Guinea pigs and rats are both popular pets with their own unique personalities and character traits. They are both small, furry animals that are very playful and curious. If you happen to be owned by both of these cute and curious animals, you may have been struck with the thought, “Could they become friends? Can I let them play or even live together in the same cage?” However, despite the similarities these animals may appear to have, their instincts are vastly different.
Unfortunately, guinea pigs and rats do not get along well at all and should not be allowed to spend time in the same cage, even under supervision. This is because guinea pigs are prey animals and rats are predators. There is always the possibility that the rat might attack the guinea pig, leading to severe injury or even death.
In this article, we’ll dive a little deeper into this topic and understand what exactly it is that makes rats and guinea pigs so incompatible. We’ll talk about what makes them different, the reasons why they shouldn’t be kept together, and whether any play time can be allowed between the two. Are you ready to jump in, whiskers-first? Let’s go!
What Are the Differences Between Guinea Pigs and Rats?
Guinea pigs and rats are both small, fluffy little rodents. In fact, sometimes they might look similar enough that some people can’t tell them apart! Then how is it that two animals that seem so similar have such difficulty in getting along?
Although guinea pigs and rats have a few things in common, there’s a world of differences that sets them apart. Let’s look at some of them.
|Size||Usually between 8-10 inches (20-25 cm) in length.||Usually between 9-11 inches (23-28 cm) in length.|
Note: This does not include the tail length, which can be as long as 7-9 in (18-23 cm)!
|Weight||Average weight ranges between 1.5-2.6 pounds (700-1200 grams).||Weigh between 0.8-1.4 pounds (350-650 grams) for domestic rats.|
|Lifespan||Guinea pigs live on average 5-8 years.||2-4 years on average for domesticated pet rats.|
Fun Fact: The world’s longest living pet rat, Rodney, lived to an impressive 7 years and 4 months!
|Diet||Herbivores. They usually eat hay, fresh vegetables, and pellets.||Omnivores. They usually eat a wide variety of foods, such as seeds, fruits, and meat.|
|Behavior||Social, gentle, and less adventurous. Often prefer to stay in safe areas.||Curious, more active, and loves to explore their surroundings.|
|Housing Needs||Need large cages on one level.||Prefer multi-level cages where they have plenty of opportunities to climb and explore.|
|Communication||Uses a variety of sounds like purring and squeaking.||Uses ultrasonic sounds and body language.|
|Social Structure||They live in groups and need companionship, otherwise they tend to get lonely.||Also social animals but they have a more complex hierarchical structure.|
Not so similar now, are they? As they say – appearances can be deceptive!
4 Reasons Why Guinea Pigs and Rats Should Not Be Kept Together
Let’s get to the heart of the matter – what exactly are the reasons why guinea pigs and rats would be so incompatible? Primarily there are 4 reasons and here they are.
1. Differing Space Requirements
Guinea pigs love to run around and frolic. In fact, they probably dream of sprawling meadows where they can explore and hide. Rats have a more vertical inclination – they’re expert climbers. They love having ramps and stuff in multi-level cages so that they can jump, hang, and scamper around to their heart’s content.
This is why there are different types of cages/enclosures for guinea pigs and rats. What’s a heavenly home for one, might feel like a claustrophobic prison for the other!
2. Contrasting Dietary Needs
Can you imagine a vegan and a meat-eater getting along together in the same house? We don’t think so – and that’s exactly what happens with guinea pigs and rats. Guinea pigs are strictly herbivores. Their food of choice is hay, veggies, and sometimes fruits.
Rats, on the other hand, are opportunistic omnivores. You’ll find that they snack on almost anything, from plant-based foods to protein-rich meats. Hence, having both rats and guinea pigs together in the same cage is a disaster when it comes to feeding time.
Important: Rats are considered predators, which means they sometimes attack and eat other animals that are much larger than them (including birds and fish). This means that a rat will also try to attack and eat a guinea pig that’s present in the same vicinity as them.
3. Distinct Behaviors
Let’s be honest, guinea pigs are not the most brave-hearted of animals out there. In fact, they’re quite famous for how easily stressed out they get – so much so that excess stress can actually kill a guinea pig by weakening its immune system.
Compared to them, rats are vivacious explorers who are quite aggressive and dominating. They’re also territorial, which means that if they perceive someone else intruding on their space (in this case, the guinea pig), they can engage in violent behavior.
As you can tell, this is definitely not a good combination for sharing a harmonious living space.
4. Health Risks
Perhaps the final nail in the coffin is health. Just as we humans are also cautious about who we share our space with, it’s the same for our pets. Even the cleanest rats have been known to carry bacteria and other microorganisms that might be harmful to other species.
Forget direct contact – even if they accidentally shared a food bowl or scampered over another’s droppings, there are chances that the guinea pig could be exposed to some health threats that they otherwise would not have faced.
Due to these 4 reasons, it’s quite unlikely that guinea pigs and rats will ever get along with each other. Even supervised playtime for a few minutes can be quite risky and dangerous in this situation.
Frequently Asked Questions
We know you might still be having a few questions related to guinea pigs and rats. Let’s dive into some of the common ones that we get asked often.
Q. 1. Is it a good idea to let guinea pigs and rats play together outside their cages?
A. While a neutral environment might seem like a better place for rats and guinea pigs to interact, rather than the confines of a cage, we would still advise against it.
There’s always the risk of aggression for the rat, which might cause a lot of stress to guinea pigs. No matter what, always prioritize safety over these short-term interactions.
Q. 2. What animals do guinea pigs get along well with?
A. Due to the quiet and timid behavior of guinea pigs, these little animals only get along well with others of their own species. If you put them in with any other animal, they can get quite stressed and risk injury.
Q. 3. What animals do rats get along well with?
A. Rats have often been found to get along well with calm dogs and cats (despite what Tom and Jerry might have taught you). Ironically, they don’t seem to coexist very well with other rodents like them – such as mice, hamsters, gerbils, or even guinea pigs!
As pet owners, it can be quite difficult for us to properly navigate the confusing world of rodent relationships. The ones who own both guinea pigs and rats can always dream about a Disney-style friendship between the two, but unfortunately, the reality is quite different.
Our priority should always be the health and wellness of our little ones – and sometimes the best way to do that is by letting them enjoy their space with others of their own kind.