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Gerbils vs. Hamsters

Choosing the right pet for you is a difficult decision to make. You need to think about what you want from owning a pet, your personal animal preferences, and how a pet will fit into your lifestyle. To make sure you make the right choice, you need to weigh up the pros and cons of your options. If you prefer small animals, then two species you may consider keeping as a pet are gerbils and hamsters. These are two of the most popular small animals kept as pets around the world. There are some similarities between these two animals, but there are also some differences.

Gerbils vs. Hamsters

Hamsters are a small rodent that lives in arid areas, such as deserts, in the wild. They are a furry animal with a small tail that likes to live alone. Gerbils are also a small rodent that lives in arid areas in the wild, but they prefer to live in clans with other gerbils. They are close in appearance to mice and rats.


As gerbils and hamsters are both rodents, it is hardly surprising that they share some similarities. Some of these include:

  • Diet- The diets of gerbils and hamsters is extremely similar as they both live predominantly on dry food mixes or pellets. Both these animals top up their diet with treats of fruits and vegetables once or twice a week. The foods that are not safe for them to eat are almost all the same as they have very similar anatomies.
  • Living Conditions- Gerbils and hamsters both prefer to live in a part of the house where there is not too much noise and activity as they are both easily stressed.
  • Appearance- There are many aspects of the appearances of gerbils and hamsters that are very similar. In fact, many people get these animals confused.
  • Environment in the wild- Both gerbils and hamsters live in deserts or the surrounding area in the wild.
  • Cost- All the costs related to buying and caring for a pet are pretty much the same for both hamsters and gerbils. These animals cost around the same amount to buy, as does their habitats and accessories. The ongoing costs of these pets are food and bedding. As they both need bedding and their diets are the same, there is not one that is more expensive than the other.
  • Care- Almost every aspect of caring for gerbils and hamsters is the same.


Although there are many similarities between gerbils and hamsters, there are also many differences. These include:

  • Socializing- One of the biggest differences between gerbils and hamsters is the way they prefer to live in both the wild and in captivity. Hamsters are solitary animals that prefer to live alone, although some breeds can cope with living in pairs or small groups. Gerbils, however, live in clans of up to 20 gerbils in the wild. They are sociable creatures and are much happier when living in a pair or small group.
  • Biting- Of all the rodents kept as pets, hamsters are the ones that are most likely to bite. They have earned a reputation for their grumpiness and not all hamsters enjoy being handled by their owners. On the other hand, gerbils generally enjoy interacting with their owners and it is very rare that they bite.
  • Lifespan-Gerbils have a longer average lifespan than hamsters, although there are many factors that impact on the lifespan of both these animals.
  • Living Conditions- Gerbils are natural burrowers, so they need a much deeper habitat than hamsters. This is to accommodate the extra bedding needed to create the perfect burrowing environment.
  • Sleeping patterns- Hamsters are usually nocturnal animals, meaning they are awake at night. Most domestic gerbils are diurnal, which means they are awake in the day and sleep at night.

Reasons to Pick a Gerbil Over a Hamster

Gerbils are the better option for families with children as they are less likely to bite, but you should still supervise a child when they are handling these pets. They are also the better option if you like to get a full nights sleep or you are house proud as gerbils are usually asleep at night and they have hardly any odor.


Reasons to Pick a Hamster Over a Gerbil

If you only want to keep one pet, or you only have enough space for a habitat for a single rodent, then hamsters are the better option. While living alone will make a gerbil feel stressed, this is the preferred living situation for a hamster.

Final Verdict

Whether you prefer to keep a gerbil or a hamster is entirely up to you and your personal preferences. These pets are very similar in terms of cost and care. The major difference between the two is their personalities as gerbils are more sociable, they like living with other gerbils, and are less likely to bite.


About the author


Liz Flynn is a mum of four with a background in education. An animal lover, she has owned everything from dogs to tarantulas and animals of all sizes in between and loves to write about them.

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