Do Gerbils Stink?

Updated on May 13, 2011
M.S. asks from Cardington, OH
20 answers

My 10 year old has fallen in love with a gerbil at the local pet store. He had 2 geckos several years ago, which he took very good care of. They were both "lost" . Neither time, was it my son's fault.(a cousin took the gecko out once, and the second time, my other son was supposed to put it back in the tank, and forgot). Anyway, I told him I thought it was time to go ahead and dive into finding another gecko/lizard. But, while at the pet store, he saw the gerbils and really, really likes this one. I wasn't all that happy about having to shell out money for a different set-up, since we already have all the stuff for the gecko environment. But, this will be an early birthday gift, so it really isn't all that bad. The thing is, that my husband isn't loving the idea of a gerbil. He would have been fine with the gecko, but says gerbils stink. I had a hamster as a kid, but don't remember the stink part- AND, that was 30 years ago!! LOL! For those of you with pet hamsters/gerbils,etc. are they a stinky animal? I realize that if the cage isn't cleaned, it will stink - but, if the cage is cleaned regularly, do they still tend to stink up the joint?? Thank you!

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

Thank you! I will have my son read more about them, explain the cleaning part and I guess we'll discuss it more. The gecko environment didn't require a whole lot of intense cleaning, but the gerbil seems to need much more attention in that area. If the bedding is a weekly expense, that may be a factor, too. I would have to get crickets for the gecko on a weekly basis, but it amounted to only a couple bucks. This is definitely worth some more research. I greatly appreciate the feedback!!

Featured Answers



answers from Miami on

In my opinion, all animals smell. I had plenty of hamsters growing up. They smell regardless of keeping the cage spotless clean.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

The whole set up will smell faintly of wood chips and poop no matter what. Not nearly as bad as what a litter box smells like with just a few "additions" to it.

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers


answers from Jacksonville on

My son's 4th grade class collected $ and bought a gerbil and all the accessories for their class pet. The took turns bringing it home for the weekends and holiday breaks. We had it over Xmas... so for 2 weeks. It didn't stink except when it was almost a week "old" and needed cleaning. The bedding does have a distinct smell, but it doesn't "stink". It just has a peculiar wood chippy smell. lol

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Salt Lake City on

yes they smell the cage needs to be cleaned more than once a week and they bite

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Iowa City on

The gerbil itself doesn't stink unless in heat or around another gerbil in heat. Their cages will stink to high heaven if you don't clean them at least once a week. I may be wrong but I think gerbils are social critters and prefer to live in pairs or groups.



answers from Cleveland on

Yes!!! The cages have to be cleaned ALOT. The urine does smell, and so does the bedding to a different degree. Personally, I would never let one of my kids have one because they are alot more maintenance then you realize. And with most kids the novelty does wear off. They also tend to be awake alot during the night hours, so if they have an exercise wheel or water bottle to clank around, they can keep you up. And yes, alot of them tend to bite. Some dont, but alot do. I'd think really long and hard before getting one!



answers from Muncie on

I had hamsters and gerbils, but I was far too young to remember the gerbils. I would actually bath my hamsters in the sink. I changed their cages every week and used cedar chips. That kept the smell down perfectly. I'm not sure about your set up, but a hamster or a gerbil can be kept in a glass tank and can use the rocks and things. Wooden things are best of course, but I used old fish things for the hamster I kept in the old fish tank. The biggest issue is escapes, if the lid isn't fixed tightly your little fuzzy will get out. Even if the lid is tight they will try. They are also nocturnal, so they will be noisy in their wheels and chewing whatever they can get their teeth on.

Good luck.



answers from Kansas City on

Hell yes they stink!! Well, their cages if you don't clean them out every other day. Don't forget you will have to put wood chips for their bedding on your Walmart list every week!!


answers from New York on

My 4YO received a gerbil for his 2nd Bday, and I think the Kiddo actually smells worse than the gerbil does! :)

But seriously, either changing the wood chips or the shredded paper at least once a week is really all you need to do. And, my son squeezes that little bugger pretty hard, and he's never gotten more than a soft nip. No broken skin.


answers from Austin on

We had Gerbils and Hamsters..

At our elementary school one of the teachers has Gerbils.. They only stink if you do not clean out the wood chips.. The urinate and poop enough that you need to scoop each day and of course change it out fairly often. Also they really need fresh water each day.

Your son sounds like a good pet care taker. Be aware they are very fertile animals, so if you get them, do not be surprised if they have babies.. Speak with the pet store to help you make a good choice. Also ask them if they accept the babies back at a certain age..


answers from St. Louis on


Even if you clean it - but like anything else, you will kinda get "used" to it. Kinda like a smelly husband. =)



answers from New York on

We had a female gerbil for about 3 years from the time my daughter turned 8. The gerbil itself didn't really smell, however, the cage needed a good cleaning about once a week. We used the shredded paper stuff in the bottom of the cage (lots of it). We kept it in our living room (instead of a bedroom which might keep someone up at night). I have a VERY sensitive nose. The bottom of the cage was a glass fishtank and the top part was a regular powder-coated metal slat cage that was open-air but very secure (they chew through everything!). If you keep the cage and bedding clean, it won't smell. Our gerbil was very jumpy and didn't really like to be handled much, although she liked to be pet and loved being fed nuts and raisens.



answers from Raleigh on

Hey so I know I'm late here and I only read a few posts so I am not sure if someone else said this. I wanted a gerbil when I was 6 and when my mom and I started doing research we realized that hamsters actually make better pets. They are calmer and tend to bite less. As far as the stink they only stink if you don't clean them and you can use cedar bedding which helps with the smell. I would not get a gerbil though either a hamster or as someone else said a rat. I owned 3 hamsters and several rats over my childhood and really enjoyed it.



answers from Chicago on

I had a gerbil when I was a kid that I had begged my parents to get for me and promised to clean it and keep it in my room and everything. The cage smelled a lot (but it could have been made better if I had used different bedding maybe) and I failed to really understand the definition of "nocturnal". I didn't sleep well for about three years because of that thing on its wheel at night. If you get one, make sure to find the least-smelly bedding and put the cage far from anyone's bedroom!



answers from Dayton on

I have had gerbils, hamsters, mice, guinea pigs, rats, and chinchillas. if you clean the cage regularly, none of these animals stink. Ferrets and rabbits do tend to smell quite a bit. I have found that rats make the best pets for small children. They are very docile, do not run away and are very smart.

Good Luck!



answers from Baton Rouge on

They have a musk gland, but it's not a strong smell. As long as you keep their bedding clean, they don't stink.



answers from Cleveland on

There are tail-less rats now, that kind of resemble a huge hamster. Rats are not nocturnal and do not bite according to the story I saw on TV, and love to be handled, etc.

Might be worth looking into.



answers from Oklahoma City on

We have gerbils and they are the least smelly of the rodents in fact no smell at all really, they smell comes from them doing their buisness. But you should get two gerbils, they are very social and need another gerbil. We have loved our gerbils so much that when our first set died after 5 years we got more, also we found cages at garage sales and have conected cages so they have more room to move. We also got our young and make sure you get same sex. You will be happy with gerbils


answers from St. Louis on

If you clean it regularly, it shouldnt be too bad. Our neighbors have hampsters in their boys room in the back of the house. I could smell it when they opened their front door. Their house smelled like cedar chips soaked in pee. SO gross!



answers from State College on

I grew up with many gerbils over the years. They only smelled if their cages were dirty. I would recommend using a glass aquarium for one instead of the plastic cages. The plastic ones are harder to clean and those were the ones that would smell, the gerbils would use corners and tunnels to go the bathroom that were really hard to clean. The aquariums did not smell and we just dumped the shavings once a week, rinsed with water and mild soap if needed and then then refilled.

Ours were well behaved and handled a lot. Of about 8 over the years between my brother and I we had very, very few bites and the only one that was more than a nip was in the process of introducing a new one to the old one. They did fine with a divider, but went after each other when it was removed and my Dad grabbed mine and she bit him. We found out the new one was pregnant about a week later and that may have been why they really didn't get along, but after that everyone got their own 10 gallon.

I had a lot of fun with them and was glad we had them. We had a couple of guinea pigs too at one point. Learned the long haired ones are hard to keep clean.

Hope your son enjoys his new pet no matter what you end up with!

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions