Thread: My gerbils
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Old 11-20-2019, 08:00 AM  
Hamster Overlord
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Join Date: Jun 2019
Location: London
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Default Re: My gerbils

Hi, Flossypet. I think your observations are pretty much correct. Gerbils do always need to be doing something, but I have noticed that they have three main sources of enrichment: other gerbils, burrowing, and destroying things. As long as they have these three things, everything else is a bonus. Even wheels are optional and many gerbils won't use them. Houses and hides are nice, but a young healthy gerbil won't sleep in one when they have the option to dig their own burrow. With my hamster it seems to be the opposite. She doesn't see the point in digging a burrow when she has houses to sleep in. Chewing things just for fun seems to be unheard of for her as well.

They are awake in the day … but also at night. Evening and early night is their most active time, when they are most likely to be making noise. Mine finally go to bed at about 3am, and get up when I do. After that they alternate between four hours of activity and four hours of sleep. You can wake them up and they will be alert and ready to run around in a minute. They don't mind be woken up if it's for something nice, like treats or playtime. Their sleeping patterns are quite flexible and can easily be adjusted if you want the gerbils awake at a certain time.

Mikatelyn, I think I would say both hamsters and gerbils can be tamed to the point of handleability, but with gerbils it requires a bit less effort and time. If you're willing to put the time and effort in though, I would go for whichever species appeals to you more. If you have successfully tamed dwarf hamsters, gerbils will be a breeze. My most recent gerbils were born in a rescue where they were handled from birth, so they were already mostly tame when I got them. The pet shop gerbils were a bit more difficult. I do think the fact that you can (and should) keep more than one gerbil helps a lot with taming, because a gerbil that has company is going to be generally less stressed and more secure than a lone one.

Kennedyy, My impression of my first and only hamster so far is that although she is gradually getting used to me, I could leave her completely alone other than feeding and watering and cleaning and she would do fine.

With gerbils it can vary quite a bit, but some do appear to get enrichment from human company. The grey agouti gerbil (named Lily) peering out of the house in the images above is one gerbil who actually demands to be held sometimes (usually at 2am when I'm trying to sleep). She just loves attention. This is probably because I put a lot of effort into taming her when she was a pup. If you want "watch only" gerbils, you can just limit how much you interact with them and they will be just fine.

I wouldn't use temperament as a tiebreaker between hamsters and gerbils though because it does vary so much. The gerbil in the second picture (Honey) didn't appreciate human company at all, completely different from Lily. I would focus more on which pet fits best into your life right now. I think gerbils are generally cheaper than hamsters because you don't need so many toys. You can also get away from giving them a bit less space than you might a hamster. 70x40cm is a size that works well in my experience, but I would consider something smaller for some gerbils and bigger for others. They also appear to suffer from fewer health problems. On the other hand, if you have a pair of gerbils and one dies you do have to think about potentially introducing another, which you don't have to do with hamsters. If split-caging is something you don't feel confident attempting, hamsters might be better for you. I hope this helps. If you have any other gerbil questions, I'd be happy to answer them.
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