Hamsters and gerbils are very attractive pet rodents. These little furry friends are very inquisitive and enjoy exploring their surroundings. However, when it comes to choosing between gerbil or hamster, it is very hard to make up your mind.
So, to help you to decide if a gerbil or hamster is a better pet for you, we will talk about their temperaments, care requirements and handling. Gerbils are social pets meaning that you will have to get a same sex pair to keep them healthy and happy.
On the other hand, hamsters are solitary animals. It means that you have to keep them singly. Want to know what other rodents can leave on their own? Have a look at this post. Similarly, both gerbils and hamsters dwell in desert-like climate.
So, is a gerbil or hamster a better pet? Gerbils are better pets for young kids because they are not known for biting and will allow you to pick them up or pet them. Hamster is a good pet for older children who go to school and adults who enjoy watching their pet.
In this blog post we will talk about gerbils and hamster discussing their physical characteristics, behavior and how they are as pets. It will help you to decide what pet is right for you (an adult) or your kid. I put together a table with the main facts to compare these two furry creatures.
Gerbil vs Hamster
|Lifespan||3 to 5 years||2 to 3 years|
|Size||4 inches in length||2 to 14 inches in length|
|Weight||4 ounces||0.9 to 16.2 ounces|
|Handling||Love to be held, stroked, and petted||Fun to handle, but should be held for very short time|
|Sociality||Must live in pairs||Must be kept singly|
|Care||Very low maintenance||Daily care routine required|
|Biting||Rarely bites||Painful and often|
As mentioned earlier, gerbils are social animals that live in groups in the wild. It means that you will have a to get a pair or trio of same sex animals so they can interact with one another. In contrast, hamsters have to live on their own.
However, Russian and Chinese hamsters can live in same sex pairs. If you want a Syrian hamster, then is has to live on its own. As you can imagine keeping two pets means getting double of everything. The maintenance costs can quickly add up, so just keep it in mind too.
What lives longer – gerbil or hamster?
The lifespan of both gerbils and hamsters varies according to species. On average, gerbils live longer than hamsters. Their lifespan is 3 to 5 years and up to eight years in comparison to hamsters who live from 2 to 3 years. The best age to purchase a gerbil is six or seven weeks old.
It is better to purchase a young hamster of at least 6 to 8 weeks of age as they have a comparatively short lifespan. Moreover, both gerbils and hamster at 8 weeks of age are weaned fully and are eating well. Finally, acquiring at a young age means that your pet will enjoy being handled sooner.
Which is bigger – gerbil or hamster?
Hamsters are bigger than gerbils averaging from 2 to 14 inches in length and 0.9 to 16.2 ounces in weight. On average, gerbils are 4 inches in length and females are slightly shorter. Also, male gerbils weigh about 4 ounces and females tend to be a little smaller.
It is worth mentioning that Syrian hamster are bigger than gerbils. In contrast, dwarf hamsters Russian and Roborovski are almost the same length as gerbils. The gerbil’s and hamster’s size make them an ideal pet, but what about handling and behavior? Keep reading to find out!
Do gerbils or hamsters like to be petted?
Gerbils are suitable to young and older children and they will let to pick them up or pet them as long as they do not feel threatened. Moreover, gerbils have even temperament meaning that they are not easily provoked to biting.
That is why gerbils are ideal pets for little kids with little or no experience with pets. Generally, gerbils love to be held, petted, stroked and played with. Due to their natural curiosity, it is easy for the owner and the pet to get acquainted.
Hamsters are fun to handle, but they should only be held for short periods at a time. That is because hamsters can quickly become anxious and will want to hide in their cage. You can tame a young hamster in the space of a few weeks. Once tamed a hamster will enjoy taking treats from your fingers.
What bites more – gerbils or hamsters?
Hamster are biting more than gerbils. Although their bites are not dangerous, they are quite painful. Gerbils rarely bite due to their even temperament, so they are not easily provoked to biting. In contrast, hamsters can bite when being held or when they become irritated.
However, when handling a gerbil, you might notice that it nibbles! Don’t confuse it with biting. Nibbling is a painless chewing and means that gerbil smelled food on your fingers. It is very easy to prevent and stop nibbling. Gerbils not only nibble on fingers but can gnaw on absolutely anything!
What is easier to take care of – a gerbil or hamster?
Gerbils are easier to take care than hamster because of their natural cleanliness. In the wild gerbils have adapted to conserve water, so their digestive tract is designed to remove water from the food producing very little feces. The same applies to the urine, so gerbil’s cage is easy to maintain.
The kidneys retain water, so only a few drops of concentrated urine are produced. Hence, no stinky odor and less bedding, liners etc. You can save a lot of money and time with a pet gerbil. In comparison, hamster’s care is not difficult, you have to implement daily spot cleaning.
Unlike gerbils, hamsters urinate frequently and can stink up your room. Therefore, you need to spot clean their cage daily. It includes changing soiled bedding and removing feces and decaying vegetables. Although many owners recommend deep cleaning cage weekly, I only do it every 2 weeks.
That is very important to keep the cage odor-free especially if you own a male hamster. A male hamster can smell so bad because of the territory marking. They rub their scent glands onto the subjects in the cage to leave their smell.
Getting rid of this smell every week will cause your pet to produce more secretions resulting in a stinky odor. What I like to do it putting cage liners at the bottom of the cage, especially under the toilet area. That way you can just spot clean the cage every other day and it smells fresh for longer.
Do you own a gerbil or a hamster? Let me know if your animal makes a good pet in the comments section below 🙂