Wednesday, July 20, 2016

What’s the Difference Between A Gerbil and A Hamster?

Many of us consider giving our kids small pets to teach them about responsibility at a young age. A dog or cat might be a bit too much for them, so we choose the next best thing, hamsters or gerbils. They’re a great choice for small pets that you can keep at home, they’re easy to take care of, and need very little maintenance. But aren’t these two animals the same? Well, not really. Not only are they different, they also have different needs. Below is a short article on the difference between hamsters and gerbils, as well as how you should take care of them.

Social life

One of the main differences between hamsters and gerbils is their need to socialize. Gerbils are very social animals and live in groups in the wild. This means that if you’re planning to keep them as pets, you’re going to need two or more gerbils since being lonely might make them unhappy. They need to be with others, so buy more than one. It’s also advisable to get younger gerbils since it’s easier for them to bond with each other.

If you don't want to deal with a whole army of gerbils (they mature very quickly and can reproduce in a flash), then apt to get two males. Female gerbils have a tendency to become aggressive with each other. Males, however, get along quite well, especially if they’re littermates or have been housed together since they were young.

On the other hand, hamsters are completely fine with living in solitude. This eliminates the fear of worrying about them reproducing. If you’re looking for a small pet that can live alone, a hamster just may be the pet for you. Like gerbils, female hamsters tend to become aggressive with each other, so if you’re planning to get more than one hamsters, avoid placing two females in the same cage.

Sleeping hours

Another difference between these animals is their sleeping pattern. Hamsters are more active during the night. They spend most of the day sleeping and resting. Gerbils on the other hand are diurnal, so they prefer to play and stay active during the day. If you want to get some sleep, or don’t want to get disturbed by the sound of digging and shuffling at night, then get a gerbil. They’ll live to play with you during the day, while hamsters may get a bit grumpy if you wake them up before the sun is down.

What to eat

For diet, these two animals basically eat the same thing. However, gerbils have a tendency to get very gassy and even suffer from diarrhea when given too much fruits or green vegetables. They do enjoy these, in fact you can give it to them as treats, but keep in mind that you should only be feeding them these in small amounts. There are a number of pet food brands that have products specifically made for gerbils and hamsters, but the usual food pellet will work.

Personality wise, gerbils are more active and tend to be a bit more hyper. They love to run around and play, while hamsters prefer to dig and curl up under the cage beddings. Both animals need exercise, so it's best to keep a wheel inside their cage so they can play and run on it. Avoid getting those wheels made from wires or those that have slots on them. They can catch a foot in the wheel, and the gerbil's tail could also get stuck. These could cause broken bones, so pick a wheel that has a smooth surface.


Hamsters and gerbils also have different appearances. Gerbils have a soft tail and stand on their hind legs which are longer compared to their front legs. Hamsters have little, stubby tails that are usually too small to be seen under their thick fur. Gerbils are more rat or mouse-like in appearance since they have a longer snout. They're also more closely related to mice compared to hamsters. If you enjoy the look of mice and rats, you might find gerbils to be more visually appealing. Hamsters have a more round body and thicker fur. They hardly stand on their hind legs and prefer to crawl around. Many find hamsters "cuter" than gerbils because they resemble little teddy bears.  

Health risk

One thing to watch out for with gerbils is that they have a higher risk of experiencing heat strokes. If you don't have an air conditioning unit in the room where you keep them, you'll want to place them in a temperature controlled cage that will keep them from overheating. A good solution for this is to keep them in an aquarium type enclosure and control the temperature to stay between 68° to 77° F (20° to 25° C). this minimizes the chance of the gerbils getting dehydrated in hotter temperatures.  Hamsters keep their cool even in warm temperatures. As long as you keep their water bottle filled with fresh water, they can take on any type of weather.
Temperament and lifespan

Both animals are actually very friendly in nature and can be raised to not bite. However, hamsters are known to be a little more prone to bit, but only when they are suddenly started or woken from sleep. As long as they are trained and handled regularly, hamsters and gerbils will love to be pet and played with. Hamsters and gerbils have more or less the same average life span. They can live up to three years, but some do survive even up to five years when well taken care of. Different varieties also vary in lifespan. Some have lived to seven years, but this is not so common.

Whether you're going for hamsters or gerbils, get ready for a super cute addition to your family. Do share this article to other pet lovers. Leave us your comments and suggestions on topics and other interesting animals.

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