Gerbils vs. Hamsters: Which Make Better Pets?

Looking for a small pet and cannot decide between a gerbil or a hamster? Here is a gerbil vs hamsters comparison and which is the better pet in our opinion.

Hamsters and gerbils are currently some of the most popular pet options out there. Though they are both rodents and belong to similar families, these two animals are not at all the same.

Hamsters are famous for their short tails, small ears, and stubby legs. They can grow to sizes ranging from 5 cm to 15 cm, and they live up to four years. Gerbils, on the other hand, have smaller bodies and a longer tail. Their full length ranges between 11 cm and 20 cm, and they have a slightly longer lifespan (2-5 years). Some species can live up to seven years.

But the contrasts in size, appearance, and lifespan are not the only differences between these two animals. Read on to find out what exactly separates hamsters and gerbils and which one makes a better pet for you.

Gerbils vs. Hamsters

To reveal the pros and cons of each of these two pet rodents, further, we have created a hamster vs. gerbils comparison by answering some of the most common questions about these two pets in a few key areas.

Do hamsters or gerbils make better pets? Keep reading to find out.

Which One Is More Expensive?

Both hamsters and gerbils are quite inexpensive pets. You need to buy food and substrate, but they can’t eat much, so you won’t spend a lot on that in either case. Additionally, they both require an enclosure, certain toys, wheels, or climbing frames. When you add it all up, though, gerbils are a bit more expensive than hamsters.

Gerbils are social animals. Most gerbil owners and vets would agree that purchasing just one animal would not work. A solitary gerbil would be lethargic, as the lack of interaction with its own species would make it feel lonely. It would play less and be less friendly, as well. Thus, when thinking about getting this pet, you should keep in mind that you need to buy at least two of them.

Additionally, gerbils require a little more food and substrate as well. Substrate refers to the plant-based bedding you put in their enclosure. It is highly absorbent, controls odors, and both animals love to burrow in it. Gerbils are a bit more active, so they need some more of it. It also needs to be changed regularly.

All in all, both pets don’t require too many expenses, but gerbils are a bit more pricey to keep.

Are Hamsters Or Gerbils Better for Children?

When considering which pet to get for your kid, you need to take into account several things. The most important one is the animals’ behavior and needs. You will want something that does not require too much care but makes a great companion to your child. Gerbils and hamsters fit into both of these categories.

Are Hamsters Good Pets For Children?Neither animal requires a lot of care, and they make for playful and fun pets. However, gerbils have a slight edge over hamsters. They are active during the day, while hamsters are more active during dusk and dawn. Since kids generally want to play during the day, gerbils appear to be a better choice as a children's pet. They are especially better for younger kids who go to bed early and might miss the hamster being awake and active completely. 

Gerbils are a little more social than hamsters, but this also varies from animal to animal. Still, both pets can form strong bonds with their owner, so whichever you pick, your child will have a friend to play with.

Which One Is More Playful?

Gerbils are much more active than hamsters. This quality makes them more interesting to watch and to play with. Hamsters are generally more quiet and withdrawn, and would rather lie around and sleep all day. They also like to burrow deep inside their enclosures, so it is sometimes hard to even see them.

Gerbils, on the other hand, love to play and run around their enclosure. They enjoy digging and exploring the space around them. They also love the companionship of their own species. Two or more gerbils together can provide entertainment for the entire family. They will run around their cage and play with each other, which is as cute as it is fun to watch.

When it comes to playing with humans or being petted, gerbils are, again, a more social choice. They are gentle and enjoy interacting with humans. Hamsters are easily spooked and can get nervous, which makes them a bit jumpy when you approach them. Still, if you are gentle and careful, they will enjoy petting just as much as gerbils.

Which One Is More Social?

As we mentioned above, hamsters are more solitary and quiet than gerbils. They do not enjoy the company of other hamsters. In fact, they usually fight with other hamsters, which can get ugly pretty quickly. The reason for this behavior is the fact that hamsters are quite territorial. Thus, they don’t like having other hamsters in their enclosure and will get angry fast.

Gerbils are the complete opposite. We already noted that they don’t like being alone, as it makes them lonely and withdrawn. So, having two or more of these rodents is not only preferable but also necessary. They will play with each other and spend time together, which will make them more happy and lively. When you get your pair of gerbils, though, make sure that they are of the same gender. Otherwise, you will have a small army of gerbil babies quite fast.

Both hamsters and gerbils like humans. Still, since hamsters like to sleep throughout the day, they can be grumpy if you wake them up to play. Gerbils are active at different points of the day and night, so you can spend time or play with them whenever you want. Both animals can get deeply attached to their owners, though, so whichever you pick, you won’t make a mistake.

Do Gerbils or Hamsters Bite More?

Both hamsters and gerbils have recognizable front teeth that are always growing. Though biting on wood or their toys will help reduce the length of the incisors, they will still be quite sharp. Thus, a bite from either animal will be rather painful.

Hamsters tend to bite more often than gerbils. The reason for this behavior is the fact that they get scared easily. Biting is their defense mechanism, so they do it whenever they think they are in danger. They might also bite if you wake them up or take them out of their cage during the day. They value their nap time a lot, so any disturbance will annoy them.

Conversely, gerbils rarely bite. The only instance when they do is if they are truly scared. Still, they aren’t easily spooked, so you shouldn’t worry about that too much. They get annoyed and grumpy less frequently than hamsters, and if they do, they will much rather hide from you than bite you.

Which One Is More Intelligent?

Although their intelligence is quite similar, gerbils have a bit of an advantage over hamsters. Namely, their social intelligence is on a higher level, which allows them to function better in pairs and groups. Gerbils are able to communicate with each other better, and it is all thanks to their intellect.

Gerbils are also a bit more curious about their surroundings than hamsters. They love exploring and being active, while hamsters are more laid back and love relaxing. Still, all of the above varies from animal to animal. Individual hamsters might be more intelligent or curious than certain gerbils. It is all pretty much up to fate.

Are Hamsters or Gerbils Cleaner?

No matter which rodent you opt for, cleaning their cages on a regular basis is a must. They bury their waste in the substrate in their enclosures, so things can get stinky and dirty rather fast. Thus, you will need to clean the cage every few days, no matter which pet you choose.

Do Gerbils Make Much WasteHowever, they do not produce the same amount of waste. Gerbils are desert animals, which means that they don’t produce as much waste as hamsters and other rodents [1]. Thus, their cages can be cleaned two times a week without fear of them getting too dirty. Additionally, their waste does not really have an odor. So, even if you don’t clean the cage for a few days, it won’t get smelly.

Hamsters, on the other hand, aren’t desert animals. They produce more waste, and their waste has a rather specific smell. If you don’t clean their cages two to three times per week, the smell and amount of dirt will become too much. They also love to burrow into the substrate. If there is a lot of waste in it, they will get dirty and smelly too, which will only bring more problems.

All in all, while both animals require regular cleanups, it is easier to keep clean the enclosure of gerbils than that of hamsters.


Both hamsters and gerbils make good pets but as you have read, they differ in many aspects. They have different social habits, physical appearances, and needs. You should select which one you like better based on your preferences and the kind of companionship you want.

Still, it is important to note that everything stated above are generalizations. Each animal is a story for itself, and no one can really predict how a pet will truly behave. A lot of your pet’s behavior also depends on the way you care for it. No matter which rodent you pick, they’ll be your friend and companion as long as you are theirs.

Hope you found this gerbil vs hamster comparison helpful and now you have a better idea of which one of these two rodents would make the best pet for you and your family.

If you are still undecided whether you should get a hamster or a gerbil, take this quiz, and you'll find out which one of these two small rodents is a better fit for you.


  1. The Adaptations of Gerbils