[7 Differences] Gerbils vs. Guinea Pigs – Comparison


Choosing a pet can be a daunting task. The decision involves many considerations, including space, budget, and lifestyle.

One common dilemma pet seekers often face is choosing between two popular small pets: gerbils and guinea pigs.

These cuddly critters have their merits, but they also have unique needs and characteristics that might make one a better fit for your household.

This blog post aims to solve the gerbil vs. guinea pig problem by providing comprehensive insights to help you make an informed decision.

What Are The Main Differences Between a Gerbil and Guinea Pig?

If you’ve found yourself at the crossroads of pet ownership, pondering whether a gerbil or a guinea pig is the right choice, you’re in the right place!

These furry friends have much to offer, but they come with their needs and characteristics. Let’s dive into the seven key differences between these domesticated rodents.

Difference 1: Lifespan

Gerbils typically have a shorter lifespan, living around 2-4 years. Guinea pigs, on the other hand, can live up to 5-8 years. Longevity is a major factor to consider, especially if you’re looking for a long-term companion.

If you’re new to animal husbandry, you might find the shorter commitment with a gerbil less daunting.

Difference 2: Dietary Needs

Gerbils are primarily grain and seed eaters. They enjoy a diet filled with a variety of grains, seeds, and an occasional piece of fruit or vegetable.

Guinea pigs have more specific dietary needs. They require a regular Vitamin C intake and benefit from a diet rich in fresh vegetables and some fruits.

Consider your willingness to provide specialized nutrition when making your choice.

Difference 3: Space Requirements

When it comes to pet habitat, guinea pigs need more room to roam. They usually require a larger cage or playpen area to be comfortable.

Gerbils can adapt to more confined spaces but also appreciate some room for burrowing and exploration. Assess your available space before making a decision.

Difference 4: Social Behavior

Both animals are social by nature, but they express it differently. Gerbils thrive when they have at least one companion; they love to play and interact.

Guinea pigs are also social animals, but they can be more content living solo than gerbils if they get plenty of attention from their human caregivers.

Difference 5: Grooming and Hygiene

Gerbils are pretty low-maintenance when it comes to grooming. They keep themselves clean and require minimal intervention from you.

Guinea pigs, on the other hand, require regular brushing to keep their coat clean, especially for long-haired breeds. They also appreciate an occasional bath.

Difference 6: Activity Levels

Gerbils might be the way to go if you’re looking for a more dynamic, active pet. They’re curious creatures who enjoy burrowing and exploring their environment.

Guinea pigs are generally more sedate; they’re content to sit in their hutch and munch on food, though they do appreciate short bursts of playtime.

Difference 7: Health Concerns

Both gerbils and guinea pigs are relatively healthy animals, but they come with their own sets of potential health issues. Gerbils can be prone to respiratory issues, especially if their pet habitat is not kept clean.

Guinea pigs may suffer from Vitamin C deficiency if their dietary needs are unmet.

Gerbil and Guinea Pig Supplies: What You’ll Need

So, you’ve made up your mind and are ready to bring your new pet home—awesome! But hold on a second; before introducing them to their new kingdom, you must ensure it’s well-stocked.

Whether you’re getting a gerbil or a guinea pig, here’s a rundown of what you’ll need to make them comfortable.


For gerbils, a glass tank with a secure mesh lid works great. You’ll need at least a 10-gallon tank to give them enough room to move around. For guinea pigs, aim for a large cage—minimum of 7.5 square feet—to ensure they have enough space.


Gerbils love to dig, so a thick layer of paper-based or aspen bedding is essential. Guinea pigs also appreciate a cozy layer of bedding, preferably paper-based or hay.

Food and Water Supplies

Get a good-quality food mix specific to your pet’s species. Additionally, for guinea pigs, include a source of Vitamin C through fresh fruits and veggies. Both pets will need a water bottle or bowl that attaches securely to their housing.

Exercise Equipment

Gerbils will appreciate a wheel and tunnels to crawl through. Guinea pigs, on the other hand, love a bit of out-of-cage time in a secure area. They won’t use a wheel but may enjoy small toys and tunnels.

Grooming Tools

A soft-bristle brush will work for both, but if you have a long-haired guinea pig, you might also need some small scissors for trimming.

Health Supplies

Keep a basic first-aid kit on hand that includes antiseptic solution, cotton balls, and tweezers. It’s always best to be prepared for minor injuries or health concerns.

Treats and Chew Toys

Both animals need something to gnaw on to keep their teeth healthy. Wooden toys are a good choice. As for treats, stick with species-specific options.

Should I get a gerbil or a hamster?
If you’re torn between the two, consider the level of interaction and space you can offer. Gerbils are generally more active and need less space, whereas hamsters might enjoy more solitude.

Learn more about this in our pros and cons of having a gerbil article.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Hey, it’s normal to have many questions before committing to a new pet! Let’s dig into some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding the gerbil vs. guinea pig debate to clear up any lingering confusion you may have.

Q1: Are Gerbils or Guinea Pigs Better?

This is pretty subjective and depends on your lifestyle and what you want in a pet. Gerbils are generally more active and curious, while guinea pigs are more laid-back and may require more space.

Q2: Are Guinea Pigs More Cuddly Than Hamsters?

Generally speaking, guinea pigs are often more open to being held than hamsters and may be more comfortable with human interaction.

Q3: What’s the Difference Between a Hamster, a Gerbil, and a Guinea Pig?

Hamsters are typically more solitary and may be more comfortable living alone. Gerbils are social but very active, while guinea pigs are social and prefer a more laid-back lifestyle.

Q4: Should I Get a Gerbil or a Hamster?

A gerbil might be the way to go if you’re after a more active pet that loves to explore. If you want a pet that’s a little easier to handle and less skittish, then a hamster could be a better fit.

Q5: Do Gerbils and Guinea Pigs Need the Same Type of Food?

Nope, each has dietary needs specific to their species. Gerbils primarily eat seeds and grains, while guinea pigs require a diet rich in fresh veggies and a good source of Vitamin C.

Q6: Can I Keep Gerbils and Guinea Pigs Together?

This is a big no-no. They have different social structures, dietary needs, and temperaments, which can lead to stress or even fighting.

Q7: Do Gerbils or Guinea Pigs Smell More?

Both animals can emit odors if not correctly cared for. However, guinea pigs might produce a stronger smell, especially if their larger living space isn’t cleaned regularly.

Conclusion: Making Your Final Choice

Alright, we’ve journeyed through the ins and outs of owning a gerbil and a guinea pig—from their unique characteristics to the supplies you’ll need, and even tackled some of your burning questions.

By now, you should better know which pet aligns with your lifestyle and what you’re looking for in a furry friend.

Choosing between a gerbil and a guinea pig isn’t just about cuteness overload but compatibility.

Do you love observing high-energy activities or prefer a more chill companion? How much space can you allocate for your new pet?

What’s your comfort level when it comes to handling and maintenance? These are the factors that should weigh in on your decision.

Gerbils might be the way to go if you’ve got young kids or have a smaller living space. Conversely, if you’re looking for a pet to cuddle and don’t mind dedicating a bit more room, a guinea pig could be your match.

Remember, owning a pet is a long-term commitment that should be made carefully. Whichever furry friend you choose, ensure you’re prepared for the responsibility and the joy that comes with it.

Need more help deciding? Take a look at our article on differences between gerbils and hamsters to see how gerbils stack up against another small pet option.

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