Hamster vs guinea pig vs gerbil

Gerbil vs. Hamster vs. Guinea Pig – How to Choose

Adopting a new pet comes with great responsibilities, no matter its size. However, rodents seem more suitable pets for those with busy lifestyles and can be handled easier provided you offer them a stable environment to live in, just like our recent article suggests. However if you are to become the owner of a bigger pet like a dog or a cat, you should check out some of our reviews on bowls, outdoor flea spray and how to keep pests away in case you wonder about treatments for cats.

Whether we’re talking about mice, rats, gerbils, hamsters, Guinea pigs or chinchillas, rodents are usually referred to as “pocket pets” due to their small size and they are less demanding. They don’t require to be taken out for a walk and they are less prone to diseases and parasites since they mainly live indoors, inside their cages.

Rodents are also more affordable to look after in the long run because they require less grooming products and visits to the vet. They don’t eat too much food either and, most importantly, won’t mind spending at least a few hours of the day on their own, without your strict supervision.

So, if you decided to expand your family by welcoming a rodent, you’ll most likely consider several options. The most common rodents that are kept as pets nowadays include Guinea pigs, hamsters, and gerbils. Each of them has its unique set of characteristics so make sure to carefully read about them before deciding on one animal.

Guinea pigs

Guinea pigs originate from South America and have been domesticated for over 10,000 years. Modern Western societies mainly used Guinea pigs as lab animals because of their similarities to the human body.

Nevertheless, their kind and affectionate personalities transformed them into great companions for people of all ages, and this is reflected in the big number of individuals living in the United States alongside their human owners.

Guinea pigs are medium-sized mammals part of the rodent family and, as such, display certain similarities to other rodents like hamsters, chinchillas or gerbils.

These furry animals are mainly nocturnal so don’t expect to interact with them too much during the day. They also feature large cheek pouches where they can store food, so overfeeding them can easily lead to digestive problems and obesity.

In terms of personality, Guinea pigs are not only adorable to watch but also extremely friendly and easy to tame. They are creatures of habit and enjoy a good routine in every aspect of their lives, including feeding, sleeping, exercising, and petting.

The easiest way to bond with your piggy is to establish a strict routine, especially when it comes to its feeding and grooming hours. It’s best to talk to your vet about the right amount of food to feed your pet daily to avoid any eating disorders or harmful habits.

Another thing to consider is that Guinea pigs are social creatures, meaning they will need a partner in crime to feel complete. The amount of love and care you give to your pet won’t suffice to make them truly happy, so consider adopting a pair or two same-sex individuals.

Out of all rodents and small animals, these make perfect pets for children and people with busy lifestyles. They are affectionate and easy to tame but also independent enough to not require your attention 24/7. We suggest adopting a Guinea pig if you want a warm soul by your side but don’t want to commit to taking it out for a walk every single morning.

Gerbils

One of the smallest rodents in the world, gerbils have increased in popularity in the past decades, becoming great companions for people of all ages and financial possibilities. Strong and resilient, they live a relatively long life for such small animals.

Similar to other breeds in their family, gerbils are mainly nocturnal so they become more active when the sun sets. However, this depends on your pet’s personality as well, meaning it can easily sync with your schedule and adjust its sleeping hours to yours.

An average adult gerbil measures about 6 inches in length, apart from its 3-to-4-inch long tail and doesn’t weigh more than four ounces. They are extremely curious creatures, so you’ll need to satisfy their curiosity and stimulate their minds as much as you can.

Most gerbil owners mention they are intelligent, active, and highly inquisitive. They show a great interest in people and everything surrounding them, meaning they can develop a close relationship with their human owners.

Because they are so small, they need to be kept in special plastic cages or glass terrariums. Wired cages may seem a good option for most rodents, but these ones will easily find a way out and escape through the grates when you’re not paying attention.

Nevertheless, the cage that you pick for your gerbil should be filled with as many toys and accessories as possible to keep its mind busy whenever you’re not around. Think about tubes, chewing toys, huts, and exercise wheels to keep them in shape and active. Since they have so much energy, they need to find new ways to control it.

When it comes to their interaction with humans, gerbils enjoy being held and pet. Once trust is established, they develop a unique bond with their owners and will react to their behavior. They hardly nip too.

Despite their curious attraction to humans, gerbils don’t represent good pets for children. They are small and fast, with unpredictable reactions, so they can easily slip through your hands or escape from their cages.

They like action so they will be extremely interested in everything going on in the house, so you should probably place their cage in the living room or in your bedroom. They need a full house to feel like they are part of whatever is going on.

Hamsters

There are several hamster species but the most common ones are the dwarf ones. A Syrian hamster, which is also the most popular species kept as a pet can weigh around 4.5 ounces at maturity, while the Roborovski dwarf hamster, the smallest one known so far, will weigh less than one ounce.

In captivity, hamsters can live up to four years, depending on each individual, its health, and the environment you create for it.

These small and furry creatures have distinctive cheek pouches where they store food, so you need to pay attention to exactly how much you are feeding them daily. Similar to other rodents, hamsters are also prone to overweight problems and obesity, so they need a large cage with lots of room to stretch their paws, and at least one exercise wheel.

As opposed to other rodent species, Syrian hamsters are territorial creatures so they should be kept alone. They are known to get into fights with other individuals when they are housed together, meaning that the best way to avoid conflicts is to adopt only one hamster.

On the other hand, dwarf hamsters enjoy the company and can be kept in pairs or even in small groups, as long as they are used to living together from an early age. As for their interaction with humans, most hamsters are docile and very friendly. They like to be held and pet and rarely nip or bite if they are handled properly.

Keep in mind that, similar to almost all other rodents, hamsters are also nocturnal, so you shouldn’t keep their cage in the same room where you sleep if you don’t want to be interrupted.

To sum up, each of these rodents comes with an individual personality so it’s hard to anticipate how well it will fit into its new home. The key is to be gentle, patient, and provide your pet with everything it needs to live a long, happy, and healthy life.

Two of the most popular small pets available in pet shops are hamsters and gerbils.

Traditionally hamsters have been viewed as the best pet – especially for children – but is that really the case?

The purpose of this article is simple; to present a balanced view of the “gerbils vs hamsters” argument, in order to help you make an informed decision about which pet might be most suitable for you.

Personality

The personality of a pet is important. By personality we’re not just talking about their character, but also their habits and how friendly they are when handled. After all, most people purchasing a small pet like a gerbil or hamster expect to be able to handle it on a regular basis; but which is best?

Let’s start with hamsters. Firstly hamsters are quite slow – even lethargic. This can make them easy to handle – even for small children. They’re also a handy size when fully grown, meaning that they can be grasped safely and securely in the palm of your hand. However there is a major downside to hamsters – of all the small pets (including rats and mice) it is hamsters that seem the most prone to biting.

Very rarely is this biting intended maliciously. Instead hamsters either tend to bite when they have been startled (such as when a small child scares them by moving too quickly) or simply to “explore”. If something looks like it might be edible then many hamsters will naturally nip at it just to see. Unfortunately that juicy carrot might just turn out to be a human finger.

Gerbils, however, are quite the reverse. They rarely, if ever, bite no matter what the situation. As a result they can safer for scared children to handle. Equally, unlike the cute plodding waddle of a Syrian hamster gerbils are fast and acrobatic. They can jump, climb and run around quickly. This means that while they are far less prone to biting you need to keep your wits about you when handling them.

The decision as to which pet is best will depend on your unique situation; would you rather have to pay more attention when handling or would you rather risk a bite?

Ease of Care

Hamsters are pretty anti-social animals. Two individuals over a certain age will fight – sometimes to the death. Even breeding hamsters can be a worrying affair, with the pair split up again as soon as possible after mating. This means that hamsters should only be kept alone.

Gerbils, however, are far more gregarious. They do best in same-sex pairs or trios where they can interact with one another. A small group will often be found curled up together, a writhing mass of legs, tails and whiskers, and quite one of the most adorable things you will see.

If there’s one major downside to keeping gerbils it’s that they will gnaw on anything. Put in a new water bottle and they’ll be through it in a matter of days (or sooner). Give them a plastic toy and it’ll be turned to dust in next to no time. In contrast, while hamsters will try to give everything a quick nip, that plastic water bowl will likely survive for months or even years.

Arguably as a result hamsters are rather easier to keep due to their less destructive nature.

Caging

Hamsters, being kept singly, are obviously happy in smaller cages than a group of gerbils would be. Caging for hamsters can therefore be cheaper. Hamsters can also be successfully kept in quite a range of different enclosures. A quick walk around your local pet shop, for example, will unearth all manner of cages suitable for hamsters.

Gerbils, however, are not only commensurate nibblers but also burrow extensively. While your hamster will simply spend a little while building a nest before curling up and going to sleep, gerbils will spend much of their day digging. As a result it is really only glass tanks that make suitable housing for gerbils; in cages they’ll either drive you mad gnawing on the bars all day, will eat their way out of the plastic base or will kick so many wood flakes out you’ll have to vacuum the house daily.

That said, all is not lost. The fact that gerbils are so much more active than hamsters means that they can be far more interesting to watch. While a hamster will just sleep all day barely visible, gerbils will be up and about much of the time digging, playing and exploring. A cage of gerbils can therefore be fantastic entertainment for all the family to enjoy.

Lifestyle

A further consideration as to whether gerbils or hamsters make better pets are their lifestyles.

Possibly the most important point here is what time each animal is likely to be active. Hamsters, you see, are primarily nocturnal. They will sleep throughout the day and remain awake all night. This has caused some pet owners problems in the past as keeping a hamster in a child’s bedroom probably isn’t appropriate; you’ll probably be kept awake all night by its exploration.

Gerbils, in contrast, are awake far more during the day and tend to sleep at night. As a result you stand a much better chance of getting a proper night’s sleep with gerbils in your home. Furthermore the odds are much better that your gerbils will be up and awake when you get home from work or school.

The other thing to consider is that gerbils are naturally curious and inquisitive animals. You’ll often find them about exploring their cage – or even watching you going about your daily life. They seem to love coming out and get very tame indeed.

Hamsters, on the other hand, are generally rather lazier. They will spend most of the time sleeping unless you interrupt them. And a recently awoken hamster can be pretty grumpy.

Longevity

The worst thing about small rodents as pets is that they typically don’t live very long. At that point you’ll either need to have a difficult discussion with the family about what has happened to “Hammy” or try to replace it with a similar one.

For some people this may be a blessing in disguise; if the kids have lost interest in their pet then you won’t be stuck cleaning it and feeding it for years to come. For others, the longer the family pet lives the better.

Broadly speaking gerbils live slightly longer than hamsters. A Syrian hamster is doing well if it gets to two years old; however it is reasonably common for gerbils to survive to the ripe-old age of 2 ½ or 3 years old.

Gerbils Vs Hamsters: The Conclusion

As you can see, both hamsters and gerbils have their specific strengths and weaknesses. It would be wrong to say that either pet is necessarily “better” than the other. Overall gerbils seem to offer rather more than hamsters, and so make for a rather more enjoyable pet.

But now you know the basics the only real way to decide is to consider the points made above to see which is likely to fit best into your lifestyle, and then visit your local pet shop to try handling each. Only then will you know for certain whether it’s a hamster or a few gerbils that are right for you.

Choosing the Right Small Animal

Kaytee has all the products you need to enjoy your new small animal — small animal food, treats, bedding and even small animal toys. But, you need to decide what kind of small animal is best for you and your family.
One thing to consider is who will be the animal’s primary caregiver. Hamsters, gerbils, and mice make great pets for kids. They are often kept in small sized cages and take up relatively little space. Being nocturnal in nature, they tend to sleep throughout the day and become more active at night. If handled properly, they can be very gentle and tame when held.
While rats require a larger living area than hamsters, gerbils, and mice, they are very affectionate pets. Chinchillas, on the other hand, require slightly gentler care and require much cooler temperatures.
Small animal pets such as rabbits and ferrets are social creatures with a lot of energy, running around, playing, and needing space to romp. They also need more human interaction. Guinea pigs are very low energy animals and like to stay in one place most of the time.

Selecting a pet rodent

Pets are an important part of the American household. Your pet-owning experience will be most enjoyable if you carefully consider which pet best suits your family, home, and lifestyle. Unfulfilled expectations are a leading cause of pet relinquishment, so make an informed decision. Take time, involve your family, and give careful consideration to the following questions if you are thinking about a rodent as a pet.

What’s special about pet rodents?

There are a range of small rodent species that offer options from interesting exotics to placid, domesticated species. They usually live in an enclosed habitat like a cage, pen, or hutch, but most will enjoy spending time outside their habitat with their human family. Their size and cage-pet status can make them seem like a less expensive or easier pet-keeping option. However, rodents still require an investment of time, attention, and resources in order to thrive and provide the best companionship for their owners.

Choosing a rodent

It is natural to be drawn to a cute little animal on first sight, but you need to consider which type of rodent might be a good fit for your family.

  • Some animals, like rats and guinea pigs, have a very long history of domestication and are more likely to be very calm and tame.
  • Hamsters and guinea pigs are more likely to be active during the day, while other rodents will adapt to some extent but tend to be nocturnal, or more active during the night.
  • Some rodents are naturally solitary, like the Syrian hamster, but most should be kept in pairs or groups. If your rodent is social, it is best to buy a pair or group at the same time and from the same litter or housing group, as rodents introduced later may fight.

Before acquiring your new pet, make sure you understand his or her housing, social and environmental needs, activity patterns, potential odors and sounds, and any other factors that might be challenging for your household.

As with other pets, rodents should be acquired from reputable breeders or rehoming services who can advise you about the animal’s temperament and health records.

What choices do you have?

The most common pet hamsters are Syrian or golden hamsters, but albino (white with pink eyes) hamsters are also available. Hamsters housed in pairs or groups may fight, so they are usually housed alone.

Similar in size to hamsters, gerbils are more active and social. Unlike hamsters, gerbils are happier when housed as a pair or in a small group. Potential owners should be aware that purchasing and keeping gerbils may be illegal in some states.

While mice can be tame and entertaining, they are slightly more nervous than hamsters or gerbils. Female mice do well in pairs or small groups, but males will often fight with each other. The most common mice found in pet stores are albino, but there are also “fancy” mice that come in a variety of colors.

Rats are social and thrive in same-sex pairs or groups. They are larger and easier to handle than some smaller rodents, rarely bite, and often become strongly bonded to their owners. Rats come in a variety of colors and require a larger cage and more attention than smaller rodents.

The largest of the rodents commonly kept as pets, their size and gentle temperament make guinea pigs popular. They are social, unlikely to bite, and do well in same sex pairs or groups. They can also be more vocal than other rodents.

What are some characteristics of pet rodents?

  • Compared to dogs and cats, pet rodents have a shorter life span. Average life spans are 2-3 years for hamsters and gerbils, 1-3 years for mice, 2-4 years for rats, and 5-7 years for guinea pigs.
  • Housing is a critical component of owning a healthy and safe pet rodent. Many of the cages sold in pet stores are too small for your rodent to experience a good quality of life and perform its natural behaviors. All rodents should have adequate room to move around and exercise. Larger cages will allow rodents to defecate and nest in separate areas, and many will readily use an in-cage litter box. Cages must have secure latches because pet rodents can be expert escape artists. Secure housing is particularly important if your family has other pets. When you let your pet outside of its cage, supervise it at all times. A pen or bathroom can provide a secure area for your rodent to exercise and explore without risk of injury or escape.
  • Rodents love to chew! Providing safe chewing materials is important for their physical and mental well-being. Keep rodents away from any material that will be hazardous if chewed, such as electrical wires.
  • Guinea pigs have more demanding dietary needs than other rodents, requiring fresh hay and vegetables. They also require supplemental vitamin C because they do not produce their own and must get it from their diet. Long-haired guinea pigs should be brushed regularly to prevent tangled hair.
  • Rodents come in a variety of fancy forms that may require special care, such as hairless types who are more prone to skin abrasions and extra sensitive to colder temperatures.

Who will care for your pet rodent?

As its owner, you will be responsible for your rodent’s food, shelter, companionship, exercise, and physical and mental health for the rest of its life. Make arrangements in advance for someone to care for your rodents during a planned or unplanned absence.

Does a pet rodent fit your lifestyle?

Because they are housed in cages, pet rodents can easily be kept in apartments, condominiums, and houses. Although rodents require less maintenance than many other pets, they still need your commitment of time and care. You should plan to spend time interacting with your rodents every day to enrich their lives and monitor their health and well-being.

Most rodents can breed readily and prolifically, so only one sex should be kept in the household. Any decision to deliberately breed rodents should be made carefully, only after you have developed considerable expertise with this species and obtained the assistance of an exotic mammal veterinarian. Breeding rodents is not as straightforward as it may appear, as they can have large litters which will then need to be cared for or rehomed. Breeding rodents of unknown genetic background can also perpetuate serious congenital disorders, such as megacolon in rats.

Rodents and children

Rodents are often kept as pets for young children. Although children should be involved in caring for a pet, it is unrealistic to expect them to be solely responsible. An adult must be willing, able, and available to supervise. While they are small and generally tractable, rodents can cause injuries from scratching or biting.

Rodents can be very sensitive to being handled roughly or dropped, and they may learn to avoid or resist handling if not treated with care and consideration. When you first acquire a rodent, it may not be “gentled” (accustomed to being handled). Children should not handle a rodent until an adult has ensured that the animal will tolerate normal interactions and handling calmly.

Children should be instructed not to disturb sleeping or resting pets and to not remove them from their nest or nest box, as well as how to handle them safely, not picking them up by limbs or the tail. Young children should always be supervised when handling animals. They should be made aware that rodents have short lifespans so that they will handle elderly animals carefully and the eventual death of their pet is easier to understand.

Can you afford a pet rodent?

While rodents may be purchased or adopted relatively inexpensively, you should anticipate additional costs for housing, food, accessories and veterinary care throughout your pet’s life.

Where can you get a pet rodent?

Pet rodents are purchased from pet stores, directly from breeders, and through shelters and other rehoming services. Always inquire about the return or veterinary treatment policy in the event your pet is found to be unhealthy.

What should you look for in a healthy pet rodent?

Avoid animals that appear listless or ill, are housed with animals that have this appearance, or from cages where males and females are housed together. Seek out sources that can provide genetic and health background information about their rodents; can provide details about how they breed for good health, welfare and temperament; and will take back animals that are unwell or that you are unable to keep for any reason.

A healthy pet rodent should have no discharge from the eyes, nose, or mouth. The animal should appear lively and should not panic when being handled. No coughing, sneezing, or wheezing should be evident. Be sure to examine the animal’s tail area. It should be dry and free of diarrhea or caked-on stool. This is especially important to check when purchasing or adopting young hamsters; baby hamsters may have a disease called “wet tail” which can be fatal.

What must you do to prepare for your pet rodent?

Make sure your pet’s cage contains fresh bedding, nutritionally-complete food designed for that species, and water. There should also be plenty of space for exercise (e.g., wheels for appropriate species) and species appropriate enrichment (e.g. chew toys). Nesting materials are necessary for all pet rodents, and they should have an enclosed refuge such as a nest box. While you will be excited to bring home your new pet, give them enough time to rest and acclimate to their new living conditions.

A veterinarian should examine any pet rodent within 48 hours of its acquisition. This physical exam is critical to detect signs of disease and to help new pet owners learn about proper care. Since many problems are caused by misinformation and improper care, the first veterinary visit will help prevent well-intentioned owners from making mistakes that ultimately contribute to an animal’s illness or early death.

Not only is your veterinarian best qualified to evaluate the health of your new companion, but he/she can advise you about parasite control, nutrition, sterilization, socialization, training, grooming, and other care that may be necessary to ensure the welfare of your pet. Your veterinarian should continue to examine your pet rodent at least once a year to detect any emerging health problems. Early diagnosis and treatment of disease is more likely to cost less and result in a favorable outcome. When possible, find a veterinarian who specialized in rodents, which are often categorized as “exotic mammals”.

When you acquire a pet, you accept responsibility for the health and welfare of another living thing. You are also responsible for your pet’s impact on your family, friends, and community. Make sure everyone in your family is comfortable with the idea of sharing their home with a rodent, understands that they will require an investment of time and attention, and accepts that they will become part of family activities. A pet will be part of your life for many years. Invest the time and effort necessary to make your years together happy ones. When you choose a pet, you are promising to care for it for its entire life. Choose wisely, keep your promise, and enjoy one of life’s most rewarding experiences!

Additional tips on caring for your pet rodent

  • Bedding is an important part of caring for your pet. To prevent cage odors, use absorbent bedding and change it regularly. Some bedding should be avoided because it may be toxic for small animals; consult with your veterinarian before you choose.
  • Rodents should always be handled with calm, slow movements. A safe “retreat” area should be provided in their cage.
  • For your pet’s supervised time outside of its cage, create a safe, cleanable roaming area on a desk or by using a large container or pen. Leashes may be used with larger rodents.
  • Before purchasing your pet rodent, consult with a veterinarian familiar with the species, and join a club or group to learn from experienced owners.

Should You Get a Pet Rodent?

Have you ever considered buying a pet rodent on impulse? You’re in the pet store and there they are, inexpensive and cheerful, playfully scampering around their cages and running on their wheels. The health benefits of pet ownership are well known, and rodents can be terrific pets. Why wouldn’t you want to buy a small pet right there on the spot, both for their benefit and your own?

Before you jump in, however, you should consider a number of factors about owning a pet rodent, whether it’s a hamster, gerbil, guinea pig, rat, or mouse. These small pets are inexpensive to buy, but there additional costs involved in keeping them. They also require gentle attention and constant clean-up and care to ensure pet health. Depending on which type of rodent you choose, they may not live on your daily schedule. And if you buy more than one, you may wake up one day to find yourself the proud owner of many, many baby rodents.

6 Tips for Choosing a Pet Rodent

Factors that go into your decision to purchase a pet rodent — and the type of rodent you choose — include:

  • Size. Guinea pigs and rats are larger, while mice, hamsters, and gerbils tend to be small in size.
  • Number needed. Pet hamsters and mice tend to fight when kept with a companion, so it may be better to purchase just one. Gerbils, guinea pigs, and rats are social and thrive with companionship, particularly same-sex pairs. You should consider buying more than one of these species if you want a happy small pet.
  • Attention and care. All pet rodents need some daily attention if they are to be socialized into your family. They should be handled or let out to play every day. But guinea pigs require even more attention than that. Because of their long fur, they need to be groomed regularly.
  • Nocturnal or not? Pet hamsters and rats are nocturnal creatures, which means they’ll be up playing when you’re asleep and zonked out when you’re awake. Gerbils, guinea pigs, and mice are more likely to be on your daytime schedule.
  • Human interaction. Some pet rodents take to humans more readily than others. Guinea pigs and rats are much less likely to bite, while hamsters and mice tend to be more nervous around people.
  • Lifespan. All pet rodents have a short lifespan compared to dogs, cats, and some other types of small pets. Mice live 1 to 3 years, hamsters and gerbils 2 to 3 years, rats 2 to 4 years, and guinea pigs 5 to 7 years. Keep this in mind when buying a pet rodent for a young child.

How to Care for and Feed Your Pet Rodent

Pet rodents have very specific needs if they’re to be kept healthy and happy, including:

  • Housing. You will need to purchase a cage, terrarium, or aquarium for your pet rodent. Rats and guinea pigs require larger cages than other species. Be sure to buy housing with a sturdy latch, as pet rodents often prove themselves escape artists. A modular enclosure with tubes connecting the different “rooms” can provide your pet rodent with entertainment. You also should stock their living space with plenty of toys and at least one exercise wheel. Lay down fresh hardwood shavings for bedding in their living space.
  • Food. Most pet rodents eat pellets specifically formulated for their species. You also should supplement these pellets with fresh produce every day. Guinea pigs have even more specific food requirements, including fresh hay and vitamin C supplements. And don’t forget to keep your pet’s water fresh, changing it at least once a day.
  • Chewing. All rodents love to chew. You need to provide them with safe materials to chew on. It’s important for their physical and mental well-being.
  • Cleaning. Pet rodents tend to excrete very strong-smelling urine, especially gerbils. You will need to replace bedding and clean out their enclosure at least once a week. Clean their food dish daily, and their water dish or bottle with every refill.

These small pets are adorable and can be sweet companions. Just be sure you know what you are getting into when you decide to bring one into your family.

Rodents, although small, do require quite a bit of pet care. They are basically tiny escape artists and can be ultra-sensitive to sound and light.

Basic Requirements of Rodents

  • Housing in stable and compatible groups. You should take into account the gender, age, reproductive condition, familiarity, and general past of your rodents before housing them together
  • Enclosures should cause minimum disturbances to animals. Be careful with placement especially if you have other larger pets in the home.
  • In said enclosures there should be enough space for exercise and normal social behavior. There should be some things like toys and other items that will reduce the stress and aggression that could occur by the rodents being caged.
  • Make sure they have enough height in the cage for scanning, exploration, and play – – around 12cm for mice, 18cm for gerbils and hamsters, and 30cm for rats.
  • Solid floors with enough depth. The foundation should be 1cm of dust free woodchip for mice.
  • Material to gnaw on is essential to prevent their teeth from overgrowing.
  • Nest boxes for resting and security and managing social interactions.
  • Vertical barriers or tubes for cage complexity and exploration.
  • Nesting material for comfort
  • Appropriate lighting levels and regimes. Low light levels and racks with shaded tops where they can hide from too much light will reduce the risk of retinal degeneration.
  • They will need a varied diet and the ability to forage. You should scatter the food to encourage this behavior.
  • Regular cleaning which will help balance hygiene and the reduction of stress
  • Gentle and frequent handling from early in life so they will get used to you
  • Maintenance of temperature and humidity

Food for Small Rodents

Some rodents have a flexible diets where others are strictly one or the other. Rats and mice consume plants on a regular basis along with grains, grass, seeds and small twigs. Most rodents are also nut eaters. In natural settings rodents will consume fruits and berries. Rats are especially prone to eat meat and fish. Depending on what type of rodent you have, you may have to try a few different types of food or consult your pet care professional on which food would be best.

How To Select

If you are not sure which rodent you should get as a pet I suggest you check out this article : https://www.thespruce.com/small-rodents-as-pets-1237271 This article covers hamsters, gerbils, mice, rats, and guinea pigs. It also goes on to say that other options include chinchillas, jirds, degus, dormice, duprasi, chipmunks, squirrels, prairie dogs, Patagonian cavies, and more. Also what should be taken into consideration is their sleeping pattern. Pet hamsters and rats are nocturnal creatures, which means they’ll be up playing when you’re asleep and tired out when you’re awake. Gerbils, guinea pigs, and mice are more likely to be on your daytime schedule.

How Many Should I Get?

Hamsters and Mice tend to fight when kept with a companion. If you must get more than one hamster or mouse, you should definitely make sure that they have plenty of room to get away from one another and have their own space, if you can’t get two separate cages. Gerbils, guinea pigs and rats are social and should definitely have a pal if you want a happy small pet. If you want to socialize your pet into your family they require daily attention.

Worried about what to do when you have to leave home without your caged babies? Call on us!

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Guinea Pigs vs. Rats: Which One Is Better to Have as a Pet?

A lot of people are looking for the perfect pet. The most common pets are cats, dogs, and rodents. Cats and dogs cannot be held in cages, so many people opt for rodents, as they are supposed to be easy to take care of. Rodents are thought to be low maintenance and not time-consuming, but they really aren’t.

There are a lot of rodents that can become your pets if you decided a rodent is perfect for you. There are guinea pigs, rats, mice, gerbils, hamsters and many more. But how do you know exactly which one of them fits your lifestyle and schedule? In this article, I will talk about guinea pigs and rats, about the similarities and differences between them.

Guinea Pigs vs. Rats: Which one of them is better? This is not a question I can answer for everyone out there, because it depends on the life the owner is living. Personally, I think guinea pigs are much more convenient as pets for a lot of reasons I will discuss below. However, this doesn’t mean that nobody should have a rat as a pet. Rats are just a little more difficult to deal with.

Now let’s make a detailed comparison between these two house pets.

Guinea Pigs vs. Rats: A Detailed Comparison

  • Life Span

Guinea pigs have a life span of about 5 to 7 years, while rats live around 2 to 3 years. This is an upsetting thing for someone who gets attached easily to an animal of any kind.

Regarding children, it’s kind of a good and a bad idea to take care of a rat. Keeping in mind they only live for 3 years, it can be painful for a child to deal with their pet’s death, if they really got attached to him. However, if the child is superficial and just wants a pet to play with for a shorter time, rats might be what you are looking for (life span wise).

  • Crepuscular vs. Nocturnal

Guinea pigs are crepuscular pets, which means they do most of their activities at dawn and dusk, while rats are nocturnal, being most active at night. So, if you are a person who loves his/her good night sleep, you may think twice before getting a rat. This is a big advantage for guinea pigs and a huge downside of getting a rat.

However, rats might be good for a night owl who works all night, sleep a few hours a night and a little more during the day (as crazy as this might sound, there are a lot of people that are considered “night owls” because of the lack of their concentration during the day and their activeness during the night).

  • Cost

If you think about the price you pay for a guinea pig or a rat, guinea pigs are a little more expensive, with around $10 to $20, but such a small difference should not affect your decision. Also, guinea pigs need a bigger space, so a more expensive cage, but again, the difference of prices is not that big, so this still shouldn’t affect your decision. After all, you buy the cage once and you are done with it.

However, something that needs to be considered is the overall price you pay during their life; guinea pigs are far more expensive than rats. The first reason for this is the simple fact that guinea pigs live longer than rats (their life span is twice as long as a rat’s). Secondly, guinea pigs need to always have hay in their cage and hay is not cheap, especially if you buy it from pet stores.

  • Time

Guinea pigs are bigger animals, they need a larger space and they are messier. They pee and poop a lot and you need to clean it. Spot cleaning should be done every day, bedding should be changed every other day (if it’s not fleece) and the cage should be thoroughly washed every 5 to 7 days, depending on the state of the cage. Also, you need to wash their fleece bedding once a week at least, rinse their water bottles every time you refill them and scrub them at least once a week. Time adds up when spot cleaning every day. Guinea pigs are very time consuming.

It is quite the same with rats and probably with every rodent. A clean environment is vital to the health and good condition of a rodent.

  • “Social Life”

Both rats and guinea pigs like being in pairs (even if they are of the same sex) or even in small groups. Probably it is because they are prey and being in small groups makes them feel safe. Also, a single guinea pig or rat might get depressed if he doesn’t interact with another one of his kind. There are benefits and downsides to this.

The downside is that the risk of your pet being depressed is very high and you could not enjoy his company in this case. The benefits are that your pet is happier in a pair or a small group; you can just observe them interact with each other and how they offer each other affection in their own ways. It is always lovely to see a pair of animals interact and communicate in their own unique way.

  • Training

Both of the two species can be trained, but it is a lot easier to train rats. They are known to be the principal actors in a lot of important experiments, mostly experiments done to understand compulsive, instinctive behaviors and how to train their brain to associate things.

The perk of being able to easily train your pet is that you can train them to poop in a special container and not all over the place. This cuts down the time you need to clean the cage by a crazy amount. On the same note, you can train them to eat in a specific corner of the cage. This way, there won’t be unnecessary mess in the cage. This can help you a lot to spot clean and get the trash out of the cage.

This is a big advantage in getting a rat. Guinea pigs can be trained: some of them can easily be trained and some of them may never learn where to poop or where to eat. Moreover, guinea pigs poop a lot more, so daily spot cleaning, besides being a must, is a burden.

  • Space

Rats need a taller cage then guinea pigs. Vertical space probably doesn’t bother anyone, but floor space might become a problem, especially with the proper sizes for a guinea pig cage. On the other hand, if you get a small cage for a guinea pig, they won’t be able to move around, they will eat and poop in the same place and the cage will be a total mess.

  • Cuddle Time

Guinea pigs are very affectionate pets, especially if you spend some time trying to show them love and to understand their personality. They are way more likely to sit on your lap and let you pet them then rats. Guinea pigs usually make happy sounds when they see their owner or when they want to play. Rats are more isolated away from their owner, they are more rodent-like and guinea pigs are more pet-like.

Taking everything above into account, every pet has its perks and downsides. However, I would like to share my opinion. Yes, our site is dedicated to guinea pigs but when we take everything into the account we really think guinea pigs are better pets. Rats are colder in the relationship with the owner than guinea pigs, and there’s nothing wrong with that (giving that guinea pigs are one of the most affectionate pets). Yes, guinea pigs need a lot of time for cleaning, feeding and playing with them.

On the other hand, personally, I prefer getting home and hearing my little pet make happy sounds and beg for attention than him ignoring me.

A lot of people just have pets that don’t interact with them and that is fine, too, especially if you have a rat. But, in my opinion, pets shouldn’t be bought or adopted just to be in someone’s home.

I strongly think that having a pet is a big responsibility, but an amazing experience. Forming a bond with your little friend is a unique relationship is impossible to put into words. I just think too many people get pets for all the wrong reasons or without the necessary maturity and it is time to change this perspective.

General Information

Pet rodents, sometimes also referred to as “pocket pets” are very popular pets. Hamsters, rats, mice, gerbils, and guinea pigs are the most common rodents kept as pets. They make good first pets for young children and as a rule require minimal care. Compared to dogs and cats, they have a shorter life span (2-5 years depending upon the species). Young children should be told this so that the “sudden death” of a 3-year-old pet does not come unexpectedly. As with any pet, they do occasionally get sick, and their illnesses are can be severe.

Most rodents eat some combination of pelleted hay, rodent chow, grains, seeds, vegetables and fruits, with the amount of each depending on the rodent.

The incisors or front teeth of all rodents grow continuously throughout the pet’s life. Overgrown incisors are a common problem and can be prevented or minimized by providing the pet with gnawing opportunities such as access to pieces of wood and other chewing objects or toys. Treatment of overgrown incisors involves trimming (grinding or filing) by your veterinarian, often under anesthesia. In addition to their incisors, guinea pigs and chinchillas also have continuously growing molar or cheek teeth, as do rabbits (although rabbits are lagomorphs, not rodents).

Specific information about popular rodents:

Guinea pigs, also known as cavies (or cavy if it is one animal), make good family pets. The 3 most popular breeds (there are probably 13 or more different breeds) are: the English or common with short, straight, fine hair; the Abyssinian with rough, coarse hair growing in rosettes or whorls; and the Peruvian with long, straight, silky hair. There is a wide range of fur colors and patterns as well as hairless or “skinny pigs”. Males are called boars and females are called sows. Males tend to be larger than females and their weight varies from 700 – 1200 grams.

“Guinea pigs are similar to humans and primates in that they require a dietary source of vitamin C.”

Guinea pigs live 5 -6 years (although occasionally they can get to 8 years old). Older male animals have a “grease gland” on the skin at the base of the spine at their hind end. Guinea pigs have 4 toes on their front feet and 3 toes on their back feet. If a guinea pig senses danger, it will either freeze or make an explosive attempt to run away (if in a group, they will stampede). Guinea pigs do not see well, but have well developed senses of smell and hearing. They are communicative and use a wide variety of sounds to express themselves. They do not tolerate changes in their diet or environment very well. Guinea pigs are similar to humans and primates in that they require a dietary source of vitamin C. Guinea pigs are generally hardy, easy to care for and, if handled frequently and gently, make great family pets. They rarely bite or scratch and are docile, non-aggressive, responsive animals.

The mouse is a popular, somewhat timid, social, intelligent and entertaining pet, but may not be for everyone. Mice tend to be nocturnal (come out at night), but are active for short periods during the day. They do not shed a lot and seem to cause few allergies for people. They are small and considered a little more fragile than other rodents.

“If well socialized from a young age and treated gently, they are easy to handle, affectionate and less likely to bite than other rodents.”

They are reasonably easy to care for and are clean animals (despite popular belief) but they do have a strong odor, and their urine is particularly pungent . Mice have a relatively short life span of about 2 years. They reproduce frequently and readily. If well socialized from a young age and treated gently, they are easy to handle, affectionate and less likely to bite than other rodents. However, they are great escape artists!

Rats are a very popular family pet. They are extremely intelligent, inquisitive, and social pets. They can be trained to come on command and tp perform various tricks. If well socialized from a young age and treated gently, they are easy to handle, affectionate, interactive and rarely bite unless provoked. Rats, like mice, tend to be nocturnal but are active for periods during the day. They do not shed a lot and seem to cause few allergies for people. They are hardy and reasonably easy to care for and are clean animals (despite popular belief). They live between 2 – 3 years. Rats make good family pets, although they are also great escape artists.

One of the most commonly kept family pets is the hamster. If well socialized from a young age and treated gently, they are easy to handle (as they tend to move slowly). However, they startle easily and may show a threat response or become defensive. Always let a hamster know you are there, or gently and slowly wake it up before attempting to handle it. Hamsters tend to be nocturnal but can active for periods during the day.

“Generally, hamsters are the most aggressive of all the pocket pets and bite more often.”

Despite their clumsy appearance, they too, are great escape artists. They do not tolerate the heat very well; they should be kept in a cool area in the hot summer months. As a breed, the smaller Dwarf hamsters are excitable, startle easily, are more challenging to handle and will not hesitate to bite when being held. Generally, hamsters are the most aggressive of all the pocket pets and bite more often.

Gerbils are very friendly, very active, inquisitive pets. They make excellent pets for older children (perhaps 10 – 12 years old). They are very active, entertaining animals and love to climb, burrow and chew (they especially like to chew on paper, cardboard rolls, junk mail, etc…).

“Since gerbils are desert animals, they have a very low water requirement.”

If well socialized from a young age and treated gently, they are easy to handle and rarely bite unless provoked. Since gerbils are desert animals, they have a very low water requirement. Due to the low water intake, gerbils produce only small amounts of urine and therefore do not smell a lot. Gerbils are hardy and generally more disease resistant than hamsters.

How should I select a pet rodent?

Most owners will buy their pet rodent through a local pet store. Avoid sick-looking animals. Do not try to be a “Good Samaritan”. Remember that, with exotic pets, if it looks sick, it is really sick! Trying to nurse a sick pet rodent back to health after purchasing may prove challenging. Just the stress of the new environment and diet change for an already sick animal is often enough to kill it. You are far better to start out right with a healthy pet. Always inquire about the guarantee in case the pet is found to be unhealthy.

“Always inquire about the guarantee in case the pet is found to be unhealthy.”

The pet rodent should have no discharge from the eyes, nose, or mouth. If you can open the mouth (without being bitten!), make sure the front teeth (the incisors), have not overgrown (they should form a nice, even fit). The animal should seem frisky and try to run and resist handling to some extent. No coughing, sneezing, or wheezing should be present. Examine the rectal area. It should be dry and free of diarrhea or caked-on stool. This is especially important for young hamsters. Many baby hamsters at pet stores have a disease called “wet tail”, which is usually fatal. Ask the employee for help in determining the animal’s sex. Keep in mind that some part time pet store employees may know little more than you do about these animals.

What is involved in the first veterinary visit with my new pet?

Within 48 hours of your purchase, your pet should be examined by a veterinarian knowledgeable in the care and treatment of pet rodents. Many health problems with small rodents are the result of misinformation. The first veterinary visit can help prevent well-intentioned owners from doing the wrong thing and ultimately contributing to poor health and an inferior quality of life.

“Many health problems with small rodents are the result of misinformation.”

The visit includes a thorough physical examination and evaluation of the animal’s weight and body condition. The animal is examined for signs of dehydration or malnutrition. A fecal test is done to check for internal parasites. The sex of your new pet can be correctly determined during this veterinary visit. Your veterinarian will spend much of the time during this first examination discussing the dietary requirements and appropriate care for your new pet rodent.

What about vaccinations?

Pet rodents do not require vaccinations.

Like all pets, pet rodents should be examined once or twice annually and have their feces tested for parasites during each of these visits.

Contributors: Rick Axelson, DVM © Copyright 2009 Lifelearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

Table of Contents
Rats, Mice, and Gerbils
Chinchillas
Hamsters
Guinea Pigs

Rats, Mice, and Gerbils

Rats, mice, and gerbils are often confused, especially because they have a lot in common in terms of their care. Rats are largest and have hairless tails. Mice look a lot like tiny rats. Gerbils are medium-sized and have furry tails. All three need cages with adequate ventilation and places to run, climb, and hide. Rats and gerbils usually live 2-3 years, whereas mice have a lifespan of 1-2 years. All three, particularly rats, can be very social and even trainable.

When you handle your pet, be sure to support its body. Don’t dangle your rat, mouse, or gerbil by its tail. While a rat or mouse can briefly be held by its tail as you initially pick it up, a gerbil cannot. Gerbil tails have extremely fragile skin and can be seriously injured if handled improperly.

There are many commercial diets available for rats, mice, and gerbils to ensure that their nutritional needs are met. Block foods encourage natural gnawing behaviors to help them keep their teeth in good shape, but small pellets are also a good option if you provide plenty of other chewing opportunities. Seed mixes are not necessarily the best choice because your pet can pick out only its favorite pieces and end up not eating a balanced diet overall.

Unlike dogs and cats, rats, mice, and gerbils do not receive vaccinations. However, this does not mean that they do not need routine vet check-ups. Regular wellness exams can help you catch a disease before it becomes too serious. Regular exams can also help you and your vet know what is normal for your pet, in order to more easily recognize when something is abnormal. As with any animal, be sure to contact your vet if you suspect your pet may be ill or injured.

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Chinchillas

Chinchillas are different from other rodents and require specialized care. They tend to live longer than other rodents, averaging 8-15 years. Chinchillas need large cages with room to run and climb, as well as plenty of things to chew on. Complete and balanced chinchilla foods are readily available to ensure that your chinchilla gets proper nutrition.

A chinchilla’s fur is extremely dense and can trap water. This means that if your chinchilla gets wet, it will stay wet for a long time and may even grow fungus. Chinchillas stay clean using dust baths. They roll around in a special dust that pulls the dirt and oil from their fur. Dust baths should be provided at least 2-3 times per week for 10-20 minutes.

Chinchillas must be handled very carefully. Do not hold your chinchilla by its tail, as it is very fragile and can easily break. Always support your chinchilla’s entire body. A chinchilla handled roughly may use a defense mechanism called fur slip to get away. This is the sudden shedding of a large patch of fur. In the wild, fur slip can be used to escape the bite of a predator. While fur slip is not dangerous, it does mean that your chinchilla will have a bald spot that can take months to completely fill in. Chinchillas are native to regions of high altitude with a cooler climate. It is important that your chinchilla does not become stressed and overheat so an ideal environment temperature would be about 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit with a low humidity percentage.

Unlike dogs and cats, chinchillas do not receive vaccinations. However, this does not mean that they do not need routine vet check-ups. Yearly wellness exams can help you catch a disease before it becomes too serious. Regular exams can also help you and your vet know what is normal for your pet, in order to more easily recognize when something is abnormal. As with any animal, be sure to contact your vet if you suspect your chinchilla may be ill or injured.

  • Finding a vet

Hamsters

While they may look similar, hamsters are not simply small guinea pigs, nor are they rats without tails. Several species of hamsters are commonly kept as pets, so be sure to look into more specific requirements for your type of hamster. The most common pet hamster is the golden hamster, also known as the Syrian hamster. Hamsters usually have a lifespan of 1-3 years. Most species of hamsters should be housed alone to prevent fighting. The ideal hamster cage varies based on species. For example, dwarf hamsters may be able to squeeze through the bars of a typical wire cage and escape, so a glass or plastic enclosure is preferable. Hamsters love to burrow and will appreciate a deep layer of bedding to dig through and rearrange as they see fit. Many commercial diets are available to provide complete and balanced nutrition for your hamster.

Unlike dogs and cats, hamsters do not receive vaccinations. However, this does not mean that they do not need routine vet check-ups. Regular wellness exams can help you catch a disease before it becomes too serious. Routine exams can also help you and your vet know what is normal for your pet, in order to more easily recognize when something is abnormal. As with any animal, be sure to contact your vet if you suspect your hamster may be ill or injured.

Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs are not large hamsters. They have their own specialized requirements for care. Guinea pigs have an average lifespan of 5-7 years. They are very social animals and are happiest when housed in pairs or groups. Long-haired guinea pigs will need to be brushed to prevent matting. Nail trimming is also essential to keep your guinea pig’s feet in good shape. When you hold your guinea pig, be sure to support its entire body. Because guinea pigs do not climb, it is more important that your guinea pig’s cage be long and wide, rather than tall. Guinea pigs need plenty of space to run and play, as well as places to hide.

Humans and guinea pigs are among the very few animals that cannot produce vitamin C for themselves and must consume adequate levels of it in their diet. As a result, guinea pig diets are not interchangeable with other species. Many commercial foods are available to make sure your guinea pig gets the nutrients it needs. Fresh hay should always be available. Alfalfa hay is a good choice for growing guinea pigs, but should be reserved as a treat for adults. Fully grown guinea pigs should be given grass hay. Timothy hay is one common variety. Guinea pigs also enjoy and benefit from eating fresh vegetables.

Unlike dogs and cats, guinea pigs do not receive vaccinations. However, this does not mean that they do not need routine vet check-ups. Yearly wellness exams can help you catch a disease before it becomes too serious. Regular exams can also help you and your vet know what is normal for your pet, in order to more easily recognize when something is abnormal. As with any animal, be sure to contact your vet if you suspect your guinea pig may be ill or injured.

How To Care for Gerbils, Hamsters and Guinea Pigs

Your First Pet: How To Care for Gerbils, Hamsters and Guinea Pigs
Gerbils, hamsters and guinea pigs—oh my! While these small creatures are all members of the rodent family, they all have their own unique temperaments. Have your sights set on one of these little guys? Read on to learn the differences among them as well as how to make sure you take proper care of your new friend.

Gerbils
Gerbils are frisky, social little rodents that grow to about four inches long and will live three to four years, if well cared for. They love companionship so it is a good idea to get a minimum of two, preferably from the same litter to ensure a good match. Please make sure you do not keep males and females together, or you will unwittingly wind up with a litter of gerbils!

Gerbil

Hamsters
Hamsters are irresistibly adorable and are often on the top of the list for prospective pet owners. But, before you bring one home, there are two important facts about hamsters to consider. One: they are solitary and must live alone. Two: they are nocturnal. Meaning, hamsters like to sleep during the daytime when you are ready to play with them and they love to zip around in their exercise wheels when you are trying to sleep.

Hamster

Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs are expressive, social, docile creatures who can even whistle! On the size scale, they fall between hamsters and rabbits. With proper care, they can live five to seven years. Guinea pigs prefer to live in small groups. Keep two or more females together and they will become great friends. If you prefer two males, it is best to choose them from the same litter. Guinea pigs make an excellent starter pet for older children.

Guinea Pig

General Rules of Thumb for Rodent Care

• Gerbils, hamsters and guinea pigs all love to play, dig and tunnel. So, enclosures for sleeping, tubes for tunneling, exercise wheels and toys are all welcome additions to their cages.
• Line the cage with absorbent bedding—hay or shavings—and make sure the litter is dry. Make sure you remove dropping, uneaten food and soiled bedding from his cage every day and change his bedding completely every week.
• Gerbils, hamsters and guinea pigs eat pellets, grains, seeds, cracked corn and nuts but should also be given a small amount of fresh vegetables and fruit every day or every few days. Make certain you have the correct mix of food for your pet by checking at the local pet store.
• Please make sure your pet has fresh, clean water readily available at all times.
• Did you know that rodent’s teeth grow continuously? To keep them in top shape, make sure they have a twig or chew stick for lots of chewing and gnawing.
• Over time, you will learn to hand-tame your pet, starting first by offering them treats from your hand and then, gradually, getting them used to being picked up and held.

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