The Pros and Cons of Having Gerbils as Pets! – Should You Get One?

Hi, my name’s Irena and I’m here to talk to you about gerbils. I had two when I was a kid and they were great little pets and taught me how to look after animals before I progressed onto cats and dogs.

Even though I don’t have any now, I certainly wouldn’t mind adopting a couple again.

Gerbils are great additions to the family. Not only are they cute, but they are also able to establish strong relationships with their owners.

Yes, they come with responsibilities but so do all animals. You have to be prepared to spend time with them otherwise there’s no point in having them.

You also have to realize that even though they are small, there is some cost involved in owning them, for example, you will have to invest in a cage for them and buy bedding and food, not to mention possible vet bills.

Pros of Having Gerbils as Pets

Small rodentAll gerbils have their own personalities and you will come to realize that as you get to know them. The more time you spend with them the friendlier they will become with you.

My two gerbils loved human interaction and were keen to have a cuddle and spend time with me. Their names were Katie and Daphne, why I don’t know, but I was only eight when I got them!

Another great pro for getting a gerbil is the fact that they don’t cost as much to keep as cats or dogs.

Yes, you will have to fork out initially as they will need a cage, preferably a large one, lots of bedding, a water bottle, a wheel as they love to exercise and a food bowl.

However you are looking at $50 dollars a year for food and $200 dollars a year for bedding and litter. It’s much cheaper than keeping a cat or a dog.

Gerbils are small so they are a manageable size for the hands of children. I know that I found it very easy to hold my gerbils and after they had got used to being handled, they loved the human contact.

They are gentle and not prone to bite like other rodents, for example hamsters or mice. Unlike rats and mice they have furry tails which is a bonus as it makes them seem that much cuter.

Gerbils don’t drink as much as other rodents do because they originate from a dry environment. This means that they don’t have that typical rodent smell.

They also don’t create as much waste as other rodents, so cleaning their cage is so much easier and doesn’t have to be done as often. You might not even have to do this for 2 weeks at a time.

Gerbils are not nocturnal like a lot of other rodents so they have sleep and wake cycles all day.

This is great if you have kids as they will be able to see them play and they will be able to interact with them. You definitely need to give them a wheel as gerbils are very active creatures.

More Pros of Having Gerbils as Pets

RodentWhen it comes to getting them bedding material, you have lots of choices and none will put you out of pocket.

One of the best things about gerbils is that they love to burrow and it’s lots of fun watching them do this.

However, you must make sure that they have the right bedding material. Peat and straw are amongst the best bedding materials out there. Your gerbils will be able to make fantastic nesting chambers.

You can use cat litter as bedding because it absorbs odors, but it can harden which makes it difficult for your gerbils to burrow.

Gerbils can burrow and create chambers in sawdust, but because it is a fine material they can get eye and nose irritations.

However it is very cheap as is sand which is another option. The advantage with sand is that it keeps their coats glossy.

What is a great idea is to combine two types of bedding. Perhaps your gerbils can have some sand to have a dust bath in and then also wood shavings for them to burrow in.

This creates a great scenario for your kids to watch their pets in action.

Check out our article on what is the best bedding for gerbils to burrow

Once you have got your gerbils used to you, then it’s time to give them a little freedom and let them run around the room and interact with you.

Just make sure that there aren’t too many nooks and crannies where they can hide out. My two were fine with a little run around the room.

Once they’re used to running about they will come back to you when they’ve had a good look around the room.

Cons of Having Gerbils as Pets

Small rodentThere’s a lot to be said about having gerbils as pets but there are a few cons as well. The first thing is that they need daily care.

You can’t just leave them to do their own thing for days on end. They will need to be fed every day and have their water bottle refilled when it runs out.

They also have to have their bedding changed frequently. All this has to be done whatever the weather and whatever other commitments you have as you are responsible for these animals and their welfare.

You will also have to spend time with them and socialize them. There’s no point having pets if you ignore them.

Gerbils can become very social creatures if given the chance and you will benefit from the connection between you.

Unfortunately, the lifespan of gerbils is only between 2 and 4 years so you will have to accept that you are going to lose them much sooner than you would like.

This will be very difficult for your children, but it is probably a good life lesson for them. Perhaps give the gerbil a proper burial and in time buy another one for your children.

Gerbils are sociable animals and they fare better with another of their kind so that will put costs up a little if you do buy two.

However, it is better for the gerbils and also a little more fun for you to watch them interact.

If you do decide to buy two gerbils, buy two of the same sex as you don’t want to be inundated with gerbils unless you are a breeder.

The younger two gerbils are introduced to each other, the better, otherwise they might fight. Getting two siblings is a good idea.

My two were sisters and they got on like a house on fire. However, you shouldn’t have more than two gerbils together otherwise territorial fighting might start.

More Cons of Having Gerbils as Pets

RodentAnother con with gerbils is that they are nervous creatures until they get to know you. You will need to have an escape proof cage for them otherwise they might go missing.

Yes, eventually you will want to let them out for runs, but not until they really feel secure in your company.

Gerbils do have poor eyesight so you will have to be extra careful about their safety when they are outside their cages.

They could get into all sorts of trouble and you don’t want that. Just make sure that you keep an eye on them when they are running around the room.

One thing to be remembered when you get a gerbil is not to pick it up by its tail. Unlike mice, their tails are designed to break off and you obviously don’t want to inflict this onto your gerbil as it is painful.

This all goes back to their ancestry in the wild where their tails broke off if they were caught by predators. If a larger creature caught them by their tail, they would be able to run away and survive.

Gerbils are rodents so they love to gnaw and bite. They originated in Mongolia where it is very cold so they are used to making large nests to keep warm.

You will have to keep this in mind and give them plenty of bedding material. In addition you will have to be careful in selecting the type of cage they have.

Only glass and metal are suitable. If you get them a wooden cage they are likely to gnaw their way out. Don’t buy plastic water bottles or food bowls as they may chew these as well.

When your gerbils are outside their cages, you will need to supervise them as they may start chewing your furniture.

I have that problem now with one of my dogs but there you go. Nothing is perfect when you have animals but the joy you get from their companionship is worth it.

Final Thoughts 

A rodent

I think I have shown you that gerbils make great pets; in fact I think they are one of the best rodents you can get.

They are friendly once you get to know them, they are entertaining and they don’t cost too much to keep.

They are a great choice if you have children and want to teach them how to look after animals.

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