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My daughter just got a pair of gerbils; Marshmallow and Nutella are there names. At first, I was thinking this whole "gerbil thing" would turn into another disaster, like those newts that came down with a bad case of fungus and lost their limbs. However...I have been pleasantly surprised!

I have to say, in all honesty, that gerbils make really good pets - for slightly older kids, and anyone living in a small space like an apartment. They have a lot going for them besides being absolutely adorable - they really do (and that's a message for all you moms out there who KNOW you will be spending a bit of time with any new pet your child acquires)!

Hamsters have long been awarded the popularity trophy when it comes to small rodent pets. But I want to challenge that! Not to make all you hamster owners mad, but biting often seems to be more of a problem with hamsters than gerbils. Gerbils are also (sorry hamsters!) less smelly.

They both cost about the same to set up - you'll need a good cage or 10 gallon tank with a mesh top, food, food bowl, water bottle, toys and chewy things (or tubes), and bedding. You can also get one of those "exercise wheels," although our gerbils have never figured out how to use theirs. Oh well. They sleep under it!

Speaking of gerbilS (plural!) it's best to get TWO gerbils (we were told two young males are optimal), because gerbils are very social and like to have a pal. Never get a male and a female though - unless you want to go into the gerbil breeding business.

One bit of caution when it comes to gerbils: They move quickly! So if you have a very young child (under eight) be sure to supervise his or her interactions with the gerbils, and help with the cleaning. You don't want any rodents going MIA in your house (especially if you have a cat)!

Gerbils do seem a little more hyper than hamsters - but in my book, that's a plus. This makes them more interesting to watch! This is what also makes gerbils better suited for slightly older children. My daughter always takes her gerbils out in the bathroom, with the door closed. That way, if they should scoot off - at least they can't go far.

She also bought one of those "hamster balls" (I guess it's a "gerbil ball" now) so the little guys can get out and "run around" inside of them, yet still be safe from roaming housecats and other dangers. The exercise is good for them, and the activity is entertaining to watch (especially for those roaming housecats).

Are you considering acquiring gerbils for either yourself or your child? Without further ado, here are FIVE REASONS why gerbils make great pets:

1. GERBILS ARE FRIENDLY AND MILD-MANNERED. Ours have never bitten - not once. Personally, I like this trait. I don't want to own something that bites. Gerbils may nibble on your finger just a little, but that's only because they have bad eyesight and might mistake your finger for food. One way to avoid this, is to make sure your hands DO NOT SMELL LIKE FOOD when you stick them in the cage! (And always wash hands after handling any small rodent).

Other than that, though, gerbils are very friendly and sociable - not aggressive, at all. Try not to startle your gerbil (gerbils don't like loud noises)! Be gentle with your gerbils and they will be gentle back. You can even train them to take seeds right out of your hand.

2. GERBILS ARE VERY CLEAN NON-SMELLY PETS. Not that you can get away with never cleaning out their cage, of course! You should - at least once a week (that's what we do). They love the nice clean cage - it makes them go racing around with joy! But overall, since gerbils are desert animals, they don't require a lot of water (although you should have fresh water available at all times) and consequently, they don't pee as much!

3. GERBILS ARE REALLY EASY TO TAKE CARE OF. Honestly, they don't require a lot of work or supervision. You just need to replenish their food and water and change their bedding once a week. If you get two gerbils together (and you should!) they have each other to keep them company. However, they love it when you talk to them or spend time with them - whenever that's convenient for you. Gerbils will learn to recognize your face, by the way...because even though they might be "your kid's pets" your face will be around a lot, me!

4. GERBILS ARE VERY ENTERTAINING AND FUN TO WATCH. Gerbils are such active and inquisitive little critters. They love to dig and chew and play play, play! Also, because they are active during the day, their schedule meshes better with a human's schedule.

5. GERBILS ARE GOOD FOR RECYCLING. No, no...not the actual gerbils, themselves! I mean, since gerbils love to chew, you can offer them all sorts of recycling items like empty toilet paper and paper-towel tubes (finally, something else to do with these besides turn them into bad crafts), empty egg cartons, those cardboard drink holders from MacDonald's...they love em' all! They especially love the tubes, because the tube instantly becomes a fun tunnel and a chew-toy, rolled up in one. Yup - gerbils are very "green" pets!

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(Here's a little tip from me that I thought I would toss in: Gerbils LOVE nectarines! I know it sounds weird. However, I cut up a little piece of nectarine and offered it to them, and they went nuts... squealing and squeaking and fighting over it! I had to put in another piece just to keep the peace).

So, in summation, I'll say it again. GERBILS ARE GREAT! Yes, they are a little bit of work. And yes, they can be a little messy (bits of bedding and cardboard will fly out of the cage). However, no pet is perfect, let's be honest. Nevertheless, I'd say these little guys come pretty close!


Ella on August 29, 2018:

This is really helpful. Thank you. Weve always had a hanster but think all that you say is true about them. My son who is 11 will be better with gerbils i think.

Hollpops on April 08, 2017:

Found this helpful. Thanks this is really going to persuade my mum!

halee on April 17, 2016:

omg thank you! my mom read this because we live in an apartment and decided we can keep them here thanks !

mariyah on January 18, 2016:

OMG i am going to convince my mom to get us gerbils. we have been wanting a pet for a long time.

Laura from Novi, MI on July 24, 2015:

I have always had hamsters growing up and my oldest son had a hamster when he was younger. My first grader wrote a persuasion paper on why we should get him a hamster. We were so touched, we set off to get him a hamster. We ended up coming home with 2 gerbils. I have been pleasantly surprised at how much better of a pet they are than hamsters. They come out of their igloo when you talk to them and are so fun to watch. I am now a huge gerbil fan :)

Heather on January 02, 2015:

Two points here, first the reason that gerbils' cages do not get as smelly is that they have less ammonia in their urine. (Hamsters also are mostly from the desert.) Second the reason they nibble your fingers is because they use taste to identify things as well as smell and sight.

Alyssa on June 16, 2014:

I have had a hamster and after 5 days I put my finger in the cage and the hamster bit me!!!(I was bleeding to)then my friend came over and the hamster bit my friend!I did nothing,I fed him,cleaned his cage,EVERYTHING!!!then one day....he died after 2 weeks I had him =/

Lidrelina on February 12, 2014:

LeLe, I just got 2 from PetSmart and they were about $11 each.

le le on February 11, 2014:

Gerbils seem nice.But how much is each gerbil??

Tee on August 13, 2013:

Love gerbils! Wadda u do with 2 cats

jirdrus on December 16, 2012:

couldn't have put it better, they are actually cheaper to care for if kept in a gerbilarium, because they only need to be cleaned out every 2-3 weeks, a word of caution though - NEVER pick up by their tails, they can break off and lead to a horrific injury for the gerbil

wetnosedogs from Alabama on September 15, 2012:

I didn't realize gerbils were desert type creatures. Interesting hub. They sound like fun.

PURPLECANDY from ANYWHERE on September 15, 2012:

I was trying to decide between getting a guinea pig , a gerbil, or a hamster. So this is very helpful information. I didn't know gerbils were so clean and that they don't bite. I might be leaning towards gerbils.

pinkydoo from New York on September 04, 2012:

Our cats would certainly find a couple of gerbils in the house interesting!

MAGICFIVE (author) from New York on August 27, 2012:

Exactly! That's what I've heard! I never actually owned a hamster, myself.....but I really think gerbils as pets have been under-sold! Thanks for the comment!

2uesday on August 27, 2012:

If I remember correctly a pet hamster will wake up and begin to be active, just when you have got the kids to go to bed. Then at 2 am you wake up to hear the hamster that has been asleep all day going crackers on an exercise wheel that squeaks loudly.

You can also keep gerbils in pairs as you say but that is not possible with hamsters.

Kim Kennedy from uk on August 25, 2012:

This reminded me of our previous gerbils, first Buzz and Woody, then Karl and Hitler. They are lovely little creatures, we found them more interesting than hamsters because they interact with each other. As you say, it's very little bother to look after gerbils, they make rewarding pets.

pinkydoo from New York on August 25, 2012:

My daughter has been begging for some kind of pet of her own, so I'm now thinking maybe some gerbils would be our best bet! Nice hub!

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