The world of pet rodents offers plenty of choices for those looking for small, furry companions in their house. Though generally not as long lived as cats or dogs, they do offer some unique advantages and challenges to both beginners and seasoned pet keepers alike. If you’re a rodent enthusiast, you might be wondering if multiple species can be housed together. You might be wondering if guinea pigs and hamsters can coexist in the same enclosure, for instance.
No, under no circumstances should guinea pigs and hamsters live or even play together. But why would it be wrong? After all, they’re both rodent species and eat similar foods. The short answer is simple: although both species are rodents, they are still very different.
In this article, we’ll explore reasons why these two species are incompatible.
The Personality of a Guinea Pig
Guinea pigs are social creatures who like to live amongst each other. They have a friendly and easy-going temperament and are one of the most lovable rodent species. Keeping guinea pigs together helps with their quality of life. Without one another, they’d become depressed, lonely, and anti-social. In some countries, it is illegal to house them alone.
Guinea pigs prefer to huddle with each other for warmth and protection. Within a group, males often form a social hierarchy, and the alpha tends to mate with the females. However, territorial disputes within guinea pigs are rarely prolonged. Guinea pigs are polygynous, which means that a single alpha male may readily mate with many females.
The Personality of a Hamster
Hamsters are territorial 1 and often fight with unknown hamsters in their territory. Unless hamsters grew up together from birth, keeping more than one hamster collectively is not a good idea. In fact, hamsters prefer living a solitary life. Even hamsters that grow up together may eventually squabble over territory. Except for dwarf hamsters, females are generally much larger than males. The prevailing consensus is to house hamsters alone.
Hamsters mark their territory with scent glands, so if something smells, looks, and acts different, they feel threatened and will bite or fight. However, if dwarf hamsters grow up together, they have the same or similar scent profiles and can, at times, live comfortably with one another. However, there is no guarantee that two hamsters will get along just because they grew up together, as the territorial drive in hamsters is quite strong and somewhat unreliable.
The Main Differences Between Hamsters and Guinea Pigs
To quickly assess each species, check out this table of differences between hamsters and guinea pigs.
For the reasons above, it would seem detrimental to both animals’ quality of life if they lived together.
Can Guinea Pigs and Hamsters Live Together?
Based on the above information, hamsters and guinea pigs are quite the opposites and would not live well together. However, temperament and lifestyle are not all that matters. Hamsters and guinea pigs have different ways of living, behavioral patterns, enclosure requirements, instinctual habits, and diet requirements.
For example, hamsters are aggressive and live in solitude comfortably, while guinea pigs are social and thrive in groups. Hamsters transfer food from their mouths (within their cheeks) from one place to another, marking their territory along the way, whereas guinea pigs can’t forage in this way. Even the sleep schedule differs. Guinea pigs sleep 30 minutes at a time, whereas hamsters will sleep most of the day as they are nocturnal animals. If any rodents’ sleep schedule becomes disturbed, both can become overly aggressive.
In addition, the cage requirements are much different from one another. Enclosures designed for guinea pigs are often too large and have plenty of room for a hamster to escape.
Finally, guinea pigs are herbivores, whereas hamsters are opportunistic omnivores. Their dietary requirements are somewhat different. The main difference in their diet is that a guinea pig is unable to make their own vitamin C, and therefore, they must have this added as a supplement in their diets. Hamsters are able to make their own vitamin C, and generally speaking, a healthy hamster doesn’t need the inclusion of vitamin C in their diet.
So, no, hamsters and guinea pigs cannot live together.
What Animals Can Guinea Pigs Live With?
Guinea pigs prefer to live in groups of their own species. However, it isn’t unheard of that guinea pigs have coexisted with cats, dogs, and even bunnies. While it’s not a good idea to place rabbits and guinea pigs in the same enclosure, they can play and roam together under close supervision.
If other trainable domestic pets are properly and safely introduced to guinea pigs, they may get along. Moreover, you must ensure that the temperaments of all your animals coincide with your guinea pig. Guinea pigs are prey species that may hide or attack if threatened. Supervision with other animals is recommended when coexisting together.
What Animals Can a Hamster Live With?
Hamsters are solitary and very territorial and will not coincide comfortably with other animals like dogs, cats, rats, gerbils, or bunnies. Due to the hamster’s natural instinct to attack, bite, climb, and run, any species coexisting within the same cage—including other hamsters—is not a good idea.
While you may think that gerbils, rats, and other hamsters eat similar foods, the hamster’s instinct to mark territory will result in fights with other cage mates. Rats will readily prey on hamsters whenever the opportunity arises.
Hamsters and guinea pigs have different temperaments and opposite ways of living, including diet and enrichment requirements. For these reasons, hamsters and guinea pigs are unsuitable cage mates.