Guinea pig or rabbit: what suits me?

If you want to get a small animal, you have the choice between a wide variety of species. Guinea pigs or rabbits are particularly popular, but which of the animals suits you better? Here are a few tips that will make your decision easier.

Rabbit or guinea pig?  That's the question here... – Shutterstock/Robynrg

Rabbit or guinea pig? That’s the question here… – Shutterstock/Robynrg

Whether guinea pigs or rabbits, buying a pet should always be carefully considered and well planned. It is a misconception that long-eared bats and sea mermaids are particularly easy to care for and suitable for children because of their small body size. Although children can take care of small animals and learn a lot from them, the main responsibility still lies with the parents.

Guinea pigs or rabbits? differences in attitude

Both guinea pigs and rabbits need regular exercise, preferably well secured in the garden. Otherwise, you can also prepare a room in your apartment for the furry friends to run out and exclude all sources of danger (cables, small and sharp objects, poisonous plants, …). Guinea pigs are generally slightly smaller than rabbits, cannot jump as high, do not dig deep holes in the ground, and are not good climbers. Even so, they like to have multiple tiers in their enclosure or cage. Be careful not to let the sea ice fall down. The free-range enclosure for guinea pigs is less complex than that for long-eared pigs, since a fence and a protective net are sufficient.

Rabbits, on the other hand, are real escape artists, the fence has to be dug quite deep into the ground so that they don’t dig a tunnel. A net is not necessarily sufficient as a cover to protect against birds of prey, but preferably also a sturdy fence so that they cannot jump out. The outdoor enclosure shouldn’t be too low for the hoppers so that they don’t feel cramped, and they, too, are happy about elevated places. If you’re short on space or don’t feel comfortable creating an escape-proof rabbit run, guinea pigs may be a better fit for you.

Guinea pigs and rabbits communicate in very different ways - Shutterstock / photos2013
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05/21/2016 – 1:05 p.m

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Communication: differences in rabbits and guinea pigs

Whether you choose a guinea pig or a rabbit also depends on your communication preferences. The language of the two small animal species differs greatly from one another – among other things, this is an important reason why both the piglets and the long-eared ones absolutely need the company of conspecifics and should be kept separately from one another if possible. By the way, guinea pigs and rabbits are not related to each other, they come from different animal families: guinea pigs are rodents, rabbits are lagomorphs.

The rodents communicate a lot via noises, they squeak, hum, coo and squeak like crazy. Hares, on the other hand, only scream when they are very frightened, hiss or growl when they feel threatened. Otherwise they are very quiet and mainly express themselves through their body language. For people who have little experience with pets, guinea pigs are intuitively easier to understand, since humans also communicate a lot via sounds (in this case verbal language) and can therefore empathize with guinea pigs more easily. It’s especially nice for children when they have the feeling that they can talk to their pets and are understood when they talk to them and read something to them. Nevertheless, neither guinea pigs nor rabbits are cuddly toys and usually do not appreciate being picked up and cuddled.

If you like it quieter and calmer, you will have more fun with rabbits. Depending on their breed and personality, lagomorphs are fascinating animals to watch and are a bit more trusting and enjoy training together. So you can do wonderful agility with some rabbits, which is otherwise known mainly from dog sports.

General tips before getting pets

Dog, cat, mouse, guinea pig or rabbit? Regardless of which pet suits you best, you should not rush into the decision to adopt an animal family member, but rather prepare well. Be sure to clarify beforehand whether all family members agree to the purchase and are willing to invest sufficient time, love, patience and money. Guinea pigs and rabbits both have a similarly high life expectancy and can sometimes live up to eight or nine years if they are kept and cared for in a species-appropriate manner, sometimes even longer. Cages and enclosures need to be cleaned regularly – parents should be aware that their children will need help with this and may need to be reminded more often.

You should also test in advance whether you or anyone else in your household is allergic to the animal you want. Once you have thoroughly discussed the decision and everyone agrees, it is advisable to first look at the animal shelter for lonely guinea pigs or rabbits that are looking for a loving home. Alternatively, there are also reputable breeders for small animals who make sure that the fur noses grow up in a species-appropriate manner from the start, so that they are not particularly afraid of people. Otherwise, there may be private individuals with Meeri or Mümmler offspring in your circle of acquaintances where you will find what you are looking for. Some pet shops also offer small animals, but you should pay particular attention to whether the little animals are doing well and whether the salespeople know their stuff.

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