Guinea Pigs vs. Rats: Which One Is Better to Have as a Pet?

A lot of people are looking for the perfect pet. The most common pets are cats, dogs, and rodents. Cats and dogs cannot be held in cages, so many people opt for rodents, as they are supposed to be easy to take care of. Rodents are thought to be low maintenance and not time-consuming, but they really aren’t. 

There are a lot of rodents that can become your pets if you decided a rodent is perfect for you. There are guinea pigs, rats, mice, gerbils, hamsters and many more. But how do you know exactly which one of them fits your lifestyle and schedule? In this article, I will talk about guinea pigs and rats, about the similarities and differences between them. 

Guinea Pigs vs. Rats: Which one of them is better? This is not a question I can answer for everyone out there, because it depends on the life the owner is living. Personally, I think guinea pigs are much more convenient as pets for a lot of reasons I will discuss below. However, this doesn’t mean that nobody should have a rat as a pet. Rats are just a little more difficult to deal with. 

Now let’s make a detailed comparison between these two house pets.

Guinea Pigs vs. Rats: A Detailed Comparison

  • Life Span

Guinea pigs have a life span of about 5 to 7 years, while rats live around 2 to 3 years. This is an upsetting thing for someone who gets attached easily to an animal of any kind.

Regarding children, it’s kind of a good and a bad idea to take care of a rat. Keeping in mind they only live for 3 years, it can be painful for a child to deal with their pet’s death, if they really got attached to him. However, if the child is superficial and just wants a pet to play with for a shorter time, rats might be what you are looking for (life span wise). 

  • Crepuscular vs. Nocturnal

Guinea pigs are crepuscular pets, which means they do most of their activities at dawn and dusk, while rats are nocturnal, being most active at night. So, if you are a person who loves his/her good night sleep, you may think twice before getting a rat. This is a big advantage for guinea pigs and a huge downside of getting a rat.  

However, rats might be good for a night owl who works all night, sleep a few hours a night and a little more during the day (as crazy as this might sound, there are a lot of people that are considered “night owls” because of the lack of their concentration during the day and their activeness during the night).

  • Cost

If you think about the price you pay for a guinea pig or a rat, guinea pigs are a little more expensive, with around $10 to $20, but such a small difference should not affect your decision. Also, guinea pigs need a bigger space, so a more expensive cage, but again, the difference of prices is not that big, so this still shouldn’t affect your decision. After all, you buy the cage once and you are done with it. 

However, something that needs to be considered is the overall price you pay during their life; guinea pigs are far more expensive than rats. The first reason for this is the simple fact that guinea pigs live longer than rats (their life span is twice as long as a rat’s). Secondly, guinea pigs need to always have hay in their cage and hay is not cheap, especially if you buy it from pet stores. 

  • Time

Guinea pigs are bigger animals, they need a larger space and they are messier. They pee and poop a lot and you need to clean it. Spot cleaning should be done every day, bedding should be changed every other day (if it’s not fleece) and the cage should be thoroughly washed every 5 to 7 days, depending on the state of the cage. Also, you need to wash their fleece bedding once a week at least, rinse their water bottles every time you refill them and scrub them at least once a week. Time adds up when spot cleaning every day. Guinea pigs are very time consuming. 

It is quite the same with rats and probably with every rodent. A clean environment is vital to the health and good condition of a rodent.

  • “Social Life”

Both rats and guinea pigs like being in pairs (even if they are of the same sex) or even in small groups. Probably it is because they are prey and being in small groups makes them feel safe. Also, a single guinea pig or rat might get depressed if he doesn’t interact with another one of his kind. There are benefits and downsides to this.

The downside is that the risk of your pet being depressed is very high and you could not enjoy his company in this case. The benefits are that your pet is happier in a pair or a small group; you can just observe them interact with each other and how they offer each other affection in their own ways. It is always lovely to see a pair of animals interact and communicate in their own unique way. 

  • Training

Both of the two species can be trained, but it is a lot easier to train rats. They are known to be the principal actors in a lot of important experiments, mostly experiments done to understand compulsive, instinctive behaviors and how to train their brain to associate things. 

The perk of being able to easily train your pet is that you can train them to poop in a special container and not all over the place. This cuts down the time you need to clean the cage by a crazy amount. On the same note, you can train them to eat in a specific corner of the cage. This way, there won’t be unnecessary mess in the cage. This can help you a lot to spot clean and get the trash out of the cage. 

This is a big advantage in getting a rat. Guinea pigs can be trained: some of them can easily be trained and some of them may never learn where to poop or where to eat. Moreover, guinea pigs poop a lot more, so daily spot cleaning, besides being a must, is a burden.

  • Space

Rats need a taller cage then guinea pigs. Vertical space probably doesn’t bother anyone, but floor space might become a problem, especially with the proper sizes for a guinea pig cage. On the other hand, if you get a small cage for a guinea pig, they won’t be able to move around, they will eat and poop in the same place and the cage will be a total mess.

  • Cuddle Time

Guinea pigs are very affectionate pets, especially if you spend some time trying to show them love and to understand their personality. They are way more likely to sit on your lap and let you pet them then rats. Guinea pigs usually make happy sounds when they see their owner or when they want to play. Rats are more isolated away from their owner, they are more rodent-like and guinea pigs are more pet-like.

Taking everything above into account, every pet has its perks and downsides. However, I would like to share my opinion. Yes, our site is dedicated to guinea pigs but when we take everything into the account we really think guinea pigs are better pets. Rats are colder in the relationship with the owner than guinea pigs, and there’s nothing wrong with that (giving that guinea pigs are one of the most affectionate pets). Yes, guinea pigs need a lot of time for cleaning, feeding and playing with them. 

On the other hand, personally, I prefer getting home and hearing my little pet make happy sounds and beg for attention than him ignoring me.  

A lot of people just have pets that don’t interact with them and that is fine, too, especially if you have a rat. But, in my opinion, pets shouldn’t be bought or adopted just to be in someone’s home.

I strongly think that having a pet is a big responsibility, but an amazing experience. Forming a bond with your little friend is a unique relationship is impossible to put into words. I just think too many people get pets for all the wrong reasons or without the necessary maturity and it is time to change this perspective.