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Rabbits Vs Guinea Pigs: Which is Better For Kids?

Hi Pet Blog Readers,

Hope you had a great weekend.  Let’s get the week started with an article from guest blogger Melanie.  She has a post for us that should help you out if you are trying to decide between getting a rabbit or a guinea pig.  Each of these small pets have their own characteristics and behaviors and their care may suit your personal situation better than the other.  Melanie’s outline of pros and cons should be able to help make your decision a bit easier.  If you have a preference between a rabbit and a guinea pig or if you have a question or comment, please let us know in the comments section below.  Thanks!

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A first pet is a very important right of passage for your child. Not only does it make a very cute contribution to your family, it teaches your kids responsibility and to love and respect the animal kingdom. That said, having a pet isn’t always easy. They take looking after, feeding, exercising and immunising.

 

If you’re thinking of getting a pet for your child, it’s always good to start with something small and manageable. Two great examples are either guinea pigs or rabbits. Both of these animals are relatively low maintenance and your children should be able to take care of most of the responsibilities involved.

 

Below you will find the pros and cons for each animal, which should help in deciding which to get.

 

RABBITS

Photo uploaded to Flickr by user Robobobobo.

PROS

  • They are small in size and can fit in your children’s hands.
  • They are gentle and not intimidating for children.
  • They feed on dry food, grass and vegetables which is easy to find.
  • They require little or no vaccinations.
  • They are independent and do their own thing.
  • They can exercise in their cage or indoors.
  • They show affection to their owners.
  • They can be litter boxed trained.
  • They can be left to roam.
  • They live 812 years, slightly longer than guinea pigs.

 

CONS

  • They are stubborn animals and training takes time.
  • They can be smelly. Hutches need to be cleaned frequently.
  • They chew everything they come into contact with so home roaming can be a problem.
  • They are susceptible to exposure and in extreme weather may need to stay inside.
  • Finding veterinary help for rabbits can be difficult as it’s uncommon.
  • They poop a lot and everywhere.
  • They will wee on you if given the chance.
  • They are very quick and can be hard to catch when returning them to their cage.
  • They are rapid breeders so be careful if you have more than one.

 

IMG_3686GUINEA PIGS

PROS

  • They are small in size and can fit in your children’s hands.
  • They do not bite and are even more gentle than rabbits.
  • They don’t smell.
  • They don’t breed as quickly as rabbits.
  • They are independent and do their own thing.
  • They can exercise in their cage or indoors.
  • They make adorable squeaking noises.
  • They are very easy to take care of.
  • They live 5 – 8 years, more than smaller rodents.
  • They love to be held for hours and are easy to catch.
  • They have a great temperament.

 

CONS

  • They can be shy at the beginning and run away from you.
  • They require largish cages.
  • Cages need to be cleaned frequently.
  • They can be noisy so best kept outside.
  • They aren’t as simple to feed as rabbits. They need a variety of vegetables, hay, and high quality pellets that you might have to order online.
  • They poop and pee without warning.

 

Author Bio

Melanie is a pet lover and very keen blogger. Over the last few years Melanie has contributed numerous articles on pet care and products.  Melanie is currently working on a new pet blog that should be released soon.

 

52 comments

  1. avatar

    I’ve had many rabbits and many guinea pigs. I wanted to correct a few things.
    Not all rabbits are small. Some are 20 pounds.
    Rabbits are pretty gentle before puberty but then, they often bite and scratch. Spaying or neutering helps.
    Rabbits should never be left to roam, or some animal will eat them. They are easily scared.
    Many people keep rabbits indoors. There’s a House Rabbit Society. My rabbits ate the wallpaper when I tried though.
    Rabbits are no more smelly than other animals. I think guinea pig urine is more pungent.
    Finding a vet that sees rabbits and guinea pigs is very easy in areas where there are a lot of vets. My rabbits get yearly checkups.
    Newsflash: All animals poop and pee a lot. I think guinea pigs have rabbits beat in this department.
    Guinea pigs don’t normally bite but I’ve been bitten. They are generally nicer than rabbits.
    Boy, guinea pigs (and rabbits) do NOT love to be held. I have three guinea pigs right now. Only one lets me catch and hold her. 20 minutes is the limit unless you want to be peed on.
    Rabbits are larger and need larger cages than guinea pigs.
    My rabbits and guinea pigs get the exact same foods except for the pellets which are species-specific.
    Guinea pigs are as simple to feed as rabbits.
    Ok, this is why I had to write. Do NOT keep guinea pigs outdoors! They are not cold tolerant like rabbits. They will die if kept below 50 degrees F long term. Mine are not noisy enough to worry about that. Guinea pigs cannot be litter trained like rabbits.
    Ok, I do agree, they will pee and poop without warning (just like rabbits)!
    Anyway, hands down guinea pigs are better first pets than rabbits. And please, keep them inside.

  2. avatar

    Thanks for your comments, Robyn. All pets are different and the type of species can really play a role in size. This was a guest blog post, and our pet care experts don’t necessarily agree with all of the author’s suggestions either. Thanks for taking the time to write to us, we appreciate it!

  3. avatar

    As a veterinary student with a focus on pocket pets, I find your list to be a little unsettling. For example, most rabbits hate to be held (they prefer “all 4 on the floor”) and can be quite temperamental. They are not all small, and generally the smaller they are the more aggressive and stubborn they are. It is very common for them to grunt, lunge, scratch and bite if you try to pick them up when they don’t want to be handled. It is also worth noting that if a rabbit is not properly restrained it can easily hurt itself in an attempt to wriggle free. And rabbits require very large cages! Typical pet store cages are entirely too small unless you give them several hours of exercise out of their cage daily. They can make excellent house pets and can be quite affectionate, wonderful pets when cared for properly. They are no more smelly than other caged pets if you clean their cages regularly & are usually easily litter trained.

    Guinea pigs require large cages as well, not as large as a rabbit cage, however. They tend to be friendlier than rabbits once they have adjusted to their new home & family. They can be noisy, but usually only in short bursts and should NEVER be kept outside! I have found guinea pigs to be much messier and more smelly than rabbits, but again, if cleaned regularly it should not be a problem. Also, not all Guinea pigs love being held, especially for hours, and need gentle proper handling like rabbits.

    They both have special needs like proper chewing materials to keep their growing teeth in check, nail trims and yearly veterinary exams. Finding a vet that is comfortable working on either is difficult as vets are not classically trained in treating most pocket pets, it is important to find a qualified vet. Also, spaying or neutering your pocket pet will not only help prevent unwanted breeding, but will help improve their temperament and improve their overall health. And their primary diet should be a good quality hay (such as Timothy)- they need to eat a pile of hay roughly the size of their body every day, pellet food should be given in a small daily dose, and fruits and vegetables should be regarded as special treats, not as part of their main diet. And both are prey species so they need an area to hide and feel safe, quiet environments are best and both can become overly stressed or frightened easily which can be life-threatening to them.

    Ultimately, guinea pigs make the better pet for children. I would never recommend a rabbit as a pet for young children, somehow they seem to have gotten the label as a “starter pet” for children. They can live just as long as a dog and are just as much work & responsibility if given the proper care, and are much more fragile and temperamental. Guinea pigs tend to be a good option, but still require good husbandry, veterinary care and proper handling so make sure your child is old enough to be able to handle those things before bringing your new pet home. Just keep in mind every animal has it’s own unique personality and may not fit what you expect them to be like.

  4. avatar

    Hi Robyn and Liz. Thank you very much for your inputs! Really helpful for the readers and me. I’ve written this post from the perspective of a mother, not a vet. So that explains some of the misconception I’ve written. As you can see, those tips are products of reading tons and tons of guides online and compiled to help fellow parents with the same dilemma. And yes, I agree that guinea pigs are way better as a starter pet. That’s actually what we’ve decided to have for my kid. 😉 Again, thank you very much, really appreciate all the inputs.

  5. avatar

    Hi, I’m thirteen years old and take pride in taking care of animals. I was told that for my next birthday I can get a cage animal. I was debating whether to get a guinea pig or a rabbit. At first I decided to get a guinea pig. But I do my research and was told that guinea pigs are very social animals and that if you get a guinea pig to get two of the same sex. I told my mom and she said maybe.

    My other question is what would be best for me as a calm thirteen year old? I have two younger siblings and have the feeling that they would constantly ask to play with them. I don’t want to pressure the animal. And what animal would be good being home alone when I go to school. I just want to know what animal would fit my house situation and fit mw the best.

  6. avatar

    Hi Jade – Thanks for writing in to us!

    You’re on the right track – our pet experts definitely would recommend Guinea Pigs over a rabbit for your situation. Rabbits are less appropriate for your younger siblings; they can become easily started and don’t like to be handled and held. They have powerful back legs and can kick and scratch to overpower them. Guinea Pigs, on the other hand, are great if you’re going to interact with them often and get them used to being handled. They won’t be able to overpower your siblings and learn to love being played with. They are very social animals. My sister’s kids (ages 16, 10 and 8) have had 2 guinea pigs for the last few years and they love them 🙂

    They are small animals, so you’ll need to teach your younger siblings to be very gentle with them and not to drop them. They should be just fine alone while you are at school during the day. If you’re looking for more information, we have an article on our website you can read about how to best care for your pet: http://www.thatpetplace.com/guinea-pig-article

    Let me know if you have any other questions & welcome to the wonderful world of pet ownership!
    -Heather C.

  7. avatar

    Thank you, that was very helpful! I appreciated you taking the time to answer my questions. I will most likely be coming with more questions. But for now all that I would like to know is what kind of food should I buy for my guinea pig, what kind of snacks can I give to my guinea pig, how often can I give them snacks or treats, how big should its cage be, what kind of bedding should I put in there cage, and… oh wow I have alot of questions!! I’ll just leave my questions at that and then write more questions. Sorry if there are too many questions

  8. avatar

    Hi Jade – It’s not a problem to have questions! That shows you’re going to be a responsible pet owner! I think you’ll find that we answer most of your questions about cages, bedding, food and treats on this page: http://www.thatpetplace.com/guinea-pig-article

    It was written by our in-house pet experts. If you have any questions after reading our care guide, feel free to post them here or email me at hcrotsley@thatpetplace.com

    Thanks again!
    Heather

  9. avatar

    Thank you so much!! I wrote that comment before I read the article but now I read it and most to all of my questions have been answered. Again thank you very much and I will be using you’re articles for any further info unless I need to ask you!! Have a great day!!!

  10. avatar

    You have a great day, too!

  11. avatar

    Hi, I was wandering if a cage that is 9 square feet would be big enough for two guinea pigs?

  12. avatar

    If your going to be keeping them indoors

  13. avatar

    For 2 indoor guinea pigs 7.5 square feet (minimum), but 10.5 square feet is preferred; generally 30″ x 50″ is a good size.

  14. avatar

    Thanks for sharing this useful post. I have a pet bunny already and I am now considering whether I should have another bunny or try some other small animals as pet. Guinea Pig seem to be a good option, will take it into consideration after doing some more research online.

  15. avatar

    There is a pocket pet that is better than rabbits and guinea pigs combined for people of all ages. They’re called rats. They are intelligent, docile, affectionate, quiet, easy to feed and care for, can be litter trained, taught tricks. They are sweethearts and are considered to be the dogs of the rodent world. They only live 2-3 years and rarely 4-5. I also suggest budges.

  16. avatar

    I had guinea pigs as a child they were awesome but as an adult my partner I troduced me to Rats & they really do beat a Guinean pig hands down for easy car cleaning etc. I bathed my rats every week, as well as cage cleaning. I taught each one to do multiple tricks & enjoyed them heaps. The only prob is make sure ur cupboards are closed one roamed once & ate my jeans but other than that awesome fun & cutest pet indoors & outdoors just watch how far they go as they are prey animals too. Rats beat both rabbits & Guinean pigs for affordability & easy car for young children.

  17. avatar

    Hello! I am 11 really want to get a guinea pig or two!
    but I have school ,how am I going to take care of my cavies!?
    My father works all day and my stepmother has to take care of a baby, me, and my three brothers.
    So how do I take care of them?
    Shool work is vary tight.
    plus what about weekends?I go to my grandparents house Friday through Saturday.
    Is a guinea pig realy right for me?
    Or should I wait till next later?

  18. avatar

    Hi Katie,
    I would suggest sitting down and discussing the situation with your parents. Consider the costs to them, the quality of care you’ll be able to provide, and the time you’re all able to spend. If you all can agree, lots of busy families still have room for pets :).

  19. avatar

    Hi. I had 2 guinea pigs and they have both died this year.one had to get surgery because of a cyst on her neck .her mame was patches. The other one named buttons stopped eating and I was curious as if her tooth was missing o r if she wondered where patches was for the week.when patches came back from surgery she had started to eat buttons ear, so I separated them for the day.buttons had died the next day.a week later another cyst was growing on patches. She had gotten surgery again but died of a seizure shortly after.all of this had happened so quickly and my mom had asked me if I wanted another pet.she said we would get one this time so I am debating on whether I should get a rabbit or a guinea pig.i would be able to handle either but I can’t decide which one too choose. I want a baby so I would be able too train it easily but I want one to hang out with as if it were a mans best friend. One that would enjoy playing on the floor more. Can you help me make a decision?(I am 15

  20. avatar

    My mom is also now saying a hamster would be nice as well. I f anyone could help me out with my situation it would be greatly appreciated

  21. avatar

    Hi Ray,

    To answer both of your questions –

    1. It seems as though you’re looking for something personable – something that would act as ‘man’s best friend’ as you put it. For me, that wouldn’t be a hamster. They simply aren’t that way. The advantage to a hamster would be space – their cage setups are typically much simpler than that of a guinea pig or rabbit. If this is something you’re concerned with, than a hamster may be a solid choice.

    2. Despite your prior experience with your guinea pigs, I would still recommend them as a solid choice for what you’re seeking in a pet. As noted, they can be quite personable and are very tolerant of handling and training. They do have shorter lifespans than rabbits which is unfortunate. In most other ways though – the two are very similar. Good luck!

  22. avatar

    Thank you for your response. That really helped influence my decision and I am certainly going to get a guinea pignow.i am deeply sorry not to ask this earlier but how do I know if the pet I am buying is healthy and nice?

  23. avatar

    Hi I’m Katy rue and I have a problem, I am 13 and I had a pet rabbit last year named hopper I had him for 7-9 months before he died I believe because of the cold but it was even -0 yet so o don’t know but I was offered a guinea pig for my birthday and I don’t know if o should I take the offer I would love a new pet to be able to train but I have problems with responsibility and my main problems with hopper where grooming wise I was wondering what your opinion on what I should do is

  24. avatar

    Hi Katy,

    Thanks for leaving a comment! I am sorry to hear about your previous rabbit. Rabbits and guinea pigs are similar to care for, but if we did have to pick the easier one to care for it would be the guinea pig. They do not need quite as much exercise and they don’t require as much grooming or cleaning that you would see with a rabbit. In that regard, you might find it a bit easier to keep a guinea pig. If you ever have questions about keeping a rabbit, guinea pig or any other type of animal, please feel free to check back with us and ask any question. Thanks!

  25. avatar

    Hi, I was wondering if a Mini Holland bunny would be right for me. I have two Guinea Pigs; Coco Chanel, and Nibbles (Girl and Boy!) They are so sweet and adorable don’t get me wrong, but, I had a Bunny when I was very young and didn’t know how to care or take care of it. So, at this moment in time my mother is very cautious about the situation. I was just wondering if having a bunny would be a good thing for me. Are they expensive? How much is the whole set up? Do they need alot of space/exercise? Are they very high maintenance?

  26. avatar

    Hi Ava,

    Thanks for leaving a comment! Rabbits are great pets to have. If you are keeping guinea pigs at this time, a rabbit is not that much different in terms of care and maintenance. You just want to make sure that you have the time to take care of all of your pets. Cost can vary, depending on your location, but getting a rabbit with an enclosure and supplies would be approx. $150.00. Thereafter, upkeep would cost about the same as your guinea pig.

    I hope that helps, please let us know if you have any other questions!

  27. avatar

    Should I get a guinea pig or a rabbit as a first pet??

  28. avatar

    I had a lion head rabbit for several years. She was super sweet when I first got her. After puberty she became more agression so I had her spayed. She was an awesome pet from that point on. She was litter trained and followed me around. She loved to cuddle and play with my cat. She did smell quite a bit so I had to clean her cage every three days…completely change it. She died at 6 years old. I now have guinea pigs…females. They also like to cuddle but it took longer to bond with them. My rabbit had a lot of personality…more than my guinea pigs. I love my guinea pigs and spend time with them which has calmed them quite a bit. My first pet as a child was a guinea pig so I know they make good first pets For children. The backs on both rabbits and guinea pigs are fragile. A wire floor is NOT suitable for guinea pigs…they can get bubble foot. It can also cause guinea pigs to lose toes since they are bare footed like us. My rabbit was on a safety coated wired floor and she did great with that. Rabbits can kick which I feel can make them a poor choice for small children. Mine kicked my cat once and it bruised him. Guinea Pigs do not kick but they do run…I would recommend an exercise pen big enough for your child and the guinea pig. Let the guinea pig come to them first. Hope this helps. 🙂

  29. avatar

    Hi, thanks for messaging. It is a delicate balance. Check out and weigh the pros and cons listed above. Are any of the cons a non-starter for you?

  30. avatar

    Hi I’m Freya and I am 11 I have lots of school tests coming as I am nearing the end of year 7 and I really really want a guinea pig. I don’t know whether I would be able to take care of it with my tests coming up in school so could you please help me make a decision. My dads house would be better to keep a guinea pig in because he has grass in his back garden whereas my mum has just got decking covering all of her back garden. I already have a hamster at my dads so he said when she dies that he might think about it so please could someone help me make my decision. Please.

  31. avatar

    Hi Freya, thanks for commenting. I would focus on the CONs listed in the article. Are you able to provide a large cage and have the time and ability to clean the cage often? I would also make sure that you can handle the feeding requirements. Are you able to provide the combination of fresh vegetables and pellet food for the guinea pig? If these factors are not a problem, then a guinea pig would be a fine pet to keep. If they are not something you can take care of, it might be better to select a pet with less care involved. Thanks!

  32. avatar

    Love them all

  33. avatar

    As mentioned above my first pet was a guinea pig, I was 6. Despite me being young and oblivious my piggie Lucy bonded with me. From that point on I was hooked. 32 years later I have 4 females and though it took time they have all bonded well. The more socialized they are the calmer they are. As a first pet I would recommend a guinea pig over a rabbit. I had my rabbit five years and loved her but she was a little harder to manage. The pro side…my rabbit was litter trained. My guinea pigs are not. My rabbit also cuddles but by far my piggies cuddle more and they love to be close…well, depending on the guinea pig. I have owned 12 through the years…my current makes 16 and all of mine loved cuddling.

  34. avatar

    I would definitely go with rabbits over guinea pigs. I used to think guinea pigs were great, until I actually owned one. It would squeal all day and night and drove me insane! I had no idea guinea pigs make so much noise.

  35. avatar

    That was good advice

  36. avatar

    I love this post! Guinea pigs are the best I have to say (although I have never had a rabbit so hard to compare) I decided to get us a guinea pig after reading this article: http://smallpetselect.com/guinea-pig-guide/guinea-pigs-teach-responsibility-to-kids that convinced me they would be perfect for the kids.

  37. avatar

    I just wanted to add that in my experience, I “make it work” if I know that the animal is right for me. I have a hamster that I never knew I would be this attached to until I had the chance to be with her. She has never bitten me, ever, and that is because I have always been gentle, always cautious about what she wants. She has taught me a great deal about patience and forgetting the clocks. It’s a wonderful feeling, hanging out with a pet and feeling your stress levels plummet 🙂 I dislike her smell, but I keep her in my room because she is just too sweet to live anywhere else

  38. avatar

    Guinea pigs should NOT be kept outside.. if noise bothers you don’t get two. Yes you must have atlest 2.. get your facts straight

  39. avatar

    Guinea pigs can very much be kept outside during warmer months as they are native to regions of South America. They are a wild rodent, but have since been domesticated within the United States. While leaving them in a habitat (hutch) outside may not work for all, it does in fact work for some. I personally have had 4 guinea pigs in my lifetime, and I have never once kept a guinea pig outside. Also, most guinea pigs cannot be kept together once they become adults as they will become aggressive with one another (male & male, female & female) due to becoming territorial. It is actually better to keep only one, or have them in two separate cages.

  40. avatar

    Thanks for sharing! You’re 100% right, it really comes down to what works for you. I personally have had hamsters growing up, but I grew scared of them as they always bit. I grew to learn that it’s in an animal’s nature, and it’s not always meant in an aggressive manner. For example, holding a treat not far enough out, cutting foods and then going to reach for your pet after (without washing your hands), and sometimes it’s just a little love bite 🙂

  41. avatar

    Acatually Guinea pigs can be litter trained, it just takes a little more time.

  42. avatar

    I have got 2 rabbits and 2 guinea pigs. The difference for me is huge! After 4 years of having my guinea pigs, they are still shy and scared of me. Their pee has much stronger smell. I clean both rabbits and guinea pigs cages once a week, on the same day and 2 days later piggies cage smells. Rabbits are so much more affectionate and loving. Piggies are better to be left alone, at least in my case. Regarding which pet is better for the children as a “starter pet”, even though i don’t like this term, i would say none, as they are both high maintenance and need to be handled very gently. But if you have to get one , i would say a rabbit. This is the reason why. Rabbits are great jumpers, guinea pigs not so much. Worse case scenario , if a child drops the guinea pig, it can be seriously injured. If the same thing happens to a rabbit, it will land on his 4 feet as they have a better control of their body.

  43. avatar

    They can be litter trained, great point!

  44. avatar

    Rabbits will land on their feet, but rabbits bones are actually more fragile (compared to their muscle mass) so fractures are much more common in rabbits. I do agree with your point though in regards to “starter pets.” It can seem to have a negative tone. I often refer to them just as first pet. My first pet was actually a hamster 🙂 I was also in 3rd grade, and took care of the class room pet over the summer so my parents physically saw me take care of the pet and felt that I was responsible enough to handle it. With some children, it might take longer.

  45. avatar

    Hi im 11 years old and im looking at either getting a guinea pig or a bunny. If we get a guinea pig it might have to be outside as we have an indoor cat that can get pretty adventurous at times. Do you think I would be better to get a bunny or a guinea pig ?

  46. avatar

    Hi Martine, Guinea pigs would do fine outside provided that they have adequate housing so it really is up to personal preference 🙂

  47. avatar

    I live in a particularly hot country and my father says that i can get either a guinea pig or rabbit. My family has no backyard or front yard but we have a lot of indoor space. I do have a cat but she is kept in her own room but we do let her out often at night. If you have time could you please answer this reply. Thank you <3

  48. avatar

    Hello, I am a father of only one child who is around 11 to 12. She is a crazy animal lover, like the rest of our family and i told her she could get a bunny/rabbit or a guinea pig. But she must have to be able to take care of it and we arent only getting one we are getting 2 of them to keep them company. Our house is a bit big but we dont have any outside space. But we do have large rooms including my daughter’s room which is where we would keep it. We have another pet on our hands though, She is a cat but it incredibly friendly towards smaller animals.

  49. avatar

    Hello all,

    Great article. I have had Guinea’s for years and we were making the decision between a Guinea Pig or a rabbit for myself and our 2 year old daughter Autumn (I am aware of the risks of a young child on rodents and pets in general. She will never be unsupervised.). I found the article helpful, though I have to say I, too, have been nibbled by a G-pig before. It honestly, as with everything, depends on the animal and how often you work with them. Much like lovebirds, I have found that having more than one tends to make them much more skittish of people so, despite their social behavior, I wouldn’t have more than two and if you do – make sure they both gets LOTS of one on one time with you. It helps immensely. While docile, they require attention to keep them happy with their person. At least in my experience. Nice job! Thank you for the help 🙂

  50. avatar

    One more thing to mention is that Rabbits don’t like to be picked up. They can kick and scratch you pretty bad if you force it. we just need to learn to love and pet them on their own terms:)

  51. avatar

    THANK YOU SO MUCH I KNOW WHAT I AM GOING TO DO I AM GOING TO GET A GUINEA PIG!

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