Which is a Better Pet – Gerbils or Hamsters? Find Out Here!

Gerbils and hamsters are both rodents that belong to different families. Gerbils are part of the subfamily Gerbillinae, while hamsters are part of the Cricetinae subfamily. Both species are small, with gerbils ranging in size from 4-6 inches and hamsters from 2-6 inches. They are typically kept in cages, and their lifespan is relatively short, with gerbils living for approximately 2-4 years and hamsters living for approximately 2-3 years.

Physical Characteristics

Differences in Size, Fur, and Color

The physical characteristics of gerbils and hamsters differ in various ways. In terms of size, gerbils are generally larger than hamsters. Gerbils have long tails, large ears, and a sleek body. They have soft, velvety fur, which can come in a variety of colors, including grey, brown, and black. In contrast, hamsters have a round body, short tails, and small ears. They have thicker fur, which can come in a wide range of colors, including white, brown, black, and grey.

Activity Levels and Exercise Requirements

Both gerbils and hamsters are active animals that require exercise to stay healthy and happy. Gerbils are known for their love of running and jumping, and they enjoy having plenty of space to move around. They are also skilled diggers, so providing them with a sandbox or a digging box can keep them entertained for hours. Hamsters are also active animals that enjoy running, climbing, and exploring their environment. They require a wheel to run on, and it’s recommended that their cage has different levels to climb on.

Temperament and Personality

Are Gerbils More Social Than Hamsters?

Gerbils are known for being social animals that enjoy living in groups. They are playful, curious, and love interacting with their owners. They are also known for their grooming behavior, where they clean themselves and their cage mates. On the other hand, hamsters are generally solitary animals that prefer to live alone. They are also known to be more aggressive towards other hamsters and can become territorial. However, with proper socialization, hamsters can become friendly and enjoy interacting with their owners.

Which Pet is Easier to Train?

Both gerbils and hamsters are relatively easy to train. They are intelligent animals that can learn tricks and respond to their owners’ commands. Gerbils, in particular, are known for being easy to handle and enjoy being held. Hamsters can also be trained, but they require more patience and persistence.

Housing and Environment

Cage Size and Design

The size and design of the cage are essential factors to consider when choosing a pet. Gerbils require a larger cage than hamsters, as they are more active and need more space to run and play. A minimum cage size for one gerbil is 10 gallons, but 20 gallons or more is recommended. Hamsters can be kept in smaller cages, but a minimum of 360 square inches of floor space is recommended. The cage should also have different levels to climb and explore.

Type of Bedding and Substrate

Gerbils and hamsters require different types of bedding and substrate in their cages. Gerbils prefer paper-based bedding, such as shredded paper or tissue, as they like to dig and burrow. They also enjoy having a sand bath to clean themselves. Hamsters prefer wood-based bedding, such as aspen or pine shavings, as they like to burrow and nest. They also enjoy having a hideout in their cage.

Temperature and Humidity Needs

Both gerbils and hamsters require a temperature-controlled environment to stay healthy. The ideal temperature range for gerbils is between 68-78°F, and the humidity should be around 40-60%. Hamsters prefer a slightly warmer environment, with temperatures ranging from 68-80°F, and a humidity level of 30-50%.

Diet and Nutrition

Differences in Food Preferences

Gerbils and hamsters have different food preferences and nutritional needs. Gerbils are omnivores and require a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, protein, and grains. They also require fresh water at all times. Hamsters are omnivores, but they prefer a diet that is high in protein. Their diet should consist of pellets, fruits, vegetables, and occasional treats. They also require fresh water at all times.

Specific Nutritional Requirements

Gerbils and hamsters have specific nutritional requirements that need to be met to keep them healthy. Gerbils require a diet that is high in fiber and low in fat. They also require a source of vitamin D, either from exposure to sunlight or from their diet. Hamsters require a diet that is high in protein and low in fat. They also require a source of vitamin C, either from their diet or supplements.

Health Concerns

Common Health Problems in Gerbils and Hamsters

Gerbils and hamsters are susceptible to various health problems, including dental issues, respiratory infections, and skin diseases. Gerbils are also prone to seizures and digestive problems. Hamsters are prone to diabetes and tumors. It’s essential to monitor your pet’s health regularly and seek veterinary care if necessary.

Preventative Measures and Treatments

Preventative measures, such as providing a healthy diet, clean environment, and regular exercise, can help prevent health problems in gerbils and hamsters. Regular veterinary checkups are also recommended to catch any health issues early. If your pet does become sick, there are various treatments available, including medication, surgery, and supportive care.

Cost and Accessibility

Initial Investment and Ongoing Expenses

The cost of owning a gerbil or hamster varies depending on where you live and the type of pet you choose. The initial investment includes the cost of the pet, cage, bedding, food, and toys. Ongoing expenses include food, bedding, and veterinary care. Gerbils are generally less expensive than hamsters, with gerbils costing around $5-$10 and hamsters costing around $10-$20.

Availability in Pet Stores and Adoption Centers

Gerbils and hamsters are widely available in pet stores and adoption centers. However, it’s essential to research the source of the animals and ensure they come from reputable breeders or rescues. Adopting a pet from a rescue center is an excellent option and can save you money on the initial investment.


Both gerbils and hamsters make excellent pets and can provide years of joy and companionship. When choosing between the two, it’s essential to consider factors such as physical characteristics, temperament and personality, housing and environment, diet and nutrition, health concerns, and cost and accessibility. Ultimately, the decision comes down to personal preference, and both gerbils and hamsters can make great pets if provided with adequate care and attention.

ThePetFaq Team