Gerbil vs Hamster

If you have ever closely watched a gerbil or hamster, then you can see their personality and behaviors. However, if you haven’t had them both together, you may not have seen the differences between these two animals. Maybe you are trying to decide whether to get a hamster or a gerbil. This hamster vs gerbil guide will help you to determine which one you would like to have for a pet. We also wrote a detailed guide on the Fat-tailed Gerbil you should check out.

Gerbil and Hamster Size

It is important to know that there is a size difference between a hamster and gerbil. If you have smaller children who will be handling this pet, you will want a bigger pet that is easier for them to hold. Most adult gerbils will be between 5-6 inches in length. This doesn’t include their 3-4 inch tail length. They will weigh around 2-4 ounces by the time they are an adult, as well. Most adult hamsters will be between 2-7 inches in length, depending on the breed. They will weigh between 4-8 ounces. 

Gerbil and Hamster Colors

Another difference between a hamster and gerbil is the colors. There are many different colors that gerbils and hamsters can be. Most hamsters will be white, cinnamon, brown, gray, black, or a combination of these colors. There are over 40 color combinations for gerbils

Gerbil and Hamster Behaviors

If you are trying to decide whether to get a gerbil or hamster, it is important to know that they do have different personalities and behaviors. 

Gerbils are usually known as inquisitive, intelligent, and playful pets. They are usually interested in what their owners are doing. They will watch you and watch the action around them. It is important that gerbils are played with and handled daily. They really enjoy their owners to hold them. They like to gnaw and shred things apart. They also enjoy digging in their bedding or nesting toys. Gerbils also climb and jump, a lot. 

Hamsters are mostly nocturnal. They will sleep for most of the day. During the night, they will explore their surroundings. If you are going to interact with your pet hamster, you should do so during the evening or the early morning hours. They don’t like to be woken up, so be sure to let them get their sleep when they want it. When they are active, pet hamsters usually like to burrow into their bedding or into tunnels. They also like to store their food. Hamsters can often recognize their owner’s voice and will react to it by making noises back. They like their owners to cuddle with them, too. 

Gerbil and Hamster Sociability 

When it comes to the hamster vs gerbil decision for getting a pet, you will want to think about their sociability, as well. The majority of hamsters are territorial and like to live on their own, without other hamsters. This is usually the case unless you get dwarf hamsters. However, gerbils are more social. If you are going to have a gerbil as a pet, it is best to have two or four of them. Get an even number. 

Gerbil and Hamster Care 

It is important that gerbils and hamsters are kept in a clean and ventilated cage. They should have enough bedding to allow them to burrow. You should always make sure they have clean water, toys to chew on, and a wheel for them to exercise on. 8-inch wheels are usually a good option for gerbils and hamsters. 

For every gerbil that you have, they should have a 5-gallon minimum glass tank. You can cover that with mesh material for the lid. A tank is a great option because gerbils can chew through many regular hamster cages. Gerbils don’t poop or urinate a lot, so you should only have to clean out their tank once every 2 weeks. 

Hamsters should have 3 feet of floor space. If they have enough space, you might not have to clean their cage, but once every 4 weeks. 

Gerbil and Hamster Nutritional Guidelines

Gerbils and hamsters should have seeds, fruits, and greens. In addition, they will need enough protein. Hamsters generally need 18-23% protein daily. They can eat eggs or chicken. Gerbils will need 14-15% protein. They can have mealworms or crickets. 

Gerbil and Hamster Lifespan

Another difference between a hamster and gerbil is their lifespan. Most hamsters will live for about 2 years. Most gerbils will live for around 3 years. However, either could live 4 years or more, but that is very uncommon. 

Now that you know more about the personalities, care needs, nutritional needs, and more regarding gerbils and hamsters, you can decide which one would be best to have as a pet in your home. 

What is the difference between a hamster and a gerbil?

There are some differences between gerbils and hamsters. Some of these differences are their care needs, sizes, personalities, behaviors, and sociability. Physically, the main difference is that hamsters are smaller and gerbils are larger.

Should I get a hamster or gerbil for kids?

If you are trying to get your children a new pet and are deciding between a gerbil or a hamster, gerbils are often better. Hamsters need much more care than gerbils do. Your children can maintain the gerbil’s cage much easier.

Which is better a hamster or gerbil for a pet?

Deciding what pet to get for your family can be a tough one. There are so many choices. However, between a gerbil or a hamster, it is helpful to know that gerbils are often better pets. If your children don’t have experience taking care of a pet, a gerbil is a great place for them to start. They usually don’t bit and they are active, so your children can play with them. Hamsters often bite when they are slightly irritated.

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Written by Leo Roux

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