Hamster vs Gerbil as Pets

what's the difference between Hamster and GerbilGerbils and hamsters belong to the rodent family. They are unique, friendly and sensitive animals as pets. Apparently, both of these animals look the same.

Gerbils and hamsters also have the same average lifespan of 2-3 years. Recent studies have shown there are some differences in them.

Not all of the people looking for a rodent as a pet are aware of the differences among them. Such things can lead you towards a wrong decision about getting the right pet.

In this article, we will highlight all the major differences in them. At the end of the article, you will be able to judge that which one is the best pet for you.


Following are the major physical differences between gerbils and hamsters


Gerbils have longer tails as compared to hamsters. It is also one of the most visible differences that you will notice.

Gerbil’s tail can grow to 4 inches long equal to the size of the rest of his body. The tail is fury and not hairless with a minor tuft at the tip.

Hamsters, on the other hand, possess a tail that is short and thick. Chinese hamsters have tails longer than other hamsters but it is still shorter than the gerbil’s tail.

Body size

Hamsters have few variations depending upon their body size. Syrian hamsters can grow up to 6 inches while dwarf hamsters can have a body length of 2-4 inches.

There is only one breed of the gerbil and that is Mongolian. They have an identical body size of 4 inches with the same length tail.

According to size, gerbils are ranked in between dwarf and Syrian hamsters. Hamsters can turn into round fluffy balls while gerbil’s body is streamlined.


Gerbil’s face is more like a mouse, lean and is longer than a hamster’s face. Gerbil’s nose is not as long as a hamster’s. Hamsters have faces that are round and wide. This feature gives them a chubby look.


Gerbils have legs that are more powerful. Their feet are larger and they have a more enhanced capacity of jumping as compared to hamsters. A hamster too can stand on his hind legs. It does not hope around that much as gerbils.


Hamsters are nocturnal animals. They are most active during the night time and sleep during the day. It will keep playing on the exercise wheel and other toys during the night.

Gerbils are day pets. They sleep peacefully during the night and are active during the day. You can keep their cage in your bedroom or living room as he will not disturb you during the sleeping hours.

A gerbil will not also disturb the sleeping pattern of your children. Hamsters are ideal pets for people who stay up during the dark.

Social Habits

Gerbils are social animals. They can do very well with other gerbils in a cage. They can socialize not only with you but with other gerbils as well.

Keeping the opposite sec gerbils in the same cage will very soon lead to a family of gerbils. Hamsters, on the other hand, are solitary animals. Presence of other hamsters in the cage makes them aggressive and stressed.

Gerbils are friendlier as compared to hamsters. They very rarely bite, even if you wake them up during their sleep.

On the contrary, hamsters are aggressive in this regard too, they will not hesitate to give you a good powerful bite on your hand in case you wake them up or make them too excited.


When it comes to the cage, size does not matter much. However, gerbils need a cage that has more depth.

They like to burrow deeper as compared to hamsters and have an unusually strong tunneling instinct. This instinct gets more powerful when they are in a cage.


Gerbils are desert animals. They can take their water from the diet they consume. They also excrete less and hence cleaning their cage is less difficult.

Hamsters, on the other hand, require more cage cleaning. Gerbils do not stink badly as compared to hamsters.

The ideal temperature for gerbils and hamsters is 65 to 75°F with low humidity of about 30 to 50%. Both of them should be kept away from direct sunlight.


There are no particular differences when it comes to diet patterns of gerbil and hamsters. Both need processed food along with fresh fruits and vegetables. As gerbils are desert animals, they need less water to survive.


Both gerbils and hamsters are unique pets and have different characteristics. We are sure that after reading our article, you will not make any mistake regarding the pet you need. If you like both of them, do not keep them in the same cage as hamster will get aggressive and fight with gerbil all the time.

Veronica Jones

My name is Veronica Jones, owner and the writer of VetGuru. For as long as I can remember I have had pets! I have had so many pets during my lifetime, and many more to come I hope. For the most part, I will be writing about dogs and cats, but I also have experience with other pets as well.

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