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I've been dithering too much, pls help me decide - hamster or guinea pig?

(34 Posts)
Dancergirl Sun 25-Sep-11 10:53:16

We've never had pets before so are somewhat beginners lol! Me and the dds (10, 8 and 4) have been dithering for too long over what to get, they are keen on either a hamster or guinea pigs. I've done a bit of research so know a bit about both. Cons for hamster - they're nocturnal and only live a couple of years. And I think you can only get one because they fight - is that right?

After reading the other post about GPs, I am still confused about whether they can live outside all year...? We have plenty of space on the patio for a hutch but nowhere else for them to go. We don't have a garage and the garden shed is falling apart at the end of the garden so just not practical. So we can only get GPs if they can live outside all year. However we do have space in the house for a hamster cage. In a way I like the idea of having GPs outside but I'm wondering if I'll feel the same in the winter when we have to go out in all weathers to feed them and clean them out...?

What would you recommend? My dds are used to handling both and even the little one is quite gentle.

tallulah Sun 25-Sep-11 11:12:30

My GPs used to live outside all year. They need plenty of hay as bedding, and you need to cover the hutch at night. Don't ever just have one- they are sociable animals and need companionship.

Hamsters smell, and IME they bite. Plus they are nocturnal so not much fun for a child.

thisisyesterday Sun 25-Sep-11 11:16:02

i don't think hamsters are really much fun for kids.. they don't really do anything mmuch.
that said i guess as your children are a bit older they'd be careful enough handling them and may enjoy having an indoor pet

guinea pigs can survive being outside... but ideally you would want to brign them in just in case
a hutch simply doesn't provide the level of warmth they need when temps get really bad

I used to fully believe rabbits and GP's were ok outside. my rabbit lasted over 8 years outside. But last year one of my 8 month old rabbits died when we had that snowy patch, and whilst the vet couldn't be 100% sure she said the cold weather may well have contributed.

so personally I just wouldn't risk it now.
perhaps you could fix your shed and get it insulated a bit and that would maybe be ok?

Runoutofideas Sun 25-Sep-11 15:13:21

We have 2 dwarf Roborowski hamsters. They are crazy little creatures and I could watch them for hours! Apparently they are both girls and they get on fine. Guess you have to trust the pet shop on that one though.....They are not easy to handle though as they are extremely speedy and tiny. If one got out it would definitely be lost forever. I only let my girls play with them in the bath - without water clearly! Also they run around in the wheel all night and the wheel is incredibly noisy. We keep them in the kitchen and I can still hear them from our bedroom, upstairs and with the door shut. I have been known to put them in the downstairs loo (further away and more closed doors in between) in the middle of the night just so I can get back to sleep! They are fun little things though.

RandomMess Sun 25-Sep-11 15:15:28

guinea-pigs all the way, in a severe winter they do need to come in though. Be careful if you get foxes too.

hocuspontas Sun 25-Sep-11 15:18:50

We have both and tbh the indoor guinea pig cage doesn't take up much more space than the hamster's space age get-up. Plus guineas are adorable and hamsters aren't. grin So I would recommend guineas. Our have lived outside all year in the past and will do again this year.

notjustme Sun 25-Sep-11 17:03:01

Have you considered rats? They make great pets for children of all ages, are easy to look after, are diurnal but extremely easy to train to be awake at a time to suit your kids, completely human friendly if sourced from a reputable breeder compared to hamsters who are generally anti-handling, a good group size is a trio (so one for each DC, no need for them to fight over them), and whilst they need a reasonably good sized cage, they don't need to have a huge mansion either.

Personally I find GPs too prey orientated - they are lovely and placid but I've never been able to get them over the fact that they think everything is out to eat them. And I would never buy a hamster for a child, syrians just don't have the temperament and dwarfs are too speedy and not good for children to handle - IME a pet that children can't bond with on a physical basis tends to end up with a lack of interest in the long run.

snigger Sun 25-Sep-11 17:06:15

Guinea pig Guinea pig Guinea pig Guinea pig Guinea pig Guinea pig Guinea pig Guinea pig Guinea pig Guinea pig Guinea pig Guinea pig Guinea pig Guinea pig Guinea pig Guinea pig Guinea pig Guinea pig

Guinea pig.

ChessPiece Sun 25-Sep-11 17:12:34

Our hammy has never bitten us and loves climbing all over us, up bookcases and curtains, through tunnels we create, inside our jumpers etc - great fun.

She is good for a play and a cuddle any time of day if we wake her up gently, though her natural clock is from about 8.30 in the eve.

She doesn't smell! Her wee has a faint odour but you just clear it up in the corner where she regularly goes, as needed. Very clean animal generally speaking.

Her cage sits by my daughter's desk and it's lovely that she comes out of her sleeping pod in the day to say hello and cadge some food .

I know if we'd had gps in the garden we wouldn't have nearly as much interaction because going outside in cold weather is not really us. We don't hear her wheel but if we'd had gps inside I guess we'd have heard their vocal noises?

GypsyMoth Sun 25-Sep-11 17:20:08

What about gerbils? Was thinking of getting some for ds

We have guineas, they go in the garage in winter

Dancergirl Sun 25-Sep-11 17:23:38

Thank you. If we get guinea pigs, is it too late in the year now? Think I read somewhere you should get them in the spring so they can get settled in before the cold nights start.

notjustme Sun 25-Sep-11 17:46:36

If you get them from somewhere they are kept outside already they will be fine - i.e. a rescue centre or a breeder. If they are from P@H or similar they could struggle and you'll need to make sure you cater for that (see the other thread on keeping GPs out all year round for ways to make sure they stay as warm as poss). Not that I would suggest buying any animals from a pet shop like P@H anyway.

GypsyMoth Sun 25-Sep-11 17:49:17

What about the p@h adoption centre?

Hassled Sun 25-Sep-11 17:53:38

Guinea Pigs. Hamsters bite, are nocturnal and are dull. GPs look like they might have some personality.

ILT - gerbils are basically rats. If you like rats, fair enough. But never put a gerbil in a plastic cage - they eat through anything and then roam your house looking like a rat.

We recently adopted Earl and Darnell from Pets at Home. I'm getting quite fond of them.

Purplebuns Sun 25-Sep-11 18:00:24

Guinea pigs! They are awake in the day, they have individual little characters are lovely to cuddle and talk to you. Hamsters smell, more likely to bite and die after a shortwhile.
They are also a cheap pet in terms of upkeep once initial outlay for housing is done, also be aware that guinea pigs need more space than people realise about 4ft square each so you do need to research this. Also you need two or more as mentioned before, I find the more you have the happier they are, I currently have three whihc is a nice group.

Two of mine are also adopted adults and I have managed to tame down one, so it is not like you have to get them as babies and tame them from there.

notjustme Sun 25-Sep-11 18:08:45

I would be wary of the adoption centres, a lot of the stores place animals from the normal section in the adoption centre if they don't sell quickly enough, so they can make room for fresh animals (i.e younger animals) in the normal section. It's hard to discern when this happens as they are well versed at telling a good story. There's a lot wrong with buying animals from anywhere that stocks animals from farms and the majority of petshops are in the same boat, the pet shop business is not about the actual animals, it's about the £100s of pounds you spend on the hutch, the bedding, the food, the toys and all the other bumpf you go and buy when you purchase a pet from them.

Generally speaking, the majority of the animals that end up in pet shop adoption centres are usually casualties of the casual homing of animals that they do in the first place.

If you need any reason not to buy an animal from P@H or any other pet shop that stocks it's animals from a major breeding farm, you only need to look at http://www.brecklagh.com/petshops.html - replace the word rats with any other animal you find in P@H and you have their background.

There are so many GPs and other animals out there in rescue, there's really no need to line the pockets of a major pet shop chain.

alemci Sun 25-Sep-11 18:14:55

our guineau pig comes indoors in Winter in our kitchen. I prefer GP's as they live longer and have more character.

GypsyMoth Sun 25-Sep-11 19:15:00

Hmm. Our p@h have a lovely rabbit in the adoption bit, vaccinated they say. No way of really knowing tho

notjustme Sun 25-Sep-11 19:21:29

It's impossible to say whether it's legit or not, only you can decide really, ask a lot of questions! Also, it'll need a friend too smile

Dancergirl Sun 25-Sep-11 19:34:08

What's wrong with buying from Pets at Home then..? I didn't realise this was a no-no!

notjustme Sun 25-Sep-11 19:47:54

They source their animals from mass breeding farms that take absolutely no care of health or longevity. Most people have figured out that buying dogs and cats from pet shops is a no-no, but every animal is exactly the same. Try reading the link I posted for a proper insight.

herbietea Sun 25-Sep-11 19:52:56

Message withdrawn

notjustme Sun 25-Sep-11 20:01:18

If you can find a pet shop that keeps their animals correctly (in good sized cages/hutches), feed them correctly (a good quality dry food, hay and fresh food as well), sex them properly and handle all their animals for at least a short period daily, then they have gone as far as they can in improving the fact that their animals started off their lives a pit of hell and they should be commended. Sadly I've not seen many pet shops that achieve the above.

brighthair Mon 26-Sep-11 23:04:14

I can agree on the not p@h. I had 2 hamsters from there both died at 9 weeks with a bowel obstruction, vet said prob genetic sad
I went to a breeder and my hammy is now 9 months old grin

KRITIQ Mon 26-Sep-11 23:30:43

If you go for guinea pigs, I would say make sure you have room to keep them indoors in winter or preferably all year - minimum size cage of about 2 ft x 4 ft. I know many folks say it's fine to keep cavies outside, but the cold and damp can lead to serious and painful skin problems. It's also just that much easier to "forget" to feed/cuddle/clean pets that are kept outdoors. There is far more opportunity to enjoy a pet kept indoors. Guineas are more "fragile" than rabbits and rats, so take extra care if the youngest one is handling them. Oh, and a lone piggie is not a happy piggy. They are social creatures so get at least 2 of female, a pair if male or a neutered male and 1 or more females.

Dwarf hamsters can be kept in pairs from birth, aren't quite so nocturnal and very entertaining. Ditto for gerbils (trios of males, pairs of females. They are curious and funny, but not great for handling. Plastic enclosures are fine, but observer regularly for chewing. Barred cages aren't good because they can bite them and suffer injuries. Ideal set up is a glass tank filled with peat and hay they can tunnel through. Better pets for observation than handling in such a set up.

I haven't had a rat, but they do seem to be the most ideal animal to have with children. They are clean, intelligent, cute and don't live that long, so if the children lose interest, you're not stuck looking after a pet for several years.

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