For many years both rabbits and guinea pigs have been popular children’s pets. However, like anything else, each option has both its strengths and its weaknesses, and some parents are surprised by what they discover after bringing one (or more) of these animals home.
The aim of this article is therefore to provide further details on the guinea pigs vs rabbits argument, in order to help you as a parent make a more informed decision about which pet is likely to be most suitable for your child. In this way you can feel more confident that you’re bringing home a pet that will quickly become an important and valued member of the family, rather than a thorn in your side.
Whether it’s Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, Fiver from Watership Down or Bug Bunny, rabbits are popular characters in the media, and this helps to boost their appeal in the eyes of children. But all is not necessarily what it seems, and many first-time rabbit-owners find themselves taken by surprise by a number of factors.
For one, many rabbits grow to a considerable size and have sharp claws, which can make it difficult for children to handle their rabbit safely. A large adult size can also mean expensive accommodation is required due to the size of the hutch necessary for such an animal. This means that it’s important to select a suitable breed of rabbit that won’t grow too large – even at maturity. Examples of suitable smaller breeds might include Netherland dwarfs and Dutch rabbits with their white saddle.
The next thing you need to know about rabbits is that the males can become aggressive with age. This most certainly isn’t the case every time, but as males mature they may not only fight with their own kind, but can also inflict damage on their keeper. For this reason, female rabbits normally make more even-tempered pets, and so are more suitable for children.
Lastly, be aware that rabbits can have a relatively long life span when compared with other small furry pets. A well cared-for rabbit may live to a decade or even more, so if you find yourself with an animal that your child dislikes you may be cleaning it and grooming it yourself for an awfully long time. Taking the time to choose the right rabbit to begin with is therefore essential.
Guinea pigs are typically very docile indeed and are far less likely to scratch, kick or nip than rabbits. This helps to make them easier to handle, and of course they only grow to a very reasonable size which makes housing them much easier. They also have a considerably shorter lifespan of 4-5 years, which means far fewer responsibilities if and when your children tire of their new pet.
So far, so good. So what are the downsides of guinea pigs? For one, guinea pigs can be quite skittish and move quite quickly. When it comes to getting your guinea out for handling, it is possible to spend a few minutes chasing the animal around its cage before you successfully make contact.
For you, as an adult, this is no major hardship, and guinea pigs are so docile you’re unlikely to ever be bitten when trying to catch your guinea pigs. Children, on the other hand, can find this process rather nerve-wracking, as the sudden movements take them by surprise. In many cases, therefore, when it comes to handling you will likely have to catch the guinea pig and hand it over to your child.
The other potential downside to guinea pigs is that they are generally not as hardy as rabbits. Coming from another country, guinea pigs can struggle to deal with cold, damp Britain and, as a result, may end up with coughs and colds during the winter months.
While a rabbit, therefore, might be perfectly happy in a secure hutch with plenty of straw for a bed over winter, you may find that your guinea pig struggles with these conditions. Generally speaking it is kinder to bring the hutch in out of the worst weather, either bringing it directly into your home, or at worst into a garage or shed to cut down on the wind and rain your pets are exposed to.
Rabbits or Guinea Pigs: What’s Best?
In reality answering the rabbits vs guinea pigs question isn’t an easy one. Neither animal is noticeably “better” than the other – they’re just “different”. Guinea pigs may be hard to catch and are more likely to suffer in the British climate, but rabbits can grow into huge animals and can be aggressive in some instances.
Indeed, bearing in mind how sociable both guinea pigs and rabbits are, some owners opt for the best of both worlds and keep one of either animal. Keeping a small to medium breed rabbit with a guinea pig allows them a companion and means that you and your child can get either animal out at will. That said, rabbits and guinea pigs have rather different diets so feeding them together can represent new challenges.
Only you can decide on the perfect option for your child, but hopefully the information contained here has given you some food for thought. Our hope is that you will be able to make a more informed decision and end up with one or more animals that soon become a cherished pet that the whole family looks forward to spending time with.