Gerbil or Hamster?

Updated on December 04, 2011
H.M. asks from Peoria, AZ
14 answers

I have an 8 year old daughter. She really loves animals. We think she's mature enough to look after a small animal and were thinking of getting her one for Christmas. I need to do some research on what's best for her though. I don't really like mice and rats. Would a gerbil or a hamster be best? We were looking at dwarf robo hamsters but they are very small and are supposedly extremely hard to catch if they get loose. What sort of care do these animals require? How often does the bedding need to be changed. Do they like to play? Do they smell? As you can see I need some advice. Have only had dogs and cats!

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

Featured Answers


answers from Norfolk on

Hamsters are escape artists, but they are very cute.
Hamsters do not socialize well with other hamsters, so having one is fine.
They live about 2 years.
I had a hamster and we just loved her!
But they are delicate and must be handled carefully.
I've known some gerbils and I just didn't like them.
They have longer tails than hamsters and the ones I knew were prone to biting.
Have you considered guinea pigs?
They are a bit larger, are social (best to have 2 or more of the same sex) and live about 8 years.
They love parsley and do not escape like smaller rodents tend to do.
Any animal will smell if you don't keep their cage clean.
It's a good idea to get a book about care and maintenance about any animal before you decide to own one.
You'll have a better idea how it needs to be cared for and if you are up to the challenges of a particular critter.

4 moms found this helpful

More Answers


answers from Iowa City on

My husband wants a rodent so I've researched this. Both gerbils and hamsters can stink if their environment isn't cared for. They require either a wire or plastic/glass cage. Gerbils are active during the day, hamsters at night. Gerbils are social so they are happier in duos or groups. Some hamsters are social and some are solitary. It depends on the breed. You need to get wheels for both gerbils and hamsters (closed one for gerbils because of their tails). Hamsters will run in their wheel all night which can get annoying. Gerbils tend to live 3-4 years, hamsters 1 or 2.

You didn't mention it, but guinea pigs are good first pets. They are social so you should have at least 2 and they need a bigger cage than a gerbil or hamster but they are more easily handled. They cost a bit more annually than gerbils and hamsters but they also don't escape as readily and can't hide as well and they have a longer life span. And you can train a guinea pig to use a litter box.

My sister had a hamster. I had a guinea pig. By far, the guinea pig was a better pet.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on

Added - Hurray MartyMomma! So happy to hear that you do guinea pig rescue! Terrific! I loved my little piggies back when I had them. They can be so sweet!!

They bite! And they are really more wild than anything.

Get a guinea pig instead. Look online and see if there is a guinea pig rescue outfit near you. You can meet with them and see their guinea pigs. Your daughter is young and a guinea pig who has been loved by others and just can't be taken care of anymore would be lovely. A baby guinea pig is fine, but you have to hold them and love them A LOT so that they become pets.

We had many guinea pigs growing up. They all have different personalities too. The little boys are stinkier LOL! but if you keep their cages clean and wash their butts, they are fine. I liked the males better because I thought they had more pleasing personalities.


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I have yet to meet a hamster that doesn't bite. I second, or rather third, the vote for a guinea pig. My sister's kids have one and he is sweet and cute and playful.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Lakeland on

Yuck for both. They are both rodents and stink like mice and rats do. I was never fond of either of these animals. I think they are more work and they do not show affection like cats and dogs, but that’s just my opinion. If you still have cats you might be in for trouble, as some cats will try to get into the cages.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Hi Melissa,

Oh... I have to be quick because I have to run errands, but I'll share a bit.

#1- you don't like rats and mice. I'd suggest a hamster then since the creepy part to me is the long skinny tail on gerbils. Hamsters have a very short tail.

#2- DON'T get her a ROBO hamster because they have too much energy and will easily get lost. Let her enjoy a hamster that is docile and will stay in your hands.... alternating the hands so it feels like it is walking up steps:-)
Get the hamster an exercise ball and a wheel for it's cage. We also let ours run freely around the bathroom floor. We make sure the floor is safe with nothing on it that she'll eat and we supervise her at all times.

#3 If you do get 2 hamsters. They have to be of the same sex so they don't multiply!! They also have to be from the same litter and have lived in the SAME cage while in the pet store. Otherwise the hamsters will fight and badly.

#4- We owned 2 Russian dwarf hamsters. One only live 3 or 4 months. Her sibling is still living. (She's such a cutie and the kids love her! She is just over a year now.)

#5- Be aware of the fact that they dwarf hamsters have a shorter life span than regular size hamsters.

I used to own a teddy bear hamster when I was a school teacher. My students loved him! He was so furry and good with the kids.

The bedding absorbs much better if it is soft as opposed to bark shavings. The shavings are messy and get out of the cage easier if you use a wire cage.

I have to run now. Do a search and you'll find so much info. on line! Pet Smart had a knowledgeable employee answer all my questions and my kids questions when we bought our dwarf hamsters last year.

Have fun! I warned my kids that they do not have a long life span and they still wanted them. It's part of life and they dealt with one dying. It was rough especially for my daughter who cries even when a fish dies.

Oh... glass cages keep bedding in better BUT we switched to a "fun" cage with colorful metal bars. There are so many to chose from and so many fun accessories to pick from. Make sure you let the hamster sleeps when it wants to. My son has a friend who wakes his hamsters up whenever he feels like playing with them. My son comes homes and tells me about it and it bothers us since they are nocturnal creatures. Ours does wake up during the day sometimes and my kids take her out then and play with her.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dayton on

I have only owned mice...and never will again. ;)
But I was going to suggest a Guinea Pig too, I have read a lot of good things about them. That they make a much more ideal little critter friend. :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kalamazoo on

I'm with Jackie P. - I'd just get her a cat. Less work and better companionship!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

You're nicer than I am :).

We had both growing up and they were both easy to take care of. So really whatever you are willing to help with should work!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Eugene on

Hamster. Gerbils are escape artists. Get two hamsters they are happiest that way. Two of the same sex or it'll be hamsters everywhere. They are really cute and they play and like to be held. Change the bedding ever four or five days so there is no stink.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

Our gerbils ATE their house so my mom set them free. This was after they bit my thumb when I was wrangling them back into their house. They move FREAKISHILY FAST. I wouldn't get one EVER again!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Guinea Pig. Hamsters and gerbils both bite, both are very nervous and are not really ideal children's pets (if there is such a thing, which from the animal's perspective is doubtful). Guinea pigs are calmer and rarely bite.



answers from Phoenix on

We had a gerbils growing up and our kids have had hamsters. They both have a short life span and are nocturnal. Not much fun to play with when they sleep all day and you hear the wheel squeek all night. We have guinea pigs now. They are great pets. They will sit on your lap (with a towel underneath) while you watch tv and the kids can feed them lettuce, parsley, etc. They squeek when it's dinner time too. CHeck into guinea pigs. I think you'd be happier with them.



answers from Dallas on

Whichever is active DURING THE DAY! I believe hamsters are awake at night and that just does not work.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions