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Chinchilla vs Guinea Pig: What Exactly Is The Difference?

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Tim Rhodes

Most people wonder about the differences among rodents and would like to know more about it; such is the question about the differences between a chinchilla vs. guinea pig.

Rodents are cute, funny, and easy to keep.

Yet, most demand the time and attention of their owners because they are social beings who love to cuddle.

Let’s answer the question about the differences between a chinchilla and a guinea pig.

Chinchilla Vs. Guinea Pig: What is the Difference?

If you want to know the differences between a chinchilla and a guinea pig, you are in the right place.

General Differences

Although there are many differences between chinchillas and guinea pigs, one of the general differences is in their temperament.

Chinchillas are curious pets.

They explore everything around them and are very energetic.

That’s why they get into mischief occasionally.

Guinea pigs are docile pets.

They are very social pets and also have unique personalities.

Guinea pigs know you are their source of food, so they will follow you around.

Chinchilla History

Ancestors of chinchillas in captivity are those 13 original chinchillas brought to the United States in 1927.

In the past, people used them for the fur trade.

Later on, fur traders noticed the beauty and cuteness of these little creatures and started keeping them as pets.

Wild chinchillas live in high and cool areas in the Chilean Andes mountains.

That’s why chinchillas cannot tolerate temperatures above 26 degrees Celsius.

If exposed to temperatures over 26 degrees Celsius or 80 degrees Fahrenheit, they might suffer a fatal heatstroke.

Chinchillas cannot tolerate dampness either.

Over forty percent of humidity can be deadly for chinchillas.

Chinchillas can be challenging to maintain if you live in an area that is not similar to their wild climate.

Guinea Pig History

Although chinchillas are a recent addition to the “pocket pet” marketplace, guinea pigs have been there for much longer.

Guinea pigs were first domesticated between 5000 and 900 B.C.

In the traditional Chilean culture, they have a specific name for them, “cuy.”

In the ancient traditional Chilean Andean culture, guinea pigs were important for their meat, fur, and medical value.

Guinea pigs have become widely used as laboratory animals in modern western medicine.

This is where the phrase of someone “being a guinea pig” comes from and refers to guinea pigs taking part in medical studies.

Guinea pigs are social animals and used to live in large groups.

For that reason, if kept alone, a guinea pig cannot thrive.

They are neither nocturnal nor diurnal animals, but crepuscular.

That means that guinea pigs are active at dawn and dusk and sleep for brief periods during the rest of the day (and night).

Guinea pigs can tolerate temperatures between 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit and they are comparatively more tolerant to cold than heat.

Like chinchillas, guinea pigs cannot tolerate excessive dampness.

Chinchilla vs. Guinea Pig Health

If you properly take care of these small animals, chinchillas can live up to 20 years.

An adult chinchilla usually weighs between 0.88 to 1.3 pounds.

Females are slightly heavier than males.

An adult ranges from 8 to 12 inches.

A guinea pig can live up to 8 years.

Sometimes, they can live longer, mostly depending on the care they receive, but also on their individual characteristics.

The weight of an adult guinea pig ranges from 1.5 to 2.6 pounds.

Guinea pigs are also between 8 and 12 inches long.

Chinchilla vs. Guinea Pig Care

Both chinchillas and guinea pigs are herbivores, so they only eat plant-based food.

The digestive tract of these small animals can easily digest fiber, which is necessary for them to remain healthy.

Chinchillas have a habit of chewing so, for this reason, you will need a wired cage with a smooth bottom.

They love to hop, climb, and jump.

That’s why you should provide at least two square feet of floor space and sufficient height for hopping.

Chinchillas often love to remain out of sight and hide to take a rest.

Chinchillas can’t live without chewing, so you should provide wood or pumice stone which are both good for teething.

Guinea pigs drink water frequently; that’s why they need a constant supply of clean water.

They need supplementation of vitamin C just because their body can’t synthesize vitamin C on its own.

Besides, vitamin C is essential for a guinea pig’s health.

If you have a guinea pig as a pet, you need to make sure that their cage’s bottom is smooth because wire or mesh bottoms will hurt a guinea’s soft and sensitive feet.

And finally, you need to make sure that your guinea pig has at least 7 square feet of personal floor space.

Chinchilla vs. Guinea Pig Special Requirements

Since chinchillas have very thick fur and don’t like moisture, they don’t take baths in water.

They often need a special powder, mostly daily.

Always make sure that your chinchilla remains clean and dry; otherwise, their fur may grow fungus.

Both guinea pigs and chinchillas need to chew continuously.

Because, if they don’t do this, their teeth will grow abnormally and will often cause injuries.

Chinchillas are very fragile, and you need to make sure that you cushion them when you pick them up.

Never try to hold a chinchilla’s tale.

Besides, because of their nervous temperament, they need consistency in their daily routine.

If that consistency is missing, they may get ill.

When we talk about guinea pigs, we know that the ancestors of guineas are burrowing rodents.

So, guinea pigs need access to a safe hiding space.

To keep the feet of a guinea healthy, trim their nails regularly.

If you choose a guinea with fabulous fur, you will also need to prevent matting by grooming their fur weekly.

Chinchilla vs. Guinea Pig Cost

The cost of a chinchilla, as well as a guinea pig, depends on where you buy it.

Mostly, guinea pigs are cheaper because they are common pets and are widely available in pet stores.

However, rarely you can find chinchillas in pet stores, and they are more expensive.

But if you get a chinchilla or a guinea pig from a shelter, you can get them without even paying a penny.

Chinchilla vs. Guinea Pig Smell

Compared to guinea pigs, chinchillas smell a lot less.

They are clean in every way, and they are a little easier to care for.

Most rodents develop odor in their fur.

However, despite their excellent fur, chinchillas won’t develop any odor in their fur.

One plus point of chinchillas over other rodents is that they produce solid and dry poop, which hardly smells.

And, also, a chinchilla pees less compared to other rodents, but that greatly depends on the amount of water it drinks.

Guinea pigs produce lots of odor.

They poop and pee everywhere and you have to put in extra effort to keep their cages clean and dry.

Otherwise, the excreta of a guinea pig build up on the lining of its cage and develops a foul odor.

Chinchilla vs. Guinea Pig Life Expectancy

Chinchillas live longer than guineas, both in the wild and in captivity.

Chinchillas = 15-30 years

Guinea pigs = 8 years

The average lifespan of a chinchilla in the wild habitat is about eight years.

This is because they often encounter predators.

In contrast, chinchillas live longer as pets.

If you buy a baby chinchilla, you can expect it to live for at least 15 to 20 years.

In contrast, guinea pigs have a shorter lifespan.

The maximum lifespan that you can expect with good care for a guinea is around eight years.

If you want a pet that remains with you for longer, a chinchilla is a perfect choice.

However, be aware that guinea pigs also need someone to love them and take care of them!

And, regardless of how long a pet lives, it is never easy to say goodbye.

Chinchilla vs. Guinea Pig Size

Most people wonder whether chinchillas are bigger than guinea pigs.

The two common types of chinchillas in households are both larger than guinea pigs.

Chinchilla = 11-19in (short-tail), 8 to 15in (long-tail)

Guinea pigs= 8in

Long-tail chinchillas roughly weigh 400-450g, while short-tailed chinchillas are much heavier and weigh about 1.1-1.4kg.

Guinea pigs are shorter compared to chinchillas.

They hardly reach seven to eight inches.

But as far as weight, guinea pigs are heavier.

Just like short-tailed chinchillas, they weigh around 0.7 to 1.2kg.

Chinchilla vs. Guinea Pig Intelligence

Neither chinchillas nor guinea pigs are super-intelligent.

The question is what we comprehend under the term “intelligence”.

If you expect a rodent to be really witty, then no, neither chinchillas nor guinea pigs are intelligent.

Yet, both types of rodents love to play and learn new things.

After proper training, a chinchilla can do some basic things, such as:

  • Returning to its cage
  • Lying down
  • Standing up
  • Moving in a circle
  • Potty training

So, it should be clear that if you need a pet that can learn many commands and impress you with its intelligence, then none of these rodents are for you.

Chinchilla vs. Guinea Pig Training

We can train chinchillas to do some basic things such as returning to their cage when playtime is over, lying down, or moving in a circle.

We can also teach them to come when called.

Before training starts, it is very much necessary for a chinchilla to trust its trainer.

Training a chinchilla is not a simple task by any means.

It requires a lot of time and patience.

Treats work best while training chinchillas.

Guinea pigs are comparatively difficult to train.

However, keep in mind that they are really smart and enjoy learning new things.

We can also train them to do a few similar things, just like we can train chinchillas.

Like chinchillas, we also train guinea pigs best when we offer them treats.

Chinchilla vs. Guinea Pig Diet

Both chinchillas and guinea pigs eat a lot of hay.

Hay comprises 4/5ths or 80% of a chinchillas diet.

If you are a new owner of a chinchilla, you might be surprised by how it survives on low nutrient hay.

Especially considering how all other pets require various foods to complete their minerals and vitamin requirements.

Because hay is less nutritious, they have to eat a lot to survive.

This may look like overeating if you are a new owner, but it’s not.

This is the reason that many owners offer their chinchillas amounts of hay.

Guinea pigs’ primary source of food is also hay.

But they also like to eat leafy greens.

Most people think guineas need more variety in their snacks, like sunflower seeds and nuts.

Chinchilla Veterinary Care

Fractures

Chinchillas are very active throughout their life, and mostly they recover quickly from minor physical injuries.

Fractures are problematic because chinchillas love to sit on their hind legs and eat with their front paws.

So, most types of fractures would disturb their regular eating habits.

Convulsions

Some breeders claim that chinchillas sometimes get convulsions.

First, you should know why convulsion occurs.

There could be any of the following reasons behind convulsions:

  • Hemorrhage
  • Vitamin or dietary deficiency
  • Nervous system injury

Besides these reasons, some chinchillas might get convulsions when they feel stressed because of other chinchillas getting food first.

To prevent convulsions, there are several things a vet can use:

  • Vitamin B
  • Cardiac medication or a calcium injection
  • Infectious Diseases

A list of infectious diseases prevalent in chinchillas is:

  • Listeriosis
  • Pasteurella Infections
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections
  • Respiratory tract infections
  • GIT problems (constipation or diarrhea)
  • Mental Health

Chinchillas could get easily distressed and unhappy if:

  • Their breeding mate changed in the breeding season
  • There is a change of diet
  • A prevalent sign of a stressed chinchilla is fur chewing, either their own or of their cage mates

Guinea Pig Veterinary Care

Some signs that a guinea pig is sick are:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • An abnormal walk
  • Hunched posture
  • Enormous belly
  • Change in the consistency of the hair coat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Decreased energy
  • Not responding to noises or touch

Guinea pigs suffer from a lot of health disorders such as:

  • Vitamin C deficiency
  • Respiratory problems
  • Abscesses
  • Mange
  • Pododermatitis
  • Dental Problems
  • Heatstroke
  • Ringworm
  • Diabetes
  • Trauma or Poisoning

Cuddling Chinchillas/Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs beat chinchillas in this area.

Guineas are very cuddly pets, provided that you are kind to them.

If they trust you, then they will sit on your lap and will allow you to hug them.

Chinchillas are not very cuddly pets.

Besides, they are very soft small animals with fragile bodies.

Like all other pets, they also have a ribcage, but their ribcage consists of cartilage and bone.

In contrast, the ribcage of almost all other animals is only bone.

However, that doesn’t mean that you cannot cuddle at all with your chinchilla.

You can move your fingers through their remarkable fur.

You can also hug them, but keep in mind their softness and fragile bodies.

In contrast, guineas are stronger than chinchillas.

You can hug them, stroke them, and hold them in your lap.

Besides, guinea pigs love to cuddle and they are looking for a strong bond with their owners.

Can Chinchillas and Guinea Pigs Live Together?

Guinea pigs and chinchillas cannot and should not live in the same cage.

If you keep them in the same enclosure, the result would be a fight because they don’t get along very well

Both of them have very sharp teeth; therefore, they can hurt each other.

If a fight occurs, it is usually over their food and resources, like water, hay, and even space.

Every animal has a natural behavior of gathering resources like food and water.

Any other animal who takes their food or water is a threat to them.

Besides this, they cannot live together because of their different needs.

Chinchillas love to live in a cooler environment compared to guinea pigs

Chinchillas also prefer to stay clean and dry, while guinea pigs are careless.

Piggies are messy eaters and they tend to flip their water bowls, so you will need to take care of their bedding and clean their cage quite often.

Can Chinchillas Eat Guinea Pig Food?

Although the primary diet of both species is the same, they still differ in their needs.

As already discussed, guinea pigs can’t synthesize vitamin C on their own.

Thus, their food should contain supplementation of vitamin C.

Chinchillas and other pet animals don’t need vitamin C in their diet.

As a result, manufacturers specifically prepare blends of pelleted food for each species, which you can easily buy at pet stores.

So, it is not a good idea to share their food.

Either pet you choose, you would be happy if you spend a lot of time with your pet.

Should I Get a Guinea Pig or Chinchilla For My Kids?

No matter how fantastic a chinchilla is, when deciding on a better pet for younger kids, then a guinea pig is the only option.

There are several reasons for such a choice:

  • A guinea pig is much less fragile and not prone to injury
  • It won’t shed out a huge clump of fur
  • It won’t bite if accidentally mishandled
  • Guinea pigs are more social
  • They are very cuddly pets
  • They are brilliant and slightly trainable

Which Pet is Easier to Maintain, a Chinchilla or Guinea pig?

Which pet is easier to care for is not something guinea pigs and chinchilla owners debate.

It is very tough to choose between them.

The only thing you can do is make a choice based on your likeness or requirements.

The following list of pros and cons could become easier for you and your family to decide on a pet for your home.

Should I Get a Chinchilla?

If you are a first-time pet owner, then no, you shouldn’t get a chinchilla.

The reason you should not get a chinchilla as a first-time rodent owner is that they are exotic pets and need more care and cleanliness.

Being a new rodent owner, you should always start with a guinea pig to get enough knowledge and experience of the care routine of a pet and the challenges a pet owner faces.

Although a chinchilla is a far better pet than a guinea pig, it is also significantly more challenging.

It would also be difficult to find veterinary care for a chinchilla.

The reason is that general veterinarians frequently encounter guinea pigs is because they are more in numbers, but you’ll rarely find a vet who specializes in chinchilla care.

Chinchilla makes an excellent pet because of the following reasons:

  • They have a longer life span compared to guinea pigs
  • Don’t make much noise
  • They are odorless
  • They can live alone
  • Doesn’t need vaccinations
  • Healthier compared to piggies

A chinchilla may not be the pet for you because:

  • They are expensive
  • Active at dawn and dusk (Crepuscular)
  • It could bite if mishandled
  • They need a controlled environment in terms of humidity and temperature

Should I Get a Guinea Pig or a Chinchilla?

Guinea pigs are a perfect choice if you have younger children because children are usually quite careless and, unlike chinchillas, guinea pigs can bear slight mishandling.

Piggies are hard and sturdy, while chinchillas are delicate and fragile.

And, there’s an important thing for you to know: guinea pigs and chinchillas should never live together.

Actually, don’t let these small animals live together in the same cage with other types of rodents or small animals because they all have their unique needs.

It’s not just that they won’t get along very well.

What Are The Pros and Cons Of Owning a Guinea Pig?

There are several pros and cons if you are thinking about buying a guinea pig:

Pros of getting a guinea pig include:

  • You can pick them up easily
  • They are very social
  • They rarely bite
  • They are not expensive
  • They are easy to care for
  • They love to cuddle

Some of the reasons why you might not consider getting a guinea pig:

  • Shorter life span
  • They pee a lot and have an odor
  • They are nocturnal
  • They need a companion

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re thinking of becoming a proud owner of a chinchilla or guinea pig, you will find much joy in your new pet.

As you can see, these two pets are similar.

However, they are also different, so you cannot care for them in the same way.

They have distinct personalities, habits, and needs, so people should treat them accordingly.

Both chinchillas and guinea pigs are cute, cuddly, and fun to keep, so you may choose a chinchilla or a guinea pig based on your interests, energy, experience, and requirements.

In time, you will get along with your pet and enjoy every second you spend together.

If you already have experience with a guinea pig, caring for a chinchilla will be much easier for you.

Its cuteness will amaze you.

Which pet are you going to choose?

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