What are the differences between a hamster and a gerbil?

Many decide that a hamster or gerbil is the best choice as a small home pet. There are some notable differences between the two which can help in making the decision on the best individual choice.

Gerbils, unlike hamsters, have a tail and generally like to stand on their hind legs.

One of the main differences between the hamster and the gerbil is their socialization needs. Gerbils in the wild live in groups for the most part. A lonely pet in a cage can be quite unhappy. Therefore, if one is choosing a gerbil, it is better to buy more than one to avoid loneliness. However, when buying more than one, it is wiser to buy younger gerbils as they naturally bond.

If one wants to avoid a family of gerbils, choose two males. Females tend to be more aggressive towards each other, but males tend to get along very well. This is particularly the case if they are littermates or are housed together at a young age.

Hamsters have no tail and are less active than gerbils.

The hamster, in contrast, tends not to need a friend in captivity. So if one is looking for a single small pet, this might be the best choice. Women also tend to be aggressive towards each other. Therefore, one should avoid housing two female hamsters together. Two males are ideal.

Another big difference between animals is sleep patterns. Hamsters are nocturnal and spend most of the day sleeping. The captive gerbil is diurnal and therefore does not disturb sleep by crawling around or digging in a cage. They are also more willing to play during the day, while your hamster may not be as happy to wake up and play.

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The two animals eat basically the same diet. However, the gerbil is more likely to have gas or diarrhea if given an excessive amount of green vegetables or fruits. Most like a small amount of fruits and veggies, but it should remain a small amount.

The gerbil also has a slightly different personality than the hamster. He tends to be a little more active and a little more hyperactive. Both animals need a lot of exercise, but a wheel in a cage should never have wires or cracks. Both animals can catch one foot on a wheel, and the gerbil can catch its tail. This can result in broken bones, so choose a wheel with a smooth surface for either animal.

The two also differ in appearance. The gerbil has a fluffy tail and likes to stand on its hind legs. The hamster has no tail. Many consider the gerbil to be more like a rat or mouse, due to its longer snout. He is more related to these rodents than the hamster. Those who like rats and mice may find the gerbil more visually appealing. Those who don’t like rats and mice may find the hamster to have more appeal.

The gerbil has a higher risk of overheating. If there is no air conditioning, the animal should have a temperature-controlled cage that protects it from overheating. Care guides for them suggest that an aquarium-type cage or enclosure be temperature controlled between 68° to 77°F (20° to 25°C) because gerbils can become dehydrated at higher temperatures.

Both can be lifted gently so as not to bite. However, the hamster is a little more prone to biting. This can occur if the animal is suddenly startled or if it is suddenly awakened from a deep sleep.

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Hamsters and gerbils have the same average life expectancy, about three years. Different varieties may have a slightly longer shelf life. Some can live up to seven years, although this is uncommon.

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