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Hamsters, Gerbils, and Guinea Pigs – What’s the Difference?

Hamsters, Gerbils, and Guinea Pigs – What’s the Difference?

Of U.S. households that own pets, 4% own a hamster, gerbils, or guinea Pigs, making them the 3rd most common pet to own outside of dogs and cats. Small companion animals make for great pets; however, if you’re not a small animal expert, you might find it hard to tell these cute animals apart. Below you will find a few fun facts about the difference between hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs.

  • Size matters when differentiating between gerbils and hamsters – Hamsters are known for their short stubby tails, noses, and legs. Gerbils, on the other hand, have longer noses, tails, and hind legs (which they like to stand on).
  • Hamsters are hoarders - Did you know hamsters have roomy cheeks made to store and transport food. Gerbils, though, are not known food hoarders.
Hamster eating
  • Hamsters are nocturnal, meaning they sleep during the day and are active at night. Gerbils are not strictly nocturnal. Guinea pigs are unique; they are not strictly nocturnal or diurnal since they don’t sleep near as much as both hamsters and gerbils do.
  • Guinea pigs are larger than hamsters and gerbils.
  • Guinea pigs are herbivores (meaning they feed on plants), while hamsters and gerbils are omnivores (meaning they feed on both plants and animals, like insects).
Hamster in straw
  • How they’re similar - Hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs' teeth continuously grow throughout their lives. To prevent overgrowth, it is recommended that you keep premium loose forage accessible to your small pet at all times.

Want to learn more about feeding premium loose forage to your small animal? Check out this blog post: What Type of Forage is Best for Your Small Animal.


  • Resource - Source: American Pet Products Association's 2019-2020 National Pet Owners Survey.

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