Rabbits vs. Guinea Pigs: How to They Compare as Pets

Fluffy or furry? Laidback or lively? What’s the perfect petite pet for your home? Rabbit versus guinea pig – it’s a classic debate for prospective small animal owners. Both offer cuddly companionship, but their care and temperaments differ quite a bit. From housing to handling, costs to lifespan, we’ve got the intel to help you pick the right pocket pet! Get the lowdown on their unique needs. Discover their differences, their similarities, and their suitability for prospective owners. Let’s hop to it and cavie on – journey into the curious world of rabbit and guinea pig care. Which wins your heart? Read on to find out!

Rabbit care compared to guinea pig care

Caring for rabbits and guinea pigs requires some similar care and handling, but also some key differences. When deciding between a rabbit or guinea pig as a pet, it's important to understand the unique care needs of each to determine which is better suited for you.

Some similarities in care between rabbits and guinea pigs include:

  • Housing – Both require spacious enclosures with at least 4-6 square feet of floor space. Hutches or multi-level cages work well. They also need room for exercise outside the cage daily.

  • Hay – Fresh hay should be available 24/7 for both species as the bulk of their diet. Hay promotes dental health and digestive health.

  • Vegetables/leafy greens – Both species need a portion of fresh veggies and leafy greens in their daily diets. This provides vitamins and minerals. About 1-2 cups per 5 lbs body weight daily is sufficient.

  • Socialization – Both are social animals that do better in same-species pairs. Solo rabbits and guinea pigs will need extra daily interaction and playtime with owners.

  • Grooming – Both have hair that requires regular brushing to prevent matting and manage shedding. Nail trims are also needed every 4-6 weeks.

  • Vet care – Annual checkups are important for both, along with any needed vaccines. Illnesses common to both include respiratory infections, GI stasis, and skin parasites.

Some differences between rabbit care and guinea pig care include:

  • Diet – Guinea pigs require vitamin C added to their water daily due to an inability to synthesize it naturally. Rabbits do not have this limitation.

  • Teeth – Guinea pig teeth grow continuously and require chew toys/treats to grind them down. Rabbit teeth grow slower and rarely need intervention.

  • Litter habits – Most rabbits can be litter box trained relatively easily. Guinea pigs frequently defecate/urinate in their living space and need spot cleaning.

  • Activity needs – Rabbits are very active and need ample exercise time each day. Guinea pigs are less active and don't require as much space.

  • Handling – Rabbits are often more aloof, harder to pick up/handle. Guinea pigs are easier to scoop up and often enjoy lap time.

  • Grooming – Guinea pigs require frequent bathing (every few months) due to oils on their skin. Rabbits should not be bathed frequently due to stress.

So while their care overlaps in some areas, rabbits generally require more space, exercise, training and interaction than guinea pigs. Guinea pigs are a bit simpler in their care routine overall.

The similarities between rabbits and guinea pigs

Though rabbits and guinea pigs have many differences, they do share some common traits and similarities as small pet mammals. Some of the main similarities between rabbits and guinea pigs include:

  • Diet – Both are herbivores that eat mainly hay, leafy greens and vegetables. Hay should comprise majority of diet.

  • Social nature – Both are social animals that live in groups naturally. They ideally should be paired with another rabbit/guinea pig for companionship.

  • Housing – Spacious housing is required for both species, minimum 4 square feet, with access to exercise space. Hutches or multi-level cages work well.

  • Bedding – Paper-based bedding or fleece work well for absorbing messes in their living spaces. Avoid cedar/pine.

  • Grooming needs – Their fur requires frequent brushing to prevent matting and manage shedding. Nail trims needed every 4-6 weeks too.

  • Vet care – Annual checkups recommended for both. Illnesses like respiratory infections can affect both species. Neutering is often advised.

  • Body language – Both vocalize with a variety of squeaks/grunts, and communicate through body posture.

  • Chew toys – Important for dental health for both species. Wooden chews, vegetable treats or mineral chews help grind down teeth.

  • Lifespan – Average lifespan is 8-10 years for both species when cared for properly. Some live 12+ years.

  • Prey animals – As prey animals, they can be easily frightened. Gentle handling and secure housing is important.

  • Handling – Can be skittish, though guinea pigs often tolerate handling better. Supporting full body weight is key.

  • Exercise needs – Both require daily playtime and exercise outside their enclosures, with space to run. Important for physical and mental health.

So while the details of their care differs, rabbits and guinea pigs have quite a few core similarities that make them comparable as small pet mammals. Their shared traits need to be taken into account when caring for either species.

The differences between rabbits and guinea pigs

While rabbits and guinea pigs share some traits, their differences are notable when deciding which makes a better pet for your situation. Key differences between rabbits and guinea pigs include:

  • Size – Rabbits are larger, averaging 4-6 lbs compared to guinea pigs at 1-2 lbs. Rabbits need more space.

  • Activity levels – Rabbits are extremely active and energetic. Guinea pigs are relatively sedate. Rabbits need much more exercise time.

  • Diet – Guinea pigs require supplemental vitamin C in their water. Rabbits produce their own vitamin C.

  • Teeth – Guinea pigs' teeth grow continuously. Rabbit teeth grow more slowly and rarely need trimming.

  • Grooming – Guinea pigs require occasional bathing to keep oils under control. Bathing rabbits causes high stress.

  • Litter habits – Rabbits can be litter trained fairly easily. Guinea pigs frequently soil their living space.

  • Handling – Rabbits tend to dislike being picked up. Guinea pigs are easier to handle and hold.

  • Socialization – Guinea pigs are often simpler to pair bond initially. Rabbits can be very choosy about cage mates.

  • Noise level – Rabbits are typically very quiet. Guinea pigs can often be quite vocal and noisy.

  • Costs – Guinea pig care costs tend to be a little lower overall. Rabbits incur higher costs for spay/neuter and housing.

  • Lifespan – Well cared for guinea pigs often live 4-7 years. Rabbits average 8-12 years.

  • Vet care – Guinea pigs may need more frequent nail trims. Rabbits require annual bloodwork after age 5.

  • Health issues – Rabbits have higher incidence of GI issues like stasis. Guinea pigs prone to vitamin C deficiency.

  • Legality – Rabbits are legal in all states. Some places restrict guinea pig ownership.

So in considering their differences, rabbits generally require more specialized care and costs than guinea pigs. Guinea pigs overall are simpler pets for most owners.

Deciding which pet is right for you

With their different care needs and temperaments, deciding whether a rabbit or a guinea pig is the right pet for you requires careful consideration:

  • Housing – If space is limited, guinea pigs need less room than rabbits. But any small pet needs enough room for a proper enclosure.

  • Costs – Guinea pigs have lower upfront and ongoing costs typically. Rabbits incur spay/neuter costs and often higher vet bills.

  • Time commitment – Active rabbits need several hours of daily playtime and exercise. Guinea pigs require less overall hands-on time.

  • Social nature – Rabbits bond closely but can be choosy about cage mates. Guinea pigs are very social but often pair up easily.

  • Handling – Guinea pigs will tolerate frequent lap time and handling better than rabbits typically.

  • Activity levels – Rabbits require much more space to run and burn energy compared to guinea pigs.

  • Noise – Guinea pigs vocalize more with wheeks and squeals. Rabbits tend to be very quiet.

  • Lifespan – Rabbits often live 8-12 years. Guinea pigs average 4-7 years.

  • Experience – First time owners tend to find guinea pigs easier to manage. Rabbits require more expertise.

  • Allergies – Guinea pigs are less likely to trigger allergies than rabbits. Rabbits produce more dander.

  • Travel – Guinea pigs are easier to transport for short trips. Rabbits get stressed more by travel.

Doing thorough research on both species is key. Think about your household factors – space, allergies, costs, lifestyle and time commitment you can provide. Pick the pet that best fits your home and ability to care for them long-term.

When should you get a rabbit?

Rabbits can make wonderful pets for the right owners. Here are some key times when a rabbit may be the ideal pet for your situation:

  • You have plenty of free space. Rabbits require large housing with room to hop and run. A small apartment won't suffice.

  • You or your children want an interactive pet. Rabbits get to know their owners well and will seek out your companionship once bonded.

  • You have time for daily exercise and play. Rabbits need at least 2-3 hours per day of supervised playtime outside their enclosure.

  • You want a long-term commitment. Rabbits often live 10+ years so they require a stable home environment.

  • You have regular access to a rabbit-savvy vet. Qualified exotic vets are a must to ensure good preventive and illness care.

  • You have interest in litter training a pet. Most rabbits can be litter box trained fairly easily with patience.

  • You want a very quiet pet. Rabbits make little noise and won't disturb neighbors in an apartment.

  • You're okay with rabbits' aloofness. Rabbits warm up slowly and dislike being carried or restrained.

  • You need a non-allergenic pet. Rabbits produce less dander than other furry pets and won't aggravate allergies as much.

  • You want lower odor. Rabbits have little smell when their housing is kept clean. Great for odor-sensitive owners.

Rabbits are higher maintenance but very rewarding pets for owners who can provide the space, time and long-term commitment they require to thrive. Do your homework before hopping into rabbit ownership!

When should you get a guinea pig?

Guinea pigs can be a delight as pets for many owners. Here are some ideal times to consider adding guinea pigs to your home:

  • You have at least 4 square feet of cage space but can't provide a large room or pen. Guinea pigs can be happy in a large multi-level cage.

  • You want a social and interactive pet but have limited time each day. Guinea pigs require less daily exercise than rabbits.

  • Your family has younger children wanting a pet. Guinea pigs are sturdy, easier to handle and very tolerant of kids compared to rabbits.

  • You live in an apartment or urban area without space for large pets. Guinea pigs don't require as much room as rabbits.

  • You want pets you can cuddle and handle frequently. Guinea pigs love lap time and being carried around.

  • You're new to small animal care. Guinea pigs are easier for beginners to manage than high-energy rabbits.

  • You have allergy concerns. Guinea pigs produce less dander than rabbits and are less likely to trigger allergies.

  • You have a tighter budget. Guinea pigs have lower startup and maintenance costs compared to rabbits typically.

  • You travel frequently. Guinea pigs are easier to transport to a pet sitter than sensitive rabbits who don't travel well.

  • You want a vocal pet with some noise. Guinea pigs communicate through squeaks and sounds more than the very quiet rabbit.

Guinea pigs make ideal starter pets for owners short on space but seeking an interactive small companion. Ensure you can provide for their long-term care before adopting cavies!

Can you keep rabbits and guinea pigs together as pets?

While the idea of keeping rabbits and guinea pigs together may seem appealing, it comes with quite a few risks and is ill-advised by veterinary experts. Some key reasons it is unsafe to house rabbits and guinea pigs together:

  • Different social structure – Rabbits live in hierarchical groups. Guinea pigs cohabitate as equals. These structures clash.

  • Injuries – Rabbits may bite and scratch at guinea pigs, causing wounds from bullying or territorial behavior.

  • Fighting – Dominant rabbits may continuously mount guinea pigs to show dominance, stressing the guinea pigs.

  • Differing needs – Their housing, feeding, temperature needs are different enough to make cohabitating challenging.

  • Diet issues – Rabbits can steal guinea pig food that contains vitamin C and calcium harmful to them in excess.

  • Disease transmission – Rabbits can pass Bordetella bacteria to guinea pigs, causing respiratory illness.

  • Parasites – Guinea pigs are prone to mites that can spread to rabbits and make grooming challenging.

  • Reproduction – Accidental litters can occur if housed together, with dangerous outcomes due to incompatible species.

  • Neglect – It's easy for owners to miss signs of illness, injury or stress in a co-housed pair.

While their interactions may seem peaceful initially, rabbits and guinea pigs should not share permanent housing. Owners who wish to house them together must provide two separate large enclosures. Guinea pigs can become very stressed and rabbits may act territorial when forced to share close quarters. It's safest to house rabbit and guinea pig companions separately.

Is supervised playtime okay?

While rabbits and guinea pigs should not live full time in the same space, some owners consider allowing the pets supervised playtime together. This can be successful but requires diligence:

  • Use a neutral area like a puppy pen, not the existing enclosure for either pet. This prevents territorial behavior.

  • Always monitor play sessions 100%. Do not leave them alone unsupervised even briefly to prevent injury.

  • Keep sessions brief, 10-15 minutes max initially. Separate at first sign of aggression or stress in either animal.

  • Avoid forcing interaction. Let them choose whether to approach each other and disengage.

  • Provide two hideouts/houses so each has their own safe zone during playtime.

  • Ensure proper vet care and parasite control for both pets to reduce disease transmission risk.

  • Don't overcrowd the play space. Keep just one rabbit and one guinea pig together at a time for safety.

  • Gradually increase session length as the pets become comfortable interacting. But always supervise closely.

  • Discontinue playtime if there are any signs of bullying or injuries forming from nipping or scratching.

  • Feed them separately. Never feed treats during playtime to prevent resource guarding conflicts.

With proper precautions, some bonded rabbit-guinea pig pairs can have successful supervised playtimes. But great care must be taken, sessions should be limited, and housed full-time separately.


Rabbits and guinea pigs have quite a few similarities but also key differences in their care needs, temperaments and suitability as pets for owners. While their interactions can seem benign initially, housing rabbits and guinea pigs together full time comes with real risks and is inadvisable according to vets. With proper precautions, some rabbits and guinea pigs can have brief supervised playtime, but should otherwise be housed separately. Do your homework on both species' unique requirements before deciding which is the right small pet for your home long-term. Provide the proper housing, diet, exercise and veterinary care to set your rabbit or guinea pig up for a long, healthy and happy life.


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