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Hamster v Gerbils - tell me all

(14 Posts)
MaggieW Thu 08-Nov-07 10:13:18

I have no experience of either so please help me to decide which would be better for DS, 6. Would also be getting another one for DD, 5. How easy to keep, what do they eat, how often clean out, etc etc. I really am completely ignorant about them so your help is appreciated.

Macdog Thu 08-Nov-07 10:22:36

You can keep 2 gerbils (same sex, obv!) in the same (big) cage, but 2 hamsters will fight to the death.
They are both reasonably easy to keep.
You can buy hamster/gerbil mix in Pet shops. It's mixed grains etc and is really cheap.
Mix it with fresh veggies (eg trimmings from family veg) and fuit.
Weekly cleaning of cage is sufficient usually.
Gerbils will be active during the day when your kids are, hamsters only active at night, generally.

Have a look in your local library and see if they have any books on the subject also

RGPargy Thu 08-Nov-07 10:32:14

Gerbils - Play by day, sleep at night. Faster moving than hamsters, look a bit like a cross between a mouse and a rat. Clean out about once a week, change water daily, change food daily. Food is bog standard hamster & gerbil food which is seed-like. They might also like some small bits of fresh fruit/veg once a day or once every other day. Supply exercise wheel in cage. Cant comment on characters coz i have never personally owned one, but my sister did. Handle lots (AT LEAST once a day) to keep them friendly and tame. Avoid hoiking them out of their beds.

Hamsters - Sleep by day, play by night. Cute and fluffy looking, slower moving than gerbils. Clean out about once a week, care as above. Supply exercise wheel in cage. Might keep DS and DD awake at night if they are light sleepers and hamster is kept in their room. Handle lots (AT LEAST once a day) to keep them friendly and tame, but avoid hoiking them out of their beds (no one likes that!).

WRT to hamsters, i strongly recommend getting a syrian or golden hamster because they are friendlier. Russian hamsters are smaller and can be a bit "nippy" so may not be ideal for a first pet. Dont forget hamsters have pouches in their cheeks so try and avoid giving them anything too big and sharp that could tear their little pouches (this happened to one of mine).

Both gerbils and hamsters are happy with sawdust covering the bottom of their cages and then either specially bought nesting paper for their beds or you can just tear some kitchen roll into strips and use that instead. Dump it in a corner of their cage and they will arrange it how they like it.

Also, would recommend that you buy once of those "Caring for your Hamster/Gerbil" books from the pet shop if you've never had one, to give you a few extra pointers.


RGPargy Thu 08-Nov-07 10:33:46

Oh yeah, agree with macdog about only keeping one hamster or they'll fight!

My sister kept 2 gerbils together and they were fine. They were NOT the same sex however and you can guess what happened!!

MaggieW Thu 08-Nov-07 10:35:15

Thanks Macdog - do you mean any two hamsters will fight to death even if different sex? Mind you, different sex means baby hamsters, so not so keen on that.

I've never even seen a gerbil - are they cute looking? It's for my benefit as I don't think I could deal with anything that looks too rat or mouse like!!

Macdog Thu 08-Nov-07 10:40:36

Yep, if you're breeding hamsters it's complicated. You can't keep the male and female together, but put one in with other (can't remember what way round) if the female is in season, then remove pronto after mating.

Katz Thu 08-Nov-07 10:46:10

we have 3 gerbils and they are great, the DD's (2 and 5) love them.

Gerbils need things to nibble on as their teeth keep growing.

ours live in a gerbilarium which looks like a plastic tank on the bottom with a cage on top.

MrsDepp Thu 08-Nov-07 11:04:02

If you want two in same cage, definitely gerbils as hamsters fight.. though think there might be a breed of hamster, russian dwarf maybe? that will sometimes get on in pairs.

Only other thing is gerbils have tails and hamsters don't, sounds like a stupid point but people who have rat/mouse issues are sometimes less freaked out by hamsters. May be important if you're trying to find a friend to mind them when you're on holiday

Macdog Thu 08-Nov-07 17:46:30

Russian hamsters will live happily in pairs, but they are the nippiest variety of hamster, and not recommended as a first pet

Tanee58 Thu 08-Nov-07 17:59:40

Had a hamster when I was young - very cute, but not much fun as he slept all day and kept me awake all night!

DD had two gerbils when she was 8, both girls, and we loved them. They lived just over 2 years. They DO have tails, but really, they're not rat-like - very soft fur on the tails and they're so sweet, they may cure you of any antipathy to mice/rats (personally I have no problem as long as they're pets and not running wild). They come in different colours, black, white, golden, mixed - so you could find ones that aren't mouse/rat coloured, which may make them more appealing.

Gerbils are VERY easy to keep, like being handled, someone I know even managed to teach his gerbil tricks. They're curious and friendly, will always pop out to see what's going on if they hear you. They like gnawing, so don't bother with expensive 'gerbil houses' as they'll eat them. Give them bits of carrot and they'll get through volumes of cardboard - cereal packets, loo rolls (they'll enjoy using loo paper to make their beds). We used to get our gerbils to nibble a bit out of our Christmas cards as a 'signature' before sending them out. (yes, very sad smile)

We used to clean out the gerbils about once a fortnight. They're very clean and don't smell (warning, you may wind up doing the cleaning!)

Go Gerbils grin!

Finally, if you have a compost heap, you can tip the cage contents (minus gerbils grin) into your compost bin when you clean them out. It makes excellent compost!

Lfcali Sat 06-Sep-08 21:44:56

hi, sadly my stupid cat managed to work out how to move the lid on the gerbils tank, therefore he managed to get one and we found the cat had brought it down the stairs (how i dont know, it either fell or was carried in the mouth) i managed to shoo the cat away and rescue the petrified gerbil from his hiding place. At first he was very still and appeared to have no injuries. Sadly, after calming it down in my hand for a minute, i notice some blood on his chest. It's not pouring out and i cant seem to see any wound (although i cant really look as i dont want to move him) He's back in his tank with his mate now but sitting in a corner on his own. He's had a drink and ive put soe bedding around him to keep him warm. He moves about a bit but appears to drag his back legs to begin with but then regains his balance. what do you suggest i do please, sadly its late at night and no vets are open.
thank you.

ellideb Sat 06-Sep-08 21:48:40

Neither. Rats are so much more child friendly IME. They are intelligent, affectionate, don't bite like hamsters tend too, have the same sleep pattern as us so no irritating wheel sqeaking at night and love being held.

I have had rats, hamsters and gerbils in the past and know which ones I prefer. grin

PortBlacksandResident Sat 06-Sep-08 22:03:23

Get two rats!!!!

bamzooki Mon 08-Sep-08 11:50:45

Yes get rats. Much more interacive for kids.

Have had both and rats are way way better imo.

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