Gerbils are rather unusual pets, compared to cats, dogs, or fish. But they have become quite popular within the last few years. They are adorable little balls of fur with friendly personalities, and it’s always fun to watch them dig around, build tunnels, and interact with each other.
As a whole, gerbils can be excellent pets for beginners, as long as the owner is committed to taking care of the gerbils. Gerbils are rather sturdy, low-maintenance rodents that can become very tame.
Even though gerbils can make great pets, they are not the perfect fit for every person, who is looking for a pet.
Before getting a gerbil for you, or your children, you might want to consider a few pros and cons that can help you with that decision.
Pros of Keeping Gerbils as Pets
Let’s have a look at all the positive aspects of keeping gerbils as pets.
Compared to other pets, gerbils are rather low-maintenance pets. The daily chores are easily manageable and only include feeding, exchanging the water, and sieving out the poop from the sand bath. The cage does not need to be deep-cleaned for up to 3 months.
Not too Costly
The main costs for gerbils are the initial cost of the cage set-up, and the veterinarian bills, if your gerbils get sick or injured.
The initial cost includes the cage with all the equipment such as a bowl as a sand bath, a wheel, a water bottle or water bowl, sand, bedding, food, and some wooden toys or structures. And of course the gerbils themselves and the transport box that you need to pick them up.
Other than that, the ongoing cost only includes food, bedding, and some toys every now and then.
Even though it still sounds like a bigger investment, gerbils are definitively low-cost pets compared to cats or dogs.
Don´t Need Much Space
Gerbils do need a rather big tank to be able to dig deep and build tunnels. But they can stay inside of that enclosure and you don’t necessarily have to let them roam free. It is possible to let them run free in a closed room without any possibilities to escape, but this activity is optional. If they make a mess, it’s only inside of the cage or around it.
They Don´t Smell Bad
Gerbils are very clean animals. They spend a lot of time every day cleaning themselves and taking sand baths. As long as you keep the sand bath aka toilet clean, the cage won’t start to smell.
Gerbils are not noisy. They don’t communicate with loud sounds. The only sounds you might hear are quite squeaks or the gerbils rustling through the bedding.
Very Cute and Fun to Watch
Gerbils are definitively super cute and fun to watch. They have such an adorable appearance and are very active. They are always awake for a few hours and go back to sleep for around the same amount of time they were awake. Unlike other rodents, they are not nocturnal and can be watched during the day.
The cute little furballs are very friendly animals. Even though they might be very shy in the beginning, they will get used to you quickly. Gerbils are curious by nature and they will want to get to know you.
But it’s important to know that gerbils usually live in pairs and are very protective of their little families. It is not possible to introduce a single gerbil to an existing couple. The couple will aggressively fight against the intruder and you will have to separate them to prevent injuries.
Can be Tamed
Gerbils are not cuddly animals, but they can be tamed and it is possible to hold them in the hand. I personally made the experience, that they tolerate being handled, but they don’t enjoy it very much. They prefer being on the ground, instead of being carried around.
Cons of Keeping Gerbils
Now that we have gone through all the pros, it’s time to have a look at the cons of keeping gerbils as pets.
These mammals are very small. Their size makes it easier for them to escape through tiny holes, or slip through the fingers and fall to the ground. It is not necessarily a disadvantage, but it can be.
Gerbils have a life expectancy of around three to four years. This is a long lifetime for a rodent. But for the owner, and especially for kids, it can be extremely sad, if a dear pet dies after such a short period of time, but still enough time to get seriously attached.
Not for Young Kids
Even though gerbils are super cute and kids will adore them, they are not pets for young children. They might come with low maintenance, but the kid has to be old enough to properly care for the pets. If you want to buy gerbils for your kids, you should know that you will have to supervise them and make sure that they follow the daily routine with the chores.
Gerbils can bite. They are normally very friendly and non-aggressive, but if they feel threatened, they will bite you. And after experiencing a few gerbil bites, I can say: It really hurts.
Have to Be Kept at Least in Pairs
Keeping a single gerbil is not an option. If you choose to keep gerbils, you will have to acquire a pair. And two animals always need more attention, maintenance, and food than one.
They Can Make a Mess
Gerbils love to dig around. And when they do so, bedding can fly all over the place. Even though the enclosure might be closed off with a wired lid or something similar, you might experience some bedding pieces around the cage.
They might seem like super cuddly pets, but in fact, they are not. They will tolerate being handled and might come to you and interact with you. But other than rats or mice, it is very unlikely that a gerbil wants to cuddle with you. I am sure there are exceptions to this rule, and there are gerbils that do love to cuddle with the owner, but in my experience, gerbils are not very cuddly.
The Vet Can be Expensive
Even though the daily routines only require a small budget, the bills from the veterinarian can be rather high. If your gerbils experience any injury or sickness, you should take your pet to the vet. And a vet is not cheap.
Lisa is one of the two founders of Animal-Knowledge. She has been very interested in animals and insects from a very young age and has owned different kinds of pets such as snails, ants, fish, turtles, mice, rats, hamsters, rabbits, a dog, … you get the idea 🙂