If you’re considering a pint-size furry friend as a pet, you’ve probably come across gerbils and hamsters. These adorable critters may seem similar at first glance, but they have their own unique characteristics. In this article, we’ll delve into the differences between gerbils and hamsters to help you make an informed decision about which pet is the best fit for your home and lifestyle.
When it comes to physical appearances, both gerbils and hamsters are undeniably cute and cuddly. However, there are some notable differences between the two. Hamsters have a stout body with a short tail, short snout, and short, stocky legs. They have a charming waddle when they walk on their wide feet.
On the other hand, gerbils are longer in size compared to hamsters. They have long, pointed noses similar to rats, long hind legs, and longer tails. One interesting feature of hamsters is their roomy internal cheek pouches, which they use to store food in their underground storage chambers.
Size is an important consideration, especially if you have small children. Gerbils typically grow to be around 5-6 inches long (not including their 3-4 inch tail) and weigh 2-4 ounces as adults. Hamsters, on the other hand, come in various sizes, ranging from dwarfs at 2-4 inches long to Syrian hamsters, which average 5-7 inches in length and weigh 4-8 ounces.
Both gerbils and hamsters come in a wide variety of colors. Hamsters can have short or long hair with a range of colors, textures, and patterns. From white to cinnamon, brown to gray, and even black, their fur can exhibit different shades. Some hamsters may have a satin sheen or wavy hair, while others have distinctive markings on their backs or bellies. There is even a hairless variety for those who prefer a unique look.
Gerbils, on the other hand, boast soft and dense coats with a wide spectrum of colors and combinations. With about 40 to 50 possible colors, you can find gerbils in shades of gray, tan, brown, and reddish brown, often with white or gray “underpants.” Some gerbil species have dark markings on their heads, while others have patches of white or buff fur behind their ears.
Personality plays a crucial role when choosing a pet. Gerbils are known for being intelligent, inquisitive, and active. They take a genuine interest in people, observing and adapting to household routines. They require daily interaction, handling, and love being held. Gerbils entertain themselves by digging, gnawing, and nesting with provided materials. However, it’s important to keep an eye on them when they are out of their tanks, as they are skilled climbers and jumpers.
Hamsters, on the other hand, are primarily nocturnal and prefer to sleep during the day. They are more independent in nature. Hamsters enjoy constructing burrows, complete with chambers for nesting and storing food. While some hamsters can recognize their owner’s voice and interact with them, they may be grumpy if startled or woken up prematurely. Syrians, in particular, are more interactive and seek human attention, making them great for short cuddle sessions.
Watch Those Teeth!
There’s a common misconception that gerbils and hamsters are prone to biting. However, with proper handling and socialization, both pets are generally gentle. Hamsters may nibble if they detect a tasty scent on your hands, so it’s recommended to wash your hands before handling them. Gerbils, when raised properly, rarely bite or nip.
Playing Well With Others
Another significant difference between gerbils and hamsters is their sociability. Hamsters are mostly solitary and territorial, often fighting with other hamsters. Dwarf hamsters, however, can live together if raised together from a young age, as long as they have enough space and resources for interaction and alone time.
Gerbils, on the other hand, are social animals and prefer living in pairs or groups. Even numbers work best for them. They thrive on companionship and enjoy the company of their fellow gerbils.
Both gerbils and hamsters require similar care. They need a clean and well-ventilated cage with a solid base, plenty of bedding for burrowing, a water bottle, chew toys, and an exercise wheel. An 8-inch wheel is recommended for gerbils and hamsters to get adequate exercise.
Gerbils prefer a minimum of 5 gallons of aquarium tank space covered with a mesh lid per gerbil. This helps prevent them from chewing through their surroundings. Cleaning the tank every two weeks is usually sufficient due to their minimal urine production and small, hard pellets. Hamsters, on the other hand, require at least 3 feet of unbroken floor space in their cage, and a full clean-out is recommended every 4 to 5 weeks.
Both gerbils and hamsters have specific nutritional needs. Hamsters require a diet containing 18 to 23 percent protein. Additionally, they can enjoy chicken or eggs as occasional treats. Gerbils, on the other hand, thrive on a mix of grain types with a recommended protein content of 14 to 15 percent. Some gerbil owners also supplement their pets’ diets with crickets and mealworms.
Unfortunately, gerbils and hamsters have relatively short lifespans. On average, hamsters live for around 2 years, while gerbils can live up to 3 years. While some individuals may exceed these averages, it’s important to cherish the time you have with your furry friend.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can gerbils and hamsters live together?
A: Gerbils are social animals and can live together in pairs or groups. Hamsters, on the other hand, are generally solitary and territorial, so it’s best to keep them separate.
Q: How often should I clean the cage?
A: For gerbils, cleaning the tank every two weeks is usually sufficient. Hamster cages should be cleaned every 4 to 5 weeks.
Q: Can hamsters and gerbils be trained?
A: Hamsters and gerbils can be trained to some extent, but it requires patience and consistency. They are intelligent and can learn basic tricks and commands.
Q: Which pet is better for households with small children?
A: Larger pets, such as gerbils, are generally easier for small children to handle safely due to their size.
Choosing between a gerbil and a hamster ultimately depends on your preferences and lifestyle. Gerbils are social, active, and intelligent pets that require daily interaction and companionship. Hamsters are more independent and nocturnal, making them better suited for those who prefer to observe their pets during the evening hours. Regardless of your choice, providing a clean and stimulating environment will ensure a rewarding experience with your furry friend.
For more information on gerbils, hamsters, and other fantastic pet options, visit Mousy Designs to explore their range of quality pet supplies and accessories.