Do Gerbils Make Good Pets? - Pros and Cons of Owning a Gerbil

Gerbils also are more affectionate and friendlier than other types of pet rodents.Do gerbils make good pets? Read the entire article for the pros and cons of keeping gerbils as pets. Find out what you need to know before getting gerbils.

For animal lovers, choosing a pet can be challenging, especially when you don’t know much about the animal in question. This can be even more daunting when you pick pets for your kids.

One pet animal that is always in many people’s minds and especially parents who want to acquire a family pet is the gerbil. Owning this great pet comes with many good things along with a share of downsides that we think you should know about in case you are serious about acquiring a gerbil. 

In this guide, you will learn about the pros and cons of keeping a gerbil as a pet. Read this guide to the end to decide whether this pet is the right one for you or your kids.

What Is A Gerbil?

Gerbils are small rodents that are adapted to arid habitats. They are small, gentle, and curious animals that make great family pets. The average lifespan of gerbils is between 2 to 5 years. The most common gerbil species that are kept as a pet are the Mongolian species (Meriones unguiculatus) which are both hardy and gentle.

Aren't they little cuties?

Either you love them already or you need a bit more info about these adorable rodents before acquiring them, below is a list of the things you need to know.

PROS Of Owning Gerbils

Further, we have highlighted a few of the reasons why gerbils are great pets.

Gerbils Are Affectionate Pets

Gerbils are gentle, highly sociable, and great companions for anyone who wants a pet. These small rodents are also some of the best pets for children because they rarely, if ever, bite.

Gerbils also are more affectionate and friendlier than other types of pet rodents. They typically enjoy short cuddles and many times like to be held and petted. Still, you have to keep in mind that like most rodents, gerbils are highly energetic and don't like to be held for too much.

As long as you are good at understanding animals' needs and acting to fulfill them, I can assure you that you will perfectly bond with gerbils.

Cheap To Acquire And Care For

The upkeep for gerbils is more budget-friendly than that of other pets commonly kept in homes. First, acquiring a gerbil will not cost you more than $50 from a professional breeder or pet shop.

Feeding and caring for gerbils is generally inexpensive as well. Gerbils also do not require high-end grooming products like other pets.

With this said, you should be on the lookout for additional costs that come in acquiring toys, beddings, and exercise wheels for these pets.

Don't Require Too Much Attention

As long you keep your gerbils in pairs and they have enough space to play, these tiny rodents won’t even realize when you are not around.

This simply means that little attention is required to maintain and these pets. A mini weekend holiday will not make these pets miss you so much, as long as their basic needs are fulfilled.

However, this does not mean that you have to lock these animals in a cage and give them only food and food, without paying any attention to them.

Don't Have Too Many Health Issues

Compared to other pets, gerbils are not known to have many health problems. In general, if properly cared for, these animals will not require a visit to the vet too often.

To avoid getting an already sick animal, we recommend you to only purchase your gerbils only from reputable breeders and pet stores. It is also a good idea to have your gerbil examined within 48 hours of the acquisition by a vet that is familiar with these type of pets.

Don't Produce Too Much Waste

Unlike other rodents such as hamsters, or guinea pigs, gerbils make less waste, meaning that you don’t have to clean their cages every other day. Also, gerbils don’t have the characteristic rodents smell, meaning that they will not cause any foul smell when kept indoors as long as you keep their enclosure clean.

If you only own one or two gerbils in a cage that is spacious enough, a weekly cleaning schedule might be enough to keep the cage tidy and odorless.

They also like to dig in the bedding and if you keep them in a cage, they will oftentimes throw some of it outside of the cage, making quite some mess around it.

Are Not Very Noisy

Gerbils are generally silent animals and even though they can squeak in certain situations, they only rarely make enough noise to be disturbing.

Although many say that gerbils are diurnal animals, they are in fact about equally active during the day and night.

Compared to hamsters, which are nocturnal, and which can produce quite some noise during the night when they chew things, play, or travel their bedding, gerbils do not make that much noise because they sleep a good part of the night.

Many times, the domestic gerbil will adapt to our life cycle. It will be active when we are or when he has something to see and will rest at night when the surroundings are quiet and calm.

However, even though they are generally quiet, the rustle they make can sometimes become annoying, especially when kept in bedrooms.

Gerbils Are Active Animals

Gerbils are creatures that like to display themselves, compared to other kinds of rodents, which tend to hide under bedding at the slightest noise.

Also, the fact that they are active both during the day and part of the night, will allow you to enjoy them more, without having to disturb their sleep whenever you want to pay attention to them.

CONS Of Owning Gerbils

Now over to the other side, let’s have a look at the downsides of keeping gerbils as pets.

Gerbils Need A Lot Of Exercises

These are not the kind of pet you will lock in a cage for a whole day. They are energetic little rodents and when they are not eating or sleeping they always enjoy a bit of exercise. Hence, it would be best if you let your gerbils run around the house for at least an hour or two every day when you have some free time to supervise them.

This means that you will need to have extra free space in your house that you don’t mind getting messy. It's advisable to let them run in a room where don't have too many places to hide, or where they can't do too much damage to the objects around them. Just like all rodents, gerbils like to chew things.

If you don't have adequate space to let them out, you will have to construct a gerbil run or spend a bit of money on a playpen. They love to play with ball toys, run through tunnels, climb ladders, or run on wheels.

They Like To Hide And Burrow

One thing is clear, gerbils like to dig and hide in all sorts of places. If you want to keep gerbils happy, you must allow them to effortlessly do what they love doing; burrowing.

In the lack of enough bedding material, tunnels, wooden hideouts, or any places to take refuge, gerbils can become anxious and stressed out.

They Tove To Chew Things

If you had other rodents as pets, it should come as no surprise to you that gerbils like to chew.

Gerbils' teeth grow continuously and they have to chew something to prevent them from growing too much. 

You have to be very careful when you leave the gerbils out of their cage because they can gnaw from threads to furniture. This habit can, however, be reduced by chew toys that you can buy and add to the cage. This may increase the overall cost of keeping these pets.

Gerbils Don't Like Solitude

A solely living gerbil can be inactive and easily depressed. They are usually sociable animals and love to have play partners. This is why you should never get only a gerbil.

Baby Gerbils
Dawson (talk)CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Two gerbils of the same gender will many times get along, and fighting is quite rare, but not excluded. When gerbils fight they do it quite aggressively and sometimes the battle will end with severe wounds or even with the death of one of the opponents.

Owning gerbils in pairs is the best approach. However, getting a male and a female may result in getting a lot of tiny baby gerbils in your house.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you now know what you should expect from a gerbil as a pet and what are some of the pros and cons of owning this type of pet.

Overall, the gerbil is a great family pet when you are ready to cater to all their needs. If you are still stuck to decide whether this is the right pet to acquire, you should try pet-sitting a neighbor’s gerbil probably when they are out for a holiday to see how you bond with the animal.

You can also volunteer at a local adoption center to have an idea of what keeping this pet is like.