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Guinea Pig vs. Rabbit: Which Pet Should You Get?

Nicole Cosgrove

Guinea pigs and rabbits are often the next steps in pet ownership for children. They offer more ways to bond with a bit more care involved to teach kids the responsibility they require. They will appreciate an animal that is more responsive. However, they are also more of a commitment when it comes to the basics of feeding and maintenance.

Over 5 million American households have small animals. If you can’t or are unable to have a dog or cat, they offer excellent ways to enjoy the rewards of pet ownership. Perhaps it’s something that is hardwired in humans. We are social creatures, and pets like guinea pigs and rabbits offer this opportunity to share our world in a fulfilling way.

If you’ve considered either species because of its size, it’s essential to understand that it’s where the similarities end. Yes, they eat similar diets and have like housing needs. The relationship you have with either one is unique.

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Visual Differences

Guinea Pig vs Rabbit

At a Glance

Guinea Pig
  • Average height (adult): 8–10”
  • Average weight (adult): 5–2.6 lbs
  • Lifespan: 4-5 years
  • Exercise: Time outside of the cage recommended
  • Grooming needs: Moderate
  • Family-friendly: Suitable for children over 6 years old
  • Social Needs: Tolerates other guinea pigs
  • Trainability: Possible with younger animals
Rabbit
  • Average height (adult): Up to 16”
  • Average weight (adult): 2–20 lbs
  • Lifespan: 8–12 years
  • Exercise: Time outside of the cage recommended
  • Grooming needs: Moderate
  • Family-friendly: Suitable for children over 6 years old
  • Social needs: Males will fight
  • Trainability: Possible with younger animals

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Guinea Pig Overview

Guinea Pig
Image Credit By: CC0 Public Domain, pikist

A guinea pig is an excellent bridge going from a smaller rodent like a hamster to a pet that your kids can handle. He lives longer and is often more docile. The care is similar, so the transition is smoother. These points also apply to a rabbit, although there is a lot more variability in weight with this animal. Guinea pigs and rabbits share a common history as food for both humans and predators.

Both pets hit the proverbial lottery when they came to the United States. They have since lived the life of pampered animals to which they responded well to human contact and care. There are 13 recognized breeds today, with some people showing them. Their name is a misnomer because they are rodents instead of pigs.

There is also an interesting connection between humans and guinea pigs that few other mammals share. Both people and cavies must get vitamin C from their diet since our bodies can’t synthesize it. That explains our mutual reliance on plant foods in our respective diets. Being social is another shared trait between us. After all, there’s a good reason that you call a group of guinea pigs a herd.

Personality / Character

Guinea pigs are engaging pets. They respond to humans and are quite vocal among themselves. Their varied vocalizations speak to their intelligence to communicate with others in their herd. It’s essential to remember that these cavies were a prey species. That makes them wary of changes in their environment or routine. Remember that this characteristic is vital for survival.

It’s essential to approach handling a guinea pig in the same gentle manner. Bonding is possible with this intelligent rodent. We suggest teaching these same lessons to your children. Young animals respond best to handling. A guinea pig probably wouldn’t say no to a treat, either. Like other prey species, cavies are crepuscular, which means that they’re active at dusk and dawn. It gives them an edge against predators.

Guinea Pig with Flowers
Image Credit By: CC0 Public Domain, pikist

Health & Care

The essential things to remember about owning a guinea pig are a suitable diet and a cage placed in an area without drafts. These rodents are herbivores that will thrive on a commercial diet that supplies the necessary nutrients and fiber. Be careful if you offer your cavy any people foods. Getting too much can cause GI distress and increase the risk of dehydration.

Make sure to provide fresh water every day. However, you’ll likely find that your pet’s diet takes care of most of his needs for moisture. We suggest getting a bottle that has reinforced materials around the bottom because of the guinea pig’s tendency to chew, even if the material is inappropriate. That’s how they keep their teeth in check.

Suitable for:

Older children and individuals who want a pet that requires little extra care than daily attention and a healthy environment.

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Rabbit Overview

cute black rabbit
Image Credit: Rita_Kochmarjova, Shutterstock

The essential thing to understand about rabbits is that it’s harder to make generalities about having them as pets because of the different breeds. Guinea pigs stay pretty close to their weight range, even with the number of breeds. There is a lot more variability with bunnies if just judging by their weight span. That’s true in part because there are more than thrice the amount of breeds.

That means a lot of specialization that you’ll see in personality, coats, and uses. However, they have many of the same characteristics as guinea pigs, including diet, food web position, and economic importance. Rabbits are unique in being a species bred for food, clothing, and pets. They are also hunted in the wild. While not the domesticated variety, it has an influence on their character.

Rabbits are longer-lived than guinea pigs. That means more of a commitment to care. After all, we’re talking about a two to three times longer lifespan. Parents must put this fact on their radar if they end up being the caretaker.

Personality / Character

Rabbits like guinea pigs are sweet animals. They can make very loving pets that will bond with their owners. That’s a boon for children who want to bond with their charges. It’s the proverbial win-win. It will make the experience more rewarding for them and also encourage the kids to do their part with care and maintenance.

Whereas guinea pigs are vocal, rabbits don’t have a lot to say. They communicate with each other when they have to do so. Unfortunately, that often means danger is afoot. Bunnies will bond with their human companions. You may find that the experience is more rewarding because of it. Rabbits differ from cavies in that they will show more personality. They are more likely to entertain you with their antics.

Size is the main difference between breeds. However, some, like the Netherland Dwarf, is full of energy, despite their small size.  Angora rabbits require regular grooming, unlike many other breeds. On the other hand, the Palomino is almost cat-like with its preening. Don’t be surprised if he tends to you as well.

Healthy Rabbit
Image Credit By: CC0 Public Domain, pxhere

Health & Care

The care of both guinea pigs and rabbits are similar. They require a similar diet, both being herbivores. You must also take the same precautions about adding fresh greens to their rotation. Too much can cause similar digestive issues. We recommend keeping them on a commercial diet that supplies the fiber and nutrients they need.

One significant difference is that you may have luck litterbox training your rabbit. It plays on their instinct to keep their presence in the wild unknown to predators. If they use one place for waste, it minimizes the chances that a predator will stumble upon them. For the house rabbit, it makes your maintenance so much easier!

Suitable For:

A rabbit is an excellent choice for an adolescent or teen who wants a pet that they can interact with on a deeper level. The variety of breeds means you can match a bunny with the kind of animal and associated maintenance that you want. The fact that you can litterbox train them means you can also have a pet in the house that everyone can enjoy.

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Which Pet is Right for You?

Both guinea pigs and rabbits make excellent pets for the child who is ready to take on the responsibility of full pet ownership. That means not just cleaning the cage and providing food but also bonding with the animal. If that describes your son or daughter, then these pets are worth a look. They’ll likely find that it’s a more enjoyable experience as a result.

Between the two, the guinea pig is a bit less hands-off in terms of handling. A rabbit begs to cuddle with you and tries to make it easier with litterbox training. However, they also require more room if just to put the box inside their cage. The other thing to keep in mind is that you have more options when it comes to choosing the size range of the pet. The rabbit gets full marks on that score.

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.