Question: Which is a better pet for a 8 year old child, a Hamster, or a Guinea Pig?
Answer: Generally I do not believe any pet is good for a child. It is the parent who undertakes the commitment to buy a pet and it is them who should also take the responsibility for its on going care should the child tire of the responsibility. It is entirely unfair to an animal to be discarded because of a child’s’ inability to care for a it. Unfortunately this is a common occurrence.
As far as comparisons go, I find Guinea Pigs may be the better choice of the two. Hamsters are smaller and cuter, but are more apt to bite. Hamsters are also nocturnal so may keep family members awake at night as they do chew on bars and play on their wheels, or dig in the corner of their cage. Guinea Pigs on the other hand, have a cute way of communicating with you. They make a variety of sounds depending on their mood. They will greet their owner with cheerful sounds as they anticipate treats.
Being larger, Guinea Pigs have bigger space requirements, and are a longer time commitment. Where hamsters may live only 2-5 years, a Guinea Pig will live 5-8 years. Guinea Pigs can be harness trained, as in the photo above.
With either one selection of a friendly animal is always important. When you go to purchase a pet, if the handler is using gloves to pick them up, you probably do not want to trust it with your child. Typically animals from pet stores are not use to being handled, they come from massive breeders and have never been touched before being shipped to the pet store.
Many times hamsters and Guinea Pigs are taken to the SPCA for adoption, sometimes simply because people are moving and cannot take their pet with them, these animals are usually more affordable, and tame. Sometimes shelter pets even come with their own cages.
An alternative to both hamsters or guinea pigs is to get a rabbit. Rabbits come in all sorts of sizes, from dwarf bunnies to the larger ones who are often used as meat animals, but make good pets too, if you have space. The one advantage of a rabbit is that their food is slightly cheaper than Guinea Pig food, and they tend to be quieter and like being held a bit more than Guinea Pigs.
The choice is up to you. Do more research including taking your child to a store or shelter and having him, or her, visit the pets in question.
Please remember, unless you are willing to care for the animal for its lifetime, do not expect your child to do the same, no matter how much they beg you, or what promises they make.