Gerbil vs. Hamster: Key Differences and Considerations, Which Pet Should You Get?

Gerbil vs Hamster

Last Updated on October 26, 2023 by Fumipets

Gerbil vs. Hamster: Key Differences and Considerations, Which Pet Should You Get?


Gerbils and hamsters are both popular small pets, but they have distinct characteristics and care requirements. Understanding the differences between these two species can help you make an informed decision when choosing a furry companion for your home.

Gerbil vs. Hamster

You may be excused for not being aware of the distinction between gerbils and hamsters. Both of them are little rodents with a similar appearance. Even taking care of them is essentially the same. But if you’re attempting to pick which of these creatures is the greatest match for your family, there are some noticeable distinctions in their temperaments and characteristics that you’ll want to learn about.

A Quick Overview


Average Length (adult): 4” plus a 4” tail

Average Weight (adult): 3-5 ounces

Lifespan: 2-8 years

Sociability: Good

Trainability: Moderate


Average Height (adult): 4-7”

Average Weight (adult): 4-10 ounces

Lifespan: 2-3 years

Sociability: Only some breeds

Trainability: Moderate

Gerbil Overview

There is just one primary breed of pet gerbil. There are many gerbils in the wild, but Mongolian gerbils that have been raised in captivity account for the majority of domesticated gerbils.

These little creatures are typically just 3 to 4 inches long, and their tails are roughly the same length as their bodies. They are not recommended for very young children due to their tiny size since they run the risk of gravely hurting the gerbil by dropping it or being overly harsh with it. Gerbils do have a tendency to bite when they are wounded or terrified.


In a single day, gerbils go through multiple sleep cycles. Although they are not nocturnal creatures, they are often active at night. In contrast to hamsters, mice, and other rodents, your gerbil often sits erect on its rear legs.

They are noted for being curious and inquisitive small mice. They may be pretty fun to see since they are always striving to discover new things.

Gerbils dwell in colonies in the wild. They are thus very sociable creatures. They like households with several pets since they dislike being left alone.

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Hand-taming a gerbil is the key step in training it. To prevent them from being frightened or biting when you reach out for them, the gerbil must get used to being handled. Fortunately, because gerbils are naturally very gregarious animals, hand-taming them is usually not too difficult.

Gerbils are capable of more training than just that, however. These little rodents are intelligent and may pick up a variety of skills or ideas. You might teach a gerbil, for instance, to use the toilet. With a little work, they’ll even learn to react to their name. They may even leap into your extended hand when you place it in their cage if you get them used to you well enough.


Gerbil maintenance is quite simple. They don’t need a lot of room. If you just have two, the fewest of which you should keep together, then a space that is approximately a foot broad and two feet long will be sufficient. Of course, keeping them in a bigger place won’t do any harm.

Your gerbil may be housed in wire cages. The majority of owners choose glass aquariums with a tight-fitting mesh top, nevertheless. As gerbils are innate burrowers, this enables you to pile the substrate high enough for them to dig down into it. Additionally, when gerbils try to burrow in a wire cage, they are likely to kick a lot of the substrate out, leaving you with a never-ending mess to clean up.

Additionally, you’ll need to provide your gerbils with a nest box so they have a secure place to sleep and hide. It’s best to use a ceramic nest, but you may also use wood. Chewing will gradually deteriorate wood, but plastic, which can be readily disposed of, is still preferable. Try a clay flowerpot as an alternative.

Gerbil feeding is simple. Use gerbil food, which is easily accessible at any pet shop. Most often, they are rat blocks or loose seed combinations.


Gerbils may get colds, have diarrhea, get fleas or mites, and more. Fortunately, they can all be treated, but if they are not attended to right once, they might substantially reduce the lifespan of your gerbil.

Shock from dropping your gerbil may result in convulsions. A sufficiently high drop may kill or fracture your gerbil’s bones.

These little mice are also particularly vulnerable to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, both of which may be fatal. To avoid this, make sure their cage is well aired.

Finally, avoid picking up your gerbil by the tail. Your small rodent companion may suffer permanent harm as a result of this.



Very social and easy to care for


fragile and prone to illness

Hamster Overview

There are several hamster breeds, and many of them are often kept as pets. Compared to other breeds, Chinese hamsters are less prevalent. Although they are just four inches long, they are not the more popular form of dwarf hamster. There are various other types of dwarf hamsters, including the Russian and Roborovski variants, which are more often seen in pet shops than Chinese hamsters.

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Syrian hamsters are the kind of hamster that people keep as pets, however. They have a variety of hues, as well as various distinct names. They are substantially bigger than Chinese or dwarf hamsters.


Some hamster breeds are sociable, but most are not. Most hamsters thrive as solitary pets, unlike gerbils. Because they are also quite active, you should choose a hamster that is either eating or moving about in its habitat.

Hamsters aren’t very sociable with other hamsters, but they may be rather social with humans, displaying amiable attitudes and gentle temperaments. They are often easy to handle and seldom ever bite.

Gerbils are nocturnal, while hamsters are not. During the day, you won’t see them doing anything. You may not want to keep their cage close to your bed since most of their activity will occur at night.


Hamsters may be made to feel at ease with people. However, they can’t really be taught for anything else. Even teaching them to be held will need some perseverance and patience.

Before touching a hamster, you should let it for at least a week to become used to its new environment. When you do, you’ll have to gain its confidence. You may start trying to handle your hamster when it has calmed down. If your hamster is eating, drinking, and even playing with you there, it is calm.

Spending time nearby its cage and speaking softly to it until it becomes used to your voice can help your hamster get accustomed to you more quickly.

Younger hamsters are often much simpler to teach and tame than adult hamsters.


Gerbils and hamsters may both be housed in fairly similar settings. Both a wire cage and a glass enclosure work well for them since they have comparable area requirements. Just be certain to provide enough ventilation.

You must have a hamster wheel within the cage of a hamster since they need a lot of activity. Additionally, you should provide them with a lot of little objects to chew. The objects in your hamster’s cage will probably be destroyed often, so plan on replacing them rather frequently.

Hamsters need a very varied diet of fruits, vegetables, and proteins, unlike gerbils. Your hamster will probably just pick out the items they enjoy and ignore the others if you just feed them from a bag of pre-mixed hamster chow. As a consequence, you’ll want to add extra meals to their diet to make up for any nutrients they may be lacking.


Hamsters are very prone to a variety of diseases, and they may even get a cold from you.

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Make sure you choose the healthiest hamster you can find when choosing one. Because hamster illnesses are so infectious, you may need to check out many shops.

Watch the hamster’s behavior and look in its eyes and behind to see if it is ill. You should stay away from a hamster if it has a damp behind. Additionally, having watery eyes is a sign of bad health and is not a good choice. The best hamsters, though, are those that are moving about and have lively eyes.


simple to maintain

Good with people

will eat almost anything


Not very sociable

Prone to health issues

Which Pet is the Best Fit for You?

Actually, none of these little rodents needs a lot of upkeep or care, making them both great pets. The bare necessities—food, toys, interaction, and water—will need to be provided after you’ve got them settled in and acclimated. Which one is the wisest choice for your family, then?

A hamster is the best choice if you just want one rodent. They thrive alone because they are solitary beings. In fact, it is probable that two male hamsters living together will attempt to murder one another.

On the other hand, because gerbils are such gregarious animals, you should choose one if you’d like to have two pets or perhaps a complete colony.

Do you want to teach your rodent tricks? Choose a gerbil. A hamster is a good choice if you want a pet that is a little bit bigger.

Questions and Answers:



What are the primary differences between gerbils and hamsters?

Gerbils are social animals that thrive in pairs or small groups, while hamsters are generally solitary. Gerbils are diurnal (active during the day), while hamsters are nocturnal (active at night). Gerbils have long tails and are more agile, whereas hamsters have short tails and are typically slower.


Which species is more social and interactive with humans?

Gerbils tend to be more interactive and social with both their owners and cage mates. They are curious and enjoy human interaction. Hamsters, on the other hand, are usually more independent and may not seek as much human interaction.


What are the housing and habitat requirements for gerbils and hamsters?

Both gerbils and hamsters require secure cages or enclosures. Gerbils need a spacious habitat with deep bedding for burrowing, while hamsters require a wheel for exercise and a cozy nesting area. Proper ventilation and cleanliness are essential for both.


What do gerbils and hamsters eat, and do their diets differ?

Both gerbils and hamsters have similar dietary needs, including a mix of commercial pellets, fresh vegetables, and the occasional treat. However, specific dietary preferences and sensitivities can vary among individuals of each species.

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Are there any health considerations when caring for gerbils and hamsters?

Gerbils and hamsters can be prone to various health issues, such as dental problems, obesity, and respiratory infections. Regular veterinary check-ups and a clean living environment are crucial for their well-being. Be aware that both species have relatively short lifespans, typically around two to three years.

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When deciding between gerbils and hamsters as pets, it’s important to consider their distinct behavioral traits, habitat needs, and your own lifestyle. Understanding these differences will help you provide the best care and companionship for your chosen furry friend.




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