The biggest differences between hamsters and guinea pigs are their size and appearance, social nature, behavior, color, dietary preferences, life span, vocalization, and body language.
Guinea Pigs are a domestic species of South American rodent belonging to the cavy family (Caviidae), while Hamsters are members of the Cricetidae family and look more similar to rats or mice than guinea pigs.
The 9 Differences Between Hamsters and Guinea Pigs
Hamsters come from Asia and Europe, but they are entirely different species although related to animals.
Guinea pigs are much larger than hamsters, weighing several pounds whereas the hamster doesn’t even weigh a pound.
Most guinea pigs are larger and more social, and their life span is longer than hamsters in major cases.
They belong to the rodent family or small rodents and are commonly kept as a housepet and good pets suitable for some children.
Both are popular pets. These pets are easy to care for compared to many other pets.
Size and Appearance
Guinea pigs, also known as ‘cavies’, are social animals with a compact, rounded body shape, short legs, and no tail giving them an adorable plump look, large heads, and large alert eyes.
Guinea pigs are bigger and heavier, roughly 2-4 times bigger, and can weigh around 1.5 to 2.6 lbs. Adult guinea pigs are about 5 inches (13 cm) tall.
Hamsters are hairless or short hair and have small, furry ears, short, stocky legs, and wide feet. They have thick, silky fur, which can be long or short, colored black, grey, honey, white, brown, yellow, red, or a mix, depending on the species.
Adult hamsters can grow from 2 to 14 inches in length, and from 0.9 to 16.2 ounces in weight. They have a pouch on their cheeks that will stuff or store food
Their body has thick fur, which helps them withstand cold nights.
Hamsters vs. Guinea Pigs Color
Guinea pigs come in several colors and color combinations, including black, tan, cream, brown, and white
Guinea pigs have different pattern coats and varying colors that add beauty. Some of the most popular colors are buff, golden brown, red, brown, dark brown, and black.
Self are some of the most common piggies. These guinea pigs have smooth, non-wiry coats with the same color all over. They come in up to 12 colors, with black, lilac, and chocolate being the most common
The rare guinea pig color is white-crested. White-crested guinea pigs are quite easy to groom as they are short-haired.
Hamsters have a different color pattern also just like guinea pigs. Their color differs based on their breeds or can be the same but has some differences in their coats.
Syrian hamsters come in many different colors including, gray, black, yellow, red, or a mixture of several different colors.
Hamsters vs. Guinea Pigs Behavior
It is very important to know and learn the behavior of our pets so that we can recognize their potential needs, moods, and unusual behavior that they are trying to communicate to you. It will help you identify if they are functioning within their normal parameters.
Hamsters Are active at night and their normal behavior includes chewing kinds of stuff, stuffing their cheeks, hiding, and burrowing. They tend to nip when irritated and bite when handled roughly or startled. But in general, they are very affectionate.
Guinea pigs are calm and docile while hamsters are very active. Guinea pigs don’t jump around or climb much, they only use the floor space to play.
They are short-sleepers. Guinea pigs do not have as good a build as Hamsters.
They do not run or climb nor crawl in their cages or run on wheels and it is due to their delicate spins which are not suitable for such activities.
Hamsters vs.Guinea Pigs Lifespan
- Typically Guinea pigs live for 5-6 years, but some may live longer.
- Hamsters have an average life span of 2-3 years
Vocalization and Body Language
Understanding their vocalizations is an essential way to understand whether they are content or whether there could be something wrong and body language will gauge their overall wellbeing.
Their sounds and body posture can mean a lot of things – it’s how they communicate.
We may not understand what they say, but we will be able to know their needs through their body language and sounds.
- Squeaks and Squeals – It is the common sound that hamsters make. Their squeak differs in their emotion. It’s either they are happy, need attention, fear, are hungry, or even when they are ill.
- Hissing/Crying – When hamsters are hissing, it indicates that they are not comfortable with their surroundings or with something. They also hiss when they feel discomfort with their new homes.
- Clicking – They make a clicking sound by rubbing their teeth together which means that they are happy and calm.
- Scream – It is a negative and alarming sound when they scream. It means they are in fear. You better check the surroundings of your hamster and what makes them afraid.
- Cough and Sneezing – They cough and sneeze due to colds. It may be because of strong smells, allergies, perfume, etc.
- Cooing – They coo when hamsters are happy and content or bonded with their owners.
Hamsters: Body Language
- Stretching and yawning – They are feeling relaxed and content.
- Burrowing – This means that they are happy playing and digging on their bed searching for goodies they might have buried.
- Grooming – They are feeling safe and relaxed. When owners are around, they never mind their presence as they are feeling trusted and content.
- Freezing – They have this behavior when there’s a sudden movement in their surroundings that is unusual. This is their instinctive reaction when there’s a predator nearby.
- Eyes half-closed – They are still sleepy and need more sleep, especially during the daytime as they are nocturnal rodents.
- Running – Running is the normal activity or behavior of hamsters.
- Back flipping – When they feel bored they have this behavior or else the cage is not big enough for them to be comfortable. The same as when they are chewing on wire bars, they are also bored and need attention.
Guinea Pigs: Vocalization
- Wheeking – It is commonly often used when they feel the excitement, especially during feeding time. They may tend to wheel loud and longer when you can’t quickly cage with their snacks. They may also use these sounds to communicate when they need attention.
- Purring – This sound has a different meaning depending on the pitch of the sound accompanied by body gestures. They feel annoyed or else fear. It also often indicates aggravation.
- Rumbling – This sound normally comes with a swaying strut as a way to woo a mate or when a male guinea pig romances a female.
- Teeth Chattering – They tend to use this sound when they feel angry, are not get along with others, are irritated, upset, or have signs of dominance. It’s an aggressive vocalization.
- Whining – They whine when they are being disturbed by others or they don’t like other guineas doing.
Guinea Pigs: Body Language
- Popcorning – It is often seen when your guineas are feeling playful, excited, or extreme happiness. And we find it cute.
- Nosing – Signs of a hug when guineas will greet each other by touching their noses together or as a friendly greeting.
- Scent Marking – You may see them rubbing their chin, cheeks, or behind to claim they owned it. They urinate on other things or on other cavies to show their dominance.
- Freezing – They sense danger in their surroundings or something unusual. They freeze when they are observing their environment.
- Licking – It shows affection to most owners.
- Strutting – This can be a sign of aggression when they move side to side accompanied by teeth chattering. This is also known as the “rumble strut”.
- Mounting – It’s a behavior shown between females. It’s a sign of dominance in their sexual behavior.
- Tossing head – They do this sign when they feel irritated or annoyed and toss it for you to stop on your doing.
Hamsters vs. Guinea Pigs Social Nature
Guinea Pigs get lonely and shouldn’t be kept alone and need companions.
They tend to get depressed and fall sick when they are caged or left alone and need larger habitats as their companions to play.
They also need interaction and attention from their owner.
Hamsters are very territorial as they don’t want companions and are better left in solitude as they will go on fighting if there’s more than one of them in the cage
They are solitary, which means they are happy on their own and get aggressive in groups.
They are nocturnal, making their most active and busy time at night.
Diet Preference and Food Habit
Guinea pigs are herbivores, eating plants, fruits, and vegetables.
Hay and pellets can be provided but pellets are not necessary for everyday feeding or in their regular diet as they can make them develop obesity and dental disease.
They should have fresh grass as often, ideally every day. A high-fiber diet supplemented with vitamin C food is provided to them.
Guinea uses its 4 legs and cannot balance like Hamsters and they do not carry and store food in their cheek as hamsters do.
Hamsters are omnivorous. In their natural habitat, they eat seeds, nuts, cracked corn, and grass as well, but grains are their primary food.
Protein is needed in their diet to keep them healthy. They can also eat a variety of non-plant-based food from meat to snacks. Wild hamsters also eat insects, frogs, lizards, and other small animals.
Hamsters are nocturnal and need feeding every day, preferably evening feed. Wild hamsters collect their food and store it on their cheek pouches to eat later.
They like sleeping during the day and wake several times during the day to eat or snack on the food they have stored.
They use their front paws to hold food and manage their back feet.
Although they come from different species and breeds, they have almost identical physical characteristics.
They are both cute and fluffy and a good starter for a pet owner.
They differ on some other behavior but overall, they are affectionate and adorable.
Having guinea pigs or hamsters is not regrettable.