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Guinea Pig vs. Hamster: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on November 22, 2023
A Guinea Pig is a larger, tailless rodent often kept as a pet, while a Hamster is a smaller rodent with cheek pouches and a short tail.

Key Differences

Guinea Pigs, belonging to the Cavia genus, are tailless rodents originating from South America. They are known for their docile nature and can grow up to 10 inches in length. Hamsters, on the other hand, are smaller rodents from the Cricetinae subfamily, identified by their distinct cheek pouches and a stubby tail. They are native to Europe and Asia and have a nocturnal nature.
When it comes to lifespan, Guinea Pigs generally live longer than Hamsters. A Guinea Pig's lifespan ranges from 4 to 8 years, with proper care. In contrast, a Hamster's life expectancy is typically 2 to 3 years, depending on the species. Dwarf Hamsters, for instance, tend to live shorter lives than Syrian Hamsters.
In terms of dietary needs, both Guinea Pigs and Hamsters are herbivores. However, Guinea Pigs require a regular intake of vitamin C, as their bodies don't produce it. Hamsters, conversely, store food in their cheek pouches and have a diverse diet, including seeds, fruits, and even insects.
Habitat requirements for Guinea Pigs and Hamsters also differ. Guinea Pigs need more space due to their larger size and are social creatures that thrive with companions. Hamsters, especially Syrian Hamsters, are more territorial and might fight if housed with others of the same species.
While both Guinea Pigs and Hamsters are popular pets worldwide, their care requirements, behavior, and appearance vary. A potential pet owner should consider these differences to provide the best environment and care for their chosen rodent.

Comparison Chart


South America.
Europe and Asia.


Short, stubby tail.


Larger, up to 10 inches.
Smaller, size varies by species.


4 to 8 years.
2 to 3 years (depends on species).

Dietary Needs

Requires vitamin C.
Diverse diet with seeds, fruits, insects.

Guinea Pig and Hamster Definitions

Guinea Pig

A subject in an experiment.
He felt like a Guinea Pig while trying the new skincare products.


A small rodent with cheek pouches and a short tail.
Emma's Hamster loves running on its wheel at night.

Guinea Pig

A tailless rodent often kept as a pet.
Lucy got a Guinea Pig for her birthday and named him Whiskers.


A member of the Cricetinae subfamily.
There are various species within the Hamster family.

Guinea Pig

A term used to describe someone being tested or experimented on.
New employees often feel like a Guinea Pig during training sessions.


A nocturnal pet often kept in cages.
The Hamster woke up as soon as the lights went off.

Guinea Pig

A native of Guinea.
The story highlighted the traditions of the Guinea Pig.


A small, furry animal popular among children.
At the pet store, the Hamster section was filled with excited kids.

Guinea Pig

A small mammal of the species Cavia porcellus.
The veterinarian specializes in treating Guinea Pig health issues.


A creature known for storing food in its cheeks.
It's amusing to watch the Hamster stuff its cheeks with food.

Guinea Pig

Alternative spelling of guinea pig


A small Eurasian rodent of the subfamily Cricetinae, especially Mesocricetus auratus, having large cheek pouches and a short tail and often kept as a pet or used in laboratory research.


Any of various Old-World rodent species belonging to the subfamily Cricetinae.


Especially, the golden hamster, Mesocricetus auratus, and the dwarf hamsters of genus Phodopus, often kept as a pet or used in scientific research.
The hamster stuffed his puffy cheeks with food.


Other rodents of similar appearance, such as the maned hamster or crested hamster, Lophiomys imhausi, mouse-like hamsters of genus Calomyscus, and the white-tailed rat (Mystromys albicaudatus).


(ambitransitive) To secrete or store privately, as a hamster does with food in its cheek pouches.


A small European rodent (Cricetus frumentarius). It is remarkable for having a pouch on each side of the jaw, under the skin, and for its migrations. Hamsters are commonly kept as a pets.


Short-tailed Old World burrowing rodent with large cheek pouches


Which is bigger, a Guinea Pig or a Hamster?

Guinea Pigs are generally larger than Hamsters.

Are Guinea Pigs and Hamsters related?

Both are rodents, but they belong to different families and genera.

What do Guinea Pigs eat?

They eat hay, vegetables, and pellets, and need vitamin C.

Do Guinea Pigs make sounds?

Yes, Guinea Pigs are vocal and produce various sounds, like wheeking.

Can Guinea Pigs and Hamsters live together?

No, they have different needs and behaviors and should be housed separately.

Do Hamsters bite?

Hamsters might bite if scared or provoked, so handling with care is essential.

Can Hamsters eat fruits?

Yes, but in moderation, and certain fruits should be avoided.

Are Hamsters nocturnal?

Yes, Hamsters are primarily nocturnal and are most active during the night.

Do both Guinea Pigs and Hamsters need exercise wheels?

Hamsters use exercise wheels, while Guinea Pigs prefer larger play areas without wheels.

Can I keep multiple Guinea Pigs together?

Yes, Guinea Pigs are social and often thrive with companions.

Is it true Guinea Pigs can't produce vitamin C?

Yes, they need external sources of vitamin C, often through their diet.

Why do Hamsters have cheek pouches?

They use them to store and transport food back to their burrows.

How long do Hamsters live?

Typically, 2 to 3 years, but lifespan varies based on species.

Do Guinea Pigs need regular grooming?

It depends on the breed. Long-haired Guinea Pigs require more grooming than short-haired ones.

Why is it called a Guinea Pig?

The origin is unclear. Despite the name, they are not from Guinea nor are they pigs.

Can I let my Hamster roam free in the house?

It's best to supervise Hamsters during out-of-cage time to ensure their safety.

How can I differentiate between a male and female Guinea Pig or Hamster?

Differences are based on physical attributes. It's best to consult a vet or a pet guide for accurate differentiation.

Are all Hamsters the same size?

No, size varies by species. For instance, Syrian Hamsters are larger than Dwarf Hamsters.

How often should I clean a Hamster's cage?

At least once a week, but spot cleaning should be done daily.

Do Guinea Pigs need toys?

Yes, toys and tunnels can provide enrichment and exercise for Guinea Pigs.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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