how do gerbils and hamsters different

What are the differences between gerbils and hamsters?

If you’re a fan of furry rodents, you might be considering getting either a gerbil or a hamster as a pet. While both animals are adorable, they have many differences. Before deciding which one to adopt, it’s crucial to understand their appearance, behavior, and care requirements to choose the right pet for you. In this article, I’ll share my experience of raising gerbils over the years and compare them to hamsters, hoping to assist you in making an informed decision.

Differences in Appearance

Although both gerbils and hamsters belong to the rodent family, they exhibit significant differences in appearance. Here’s how you can distinguish them:

Size: Hamsters are smaller in size, typically reaching 2-4 inches in length as adults, akin to a large mouse. Gerbils, on the other hand, are larger, measuring around 5-6 inches in length as adults, comparable to a small rabbit. If you prefer a more noticeable pet, a gerbil might be the better choice.

Tail: Hamsters have short tails, resembling a pinky finger, reaching a maximum length of 1 inch and usually devoid of fur. Gerbils have long, slender tails, about as long as their bodies, ranging from 4-6 inches and covered in a layer of fur. Gerbil tails aid in balance and expressing emotions. If you enjoy interacting with a pet’s tail, gerbils might be more appealing.

Facial Features: Hamsters have round, wide faces with large, dark eyes, small round noses, and tiny mouths. Gerbils have elongated, pointed faces with small, bright eyes, long pointed noses, and larger mouths. Gerbil facial features resemble those of a mouse, while hamster faces are more akin to squirrels. If you lean towards cute pets, hamsters might align better with your aesthetic.

Body Build: Hamsters have a squat, chubby body covered in fur of various colors and patterns. Gerbils have an elegant, slender body with a dark stripe along the back and a white belly, sometimes with additional spots. Gerbil fur colors are more natural, while hamsters exhibit a greater variety. If you appreciate diverse pets, hamsters might suit your taste.

Ears: Hamsters have small, rounded ears with minimal proportion to their heads, sometimes obscured by fur. Gerbils have large, pointed ears that stand out prominently. Gerbil ears aid in heat dissipation and expressing emotions. If you prefer expressive pets, gerbils are more likely to catch your attention.

Behavioral Differences

Activity Times: Hamsters are nocturnal, sleeping during the day and becoming active at night. If you want a pet to play with during the day, hamsters may not be too pleased and might even bite. Gerbils are diurnal, being active during the day like humans. If you desire a pet with a similar sleep-wake cycle, gerbils might be a better fit.

Social Nature: Hamsters are solitary animals, not inclined to share their space with others and may engage in fights if housed together. If you wish to have multiple hamsters, separate cages are necessary to prevent injuries. Gerbils are social animals, enjoying the company of other gerbils to form close-knit groups. If you plan to have a single gerbil, it’s advisable to keep it with a same-sex companion to avoid loneliness. If you’re seeking a companionable pet, gerbils are more suitable.

Odor: Gerbils produce less waste, resulting in a milder odor, and they bury their excrement in the bedding. With regular cage cleaning, gerbil odor is barely noticeable. Hamsters have more frequent waste production, leading to a stronger odor, and they tend to scatter their feces around the cage. If cleanliness and minimal odor are priorities, gerbils are a better choice.

Taming: Gerbils have a gentle temperament, readily becoming accustomed to human interaction, and may even climb onto your hand willingly. They are also tolerant of being held if handled gently. Hamsters require more time and patience for taming, as they may be less trusting and may bite on occasion. Hamsters also tend to resist being held, preferring to escape. If you’re seeking a pet that’s easy to bond with, gerbils are more suitable.

Suitability for Children: Gerbils are generally friendly and well-suited for children, provided they are handled gently. Gerbils are less prone to injury as long as children avoid pulling their tails too hard. Hamsters are more active and may not be the best choice for unsupervised children, as they can accidentally harm the hamster or get bitten. If you’re looking for a child-friendly pet, gerbils are a better option.

Care Differences

Housing Environment: Gerbils require larger cages made of glass or metal because they enjoy digging, and plastic cages may be chewed through. Hamsters can be housed in plastic cages since they are less inclined to dig, and their teeth are not as sharp as gerbil teeth. If you prefer a pet that doesn’t need a large living space, hamsters might be a better choice.

Activity Space: Gerbils need more significant activity space due to their active nature, enjoying running around and playing with various toys. They require sufficient bedding for digging and pieces of wood for gnawing. Hamsters do not need as much activity space since they are more sedentary and prefer simple toys. Providing them with bedding for nesting and a supply of food is sufficient. If you want a pet with fewer toy requirements, hamsters might be more suitable.

Diet: Gerbils have a higher food intake than hamsters due to their faster metabolism and higher energy expenditure. They need a continuous supply of food, including fresh fruits and vegetables for vitamins and hydration. Hamsters have a lower food intake because of their slower metabolism, and they tend to hoard excess food. Avoid providing sugary fruits to hamsters to prevent diabetes. If you’re looking for a pet with lower food demands, hamsters might be more suitable.

Bedding Depth: Gerbils require bedding with a depth of 10 inches to allow for digging and building their underground castles. Suitable bedding materials include wood shavings, paper, or cotton. Hamsters only need bedding with a depth of 8 inches for nesting and storing their food. Similar bedding materials can be used for hamsters. If you prefer a pet with lower bedding requirements, hamsters might be more suitable.

Cleaning Frequency: Gerbil cages need more frequent cleaning since their waste scatters in the bedding, and food residues may be spread around. Cleaning the cage at least once a week, replacing soiled bedding, and washing the cage and toys is necessary. Hamster cages do not require as frequent cleaning since their waste is concentrated in one area, and they store excess food. Cleaning the cage every two weeks, replacing soiled bedding, and checking for moldy food is sufficient. If you want a pet with lower cleaning needs, hamsters might be more suitable.

In conclusion, whether you choose a gerbil or a hamster depends on your preferences, lifestyle, and the level of commitment you’re willing to provide for your pet. Both animals can make delightful companions, but understanding their differences will help you make an informed decision tailored to your needs.

Leave a Reply