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Gerbil vs. Guinea Pig

When choosing a pet, it is important to consider the pros and cons of each and to analyze whether they will suit your lifestyle or not. If you have decided to get a small pet, such as a rodent, then you must compare the different options. Two animals that you might consider are gerbils and guinea pigs. Here is an overview of the similarities and differences between these animals and some suggestions to who each of these animals is best-suited.

Gerbil vs. Guinea Pig

A gerbil is a small rodent that looks like a mouse or rat. It has a long tail, rounded ears, and beaded eyes. They love tunneling and need a habitat that accommodates this activity. They are sociable animals that are best kept in pairs or small groups.

Guinea pigs are also a rodent, but they are larger than gerbils. Their distinctive features include short legs and a long, stocky body. These are friendly creatures that like to have a companion or to live indoors so they can have more contact with their owner.


There are many similarities between guinea pigs and gerbils. Some of these include:

  • Diet- Both guinea pigs and hamsters eat a lot of dried food, but both also need some fresh food in their diets.
  • Living arrangements- Neither guinea pigs nor gerbils like to live alone. They are much happier if they live in pairs or small groups.
  • Dislike of other animals- Guinea pigs and gerbils may like having companions of their own species but living close to other animals can cause them stress.
  • Personality- These animals both have sociable personalities and enjoy being handled by their owners.
  • Bedding-Both gerbils and guinea pigs are nesting animals, so they need plenty of bedding for this.
  • Care- The care needs of guinea pigs and gerbils are very similar as both need soiled bedding removing daily, a full bedding change weekly, and a thorough clean of their habitat monthly. They also need feeding daily.


Although these rodents share many similarities, there are also some differences between gerbils and guinea pigs. Some of these include:

  • Space- Guinea pigs need more slat, horizontal space than gerbils as they are a larger animal and need room to run around. Gerbils need greater vertical space as they need good bedding depth for tunneling.
  • Diet- Although both gerbils and guinea pigs predominantly eat dry foods, guinea pigs need more fresh food than gerbils. They should eat fresh fruit and vegetables daily along with their dry food mixes or pellets. Gerbils only need a small portion of fruit or vegetables once or twice a week.
  • Tunneling- Both these rodents enjoy tunneling, but guinea pigs do not tunnel very deep and a decent layer of hay is enough for them. Gerbils prefer to make deep tunnels, so need a deep layer of bedding in their habitat.
  • Living arrangements- Guinea pigs are a pet that you can keep either indoors or outdoors. Gerbils do not like living outdoorsunless you live in areas with a desert climate.
  • Smell- Guinea pigs have a typical rodent smell in their habitats, while gerbils have hardly any odor as they produce very little waste.
  • Noise- Gerbils do not tend to make much noise unless they are fighting. Guinea pigs are very vocal creatures, and this can keep you awake if they live indoors.

Reasons to Pick a Gerbil Over a Guinea Pig

The biggest advantages of gerbils over guinea pigs are their low odor and the fact that they take up less space. A further benefit is that they are quiet creatures. This means that they are ideal for people living in small houses or apartments as they will not take up too much room and the smell will not spread around your home. They are also a good option for children as they are easy to handle and rarely bite.

Reasons to Pick a Guinea Pig Over a Gerbil

If you have plenty of room for a guinea pig run, then a guinea pig is a fantastic choice as they are a relatively low-maintenance pet and do not cost much to feed. They are one of the best rodents to keep if you want to interact with your pet as they love interacting with humans, they are unlikely to bite, and they are entertaining to watch.

Final Verdict

There are pros and cons to both guinea pigs and gerbils. Which you choose will depend on your personal preferences, your expectations of owning a pet, your lifestyle, and your personal circumstances. Each of them has some excellent attributes that mean they are fantastic pets for a various types of people.



About the author


Liz Flynn is a mum of four with a background in education. An animal lover, she has owned everything from dogs to tarantulas and animals of all sizes in between and loves to write about them.

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