Hamster Vs. Gerbil: Which Is A Better Pet For You?

Choosing between a hamster and a gerbil can be a tough decision, especially when you are not sure about the factors you should be considering to pick the right one. I have gone through the tough decision, so today I have decided to help you out in choosing one.

Both hamsters and gerbils make an excellent pet but if you have a limited space, budget and you want a solitary pet then you must pick a hamster. While hamsters can be kept alone, gerbils need to be kept in pairs or more. Each one of them has its own pros and cons, considering a few of the important factors.

There are a lot of factors that you need to keep in mind before getting a pet for yourself. To simplify the process for you, I would request you to decide on at least five-six significant factors that matter to you. This will help you choose the right pet in no time.

Even if you are unsure about the factors, I can help you choose the right one. Stay with me till the end and I can ensure you would be clear with your thoughts.

Hamster Vs. Gerbil – Which Is A Better Pet For Your Home?

Now, let us begin by understanding the difference between Hamsters and gerbils. We shall compare both the pets on the basis of various factors that one must consider while choosing a perfect pet for themselves.


Hamsters were first found in Syria. After a few years, they were also seen in Belgium, Northern China, Greece, and Romania. Now they have become one of the most popular and loved pets all across the world.

Gerbils are first known to be found in Mongolia, later they were found in the Middle East, Africa, and other parts of Asia. They were introduced as ‘pets’ much later in North America.

Species Family

Hamsters belong to Class Mammalia, Order Rodent, and Family Cricetidae.

Gerbils belong to Class Mammalia, Order Rodent, and Family Muridae.

Variety (Breed)

24 main species of Hamsters has been recognized till date. Officially they have been classified into 18 species only. However, there is more variation available due to breeding multiple styles of coat.

Till now, 87 different species of gerbils have been recognized. However, only two of them (Mongolian gerbils and fat-tailed gerbils) are commonly kept as pets.


Weight of each Hamster depends upon its breed and gender. On an average, an adult Hamster can weigh anywhere between 25-60 grams. Baby Hamsters can weigh as low as 1.2 grams.

The average weight of a gerbil can be anywhere between 40-60 grams. Weight of gerbils majorly depends upon their breed and gender.


A healthy Hamster can survive up to 3 years. However, on an average, most Hamsters live up to 2 years only. The longest living Hamster had known to survive for over 4.5 years.

The average lifespan of a gerbil is somewhere between 2-3 years. It depends upon their breed, the attention they receive, and several other factors. The oldest gerbil has lived for over 8 years and 4 months.


Hamsters vary in size, depending upon their breed. The European breed can grow as large as 13.4 inches (34 cm) long. The dwarf hamsters are about 2 to 4 inches (5.5 to 10.5 cm) long and the Syrian hamster, also known as the Golden Hamster, is typically about 6 inches (15.24 cm) long.

Gerbils can grow up to 10-20 centimeters in length, depending upon the breed. While smaller species can be as little as 10 centimeters, larger species can grow up to 20 centimeters in length.

Herbivore or Omnivore(Classification)

Hamsters are omnivores therefore they love to eat both plants and animals (mostly insects). Some of them love to munch nuts, fresh veggies, and fruits, while others prefer small insects, lizards, etc.

Just like Hamsters, gerbils are omnivores as well. They too love to much both on plants as well as animals.


Hamsters tend to have about 2-3 litters per year. The gestation period of a female hamster lasts about 15-20 days, and they can give birth to up to 6-8 pups in a litter.

Female gerbils gestate for about 24 days. They can have up to have 8-10 litters per year. They are matured once they are four weeks old and can give birth to up to 1-8 pups in a litter.


Hamsters are clean animals. You can easily get away by cleaning their cage once in 15-20 days. You can spot clean the cage once in a while.

Gerbils are clean animals too. However, they may need your help once in a while if they are sick or old. During the day, they spend a lot of time cleaning themselves.


Hamsters rarely smell. However, their urine can sometimes be really foul. Also, you must build a habit of cleaning your hamster’s cage at least once in 15-20 days or it can prove to be a problem in the long run.

Just like Hamsters, most gerbils do not smell. There is a very slight chance that you will find a gerbil smelling. However, if you do not maintain their enclosure or living area properly, then it might start to smell.

High/Low Maintenance

Hamsters are fairly low maintenance. They are not that hard to look after, they do not need company. They are cheerful even when left alone.

Gerbils are even more low maintenance pets in comparison to Hamsters. They do not have any need in particular.


Hamsters are perfect for school-aged children. However, they must not be given to children younger than 5 years.

Just like Hamsters, gerbils make excellent pet for children. They are quite entertaining and fun to watch for kids.


Hamsters are nocturnal, which means that they remain active throughout the night and mostly sleep during the day.

Although gerbils are considered as nocturnal, they do not follow this behavior strictly. They do not have a set routine. Sometimes, you will see them playing actively throughout the day and night. Other days you will see them taking short naps.


An ideal cage size for a Hamster would be a 30-40 gallon tank or say a cage of 24 inches by 12 inches, and at least 12 inches tall. The bigger the cage, the better.

As gerbils are kept in pairs or more, a 30 gallon tank would be perfect for two gerbils. However, the bigger the cage, the better.


Hamsters are better of alone because they are solitary animals. You should never keep more than one Hamster in a single enclosure. They may even fight themselves to death.

Gerbils are social animals. They should always be kept in pairs or more. A gerbil can get lonely and depressed if left alone. If you are planning to get yourself a gerbil, you better be prepared for at least a pair.


Hamsters are most active at night. Their exercise wheel may disturb you a lot. Therefore, it is advised not to keep your Hamster’s cage in the room you sleep.

Gerbils can be quite vocal when living in pairs or groups. They are active throughout the day and night, which can be quite irritating for some owners.


Although Hamsters may bite due to fear, but it is very rare. Sometimes, bite can cause serious pain and bleeding. You may need some antibiotics and a tetanus shot after a bite.

Gerbils do not bite until they have a strong reason to do so. They bite only when they are scared or when you are handling them real bad.


Hamsters can get quite aggressive when kept in pairs or more. In no condition, you should house more than one Hamster in an enclosure. Otherwise, they are usually submissive in nature. They are quite jolly, playful and fun to watch.

Gerbils will get depressed when kept alone. Unlike Hamsters, they need company. When kept in groups, gerbils prove to be quite playful and friendly pets.


Hamsters generally prefer to live alone, therefore it can be tough to tame them. They’re quite violent and sometimes bite their owners, but you can train them to stop.

Gerbils make good companions because of their personality and ease of maintenance. They are indeed simple to tame. They are not  likely to bite as well, unless they feel threatened.


Hamsters normally shed with seasonal or temperature changes. During summer and spring, you will find that their fur is getting thin, and this is quite normal in most Hamster breeds.

In contrast to Hamsters, gerbils shed less. They are light to medium shedders. In the spring, they begin to shed more. However, most of the time, their shedding is minimal.

Cost To Buy

Hamsters usually cost less than $20 to buy. They are mostly available in pet stores and with breeders as well.

Gerbils can cost anywhere between 5-10$, depending upon their breed. You can get yourself a pair within 20$. You can get yourself one from a pet store, rescue center or a breeder.

Cost To Keep Up

A decent Hamster cage would cost you approximately $60 dollars.. It will cost between $30-60 for the initial bedding, food, and cage supplies. It can cost up to $600 for the whole month.

The initial setup(including the cage, food, hiding, bedding, etc.) for a pair or gerbils can be around 100-200$. The average annual cost can go up to 150$. It also depends upon the quality and brand of food, litter, etc. you use.

Vet Cost

Hamsters should be taken to vet at least once a year. This visit can cost up to 30-40$, depending upon where you live. In general, Hamsters do not need vaccines.

Just like Hamsters, it is recommended to take gerbils to the vet once every year. The visit can cost anywhere above 60-70$, depending upon where you live.


Hamster Vs. Gerbil: Which is a better pet for you? Hamsters and gerbils both make for an excellent pet.

Hamsters can be kept alone and need a short term commitment. On the other hand, gerbils needs company and also comparatively longer commitment.

Both animals have their own advantages and disadvantages. You can consult your family and friends before choosing between the two. Always go for the one that makes you happy.

However, personally, I would any day go for a Hamster if you ask me to pick between them.


Hello, I am Mohini, the founder of this blog. I am a qualified Animal Nutrition. I am here to help everyone understand their pets better.

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