Guinea Pigs Versus Rabbits: Who is King of the Garden?

Guinea Pig v Rabbit
Are you trying to decide between having a guinea pig or a rabbit for your next pet?

Both are often put forward as ideal “starter pets” for children, but this can be misleading.

Here is an overview of what you can expect from both pets.


Most guinea pigs have gentle personalities and are not usually aggressive in character. They rarely bite and can enjoy playtime and interaction with their owners. However, they can be quite shy when they first arrive at their new home – until they begin to bond with their owner and feel more comfortable in their surroundings. They can be a good option for children but only for those who have already had some experience with taking care of hamsters and other small animals.

If they get out of their cage, they are fairly easy to catch to return them to their cage. Rabbits also tend to be gentle and most are not too intimidating for children. Generally speaking, rabbits are not that keen on being handled. Rabbits can be toilet trained, although this can be challenging. They can live outdoors but will happily live indoors too in most cases. If they get out of their cage, they are usually difficult to get hold of again to return them to their home.

Living Conditions

Guinea pigs can be relatively noisy and smelly, although no more than most other animals. This can be off-putting for some children, who may not be used to regularly cleaning cages out. Keeping several guinea pigs in the same cage will obviously require a greater level of hygiene, sanitation and attention to make sure they are getting on well.

Unlike rabbits, guinea pigs are not well suited to outdoor living and should not be kept as an outdoor pet. Rabbits need to be supervised whenever they are out of their cage; most will happily chew things if left to their own devices. Rabbits that have not been spayed or neutered can mark their territory even if they are toilet trained. Rabbits are also commonly vaccinated against myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease, and need to be well cared for and check ups with the vet to prevent potential health problems.

Space Considerations

Rabbits need a lot of room for a good quality of life – their cage should be tall enough for them to stand up in and will need to factor in the breed’s anticipated growth. Guinea pig cages do not need to be as large as this but they should have sufficient space to move around comfortably.

Life Expectancy

Guinea pigs will live for approximately 5 to 7 years and can suffer from various medical problems, as they get older. This includes anal impaction, for example. They can therefore need very good care towards the end of their life. As indoor pets, rabbits can live slightly longer than guinea pigs – between 7 and 12 years on average. Generally speaking, rabbits do not need lots of vaccinations.

[Photo Credits: Chris_Parfitt]