Although guinea pigs and rats belong to the rodent family and share similar characteristics, guinea pigs and rats should not live together. This is due to different energy levels and abilities, diets, health issues, and natural instincts.
What You'll Learn
As the owner of a guinea pig and a rat, you probably imagine a sweet friendship between the two and hours of energetic play. Although that dream may seem fun, and guinea pigs and rats have many similarities, there are many important factors to consider before allowing your fluffy friends to play together.
Similarities Between Guinea Pigs and Rats
Both guinea pigs and rats belong to the rodent family (Rodentia Muridae), which gives them a long list of similarities. The most prominent similarity is that members of this family are classified as such because of their top and bottom teeth that are constantly growing.
These teeth in both guinea pigs and rats will grow with no end in sight unless they have an efficient way to grind those teeth down each day. This instills in both species an intense instinct to chew.
Since guinea pigs and rats come from the same family, they also have similarities in the way they think and act.
Both species are very inquisitive, curious, and have a strong memory. This makes them easy to train, and they are likely to not forget the things they have learned. They also both need exercise and like to be in enclosures to explore and run around.
Guinea Pigs and Rats Together? No Thanks
Although guinea pigs and rats have a lot in common, that doesn’t mean they should live together.
Natural factors and instincts are the main reasons guinea pigs and rats should not be roommates.
Rats are naturally more dominant and aggressive than guinea pigs, which could be detrimental to a rodent friendship. When that instinct kicks in, there will always be a risk when pairing them. The risks include guarding territory, fighting, and aggressive behavior.
On the other hand, Guinea pigs are naturally more timid and nervous than rats. Though nothing violent may happen between the two, the relationship could cause the guinea pig to become frightened, leading to serious long-term effects.
Another serious factor to be considered before allowing your guinea pig and rat to live together is interspecies disease transmission. Animals can carry diseases that are transmitted through their feces and urine, and studies show that certain viruses (like Haemophilus virus) can be carried from one member of the rodent family to another.
Guinea pigs and rats have extremely different diets, which makes living in the same enclosure difficult.
Guinea pigs are herbivores, so their diet consists of plants, vegetables, and fruits.
On the other hand, rats are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and animals. This factor alone is a huge issue if you pair a guinea pig with a rat.
If your guinea pig becomes sick or acts like “weak prey,” your rat may become confused and attack your guinea pig… either seriously injuring or killing it.
Even if your rat does not attack your guinea pig, it may be confusing come feeding time when your rat isn’t sure which food bowl is theirs. This could lead to malnutrition, dehydration, starvation, and even death for either animal.
Habitats Suited to Unique Abilities
Those who have observed a rat or guinea pig for a little while will know that they have very different amounts of energy and abilities.
Rats love to explore their habitat by climbing on high structures. They can also be entertained for hours on exercise wheels.
A guinea pig is different because it cannot climb and would much rather prefer a low, flat area for exploring and napping. Guinea pigs should not use an exercise wheel in order to protect its fragile back.
Although both animals require exercise, they should go about it is different. Their activity and energy levels don’t pair well together.
Apart from having different exercise capacities and energy levels, rats and guinea pigs require different bedding.
Both species may use paper-based bedding, but there is a trend to use fleece-based bedding for guinea pigs to more easily see the areas that need to be spot cleaned, to more easily clean up feces, and because it’s just so darn cute!
Rat owners prefer paper-based bedding so that these furry friends can fulfill their instinct to burrow and build nests.
Guinea pigs and rats need different things from their habitats and enclosures.
Guinea pigs and rats are both social animals, but that doesn’t mean they should live together. Ideally, both species should be raised with animals of their own kind.
In the wild, guinea pigs live in herds and find a lot of comfort and safety in groups of other guinea pigs.
Rats are also social but do best in groups of rats of the same sex. Although rats and guinea pigs are social animals, they shouldn’t live together full time.
If you are completely set on creating a friendship between your guinea pig and your rat, meet and greets are okay, as long as they start with a barrier created by the cage wall. This will protect against any unforeseen aggression.
Once your pets have graduated with good feelings from cage greetings, carefully supervised visits can occur in a neutral area. Ensure that each pet is comfortable during the visit and not showing signs of any distress.
Rats and Guinea Pigs Are Not Good Roommates
Although similar in a few ways, guinea pigs and rats do not make great roommates for each other. They’re much better suited to living in herds or packs of their own species and living in separate enclosures best suited to their own unique abilities.
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