There's no denying that both rabbits and guinea pigs make wonderful pets and have done so for decades. The good news is we know so much more on how tocare for them, about their diet and the sort of environment they need to live in so they do well and thrive.
If you are thinking about getting a family pet, either a rabbit or cavy might fit the bill perfectly. However, if you are unsure which would suit your family the best below is a little advice about each of these adorable animals, their similarities and the differences between the two which might help you make up your mind.
If you are thinking about keeping your bunny as an outdoor pet, the sort of hutches you need for either guinea pigs or rabbits are pretty similar. Rabbits do better when kept indoors and although cavies can be kept as house pets too, they tend to do a lot better when they are kept in a lovely, large hutch outdoors. With this said, some piggy breeds have to be indoors because they don't tolerate colder temperatures.
Neither of these lovely little creatures like to be kept cooped up in small areas which is why it's essential you buy the largest cage you can afford to house them in. Hutches need to be kept clean and dry which means regularly cleaning out their environment to prevent any nasty bacteria from thriving in dirty bedding.
Both rabbits and cavies like to be kept in a nice warmish environment free from any drafts. In extreme weather conditions, their hutches need to be bought into either a shed or somewhere very sheltered. Ideally hutches should be set up in a garden shed which offers a draft-free environment and one that makes it easier for you to clean them out no matter what the weather may be doing outside.
Guinea pigs and rabbits need to chew on things all the time which helps keep their teeth in good condition. Both pets need to be fed good quality hay which not only provides a lot of the necessary fibre to keep their digestive systems working nicely, but their teeth in good shape too.
Neither of them should be fed a diet that's too rich in sugar, calcium or fat because it will interfere with their digestive tracts and end up causing a lot of dental problems too and both need to be fed a raw food diet, never any “cooked” food. Fresh vegetables and fruit can be fed to both, but only as a bit of a treat and to add a bit more diversity to their diets.
When it comes to care, both cavies and rabbits have similar needs which is to be kept in a dry, warm and safe environment. Fed a well balanced nutritious diet to suit their breed and they both need free access to fresh clean water at all times. Hutches need to be kept very clean and regularly cleaned out because being kept in a dirty environment will lead to all sorts of health issues which are easily avoided if everything is kept nice and hygienic.
Longer haired rabbits and guinea pigs need frequent grooming which ideally should be every day or at least once a week. Not only does daily grooming keep everything nice and tidy, but it helps form a strong bond with your pet and they really get to enjoy the one-to-one interaction they have with you.
Shorter coats are less demanding in the grooming department. However, they still need to be pampered on a regular basis because they enjoy the interaction they have with you and you get to check them over for any health issues.
If well socialised when young enough both make lovely, friendly pets. The more time spent with them, the stronger the bond and the more affectionate your pet would turn out to be. However, young children should never be allowed to handle or play with either of these cute animals on their own, they have to be supervised to make sure things don't get too rough which could end up with a frightened, injured pet and a bitten or scratched child.
For a long time many people kept rabbits and guinea pigs together, but nowadays as we know more about each of the species it is not recommended they be kept in the same environment. The reason being larger rabbits might end up bullying smaller guinea pigs far too much, making their lives miserable!
Unless you are thinking about getting a tiny breed of rabbit, the obvious difference between a cavy and a bunny is their size. Guinea pigs are a lot smaller and they boast life spans of anything from 5 to 8 years if they are well cared for. However, rabbits live a lot longer and can reach the ripe old age of 12+ years if they are fed the right sort of diet and kept in a great environment.
Another difference is in their sleep patterns with bunnies needing to sleep for anything up to 8 hours straight, whereas cavies like to nap throughout the day and night often sleeping with their eyes open to keep a watch out for any predators that might be around.
When it comes to diet, rabbits and guinea pigs have different nutritional needs so it's important to feed them the right type of food to suit their breed. However, neither of them should be fed sugary or starchy foods because it will lead to all sorts of health issues and wreak havoc with both their digestive systems and the condition of their teeth.
Rabbits are great at jumping great heights and burrowing which is why if they are left in an outside run, this needs to have a wire roof and wire on the ground in order to stop them from digging their way out. Cavies on the other hand, do not burrow or jump which means runs don't have to have the wire on the top or on the floor of their run, although it is advisable as it helps keep predators out!
Both cavies and rabbits make wonderful family pets and both are pretty easy to look after. They are friendly and affectionate as long as they have been well and gently handled from a young age. Rabbits and guinea pigs love interacting with people and can be kept in similar environments, although cavies tend to do better when kept outdoors whereas rabbits when well looked after and kept as indoor pets tend to boast longer lifespans! With this said certain breeds of guinea pigs have to be kept as indoor pets because they don't tolerate colder temperatures.