July 11, 2024

Gerbil vs Hamster: Which Pet is Right for You?

When deciding between a gerbil or a hamster as a pet, it's crucial to understand their unique characteristics, behaviors, and care requirements. Both can be charming companions, but they have distinct differences that might make one more suitable for your lifestyle than the other.

Physical and Behavioral Differences


Gerbils have long tails that are usually covered in fur, sleek bodies, and pointy snouts. In contrast, hamsters possess short, stumpy tails, rounder bodies, and chubby cheeks. Gerbils often have larger ears and softer fur, whereas hamsters vary widely in fur texture and color.

Activity Levels

Gerbils are diurnal, meaning they are more active during the day. They are energetic and curious, often requiring an escape-proof enclosure due to their tendency to jump. Hamsters, on the other hand, are nocturnal and prefer to be active during the night, making them less interactive during daylight hours.

Social Needs

Gerbils are social animals and thrive in same-sex pairs or groups. They enjoy the company and interaction with other gerbils. Hamsters are typically solitary and prefer to live alone to avoid territorial aggression.

"Gerbil - pregnant Spotted Agouti" by benmckune is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/.

Care and Maintenance

Diet and Nutrition

Both gerbils and hamsters require a balanced diet consisting of pellets, seed blends, fresh greens, and vegetables. Supplementing their diet with occasional treats can help keep them healthy and happy.


Gerbils need spacious glass tanks that allow for ample digging and burrowing, as they are less likely to chew through these materials. Hamsters can live comfortably in bin cages or appropriately sized enclosures that provide room for exploration and burrowing.


Gerbils generally have a longer lifespan, averaging between 3-6 years, whereas hamsters live around 1-3 years. However, lifespan can vary based on species and care.

Aspect Gerbil Hamster
Appearance Long tails, sleek bodies, pointy snouts, larger ears, soft fur Short tails, round bodies, chubby cheeks, varied fur texture
Activity Levels Diurnal (active during the day), energetic and curious Nocturnal (active during the night), less interactive during the day
Social Needs Social, thrive in same-sex pairs or groups Typically solitary, prefer to live alone
Diet and Nutrition Balanced diet of pellets, seed blends, fresh greens, and vegetables, with occasional treats
Housing Spacious glass tanks, allows for ample digging and burrowing Bin cages or appropriately sized enclosures, provide room for exploration and burrowing
Lifespan 3-6 years 1-3 years
Taming More interactive, easier to handle Requires more time to build trust
Bonding Communicate through vocalizations, enjoy social play Rely more on scent marking, less outwardly social

Handling and Interaction


Both gerbils and hamsters can be tamed with patience and gentle handling. Gerbils tend to be more interactive and easier to handle, while hamsters may require more time to build trust.


Gerbils communicate through vocalizations and enjoy bonding through social play. Hamsters may rely more on scent marking and individual exploration, making them less outwardly social.

Choosing the Right Pet

The choice between a gerbil or a hamster ultimately depends on personal preference and lifestyle. Consider the animal’s social needs, activity patterns, handling requirements, and space for housing before making a decision.

Proper care and commitment are essential for the well-being of both pets. With the right environment and attention, either a gerbil or a hamster can make a wonderful addition to your family.

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