Can Gerbils Live in a Hamster Cage

Can Gerbils Live in a Hamster Cage?

Gerbils and hamsters, both adorable small rodents, are popular choices as pets. However, can gerbils live in a hamster cage? The answer is no. Why? Because gerbils and hamsters have different basic needs and behaviors, and a hamster cage cannot meet the living conditions required for gerbils. If you want to delve into the reasons and get some advice, continue reading this article.

1. Differences in the Basic Needs of Gerbils and Hamsters

Firstly, let’s understand the differences in the basic needs of gerbils and hamsters, primarily focusing on their social and solitary behaviors.

1.1 Social Behavior of Gerbils

Gerbils are social animals; they thrive in the company of their peers. They engage in activities such as grooming, sharing food, playing, and sleeping together. Meeting their social needs is crucial, and if kept alone, gerbils may experience loneliness, depression, or even resort to self-harm. Therefore, it’s recommended to keep gerbils in pairs or groups to ensure they have companionship.

1.2 Solitary Nature of Hamsters

Conversely, hamsters are solitary creatures, usually preferring to live alone without the company of other animals. They are territorial and mark their territory with urine. In case of intrusion, hamsters may become aggressive, even leading to fatal consequences. Hamsters’ solitary nature means they don’t require extensive social interactions; as long as they have enough food, water, and toys, they are content to entertain themselves.

2. Design Differences Between Hamster and Gerbil Cages

Secondly, let’s explore the design disparities between hamster and gerbil cages, emphasizing the structural features of hamster cages and the design requirements for gerbil cages.

2.1 Structural Features of Hamster Cages

Hamster cages typically have smaller spaces with dense grid designs. This design suits hamsters as they have smaller body sizes and don’t require a vast area for movement. The grid structure also serves as a means for hamsters to constantly chew, essential for wearing down their continuously growing teeth. Hamster cages often come equipped with wheels, slides, houses, and other toys for their entertainment.

2.2 Design Requirements for Gerbil Cages

On the other hand, gerbil cages need larger spaces for digging and activities, along with escape-proof structures. Gerbils are larger in size and require more exercise to maintain their health. They have a natural instinct for digging and enjoy creating burrows and hiding food in the sand. Hence, gerbil cages should provide sufficient depth and a soft substrate. Additionally, precautions are needed to prevent gerbils from escaping, as they are intelligent and will exploit any opportunity to find an exit.

3. Reasons Why Gerbils Should Not Be Kept in Hamster Cages

Based on the analysis above, we can identify two main reasons why gerbils should not be kept in hamster cages: restrictions on digging behavior and the risk of injuries posed by grid cages.

3.1 Limitations on Digging Behavior

Gerbils have a natural instinct to dig, and hamster cages do not offer enough space for this behavior. When gerbils are unable to satisfy their digging instincts, they may become frustrated, anxious, and exhibit problematic behaviors such as excessive fur biting, fighting, or aggression towards their owner. Digging is an innate and enjoyable activity for gerbils, serving as both exercise and relaxation, and denying them this right can have negative consequences.

3.2 Injury Risks Posed by Grid Cages

Dense grids may lead to self-inflicted injuries in gerbils. Unlike hamsters, gerbils don’t compulsively chew on grids, but if they feel bored or attempt to escape, they might nibble on the bars, risking broken or trapped teeth. Moreover, gerbils have long tails, prone to getting caught or injured in the grid bars, introducing the risk of pain and infection.

4. Suggestions for an Ideal Living Environment for Gerbils

Now, how can you provide an ideal living environment for gerbils? Here are two recommendations: utilizing a modified fish tank and opting for a deep-bottomed cage.

4.1 Modified Fish Tank Living Space

A fish tank with a homemade mesh cover can offer an appropriate living environment for gerbils. The advantages of a fish tank include the ability to accommodate a substantial amount of sand, allowing gerbils to freely dig. The transparency of the tank allows owners to better observe their gerbils’ behaviors. The mesh cover prevents gerbils from escaping.

4.2 Advantages of Deep-Bottomed Cages

Deep-bottomed cages are also suitable living environments for gerbils. These cages feature deep trays that can hold a significant amount of sand for digging. They prevent sand from scattering outside, provide adequate ventilation, and allow some light to pass through. However, these cages are heavier and less portable, requiring periodic sand replacement.

5. Care Tips and Best Practices for Owners

Lastly, let’s discuss care tips and best practices for gerbil owners. These include regular cleaning, cage disinfection, and monitoring the behavior and health of gerbils.

5.1 Regular Cleaning and Cage Disinfection

Maintaining a clean cage is crucial for the health of gerbils. Their waste and leftover food can harbor bacteria and parasites, adversely affecting their well-being. Owners should clean the water bowl daily, sanitize toys and nesting areas weekly, and disinfect the cage and sand monthly. Warm water and non-toxic cleaners should be used, avoiding chemicals with chlorine or alcohol to prevent respiratory and skin irritation in gerbils.

5.2 Monitoring Behavior and Health of Gerbils

Observing gerbils for unusual behaviors, such as excessive chewing on bars, is essential. Such behavior indicates boredom or stress, requiring more attention and stimulation from the owner. Providing additional toys like wood, cardboard boxes, grass balls, wheels, slides, and houses can offer more entertainment options. Owners should spend time interacting with their gerbils daily, through activities like petting, feeding, or allowing them free time outside the cage. This enhances the trust and happiness of gerbils, reducing stress and anxiety.

6. Summary and Recommendations

In conclusion, this article has explored the differences in the basic needs of gerbils and hamsters, the design disparities between hamster and gerbil cages, and the reasons why gerbils should not be kept in hamster cages. We have provided recommendations for an appropriate living environment for gerbils, along with care tips and best practices for owners. We hope this article helps you better understand and care for your gerbils, ensuring they have a comfortable and happy life.

6.1 Follow Expert Advice, Provide an Appropriate Living Environment

Reiterating that the living environment for gerbils should meet their social and physiological needs, it’s crucial to provide enough space for digging and interaction with companions. Hamster cages fall short in providing these conditions, potentially causing discomfort and harm to gerbils. Therefore, we strongly advise against keeping gerbils in hamster cages and recommend choosing a fish tank or deep-bottomed cage as a suitable living environment.

6.2 Ultimate Guide to an Ideal Living Environment for Gerbils

Offering a clear direction for owners to avoid incorrect care methods, the ultimate guide for providing an ideal living environment for gerbils includes:

  • Choosing a tank or cage with dimensions at least 60 cm in length, 40 cm in width, and 40 cm in height.

  • Placing at least 10 cm of sand at the bottom of the cage, using materials such as corn-based cat litter, desert sand, or wood shavings.

  • Adding a homemade mesh cover to the cage lid, using materials like metal mesh, plastic mesh, or wooden bars.

  • Including gerbil toys in the cage, such as wood, cardboard boxes, grass balls, wheels, slides, and houses.

  • Placing a water bowl in the cage, using ceramic or stainless steel materials and avoiding plastic or wooden materials.

  • Cleaning the water bowl daily, weekly cleaning of toys and nesting areas, and monthly cleaning and disinfection of the cage and sand.

  • Spending time interacting with gerbils daily, through activities like petting, feeding, or allowing them free time outside the cage.

  • Observing gerbil behavior and health, promptly contacting a vet if any abnormalities are detected.

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