You have decided to adopt some cute and funny rodent but you are not sure should it be a hamster or guinea pig. That is ok, it is quite normal to be puzzled in this situation.
Hamsters require less space and make less noise but they are solitary, nocturnal animals with which you’ll have limited interaction. On the other hand, guinea pigs are social animals so it’s a common thing to have two or more piggies. This means guinea pigs require more space but also more time with you. Guinea pigs are very vocal. Hamsters are clean animals, don’t require grooming, their cage needs weekly cleaning. However guinea pigs are quite messy, their cage needs daily cleaning. Good grooming is a must for guinea pigs.
I have done the research to help you and other people with similar issues. Keep reading our article and learn more about both animals. At the end of this article, I am sure you will be certain which one will become your pet.
How Much Space do You Have?
How much space are you able to provide for your pet? Hamsters are tiny animals and don’t require too much space. Their cage should have 300-400 sq inches ( depends on their breed ). Guinea pigs are much bigger and naturally need more space.
When I say space, I do not think only on the larger cage but also on out of the cage area. Guinea pig’s cage needs to be minimum 1500sq inches large ( in case you have two animals. Keeping one guinea pig alone is not recommended).
If you want to increase the housing area for hamsters you use vertical space. This way you stimulate your tiny pet to climb, dig and do other exercises. Unlike hamsters, guinea pigs prefer floor level.
Any ramp or platform should be at a low height. But don’t think they are lazy. No-no, they still need a lot of exercises, that is why they need huge space for the cage but also ‘outdoor’ area in which they can explore and exercise on their own, far from any danger.
Pay attention that if you have a hamster, you will probably have one animal and if you have a guinea pig, you will have them two or even more, so the number of animals also has an influence on the cage size.
Are You More Active During the Day or You are a Night Owl?
Hamsters are nocturnal animals. This means they usually spend a day in sweet dreams. Ok, not entire day, they wake every 2-3 hours to grab a bite and then fall asleep again. Their activity begins around 7 pm and they are very active during the night.
The reason for this is that hamsters are prey animals and mother nature made them nocturnal to help them to survive. Hamsters’ natural environment is full of predators just waiting for them ( foxes, coyotes, snakes, some large birds… ) As most of the predators are active during sunlight, hamsters are sleeping snuggled in their burrows. When enemies go to sleep, hamsters are going out and start looking for food.
Opposite of nocturnal is diurnal ( means that animal is more active during the day and sleep at night) but to tell you the truth guinea pigs are not nocturnal nor diurnal animals. As a matter of fact, they sleep very little, several naps during the day and the night.
Some studies showed that they are crepuscular animals which means that the peak of their activity is in dawn and dusk. This has to do with the fact that guinea pigs are also prey animals but also connected to their natural environment and climate.
Guinea pigs are originally from South America, mountainous areas in which air temperatures go from room temperature to freezing point. As these large rodents do not like too hot, nor too cold weather they pick the period of the day when the temperature is somewhere in between. This would be either dusk or dawn.
Bottom line – if you have too many obligations during the day and you really need a good sleep at night, the hamster is not your cup of tea. Between those two you definitely should choose guinea pig. Whichever rodent you go for, bear in mind not to put the cage in your bedroom.
Do You Have Small Kids?
Taking into consideration that hamsters are nocturnal animals maybe adopting one hammy to be your kid’s pet is not the best idea.
Hamster will play with your kid for some time but if your little one ‘bothers’ its pet during its nap time, a hamster can nip him/her which can be uncomfortable and painful for your kid.
Hamsters are escape artists and can easily run away while your kid is playing with its pet. On the other hand, guinea pigs do not have a habit to escape
Unlike hamsters, guinea pigs are easier to handle so these rodents are more appropriate for kids but bear in mind that any kid under 8 years old shouldn’t be left unsupervised not with hamster nor guinea pig.
Remember that both hamsters and guinea pigs are able to transmit some diseases to humans. Kids’ immune system is not developed entirely so they easily can catch some infection.
Allergies to guinea pigs fur are far more common then to hamster’s fur. This is important information for anyone who suffers from allergies, adult or kid.
How Much Time do You Have to Spend with Your Pet?
Hamsters are independent creatures, something like cats. They do not require too much of your time. It does not mean they do not need any interaction with you but if you spend some 10-20 minutes every day with them, it will be just fine.
Hamster can be aggressive in the company of other hamsters and if they feel hunger and you did not give them their meal they become super grumpy. I will not say that they are bad-tempered but as all solitary creatures, they have their own world in which they will let you sometimes but never completely.
On the other hand, guinea pigs have totally different characters. They like to be in the group of other guinea pigs. They like to cuddle with their owners but first, they have to get used to humans.
You need to gain their trust, as you are naturally seen as one giant predator! After your guinea pig relaxes in your company he/she will like spending time in your hands and playing with you. So, guinea pigs definitely require more of your time in comparison to hamsters. Guinea pigs rarely, almost never bite, they are very social creatures.
Cleaning your pet’s cage is also part of your pet’s care and requires some of your time. Hamsters are really clean animals, don’t require grooming. You need to change the bedding and clean the cage once a week.
Unlike hamsters, guinea pigs are really messy and you need to clean their cage ( do not forget that guinea pig’s cage is far bigger then hamster’s cage) every day and once a week you need to wash it thoroughly. Grooming is a must if you want to keep their fur healthy.
Do you prefer short or long-term commitment ?
There is a big difference is the average lifespan of one hamster and one guinea pig. Hamsters usually live for 2-3 years but guinea pigs live for 7-8 years or even more.
Therefore guinea pigs are a long-term commitment and are perfect pets for people who really want to take care of some pet and to provide good care for it.
Hamsters, on the other hand, are short -term commitments and although they don’t require too much attention, if you decide for them, you should be able to give at least some of your time to them.
Do You Enjoy in Quite Atmosphere or You Prefer Noise?
This is really important as the difference between hamsters and guinea pigs when it comes to noise is enormous!
Hamsters are really quite animals. If you buy a silent hamster wheel, you will not know that your hammy is around. Ok, it is the truth that hamsters are active during the night when you most probably sleep but if you do not put its cage in your bedroom, you will not experience any problem.
On the other hand, guinea pigs will treat you with a whole range of sounds. They are making several different whistling and squeaking sounds. You might be able to recognize the special sound which means ‘hello’ when enter to your house. They are so like dogs!
If you still not sure which one you want, I would like to add the last but not the least thing. Hamsters are less expensive than guinea pigs. I do not think about the actual price of the animal itself but also on food, the vet’s cost, equipment…
They both have similar diets but hamsters are smaller so they eat less and most probably you would have one hamster but two or more guinea pigs. You can calculate by yourself. Groups of guinea pigs will definitely eat more, which will cost more.
You will certainly invest more money in pets such as guinea pig than in hamster, but guinea pig lives longer so you will able to enjoy in your pet longer period of time.