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Guinea Pigs vs. Rabbits as Pets: 16 Key Differences to Help You Choose

Guinea pigs vs rabbits as pets

It can be so difficult to know which pet is right for you! If you’re comparing guinea pigs vs rabbits, I’m here to tell you about their similarities and differences.

Guinea pigs and rabbits are both social animals who require same-species companionship. Rabbits tend to be more difficult to bond and more destructive, but cleaner. Guinea pigs are easier to handle and require less space, but they do have shorter lifespans.

In this article, we’ll discuss 16 differences and similarities between rabbit and guinea pig care.

1. Guinea Pigs and Rabbits Are Social Animals

Both guinea pigs and rabbits are social animals who should be kept with others of their species. If you choose to keep just one guinea pig or one rabbit, you will fail to meet their social needs.

Rarely, a guinea pig or rabbit will be unable to bond even after many attempts. Guinea pigs should still never be the only guinea pig living in your home–solo piggies should at least live in a cage nearby another pair or group of guinea pigs. This allows them to socialize without direct interactions that can end in one of them getting hurt.

This can be done for rabbits as well but is less common, likely because bunnies require more space.

2. It’s More Difficult to Bond Rabbits

Bonding pet rabbits

It’s never a guarantee that two animals will get along. This tends to be especially true for rabbits, who are more difficult to bond than guinea pigs.

I always recommend that first-time owners adopt a bonded pair instead of trying to bond the animals yourself. But, you’re still likely to need to bond a solo rabbit or guinea pig at some point, so it’s important to educate yourself on the topic.

If you have a rescue or shelter nearby that allows “speed dating,” this is incredibly helpful! It means you can bring your guinea pig or rabbit in to meet several others until they find the perfect match.

Otherwise, especially with rabbits, it’s best to foster first. This way, no harm is done if the two don’t get along and you cannot keep the newest pet.

3. Rabbits Require More Space

Guinea pigs need much larger cages than pet stores will suggest. The minimum cage size for two guinea pigs is 7.5 square feet, but many agree that this is too small. 10.5 square feet or larger is recommended.

Rabbits simply aren’t cage animals. The smallest enclosure for them should be a large dog exercise pen, but the best thing is to allow them to free-roam in at least one room of the house.

4. It’s Harder to Rabbit-Proof Than to Guinea Pig-Proof

Speaking of free-roaming–you’ll definitely want to rabbit-proof before allowing it. Bunnies are known for chewing wires, digging at carpet, gnawing on baseboards…you get the picture!

Rabbit-proofing is a lot like baby-proofing, as you’ll need to remove anything dangerous for them and anything you don’t want them chewing. As for baseboards, you can protect them with C&C grids.

Guinea pigs benefit from floortime outside of their cage but aren’t as destructive as bunnies. You’ll still want to pick up the floor, tuck away wires, and block the areas beneath your furniture to make sure they don’t go anywhere hard to reach.

It’s also important to note that guinea pigs like to pee and poop in dark spaces, so if you do allow them beneath furniture, it’s likely to become their potty spot!

5. Rabbits Can Be Litter Trained More Effectively

Litter boxes can make cleaning your guinea pigs’ cage easier, but they won’t use them 100% of the time. Rabbits, however, can be litter trained like cats!

You do have to have your rabbits spayed or neutered first, and some take more time to learn than others. It helps to start with them in a small space, such as a dog exercise pen, and slowly increase their space until they’re free roaming.

6. Both Animals Require Daily Cleaning

Guinea pigs in their freshly cleaned cage

Guinea pigs tend to be messier than rabbits, but it truly depends on the individuals. If your rabbit isn’t litter trained, for instance, they’re likely to make a much bigger mess since they have more space to do so.

Either way, you’ll be picking up poop and pee daily (whether in a litter box or in a cage) and hay tends to get everywhere! Rabbits love to shred things, so you’ll likely be cleaning up ripped cardboard or similar as well.

7. Rabbits Cannot Be Bathed

Both rabbits and guinea pigs tend to clean themselves and rarely need help. Your guinea pig should be bathed a few times a year at most, while some will never need baths at all.

Rabbits, however, should never get wet. It can be detrimental to their health as they have a more difficult time maintaining their body temperature and can go into shock, both of which can be deadly.

8. Guinea Pigs Are Easier to Pick Up

Most rabbits don’t like to be held and cuddled. While guinea pigs don’t tend to like being picked up, many will relax in your lap once you’re holding them.

Neither animal tends to enjoy handling very much, however, so they aren’t the pets to adopt if you’re looking for lots of cuddles.

Guinea pigs also tend to be less squirmy during handling, meaning that necessities such as nail trims may be easier than they would with a rabbit.

When you’re first learning to hold your guinea pig or rabbit, make sure to stay low to the ground or the cage. Guinea pigs and rabbits both have sensitive spines and a fall can damage them!

9. Their Diets Are Similar, but Not the Same

Both rabbits and guinea pigs are herbivores, meaning they eat plants. They also have very fast digestive systems, meaning both animals need to eat constantly to keep their guts moving.

The majority of their diet should consist of grass hay such as timothy hay or orchard grass. They should be fed a mix of dark, leafy greens daily, and receive a small amount of quality guinea pig or rabbit pellets.

Daily herbs and vegetables vary between rabbits and guinea pigs, so be sure to research before adopting your pet. Never feed guinea pig pellets to your rabbit, or vice versa. Though their diets are similar, they do have different nutritional needs.

10. Guinea Pigs Can’t Produce Their Own Vitamin C

Guinea pigs, like humans, develop scurvy if they don’t have enough vitamin C in their diet. Most people supplement vitamin C by feeding dark, leafy greens and bell pepper.

Vitamin C certainly isn’t harmful for rabbits, but they do produce their own and don’t need as much of it in their diet as guinea pigs.

11. Guinea Pigs Have Shorter Lifespans

Guinea pigs live 5-7 years on average, while your pet buns will likely be with you for 8-12 years.

It’s important to think about your pet’s lifespan before adoption and ensure that you can commit to caring for them their entire lives–barring any life changes outside of your control, of course.

Please also think about how you’ll provide your guinea pig or rabbit with a same-species companion for their entire lives. Many are left to live out their last years alone because their owners don’t want to continue the cycle of owning them, but this isn’t fair to the pet.

Fostering is a great way to provide a senior pet with companionship without the commitment of adoption.

12. Both Require Regular At-Home Health Checks and Exotic Vet Visits

Guinea pig at the vet

Rabbits and guinea pigs are both prey animals who hide illness well. It’s important to keep an eye on them with regular weigh-ins and looking over their bodies for signs of illness, such as runny noses, overgrown teeth, or hair loss.

If your rabbit or guinea pig stops eating or pooping, this is an emergency requiring an immediate vet visit.

They’ll also need to visit an exotic pet veterinarian–not a dog and cat vet–at least once a year during their youth and once every six months in their senior years. This is in addition to seeing the vet quickly if you do notice signs of illness.

13. Rabbits Should Be Spayed or Neutered

Guinea pigs are not commonly spayed due to the risks of the surgery outweighing the benefits in most experts’ opinions. (Though opinions do vary!)

Males are sometimes neutered so that they can have female companions, which tends to be more successful than bonding two males. However, it still isn’t common practice for rescues to neuter male guinea pigs, or for people to neuter their males who live with another boar.

Rabbits, on the other hand, should always be spayed or neutered. It increases their life expectancy and has many health and behavioral benefits.

14. Rabbits Are Quieter

Guinea pigs make a variety of sounds. The most common is wheeking for food! My piggies used to wake me every morning doing just that.

If you move around in the kitchen or rustle a bag, your guinea pigs will let you know about it. They love food and it’s their primary motivator, though they also make some noise when excited, angry, scared, and sick.

While guinea pigs aren’t super loud pets–your neighbor won’t hear them–rabbits are quieter. If you tend to be stressed by high-pitched noises, a rabbit might be a better fit for you.

15. Rabbits Are More Likely to Bite

Guinea pigs are known for being very docile and rarely biting people. They can bite, especially if they’re being harassed, but they’re less prone to aggression than many other rodents.

Rabbits, on the other hand, tend to bite more readily. This doesn’t mean your rabbit is bound to be aggressive, however–if you treat them well, it’s actually pretty unlikely!

16. They Socialize Differently, and Should Never Be Housed Together

Lastly, please note that rabbits and guinea pigs should never be housed together–or even allowed to interact briefly.

Though they’re both social animals, they interact with one another very differently. Rabbits tend to groom each other more than guinea pigs, for instance. They also tend to kick when angry, which can severely injure a guinea pig.

Another risk is that rabbits can carry diseases such as Bordetella, which don’t tend to impact them strongly–if at all–but can be a death sentence for guinea pigs. If you keep both pets in your home, please remember to wash your hands between handling them and to never share items between them.

I hope this article has helped you choose between these pets. While neither is right for everyone, rabbits and guinea pigs both make fantastic companions for the right people!

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