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Hamster vs Guinea Pig which pet is best for you?

Hamster vs guinea pig- which companion is right for you? Here your questions will be answered.

hamster vs guinea pigs

New pet owners looking for a small pet should look at these two popular pets: guinea pigs and hamsters.

Both hamsters and guinea pigs are small domestic mammals that will live in a cage within your house.

There are several breed varieties of both, with 18 types of hamsters and 13 recognized breeds of guinea pigs.

If purchasing from a pet store in the United States, the most common hamsters are the Russian dwarf and Syrian hamsters (Golden hamster).

In comparison, the most common guineas are the American, Abyssinian, Crested, and Peruvian.

These terrific pets are both rodents, but they are very different animals.

Here we will explain their differences to provide you with an informed decision on which is suitable for you and your family.

What are the key differences between a hamster and a guinea pig?

Size of a hamster vs a guinea pig;

The main difference between the two is hamsters are much smaller than guinea pigs.

A guinea can weigh just over 2 lbs, while a hamster will weigh just 3- 5 ounces.

Guineas are longer too, 8-12 inches in length, and a typical pet shop Syrian hamster is 5-9 inches in length.

Did you know?
Guinea pigs live longer than Hamsters.

Lifespan of a hamster vs a guinea pig;

A hamster’s life span is 2-3 years in length, whereas the guinea’s life expectancy is 4-8 years.

It is much more time commitment owning a guinea pig than a hamster.

Sleeping habits of a hamster vs a guinea pig;

A hamster is nocturnal and will do well with a person who stays up late or works swing and graveyard shift.

The guinea is diurnal or crepuscular. They are awake during parts of the day and most active during early sunrise and sunset. 

Daily activity level of a hamster vs a guinea pig;

The hamster is much more active than the guinea.

They will need a specific hampster wheel to exercise, and they can climb up steeper ramps than the guinea.

A hamster will need a cage with a lid to prevent them from getting out.

Guineas are low energy in comparison.

While they need some exercise, they do not climb and do not require an exercise wheel or ball.

Cuddly a hamster vs a guinea pig?

Guineas will cuddle and sit on your lap, while a hamster will not, being the much more energetic of the two.

Hearing of a hamster vs a guinea pig;

Finally, hamsters are sensitive to ultrasound, which we humans cannot hear.

One should keep their cage away from televisions, computer screens, vacuums, and some running water.

Hamsters will become stressed out if exposed to a high volume of ultrasound noise.

Some companies have created special ultrasound noise as a rodent deterrent. Be aware of what is surrounding your pet.

Cage size of a hamster vs a guinea pig;

The small size of the hamster allows you to have a smaller cage.

In contrast, the guinea pig will require a larger cage and often need a companion animal, making the cage that much more extensive.

Guineas are social animals, meaning they do best with another guinea of the same sex.

Most hamsters tend to live alone as solitary animals and will fight another hamster if in the same cage. 

Did you know?
You should never put a guinea pig and a hamster in the same cage.

What similarities do these adorable pets share?

The guinea pig and hamster are rodents and require frequent chewing to wear down their ever-growing teeth.

They will chew on anything and everything, and chewable treats and wood blocks will need to be made available for their needs. 

They both have whiskers that they use as a guide in low-light situations.

The whiskers are like a hand in front of their face. It helps them feel the world around them when they cannot see well. 

They are both burrow animals, so providing places they can hide in gives them a sense of security and safety.

While most hamsters prefer to live alone, the dwarf hamsters can live together like a guinea pig.

Early introduction to one another is key to preventing fighting between hamsters.

It is important to remember to place same-sex animals together to prevent pregnancy.

Females tend to thrive better together than male pairs.

Both guineas and hamsters have a similar texture in poop, which is pellet-shaped, firm, and dry.

The hamster has a very short tail, while the guinea pig does not have a tail at all.

Both have a similar ambient temperature range.

These small rodents thrive around 65-80 F.

Going above or below these ranges will cause heat stroke and hypothermia. 

These animals also partake in eating their fecal matter, known as coprophagy. 

The process is entirely normal, and they are extracting more nutrients from the food that they did not digest the first time around.

Finally, their frequency of elimination is similar, meaning they poop whenever and wherever. Both animals drop frequent small pellets throughout their wake hours.

hamster cuddled up

Can hamsters and guinea pigs live together?

Caution: You should never pair a guinea pig and a hamster together.

While guinea pigs prefer to be with another companion, hamsters do not and will see the piggy as a threat.

They will end up fighting. In addition to possible harm between these two small animals, a guinea pig requires a fair amount of space.

At the same time, a hamster can use their wheel for exercise, and the guinea cannot.

The hamster likes to burrow deep within wood shavings, and the guinea pig prefers a hideout. Both animals need very different care and should not be in the same home together. 

guinea pigs

What type of special care do both hamsters and guinea pigs need?


  • Need a lot of disposable bedding to burrow in and can increase weekly costs.
  • Require a lot of exercise in a ball and a wheel.
  • Require pellets and fresh food. Will consume nuts, seeds, and insects—high-fat diet.
  • Must be handled carefully as they have fragile bones.

Guinea pigs:

  • Social creatures need two animals in one cage.
  • Can be very vocal when wanting to eat, happy, upset, etc.
  • They need a larger area to roam for exercise. A wheel or ball is never recommended as it can severely hurt their back or injure their legs. 
  • Require more for their dietary needs: hay, pellets, fresh food (vegetables), and vitamin C supplementation. Low-fat diet.
  • If using fleece liners, it will cost more than $100 upfront. Washable liners will save you money in the long run.
  • They will need their nails trimmed periodically to prevent injury to their feet. 
  • If owning a long hair guinea, they will need daily brushing to keep hay, food, and poop out of their hair.
Hamster vs guinea pig quick guide

Which one is better for young children?

While the hamster is miniature, it may not be better suited for kids.

Hamsters are nocturnal creatures, meaning they are most active in the evening and nighttime.

If your child goes to bed early, they may miss when the hamster is most active and decreasing the chance to bond with the animal.

While guinea pigs are awake during the morning, evening, and throughout the day, creating more opportunities for interaction.

Hamsters can bite if they are unfamiliar with the person attempting to pick them up, while guineas rarely bite.

Picking up both animals early in their life will get them accustomed to being held and preventing any scathing attacks.

Female hamsters are more aggressive and temperamental than their male counterparts—an excellent recommendation is to purchase a male hamster for a child to minimize risk.

The size difference between the two rodents is significant, with the guinea pig weighing just over 2 lbs.

Make sure your child is big and mature enough to handle the animal gently.

They are both delicate and will injure if dropped or mishandled.

It will be essential to have an adult watch over the caring process of either animal you may choose.

It is a big responsibility for a child to take care of an animal.

It is important to see that they are being cared for appropriately.

It is a personal preference for which animal you choose and how much your child can take on as a new animal owner.

Did you know?
Guinea Pigs require a Vitamin C supplement which they can get from their food.

How much space do you need for their cages?

Hamster Cage requirements;

Hamster cages can be much smaller than a guinea pig cage.

You can add to it by going up, making the pen bigger, but not increasing its footprint.

Remember, the hamster loves to explore.

Providing a space where they can get exercise and stimulation will be most important.

A minimum of 6 inches high of a cage is advised.

However, for best results, a taller cage will be better to allow for burrowing in the wood shavings.

The American Humane Society recommends 2-3 square feet of space.

Some minimums for cage size are 31.5 x 20 inches for a Syrian and 27.5 x 16 inches for a Russian dwarf.

Another size measurement includes a 15-gallon cage minimum if using an aquarium as a cage. 

Guinea pig cage requirements;

Guinea pig cages utilize around 7.5 square feet (30 x 36 inches), housing a single guinea.

Having a companion is ideal for social interaction but will require a larger cage.

Having two guinea pigs requires a cell right around 10 square feet of space (40 x 36 inches).

The minimum height requirement on the cage is 12 inches.

Try to buy the largest cage you can afford, fit easily in your space, and be big enough for your animals.

Hamster Vs Guinea pig cage size

What are the nutrition requirements for each animal?


  • Can be fed pellets formulated for them from the pet store and small amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • If you prefer to feed them more naturally, they feed on nuts, seeds, insects, and fresh foods.
  • They will need fresh water available via a water bottle outside of their cage.
  • The bottle needs to be a valveless sipper tube, as they cannot create enough suction with a ball valve bottle.

Guinea pigs:

  •  They need a constant supply of hay to make up most of their diet.
  • Pellets and fresh vegetables round out the rest of their diet.
  • Fruit is recommended sparingly and is more a treat than a nutritional item.
  • Guineas do not make vitamin C similar to humans, so you must supply them through their diet and supplementation.
  • Guineas drink approximately 100 ml of water daily but could be more or less dependent on what they eat.
  • Freshwater provided in a water bottle outside their cage is best to prevent spills and any waste matter from entering the water supply.
  • Guineas can drink from a bowl of water, but generally not recommended as they are messy and cause spills.
hamster vs guinea pig diet

How often do you need to clean the cage?

Guinea pig cage cleaning;

  • Guinea pig owners will do their best to keep the cage as clean as possible.
  • A guinea will poop over 100 times a day, and as such, the poop will begin to build up.
  • It is best to spot clean their cage daily to two times a day.
  • The spot clean means vacuuming or sweeping the poop out of the cage.
  • Fleece bedding is best for guineas, as their feet are sensitive and do not climb.
  • Otherwise, a weekly clean to x2 weekly clean of the cage is recommended to prevent a smelly situation. 

Hamster cage cleaning;

  • Hamster owners will end up cleaning the cage less often than guinea owners.
  • They live well in wood shavings such as Aspen and corn cob litter.
  • The hamster enjoys burrowing deep into their bedding, and as such several inches will need to be added.
  • The bedding will be thrown away and the cage cleaned with a mild soap when it is time for a weekly clean. 
  • Please remember that it will be your personal choice on how often you would like to empty and clean your animal cage. It is a personal preference on how much smell and waste you can handle.
  • These pets have sensitive respiratory systems, like being clean and not living in their filth. Animal welfare is an essential consideration when considering how often to clean their cage.


It will ultimately be up to you and your family on which rodent you choose to have in your home.

These smaller pets will provide years of joy but are not without their own set of unique needs.

It is a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of each animal before purchasing or adopting.

Some considerations you will need to consider are the space available in your home, how much money you can put in the animal(s), their specific diets (can you maintain it?), who will be primarily responsible for the pet, how often you need to clean the cage and how much interaction you can provide to your pets.

Remember, you are getting cute looks from these family pets, but to keep them attractive, they will need to be cared for and require your time.

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