presence of an adult is important to ensure this happens.
The space that they require
Hamsters are solitary creatures that do need their own space to live. Depending on what type of hamster you have will have an effect on how you house them.
Syrian hamsters for example, need their own space and do not get on with any animals living with them, even their own species.
Dwarf hamsters on the other hand, are much more friendly pets and have the ability to live with other member of their species if they are introduced in the right way.
The minimum space size that hamsters need according to the humane society of America is 24 inches long and 12 inches wide. However if you can go for a larger cage then the larger the better because hamster do love to run around.
A guinea pig requires a minimum size accommodation of a 7.5 square feet cage, however the bigger the cage the better for the guinea pig and so generally 30″ x 36″ is a good size.
Guinea pigs are also very social animals and do prefer living with other guinea pigs which will increase the need for a larger cage as well.
So with this in mind, according to the Humane Society of America
Two guinea pigs: 7.5 square feet (minimum), but 10.5 square feet is preferred; generally 30″ x 50″ is a good size.
Three guinea pigs: 10.5 square feet (minimum), but 13 square feet is preferred; generally 30″ x 62″ is a good size.
Four guinea pigs: 13 square feet (minimum), but more is better; generally 30″ x 76″ is a good size.
Habits and characteristics
Hamsters are renown for being escape artists. They will do anything to get out of their cage and this is quite normal behaviour. This is why their cage needs to be properly secured.
They also chew anything. If there is anything they can gnaw they will do so. This is why their cage needs to be gnaw proof so they can’t squeeze through any space which they have gnawed through. Their teeth are always growing so they need to be gnawing them down all of the time.
They do excrete quite often and will need their cage cleaned out and lined with newspaper and wood shavings to absorb it all.
Guinea pigs excrete often as well and will need a similar maintenance schedule to clean their cage out.
Guinea pigs eat all of the time and need a constant supply of hay to grind Grier teeth down just like hamsters.
Guinea pigs are best with other piggies and companionship makes them happier.
What do you need to purchase?
The purchase price for both a hamster and a guinea pig is small but here are costs that you need to consider.
For a hamster you will need the following ;
- Accommodation in the form of a cage, aquarium.
- A nesting box
- Bedding and nesting material
- An exercise wheel
- Water bottle
- A food dish
- Hamster chow
- Hamster toys
- Hamster treats
- Regular food
Guinea pigs on the other hand require
- Accommodation in the form of a hutch or cage plus a run
- Bedding and nesting hay
- Water bottle
- Guinea pig toys
- A food dish
- Regular veggies
- Guinea pig house
- Regular feeding hay
There is no doubt that hamsters are the cheaper and more economical pet to own. Mainly due to the accommodation they need.
Both Guinea Pigs and Hamsters also need veterinary care when they need it so a consideration is needed as to how you pay for that or whether insurance is needed.
How much time do they need?
Hamsters are known for being quite independent creatures and have the ability to entertain themselves for long periods.
However, they can’t just be left in a cage with nothing to do. They do need toys, a hamster wheel and plenty of opportunities to burrow and to climb.
They also need handling daily and benefit from human interaction. By handling daily you can get to know them and they can get to know you and build trust.
This makes them ideal if you have a full time job and can interact with them when you get home.
They also need their cage cleaned out once a week at the very least.
Guinea pigs are also quite self sufficient, especially if they have other guinea pigs to keep them company. H
owever, if they live on their own, they do need time spent with them and the recommended time spent with a lone guinea pig is 2 hours a day.
So they are more demanding in this instance.
They also need feeding twice a day and their accommodation spot cleaned daily with a through clean done once a week.
Hamsters can live between 2.5 to 3 years depending the species. This can be a disadvantage if you have younger children who aren’t prepared for the death of a pet.
Guinea pigs however live between 6-8 years depending on how they are looked after and so there is more time to enjoy them.
Hamsters are definitely the less demanding pet, and the most economical as well. However, they don’t live as long which can be a benefit and a disadvantage.
Guinea pigs require more time, space and money spent on them and so you need to consider whether you are ready to give what is required so that they can live a happy and fulfilled life.