Are Guinea Pigs Gerbils?

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Not everyone can perfectly know a particular rodent when they see one. To date, many still find it hard to tell if a particular rodent is a gerbil or guinea.

Do you find it hard to know if guinea pigs are gerbils?

No, guinea pigs are not gerbils. They are different rodents and both have separate families. Guinea pigs are also naturally bigger and have more weight than gerbils.

The two animals equally make different sounds. In addition, guinea pigs and gerbils have different needs when it comes to their diet.

Keep reading below as we discuss in detail the various things that differentiate a guinea pig from a gerbil.

Guinea Pigs VS Gerbils – What’s the Difference?

CategoryGuinea PigsGerbils
Size8-16 in (20-40 cm)35-70 in (89-180 cm)
TailNoneYes (as long as their body length)
Weight1-3 lbs. (0.5-1.5 kg)0.13-0.25 lbs. (0.06-0.113 kg)
FamilyCaviidae familyMuridae family
DietHerbivorous: Hay, grasses, fruits, veggies, etc.Omnivorous: Plants, Meat, cooked foods, etc.
Lifespan4-8 years6-10 years4-8 years (as pets)


When it comes to the size of these two rodents, guinea pigs are the bigger animals. 

That’s right! Adult guinea pigs are about 8-16 in (24-40 cm) in size. This doesn’t include tails as they don’t have tails.

Gerbils, on the other hand, are tiny animals compared to guinea pigs. They grow to a size of about 5-6 in (13-15 cm). In addition, gerbils have tails, which are about the same length as their bodies.

The difference in the size of both animals is very big. Hence, this makes a guinea pig different from a gerbil.


Just as guinea pigs are the bigger animals, they’re also the heavier ones. Guinea pigs weigh around 1-3 lbs. (0.5-1.5 kg). 

However, gerbils have a bodyweight of about 0.13-0.25 lbs. (0.06-0.113 kg). So, you can see that they’re different animals if you compare their weights too.


Gerbils - Rodents in the Muridae Family

This is one striking difference that proves a guinea pig is not a gerbil. For guinea pigs to be gerbils, they must belong to the same family of animals. 

However, they don’t belong to the same family as gerbils – the Muridae family. This family consists of gerbils and some other rodents such as rats and mice. 

But it doesn’t include guinea pigs as they belong to the Caviidae family of rodents instead. Besides guinea pigs, members of the Caviidae family include the rock cavies, capybaras, Patagonian maras, etc. 

See the scientific classification of a guinea pig and a gerbil below.

Guinea PigGerbil
Family CaviidaeMuridae
SpeciesC. porcellusM. Unguiculatus


Guinea Pigs Served Plant Foods

A guinea pig’s diet is not the same as a gerbil’s own. Guinea pigs are herbivores while gerbils are omnivores.

Guinea pigs eat raw plant foods. These includes:

  • Hay (their main food)
  • Fruits
  • Veggies
  • Grass
  • Pellets

They also eat parts of plants such as:

  • Leaves
  • Flowers
  • Sprouts
  • Stems
  • Roots

Gerbils have a mixed diet of plants and animals. They equally eat seeds and nuts but guinea pigs don’t. Cooked foods are toxic for guinea pigs but gerbils eat them too.

Gerbils will also eat meat moderate sizes of meat beef and pork if you offer it to them. It’s safe for them to eat. 

However, all kinds of meat are toxic for guinea pigs. Hence, it’s clear they’re different animals as they don’t share a similar diet.

Life Span

Another difference between guinea pigs and gerbils is their lifespan. Guinea pigs live longer than gerbils.

They have an average life span of 5-7 years. Guinea pigs will even live longer, up to 10 years, if cared for as pets.

Gerbils, on the other hand, have a shorter life span of about 2-3 years. Moreover, if they’re kept as pets and given so much care, they can live a bit longer for about 3-4 years.


Running on wheels is a common thing many rodents do. They do it for fun and to exercise as well.

Gerbils are great wheel-runners just like hamsters and many other small rodents. However, guinea pigs can’t run on wheels. 

It’s not just their thing as they’re naturally not made for wheels.  Their bodies aren’t flexible as the other rodents that run safely on wheels. 

Guinea pigs can get hurt if they try to run on wheels. More specifically, they can suffer spinal injuries.

In addition, guinea pigs love running around and exploring instead. They equally play hide-and-seek or even tug of war with their cagemates.

On the other hand, gerbils do so much more than Wheel-running. They’re equally great climbers, unlike guinea pigs. 

Moreover, the fact that guinea pigs can’t run on wheels makes it clear that they’re not gerbils. 

Sound (Language)

Undoubtedly, similar animals do make similar sounds. However, a guinea pig doesn’t sound like a gerbil.

This equally proves that they’re not gerbils. Guinea pigs mostly wheek and gerbils don’t. Gerbils chirp instead!

However, guinea pigs make other sounds that mean different things. They include:

  • Chutting
  • Squealing
  • Rumbling
  • Teeth chattering

Gerbils, on the other hand, equally communicate with other sounds. They include:

  • Squeaking
  • Foot thumping
  • Clicking

Furthermore, this means that a guinea pig doesn’t communicate the same way a gerbils does.

This reason alone can cause a lot of confusion between both pets if they stay together. It’s equally one of the reasons that make guinea pigs living with rats a bad idea.

Active Hours

Guinea Pig Sleeping in the Day - Crepuscular Rodents

Gerbils spend their days like humans. They’re active mostly during the day and sleep more at night. This makes them diurnal animals.

However, guinea pigs aren’t diurnal or even nocturnal animals. They don’t have specific sleeping times.

They take short naps and sleep several times both during the day and at night. To be more specific, they are most active during dawn and dusk.

This means they’re crepuscular animals.

Read Our Full Guide: Are Guinea Pigs Nocturnal Animals

Guinea Pigs VS Gerbils – The Similarities 

Both animals may have many differences, but they’re also similar in some ways. See their similarities below.

  • Guinea pigs and gerbils are both rodents (with every growing incisors on both upper and lower jaws)
  • They both have colorful fur. And this cause many to think they’re the same.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Gerbils?

No! Guinea pigs can’t eat gerbils. Although gerbils are quite smaller than guinea pigs, it doesn’t make them guinea pigs’ prey. 

Guinea pigs don’t hunt for meat even in the wild. Hence, they can’t eat gerbils as well as any other animal. 

Above all, you should recall that meat is toxic for guinea pigs. 

With this in mind, it’s fair to conclude that guinea pigs are only predators of plants like hay and a variety of tasty fruits and veggies.

Recommended Reading: Can Guinea Pigs Eat Meat?

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Gerbils Food?

The simple answer is No. guinea pigs cannot eat gerbil foods. A gerbil’s diet is normally a mixture of plant and animal-based food.

Guinea pigs are herbivores and only do well with raw plants. If the gerbil’s food contains meat, seeds, or even cooked foods, then it’s not safe for guinea pigs to do it.

So, if you have a guinea pig and a gerbil, feed them separately to be on the safe side. You should equally keep guinea pigs away from gerbils’ food.

Can You Put a Gerbil and a Guinea Pig in the Same Cage

No, you shouldn’t put a gerbil and a guinea pig in the same cage. These two might be rodents, but they have different needs. 

In addition, they behave differently. This can cause fights between the two, as they won’t be able to understand each other.

However, this doesn’t mean they love to be alone. Both guinea pigs and gerbils love to live in groups. So, get each of them a cage mate or more.

It should be the same animals in a cage. Guinea pigs should stay with guinea pigs. The same goes for gerbils.

Recommended Reading: What Guinea Pigs Can Live Together? 

Final Thoughts

In summary, guinea pigs are not gerbils. They are different in many ways and belong to different families.

Guinea pigs are way bigger and heavier than gerbils. In addition, guinea pigs live so much longer than gerbils.

Furthermore, the two rodents have different needs when it comes to feeding. Cavies are herbivores but gerbils are omnivores.

Additionally, a guinea pig cannot eat a gerbil’s food. It’s equally a bad idea to put a guinea pig and a gerbil in the same cage.

You can also read our article, “Are Guinea Pigs Related to Hamsters?

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