Chinchilla vs. Guinea Pig: Discover Your Perfect Pet Match

Someone once said that chinchillas are not as mobile as houseflies but close. Although that may be an exaggeration, it perfectly sums up what you can expect from a healthy pet chinchilla. On the other hand, guinea pigs prefer to keep all four feet squarely on the ground. They are also easier to tame but need more daily attention, so which one should you get, a guinea pig or chinchilla?

Guinea pigs are more affectionate and easier to handle than chinchillas. Both are crepuscular, but cavies are more active than chins during the day. Chinchillas have higher energy levels than guinea pigs and need multilevel cages to hop around. Both species should be kept in pairs or small groups.

No pet is better than another, but some species are a better fit in particular households. Cavies and chins may both be rodents, but when it comes to keeping them, they are as different as Winnie the Pooh and Tigger!

Which Is Better, A Chinchilla Or A Guinea Pig?

Guinea pigs and chinchillas are both impossibly cute rodents, so it can be easy to choose one purely on their physical appearance. Adopting a pet is a long-term decision, and the two species vary considerably in their requirements and habits.

To find the best fit for your family, it is important to take a more objective approach and to know whether a piggy or chin would be better for your lifestyle. A family that spends a lot of time at home during the day might prefer a piggy, while busy families may prefer chinchillas as they are more active in the evenings.

While appearance shouldn’t be the primary consideration when choosing between these pets, piggies and chins do differ significantly in looks. The main physical differences between them include:

Guinea pigs


Longer, less dense hair

Very thick fur that is resistant to fleas and lice

No tails

Whisk-like tails

Prominent round eyes

Eyes are slightly smaller.

Available in many breeds

Only two breeds: long-tailed or short-tailed

Larger than chins. Their average weight is 1.5 – 2.5 pounds.

Adults weigh between 1 – 1.5 pounds.

When choosing between adopting guinea pigs or chinchillas, it is essential to think practically. Holding and cuddling a soft furry pet is only a small part of owning one of these adorable rodents.

Practical Considerations Before Getting A Chinchilla

There is no doubt that chinchillas can be excellent pets, but they are not as common as guinea pigs. They require a very different setup from piggies, and there are a few practical factors to consider. These include:

  • Is there a veterinarian in your area that treats chinchillas? Like all pets, these little energy balls may need treatment occasionally.
  • Do you have enough space for a sizeable chinchilla cage? Unlike guinea pigs, they love to jump between levels, so their cages need to be wide and high.
  • Can your chinchilla setup be in a space where you won’t be disturbed at night?
  • Is the chinchilla room temperature controlled to stay cool?
  • Chins are social animals and do better in pairs.
  • They require regular dust baths.
  • They are remarkably energetic and can make leaps of up to six feet.

Practical Considerations Before Getting A Guinea Pig

Guinea pigs have been kept as pets for much longer than chinchillas and are readily available at adoption centers and pet shops. There is, however, a big difference between simply owning a piggy and ensuring that it is kept healthy, active, and stimulated throughout its life.

  • Guinea pigs do not do well on their own. They are herd animals and should be kept in pairs or small groups.
  • Piggies need a daily source of Vitamin C to stay healthy.
  • Spot cleaning of cavy cages must occur daily, or it can become smelly.
  • In addition to hay, they must receive fresh produce as a daily part of their diet.
  • Their nails must be trimmed regularly as part of their routine grooming process.

Differences Between Guinea Pigs And Chinchillas

If you have considered the practical side of things and could accommodate either a cavy or a chinchilla, it is time to take a closer look at their habits and temperaments. Although they are both rodents, their needs, behaviors, and energy levels are very different.

Guinea Pig


Not agile and single-level cages are fine

They are very active while they are awake and hop around between levels.

Pet cavies have a life expectancy of 5-8 years

They have longer lifespans than piggies. Pet chins can live 10 – 15 years.

Pee and poop a lot. Their cages require frequent attention to keep the odor at bay.

Poop a lot, but it’s very dry, pellet-like poop that hardly smells. They don’t drink as much as piggies, so urinate less frequently.

Must be protected from falls.

Enjoy climbing and jumping.

Easier to tame

May be skittish and more challenging to tame.

They are larger and slower, making them easier to handle and lift out of their cage.

They are smaller and flighty, so it can make playing with them tricky.

They can be bathed occasionally.

They must never get wet.

Long-haired breeds should be brushed regularly to prevent matted fur.

They need dust baths at least twice each week.

They should be kept out of direct sun but are less likely to overheat than chinchillas.

Their thick, soft fur makes them susceptible to overheating. They must be kept in a cool part of the house.

They are noisier than chins and have a range of vocalizations to communicate.

Chins are quieter than piggies but can become noisy at night.

They are less likely to be destructive while out of their cage.

Chinchillas can be destructive as they are fast-moving and obsessed with chewing.

Are more patient and enjoy cuddles

They can be affectionate, but most prefer not to be cuddled.

Similarities Of Guinea Pigs And Chinchillas

Although there are significant differences between owning cavies and chins, there are a few similarities. Both species are social, prey animals that originate from South America. If they are well cared for, they can make excellent pets.

Some similarities between piggies and chinchillas include:

  • Most of their diet must be good quality hay.
  • Their teeth grow throughout their lives. They require plenty of hay and chew toys to keep their teeth in check.
  • Both are crepuscular, which means that they are most active early in the morning or evening. However, guinea pigs are more likely to cope with daytime interactions, especially if their day routine involves food.
  • Their cages must be deep cleaned at least once each week.
  • Both are prey species and need plenty of hiding places to feel safe.
  • Chins and piggies usually only bite in extreme circumstances.
  • They are small, fragile animals that can be injured if they are handled roughly or dropped. Children must always be closely supervised while handling them.
  • The initial outlay for chinchillas is usually more, but caring for them costs the same.

Even though there is some overlap in keeping chins and piggies, they must never be kept together in the same cage. Each species would benefit from a companion of its own kind, but they are physically very different and do not speak the other’s language.


There is no doubt that guinea pigs and chinchillas both make excellent pets. However, they have very different care setups, space, and care requirements. Chins are extremely active pets that almost ricochet around. Although they have softer fur than cavies, they aren’t as eager to be cuddled. Piggies are gentle, friendly, and more laid back.