Are Gerbils Good Pets? | How To Know If They’re Right For You

Gerbils are energetic pets that belong to the subfamily Gerbillinae. These adorable munchkins exhibit different traits, making understanding their behavior a must before bringing one home.

Are you unsure if a gerbil will make a good pet? 

You may have seen gerbils and felt how cute they look, but how do you know if they’re good for adoption? 

Well, say no more because we’ve explored this question in-depth to answer: do gerbils make good pets? So you can be sure that these little furballs are the right pet for you.

Here’s what you need to know:

Key Takeaway:

Gerbils can be excellent pets due to their friendly nature, and they require less maintenance. Here are some important factors to know about: 

  • Gerbils like burrowing.
  • They like gerbil-specific food mixes and occasional fruits/vegetables.
  • Gerbils need spacious cages, bedding, and exercise tools.

If you take care of these factors, your pet gerbil will make a good friend. 

But don’t stop here. Continue reading to understand their behavior and ascertain whether these adorable creatures align with your lifestyle.

Let’s get to the nitty-gritty details and understand all about gerbils as pets!

Do Gerbils Make Good Pets?

Yes, gerbils do make good pets. Known for being hardy, low-maintenance, and entertaining, these small rodents can bring much joy to their owners. Gerbils are particularly sociable creatures, so for them to truly thrive, consider adopting a pair or more. 

As these rodents enjoy the company and can get lonely if kept on their own, it’s better to keep gerbils in pairs or small groups or a same-sex pair. They’ll engage in playful antics with each other, which can be a lot of fun to watch. 

It’s also worth noting that gerbils have simple dietary needs, consisting mainly of store-bought gerbil food, with the occasional treat of fresh fruit or vegetables. 

They’re naturally clean animals and do not require regular grooming or baths. Also, their cages require cleaning only once a week or so, making them a much less demanding choice than many other pets.

Also, Mongolian gerbils are a hardy breed and, when well taken care of, are unlikely to fall ill. This aspect is excellent for first-time gerbil owners who might not be used to dealing with the various health problems that can affect other types of pets.

But you should know that gerbils tend to be active and are curious creatures that require a secure habitat to prevent escapes. The space should be large enough for them to burrow and play because otherwise, it can lead to stress and other health problems.

Are Gerbils Good Pets For Kids?

While gerbils are low-maintenance pets, their tendency to bite and scratch may make them less suitable for homes with young children. Since kids lack the necessary motor skills to handle such small creatures, they may not yet know how to properly hold gerbils and cause unwanted harm to either party. 

Like all burrowing rodents, gerbils naturally bite and scratch when they feel threatened or are mishandled. This is an inherent part of their behavior, and you must understand this while ensuring that they make good pets for children.  

Moreover, children’s lively nature can stress gerbils. Gerbils are small and quite skittish, so they may not respond well to loud noises or sudden movements, which are often unavoidable in households with younger children. 

Stressed baby gerbils may retreat, hide, or even become aggressive, none of which are ideal for a family pet experience.

However, this does not mean that gerbils are completely off the table as pets for families with children. Instead, they may be more suitable for older children or teenagers who can understand and respect the gerbil’s boundaries. 

Besides considering the age and temperament of your child, you should also see the level of adult supervision available. 

If an adult or older child who understands how to handle gerbils can supervise interactions, it can mitigate the risk of harm to both the child and the pet. 

Regularly educating your child about how to approach and handle the gerbil can also ensure a safe and happy environment for all involved. So if your child is interested in adopting a gerbil, teach them about these care practices beforehand. 

white gerbil chewing card board

Do Pet Gerbils Bond with Their Owners Well?

Yes, pet gerbils can form a bond with their owners. This bond is primarily developed through consistent positive interaction, like offering occasional treats and displaying gentle behavior. However, gerbils are not typically cuddly pets, and they may not show affection in the way that other pets might.

One of the most critical aspects of forming a bond with a gerbil is consistency in interaction that most gerbil owners don’t do. 

Say you get a pair of gerbils and want them to be friendly pets; in this case, efforts like regular feeding, habitat cleaning, and most importantly, gentle handling can help. 

When a gerbil learns to trust you through these interactions, they associate your presence with safety and comfort, forming a bond.

Also, giving your gerbil occasional treats can be another great bonding strategy. These treats can be a positive reinforcement that encourages your gerbil to associate your presence with pleasant experiences. 

Gerbils Aren’t Cuddly Pets

Gerbils aren’t typically cuddly pets and don’t show many gestures of love. Unlike dogs or cats, they don’t usually enjoy being held for extended periods and rarely show affection in traditional ways. 

Gerbils are naturally curious and energetic creatures, and they prefer exploring their surroundings, wooden chew toys, and their cage over cuddling. 

Therefore, when bonding with your young gerbils, you should focus more on interactive play and stimulation rather than on trying to foster physical affection.

Despite their lack of overt affection, gerbils are known for their lively personalities and high energy levels. Still, potential gerbil owners should be aware of some challenges, like the fact that gerbils have a strong urge to chew due to their continuously growing teeth. 

This means that they require plenty of chewable materials in their habitat to keep them busy and healthy. Without these, they may resort to gnawing on less suitable items, such as their cage, nest box, or other non-edible objects.

brown gerbil pet inside his cage

Pet Gerbils and Their Behavior – What’s Normal?

Gerbils are sociable and curious pets that exhibit behaviors like digging, chewing, and playing. However, they require a stimulating environment and proper care to thrive, and their tendency for excessive chewing can sometimes cause problems. 

Gerbils are small rodents originally from the desert regions of Africa and Asia. There are many species, but the Mongolian gerbil is most commonly kept as a pet, admired for their active and inquisitive nature. 

Gerbil Behavior

Gerbils are social animals, so they do best when housed with a companion and have a longer lifespan than other rodents. They like digging and burrowing, which indicates their desert origins. 

That’s why providing a habitat with enough depth for burrowing and different substrates to dig in will ensure your gerbil stays mentally stimulated and content. The best gerbil cage is the one with a thick layer of paper, as they can dig through the bedding. Although wire cages also work, many gerbils can make their way out of them and leave behind a mess for you to clean.

Gerbils are also avid chewers, a behavior that keeps their continuously growing teeth at bay. You should offer plenty of safe chewing toys or cardboard tubes to keep this instinct satisfied and healthy. 

However, their excessive chewing habits can become a problem if they start gnawing on cage bars or other inappropriate items.

Also, gerbils are diurnal animals, active during the day, which means they’ll provide lots of entertainment for observant owners.

The Good and the Not-So-Good Of Keeping Gerbils As Pets

Gerbils are low maintenance, and their space requirements are also relatively minimal, although the bigger the cage, the happier they’ll be. 

They eat a simple diet of commercial gerbil food, supplemented with occasional fresh fruits and veggies, pretty much like a hamster diet

But despite being docile pets, gerbils can show behavioral traits that aren’t pleasant. That’s why we’ve listed the pros and cons of keeping gerbils as pets to ease your decision. 

So, here goes:

The Pros of Keeping a Gerbil as a Pet

Here are the pros of keeping gerbils as pets.

Compact Size and Easy Maintenance

Gerbils are little creatures, typically measuring about 4-5 inches in length. This small size makes them perfect for people who have limited living space.

And as we explained, gerbils are relatively low-maintenance pets that clean and groom themselves regularly, reducing the need for frequent baths. 

Low Allergenic Potential

If you or a family member suffer from allergies, gerbils can be a suitable option for a pet. Unlike some other animals, gerbils produce less dander, which is a common allergen, and prove a safe choice for individuals with allergies. But as individual sensitivities may vary, it’s best to spend time with gerbils before adopting one. 


Gerbils are relatively inexpensive household pets to acquire and maintain. The initial cost of purchasing a gerbil and the necessary supplies for pet stores, such as a cage, bedding, food, and toys, doesn’t cost much. 

Easy to Provide Enrichment

Gerbils have the instinct to burrow and explore, so additions to their enclosure, such as tunnels, hideouts, or chew toys, can keep them mentally stimulated and physically active. 

Watching them burrow, climb, and explore their environment can be entertaining for both children and adults. Also, you can create a stimulating environment for your gerbil without much effort if you have a knack for DIYing stuff.

Compatibility with Same-Sex Pairings

You can house same-sex pairs of gerbils together without major issues since they naturally live in small groups in the wild, so having a companion can enhance their well-being. Keeping gerbils in pairs can provide them with a constant source of companionship as gerbils rely on their social support.

But you must introduce them properly and ensure their living environment is spacious enough to accommodate them. And once a routine is established, same-sex pairings of gerbils can thrive together.

The Cons of Keeping a Gerbil as a Pet

Are you thinking about the cons of keeping these adorable munchkins? Then read on to know.

Fragile and Quick Movements

Due to their small size, gerbils can be fragile pets that require careful handling. They have delicate bones and can easily injure themselves if dropped or handled too roughly. 

Gerbils also have quick movements and agility, which can make them challenging to catch or handle for inexperienced owners. As explained earlier, children can harm gerbils by handling them roughly or squeezing them, so you’ll have to be thoughtful about them. 

Odor and Cleaning Requirements

Gerbils have scent glands that they use to mark their territory, which can result in a distinct smell in their living area. While regular cleaning of the place where gerbils live can help mitigate the odor, they may still have a natural scent. Their bedding will also require frequent changing to maintain a clean and hygienic environment. 

Not Enough Emotional Attachment

A gerbil isn’t meant to be your emotional support pet because of his nature. While they can form bonds with their owners and tolerate gentle interaction, gerbils are naturally skittish and may become stressed or anxious when handled too frequently or roughly. 

hand holding gerbil

Frequently Asked Questions

Are gerbils good pets for adults?

Yes, gerbils can make good pets for adults. They are small, low-maintenance, and can provide companionship. Gerbils are generally easy to care for and can adapt well to various living environments. 

Are gerbils good pets for toddlers?

Gerbils are not recommended as pets for toddlers as they may not understand how to handle gerbils gently, and their quick movements can startle or harm these tiny furballs. Gerbils have delicate bodies and may bite or scratch if they feel threatened. It’s best to choose a more suitable pet for toddlers that requires less delicate handling.

Do gerbils like to be held?

Adult gerbils are generally not fond of being held for long as they prefer to explore their surroundings. While some gerbils may tolerate short periods of gentle handling, excessive or improper handling can cause stress in a pregnant gerbil.

Determining Whether Gerbils Are The Right Choice

So, are gerbils good pets to have?

Pretty much, yes, gerbils are great pets because they aren’t a lot of work. These burrowing rodents spend their time exploring what’s around them and don’t make much mess. 

Although you’ll have to provide them with safe and entertaining bedding, they’ll always stay in the cage, so not enough cleaning is needed. 

But if you’re planning to get a gerbil for your little one, teach them some ‘gerbil manners’ first. 

No rough handling, tossing, or squeezing is allowed with a pet gerbil. Treat them nicely, and they’ll behave well!

Did you find this article interesting?

At Oddly Cute Pets, we know how precious your pets are to you. That’s why we keep you updated about their needs and habits so you can be the best parent to them. If you want more information on other unique pets, check out our website.

Thanks a lot for reading, friends!

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