Most small cuddly animals seem like good starter pets for children. Two of the most common choices are guinea pigs and hamsters. Consider the following when trying to decide which would make a better furry friend for your family.
The most common type of hamster kept as a pet is the Syrian hamster. The average life span for a Syrian, or Teddy bear hamster, is two to three years. Dwarf varieties of hamsters generally only live one to two years.
The types of guinea pigs kept as pets are usually the Abyssinian, the Peruvian, and the smooth coated. Guinea pigs have a considerably longer lifespan than hamsters, living five to seven years in most cases.
Housing for a hamster can be fairly small and quite inexpensive. A ten gallon aquarium with mesh top is the best choice. Although the cages with built in play things are cute, they are much harder to keep clean and not very practical.
Guinea pigs require a bit more room than hamsters, as they are bigger animals. Four square feet of living space per guinea pig is sufficient. Guinea pigs should not be kept in glass aquariums as hamsters are. They need a large wire cage with a solid, not mesh, floor.
Both hamsters and guinea pigs thrive best in well ventilated housing kept at average room temperature, between 65 and 80 degrees.
While guinea pigs are more social and will enjoy a roommate, hamsters really need to live alone.
Pairing two female guinea pigs together works best. If you pair two males, they need to be raised together from birth, from the same litter, or there will be trouble. If you pair a male and female, expect lots of babies!
Both hamsters and guinea pigs require similar care. They need the bedding in their cages changed regularly, they eat similar foods, and both need lots of exercise. Guinea pigs should see a veterinarian regularly. Hamsters only need medical care if something is wrong.
Guinea pigs cost more than hamsters. Bedding and food cost about the same for both, but purchase price for guinea pigs is higher. You also have vet visits and more expensive housing with guinea pigs.
For hamsters, there is hamster mix food. It contains seeds, grains, and corn. You do need to supplement it with fresh foods too. Alfalfa pellets, fruits, and veggies should be given in small amounts every couple of days and removed quickly when not eaten to avoid spoilage.
Guinea pigs need guinea pig pellets, fruit, and vegetables every day. They also need grass hay. Avoid feeding you guinea pig veggies high in water like lettuce, it can cause diarrhea.
Both animals need a constant supply of fresh water which is best delivered through a water bottle attached to the cage.
Hamsters and guinea pigs are positively delightful to play with, and watch play. They both need plenty of toys like cardboard tubes and things to climb. Hamsters also need a hamster wheel or ball to run in.
Young children may get flustered with a pet hamster. They are nocturnal animals for the most part. They might be too tired to play with a child during the day; likewise, they could keep them awake at night with their exercising.
From experience, I can tell you that both hamsters and guinea pigs are easy to care for, full of personality, and a joy to have around.