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Trying to decide which small animal to adopt as a pet can be overwhelming, especially if you have narrowed down the choice to either a hamster or a guinea pig.
Both are adorable, super-cute but have completely different personalities, needs, habits and keeping requirements.
Worrying about making the right choice, especially if you are getting your first pet, is a great sign that you’re really taking pet ownership seriously. This shows that you’re resolved to provide your furry friend with the best life you can.
If you are considering a really cute, chubby-cheeked guinea pig or a lively and nosy hamster as a family pet, you have to take a number of facts into consideration before providing either of the two pets with a new home.
Guinea pigs and hamsters both guarantee a wonderful time for you and your children and will certainly be rewarding additions to your home. In order to help you make an educated decision, we’ll go over the most important facts you should know about guinea pigs and hamsters as pets.
A guinea pig or a hamster – which is the right pet for you?
Let’s compare the two lovely and lovable species by making notes of all the different aspects of owning them, looking after them and getting the most out of either a guinea pig or a hamster.
The size, the looks and the space needed
Why do these factors matter? Well, for obvious reasons of providing your new pet with enough space for a happy and healthy life.
Often kept as pets, the Syrian hamsters are typically between 5 to 6 inches long while Dwarf hamsters can be anywhere between 2 to 4 inches in length. Syrians weigh 5-7 ounces and dwarf breeds are even smaller, reaching only 1-2.5 ounces in weight.
Guinea pigs, on the other hand, can grow to be between 8 to 12 inches long and they typically weigh between 1.5 and 2.5 pounds. Although both species are different in weight and size, their physical characteristics are pretty similar.
Guinea pigs, as well as hamsters, are cute and chubby-looking. They have big lovable eyes and petal ears. As for the fur, you can get long-haired and short-haired hamsters and guinea pigs as well as curly haired and silky varieties.
This means that you can choose a lovely new pet according to your liking.
You will want to handle them and pat them and cuddle because both species are equally cute. Since both hamsters and guinea pigs easily become used to being handled, and like being stroked, you need to think about their living and playing space when you aren’t playing with them.
So, size wise, let’s see what the difference between hamsters and guinea pigs is as regards the space they need and the space they take up in the home.
Hamsters need less space for the obvious reason: they prefer to live alone. However, even a solitary hamster needs at least a 30-gallon tank. You can fit the tank on a small table or in any corner of your kids’ room or living-room.
A tank is the easiest starter option because hamsters are keen diggers, and the tank will keep their sawdust inside rather than on your floor or table or desk. Hamsters, therefore, need to be caged individually but need less room to exercise if they've got a hamster wheel.
How about guinea pigs? Well, they are bigger and, what’s even more important they need to be kept in pairs or herds. They like the company and do not do well without a companion.
For two guinea pigs, you will need around ten or eleven square feet of space.
While large indoor cages are available, you’ll need plenty of floor space and a laid-back attitude to the “mess zone” outside the cage.
As an alternative, a lot of guinea pig pet parents opt for an outside hutch. Because of guinea piggies’ size, they can’t get all the exercise they need inside a hutch. They’ll need additional indoor or outdoor space where they can run around for several hours a day.
The time of day guinea pigs and hamsters are awake and ready to play
Let’s start with the hamsters. They are nocturnal, meaning that they're most active at night and sleep throughout the day. If you’re a night owl, you’ll enjoy their company but if you're looking for a quality pet time during the day, a hamster is not the right choice.
Guinea pigs, on the other hand, are lively during the day and they sleep at night. They will always be ready to play while you or the kids might get a bit from a grumpy hamster if you wake them up during the day.
Do you like to cuddle with your pet?
If you do, you'll probably want a guinea pig. A handful of hamster owners claim that their hamsters rarely bite and don’t mind stroking but, in general, hamsters are not as for human touch and affectionate to their pet parents as guinea pigs.
The reason could be the timid nature of a small-size hamster. Also, a sleepy hamster is usually grumpy when woken up and, truth be told, most people sleep at night when hamsters are awake.
Regardless of which you choose, both guinea pigs and hamsters need to be handled a lot while they are young: that’s the only way to make them get them used to being scooped up and stroked by their pet parents.
Independent pet or one that needs attention
Some people like to have a living been around and simply watch what they do and don’t interfere with their life. Others treat their little pets like kids and like to play with them, talk to them and even complain about the difficult day they had at the office.
Now, although hamsters are solitary animals, they do need some level of social interaction. A quarter of an hour a day would be enough for some play or talk time out of their cage and with their pet parent.
Guinea pigs, on the other hand, are very social creatures that form lifelong bonds with others. They need a fair amount of social interaction, which is why we recommend that you keep them in pairs.
If you have enough free time to devote to them, keeping them company will make them even happier. Guinea pigs can get very vocal, which is another aspect to consider if you want peace and quiet.
They tend to make noise when their owners walk by their pet homes or if they are up for a little play time and fun.
Hamsters, on the other hand, also have a lot to say to each other, but their vocal range is mostly outside our range of hearing, so we don’t get the pleasure of hearing what’s on their minds. For some, this may be an advantage if you work in a noisy environment and like some peace and quiet at home, especially at night.
Are you ready for a long-term commitment to your small pet?
Guinea pigs usually live between 5 to 7 years. In fact, they can live as much as 10 years when you take good care of them. So, if you opt for a guinea pig, be prepared for a much longer commitment compared to a hamster.
Hamsters have a much shorter life expectancy of about 2 to 3 years for Syrian hamsters and only 1 to 2 years for Dwarf breeds. Once you grow attached to them, this will be quite a short time to share their wonderful companionship. In this case, all you can do is get more hamsters over the years and really try to make their short lives as happy and fun as possible
Finally, let’s consider the costs of keeping a hamster or a guinea pig
If you are on a tight budget, a hamster will probably be a better option than a guinea pig. Since guinea pigs are bigger and live in twos, you will need larger enclosures, more bedding material, and, of course, much more food. Don’t forget the toys and other cage accessories and once you do the math, hamsters are way cheaper to keep.
Having said that, if you prefer a guinea pig and if you don’t mind the costs, go for it. No regrets, only fun times await you and your family!
That’s all folks! We do hope we made it a little easier for you to make a little more informed decision on which of the cute critters to buy.
Both the choice and the fun ahead is all yours, whichever of the two furry companions you opt for!
Carol is a head content developer for ultimatepethub.com and mother of 2 adorable chocolate labs(and one child). Growing up on a farm, she has handled all kinds of animals and pets. When Carol isn’t taking her two labs to the park, you can find her researching products and topics to keep you updated with the latest info for your pets!